Monthly Archives: February 2015

Daugaard: ‘Start recruiting today’

Gov. Dennis Daugaard told Republican county leaders at their statewide meeting Saturday that candidate recruiting can start immediately for 31 of the 105 seats in the Legislature. Those are seats that Democrats currently hold or have Republicans who can’t seek re-election to the seats in 2016 because they are term-limited. He also suggested that the 74 other Republicans should be asked whether they plan to run again in 2016 so there can be a head-start on finding new Republican candidates to run if they aren’t.

“We are so much more organized, and it makes us strong,” Daugaard said. He looked forward to Republicans winning the big prize of U.S. president in 2016. “Let’s get our presidential candidate in the White House. That’s what we really, really need in this country,” he said.

For those tracking such things, a “seed poll” was taken among the attendees Saturday at the Republicans’ meeting at the Casey Tibbs rodeo center in Fort Pierre. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker finished on top.

With Daugaard’s endorsement, Pam Roberts of Pierre was selected to succeed Craig Lawrence of Sioux Falls as state chairman. Drake Olson of Sioux Falls was chosen vice-chairman. Lawrence and former state Rep. Kim Vanneman of Ideal officially served as co-chairmen the past two years. Pierre lawyer Justin Bell was re-elected as treasurer. The new secretary is Kristi Wagner of Whitewood, succeeding lawyer Sara Frankenstein of Rapid City. None of the four candidates was opposed.

Daugaard spoke highly of Lawrence’s work the past two years. Lawrence praised Bell’s efforts handling the party’s finances.

Does it matter whether new city-penny passes?

There was mild surprise when the state Senate approved SB 135 on Feb. 9 by a 19-14 vote. The Daugaard administration opposes allowing cities to add another 1 percent of municipal sales tax. The 19-14 vote is important because a two-thirds majority of 24 would be necessary in the Senate to override a veto. Therefore the question arises: Does it matter whether the state House of Representatives approves the bill?

The proposal from the South Dakota Municipal League would allow a city commission or council to approve an ordinance adding the 1 percent tax for a specific purpose and for a specific time. The tax would have to be specifically extended by another ordinance for more time and that would be subject to public vote.

The only opponents to this bill, whose prime sponsor is Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, during the Senate State Affairs Committee hearing on Feb. 4 were the National Federation of Independent Business lobbyist Bob Riter of Pierre and the state Revenue Department’s No. 2 man, David Wiest. They’re up against every legislator whose mayor back home wants this additional 1 percent of taxing authority.  Sioux Falls, Brookings, Parker, Spearfish, Yankton, Keystone and Sturgis had people speak at the hearing. The committee vote that day was 6-2.

What happens to SB 135 in the House isn’t clear. Its lead House sponsor is a former mayor, Rep. Scott Munsterman, R-Brookings. The House speaker, Dean Wink, R-Howes, originally assigned the bill to the House Taxation Committee. Wink is a co-sponsor of the bill. The tax committee didn’t seem like the worst place for it to land, with plenty of co-sponsors on the panel, such as Mary Duvall, R-Pierre; Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls; Patrick Kirschman, D-Sioux Falls; Nancy Rasmussen, R-Hurley; Tona Rozum, R-Mitchell; and Mark Willadsen, R-Sioux Falls. But on Wednesday, one day before the scheduled hearing in tax committee, House Republican leader Brian Gosch of Rapid City called on Speaker Wink to have the bill referred to the House State Affairs Committee instead.

Gosch, who didn’t sign onto the bill as a co-sponsor, is chairman of the state affairs committee. A similar move was made regarding the governor’s legislation for highway and bridge funding, transferring it from the House Transportation Committee to state affairs, where on the final day for possible action the governor’s bill was killed 13-0. The state affairs committee is also where Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, took control of a Democratic-only sponsored bill and turned it into his legislation allowing school districts to start levying a portion of capital outlay tax specifically to support technical institutes. So who knows whether something might be afoot on the city sales-tax bill.

The state affairs panel however does have plenty of the sales-tax bill’s co-sponsors among its members, including Munsterman; Haggar; House Democratic leader Spencer Hawley of Brookings; Kris Langer, R-Dell Rapids; Mike Stevens, R-Yankton; Mike Verchio, R-Hill City; and Wink. That’s a majority of seven on a 13-member committee, meaning it’s highly possible the bill wins a do-pass recommendation that sends it to the full House for debate.

So far the bill isn’t scheduled (at least not publicly) for its hearing yet. State affairs members had 24 bills requiring hearings as of Thursday evening. Those include the juvenile justice package in SB 73 and the Senate version of the highway and bridge funding package in SB 1. Including today’s meeting (Friday, Feb. 27), the House State Affairs Committee has four meeting days left, unless a special meeting is added.

As for how the Senate voted on SB 135, you can see that tally here.

Retaliators attack senators on gun bills

It takes a thick skin to vote against many of the pieces of gun-related legislation. Members of the state Senate Judiciary Committee are getting tested by personal and anonymous attacks after defeating two measures Wednesday. Perhaps this works in other state capitols, but it’s always proven counter-productive in South Dakota. Legislators tend to band together when they feel they are being attacked unfairly. Citizens likewise are starting to wonder why it seems there are so many “gun bills” in the 2015 legislative session.

There were nine bills introduced this year that deal in some fashion with concealed-carry regulations. Seven are dead, including the package brought by Rep. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls. One won approval and was signed into law by the governor. It is SB 12, which came from state Attorney General Marty Jackley. It allows a temporary permit for the spouse of active-duty military personnel in serving in South Dakota. The ninth bill, which is still alive, came from Rep. Thomas Brunner, R-Nisland. It is HB 1215, which provides for an enhanced permit for concealed-carry. Brunner’s bill was approved 67-0 in the House of Representatives and is up next in the Senate.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the actions being taken against some legislators, we’re working to track the flow of political money, including from outside South Dakota to activists in South Dakota, regarding this issue. We’ve already found unusual activity — money that wasn’t reported being sent into South Dakota, but was reported as being received in South Dakota. This might be merely a clerical error, or it could be something more. We’ll be back with more as it develops.

Cemetery law needs Legislature’s repairs — or repeal

State laws that don’t work, such as South Dakota’s current regulations of cemeteries, shouldn’t be ignored. But that’s what’s happened this legislative session with the death of HB 1157 from Rep. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen. He detailed the inadequacies of the current law during a Feb. 4 hearing. But the House Commerce and Energy Committee chaired by Rep. Tim Rounds, R-Pierre, didn’t see the level of need that Novstrup did. Some cemeteries have to file an annual report with the South Dakota secretary of state, but there’s no penalty if they don’t, and so some don’t; other cemeteries don’t have to file a report. The secretary of state’s office doesn’t have an enforcement mechanism. The purpose of the reports is to allow people to see the financial conditions of the cemetery. The simple solution would have been to impose the $25 daily fine that Novstrup sought and tell cemeteries in state law that the federal tax reports they file with the IRS could be copied to the secretary of state’s office and those could be placed on public file. Those reports for the non-profit cemeteries already are public documents if a person is diligent enough to pursue them from the federal government.

Novstrup wasn’t able to get his bill out of the House committee. The panel voted 7-4 against his bill initially and then killed it 8-3 on Feb. 20. Novstrup asked the full House of Representatives to support him on a smoke-out motion to force the committee to release the bill, but he didn’t get the required one-third of the 70 members to support him Wednesday. He was opposed by Rep. Michele Harrison, R-Mobridge. So now South Dakota still has a small mess. The 2014 changes made by the Legislature don’t accomplish what lawmakers thought they did, and those cemeteries that don’t want to comply with the law can continue to ignore it without penalty.

The truly strange piece of this? Last year, the bill brought by then-Sen. Novstrup and then-Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, passed without a dissenting vote in either chamber. This year, needing to fix the holes in that 2014 law, Novstrup couldn’t get his bill out of committee. The answer seems simple: Repair the problems that have been shown to exist, as Novstrup wants done; or repeal the law, as various cemetery business people have urged.

Meat grinding and the Legislature

Today — Wednesday, Feb. 25 — is crossover day in the Legislature. It’s the deadline for a chamber, whether the Senate or the House of Representatives, to finish dealing for the first time with all of the legislation that began in that chamber. The House has 16 bills on its debate calendar this afternoon. The Senate has 14. There is a relief mechanism, known as suspending the rules, that has often been used in the past to carry bills over for a day, or sometimes two. Rarely does a chamber work past 5 p.m. any more, except when dealing with state government’s budget at the very end of session. Crossover days in decades past however were often raucous. Legislators worked into the evening, taking a break for supper and then returning. Those night-time debates could be strange, with the level of strangeness directly proportional to how much was imbibed and by how many during the supper break. Our legislators increasingly have become less of working-hour imbibers, as has society generally, it seems. We also see less use of the 5-17 rule in the Legislature; this technique involved offering an amendment during a House or Senate debate, then another legislator would invoke rule 5-17 requiring a delay of one intervening day. The Legislature now cuts off use of 5-17 before crossover is reached; Friday of last week was the last day it could be used. Today will be a meat grinder with so many bills facing crossover deadline. But then crossover day always is.

Interveners changing in oil pipeline dockets

The state Public Utilities Commission meets Monday, March 2, and among the items on the agenda are two oil-pipeline permit dockets. Two interveners, the South Dakota Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club, are dropping out of the permitting process for the TransCanada Keystone pipeline’s route through South Dakota. Meanwhile 13 more parties filed in time for the Feb. 13 deadline to intervene in the proposed Dakota Access pipeline’s route through South Dakota. The Keystone already is permitted; because TransCanada didn’t act on the permit for four years, the permit is up for certification that conditions haven’t changed since it was issued. Dakota Access is a new pipeline proposed from North Dakota to Illinois. The revised agenda for March 2 is available here; click on the docket numbers for all of the documents for each matter.

Lion kills so far point to full-length BH season

Through Feb. 22, South Dakota hunters reported killing 30 mountain lions in the Black Hills this season, including 16 female lions. The maximums set by the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission for the Black Hills season are 75 total or 50 females, with the season closing March 31 if one of those limits isn’t reached first. The Black Hills season opened Dec. 26. Two big lions were taken on that first day, a 151-pound male estimated at 10 years old in Custer County, and a 102-pound female estimated at eight years old in Pennington County.

Unless the pace speeds up dramatically, it seems questionable that either limit will be reached in the six weeks left. The count by counties so far for the Black Hills fire protection district season are Custer eight, Pennington 11, Meade three and Lawrence eight.

Four other lions have been reported to GFP so far as killed this season. Three are kills by hunters outside the Black Hills district’s boundaries, in what’s known as the year-round prairie season. They were in Bennett, Lawrence and Butte counties. A nine-month-old male was killed by a vehicle in Pennington.

The 2014 season saw hunters take 53 lions in the Black Hills district (22 males and 31 females). The previous harvests for the Black Hills seasons were 61 in 2013; 73 in 2012; 49 in 2011; 40 in 2010; and 26 in 2009.

Matt Michels is top choice for governor in 2018 in Business Caucus survey

First, let’s start with the most intriguing result from the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s survey conducted at its Business Caucus day last week in Pierre. The business leaders in attendance answered about two dozen questions instantly using cell phones and tablets. The final question asked, “If the election were today, who would you vote in the gubernatorial primary?”

Surprisingly, there was a tie — at zero — between long-ago Gov. Tom Berry and current Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether. They were the only names to get blanked of the 12 listed. The top finisher was Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, a Republican, with 22. In second place was former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a Democrat, with 17. Notice the survey didn’t split the choices by party even though the question refers to “the gubernatorial primary.”

Current U.S Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican, received 13 votes, followed by state Attorney General Marty Jackley, a Republican, at 12 and state Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, at seven.

“The woman who found oil in North Dakota” — yes, that is the choice listed — received five. That put her ahead of state Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, at three and soon-to-retire U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, a Democrat, at three. Getting one apiece were South Dakota State University president David Chicoine (I don’t know his political registration) and Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, a Republican.

Among presidential possible candidates, top finisher was Democrat Hillary Clinton at 25, followed by Republican Jeb Bush with 14. All of the other 19 were in the single-digit territory, including Republican Chris Christie at eight and Republicans Rand Paul and Scott Walker at six apiece.

Will private K-12 schools and home schools get state funding?

The state Senate agreed Friday afternoon to allow a debate next week on legislation from Sen. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, that would create a state-funded scholarship and grant program for non-public K-12 schools in South Dakota. The essence of SB 189 is insurance companies could donate money to a scholarship and grant organization and the donations would be counted as a 90 percent credit against premium taxes the insurance companies otherwise must pay to the state treasury. In other words, 90 cents of a premium-tax dollar could go to the scholarship and grant organization. The organization would have to report to the state Department of Legislative Audit.

The Daugaard administration and the South Dakota Education Association opposed the bill during its hearing Thursday in the Senate Education Committee. The panel tied 3-3 on whether to recommend the bill’s passage; the members ultimately voted 6-0 to make no recommendation. That left Heineman to take the next step of asking the full Senate to place the bill on the debate calendar. She succeeded, as senators voted 24-7 on Friday afternoon to grant her that courtesy. The bill will be set for debate Tuesday afternoon.

The supporters of the bill generally are the Christian schools, the Rapid City Catholic schools and the Sioux Falls Catholic diocese. The purpose of the bill is to pay all or part of tuition for children whose families are at or below 150 percent of the income level for free and reduced lunches. The plan also would cover up to $250 per year for a teacher’s classroom supplies, including parents of students who are home-schooled.

This proposal to allow tax credits to encourage insurance companies to pay for non-public education, and making less tax money available for public education as a result, would mark a major change in South Dakota for education policy and social policy.

Brock Greenfield will get his chance

Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, was excused for the four days of legislative session this week as he recovered from injuries suffered in a fall last weekend. While he was gone, the Senate took up a piece of his legislation, SB 159, that seeks to exempt from state sales and use tax the salaries paid by non-profit organizations to amateur baseball coaches. We’re talking primarily VFW and American Legion teams for teen-agers during their middle-school and high-school years. The only opponent at the Feb. 11 committee hearing was the state Revenue Department — aka the Daugaard administration. The bill survived the hearing on a 4-3 vote thanks to the return of Sen. Jenna Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, who broke a tie.

Greenfield is the only senator on the bill’s sponsor list. Yet for reasons that baffled some observers, the Senate proceeded to debate the bill Thursday — with Greenfield still missing. The Senate voted 17-15 for the bill. But that was one aye short of the 18 needed for passage. Taking up Greenfield’s cause was Sen. Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre. Monroe voted against the bill in committee but voted for it in the Senate. Monroe gave notice Thursday he would seek reconsideration of the bill.

The reconsideration motion came up Friday afternoon before the Senate departed for a three-day break. Senate Republican leader Tim Rave of Baltic spoke before the reconsideration vote, telling the rest of the Senate he had spoken with Greenfield. Rave said Greenfield would be back next week when legislators return to work on Tuesday. Rave suggested the re-debate of the bill wait until Tuesday. The Senate voted 28-3 in support of Monroe’s motion. Now it will be up to Greenfield — who spends a lot of time coaching summer American Legion baseball — to make the decisive pitch. If he can get the bill out of the Senate, the lead House sponsor is Rep. Tona Rozum, R-Mitchell.

Ahhh… spring training!