Monthly Archives: June 2016

When you’re 1-7 against…

the Chicago White Sox already this season, it’s no-wonder your club is in a deep hole. Such is the case of the Minnesota Twins, who at 25 wins and 52 defeats have cemented their stature as one of Major League Baseball’s losing teams in 2016. Their 9-6 loss last night to the White Sox in Chicago had started with promise, as Eduardo Nunez opened the game for Minnesota with a solo home run. But a crazy sequence in the second inning, with an uncontested stolen base and a throw home that ricocheted off runner J.B. Shuck’s leg let the Sox take the lead for good 2-1. The White Sox are now 7-1 against the Twins this year. The Twins are perhaps the No. 1 reason the White Sox are at .500 with 39 wins and 39 losses. Reverse the 7-1 record and the two teams would be bumping one another in the AL Central standings. Instead, the Twins face a mountain to make 80 wins this season (I’m still holding out…) while the White Sox are in a strong enough position to challenge for an AL wild card slot, just three wins back, and they could even catch Cleveland, the division leader at 47 wins and 30 losses. My hope for a Twins’ 80-wins season took a downturn yesterday with the announcement by the Twins that pitcher Phil Hughes would be shelved for the rest of 2016. His shoulder is hurt. The surgery is Wednesday. He had one win and nine defeats this season, after going 11-9 in 2015. He already was on the 60-day disabled list with a fractured knee. As Minnesota fans have learned since the opening of roof-less Target Field, when it rains it seems to pour.

Youngberg’s challenge to Parsley

Jordan Youngberg of Madison is the Republican candidate for the state Senate seat in District 8 covering Lake, Miner, Moody and Sanborn counties. He is challenging the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Scott Parsley of Madison. More than four months before the general election, Youngberg has a surprisingly large number of campaign signs along S.D. 34 between I-29 and Madison. This district has a complex recent history. Republican Senate leader Russ Olson of Wentworth had it in firm control until he had to step down because he received the Heartland chief executive officer post. The replacement chosen by Gov. Dennis Daugaard was Republican Chuck E. Jones of Flandreau. Parsely, a first-term member in the House of Representatives, challenged Jones and won in the 2014 general election. Jones won Moody and Sanborn counties, but Parsley overcame the deficit with victories in Miner and Lake counties. The final totals were Parsley 4,452 and Jones 4,188. The history and the early activity this year suggest District 8 Senate is a contest to watch.

Another side of the Medicaid coin

There isn’t the will in the Legislature to expand Medicaid services to more lower-income working South Dakotans. But the Legislature clearly has demonstrated its will — as has Gov. Dennis Daugaard — for channeling more money to providers of Medicaid services in South Dakota because their employees make relatively little for jobs that are often very hard, physically and mentally. If savings materializes from the change regarding Indian Health Service, where state government wouldn’t be providing a portion of the cost for IHS-eligible patients who receive services outside the IHS system, what would be wrong with the Legislature and the governor putting those savings toward better reimbursements for Medicaid providers on state-funded services? The Legislature’s interim committee on Medicaid payment methods meets today in Pierre, and perhaps providentially the governor’s healthcare solutions coalition that’s been working on the IHS issue meets by teleconference Thursday afternoon. Getting better pay into Medicaid workers’ hands seems like a solid direction — and something that conservative rural Republican legislators would welcome.

‘I didn’t run on Medicaid expansion’

It’s no surprise that Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard couldn’t find enough support for Medicaid expansion to cover the working poor that was necessary to call a special legislative session.

He received a message in the Republican primary elections for several Senate seats earlier this month, with the victories by former Rep. Stace Nelson of Fulton, Rep. Lance Russell of Hot Springs and Sen. Phil Jensen of Rapid City.

But just as significantly, many Republican legislators elected in 2014 had emphasized in the past year they didn’t run for election promising Medicaid expansion.

Some were willing to consider Medicaid expansion on one condition: That state government wouldn’t have to pay anything for Indian Health Service patients’ care delivered outside the standard IHS system.

But when President Obama’s administration decided to stop requiring states to pay for part of IHS care when it occurs outside the IHS system, Daugaard lost that leverage.

Largely unacknowledged is the significance of Daugaard’s victory on the IHS funding question.

It promises to save millions of dollars annually for South Dakota’s state government. Now those dollars can be spent in other ways as the savings accumulate in the coming budget years.

Daugaard didn’t start as a supporter of the Medicaid expansion that is subsidized through the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare. He, like many Republican legislators, didn’t know whether the federal government could be trusted and disagreed with spending money the federal government clearly doesn’t have

But in pursuing the IHS subsidy/Medicaid expansion trade-off, Daugaard sparked a revolution among South Dakota’s all-Republican delegation in Congress.

Suddenly senators John Thune and Mike Rounds and our one U.S. House member, Kristi Noem, took urgent interest in the Indian Health Service’s operations in South Dakota and nationally. Their records weren’t strong on the matter until 2016.

The poor service at IHS facilities that has been documented by them has only fed further suspicion of the IHS.

Four years ago South Dakota voters rejected a sales-tax increase, from 4 percent to 5 percent, that was intended to fund Medicaid expansion and teacher salaries. This year, Daugaard led the Legislature to raise the sales tax to 4.5 percent for teacher pay and property tax relief.

There was discontent but there wasn’t a backlash in the Republican legislative primaries earlier this month over the sales-tax increase approved by state lawmakers.

The inference became this: Voters wanted to support their schools but didn’t want to pay more for Medicaid services.

Raising the white flag on Medicaid expansion seemed inevitable once Daugaard received the IHS letter and won the sales-tax increase fight this year.

Medicaid expansion likely is dead for the 30 months remaining on Daugaard’s second and final term as governor. And for what it’s worth, he didn’t run for re-election on Medicaid expansion, either.

4 plus 4 doesn’t make 9

I choked when I saw a tweet from the governor’s office praising the U.S. Supreme Court decision on President Obama’s immigration amnesty as a victory for the rule of law. The court split 4-4. The court is supposed to have nine members, regardless of who is president. If a nine-member court upheld or overturned Obama’s immigration policy, that would be acceptable, because that’s how the system is supposed to work. A 4-4 tie means the Supreme Court reverts to a lower court’s decision. There is nothing supreme in that equation. Rule of law indeed.

SDSU wants some names changed

The state Board of Regents will consider next week whether South Dakota State University can change the names of two academic departments. Plant Science would become Agronomy, Horticulture and Plant Science. Dairy Science would become Dairy and Food Science. The regents meet Tuesday through Thursday at Dakota State University in Madison.

Two veteran lawmakers shown the door in a complicated, rural district

Winning where more voters live: That’s the story behind the victories by John Lake and Spencer Gosch for two seats in the state House of Representatives.

They finished decisively ahead of former Rep. Charlie Hoffman, who was attempting a comeback, and current Rep. Dick Werner, who was trying to remain a legislator but for a district that didn’t originally elect him, in this month’s primary election.

The Republicans who voted in the District 23 primary split strongly in their preferences among the four depending upon where they lived. And that’s how John Lake of Gettysburg and Spencer Gosch of Glenham prevailed.

The Republican primary was the election in this instance. The district didn’t attract any independents or Democrats as candidates. So the 31.16 percent of the Republican-primary votes received by Lake and the 26.98 percent received by Gosch sends them to the state Capitol for the 2017-2018 term of the Legislature.

This was a contest without any true incumbents. The district’s senator, Corey Brown of Gettysburg, is term-limited after four consecutive terms in the Senate and didn’t seek to continue in the House. Brown was a major force during his eight years, serving at various points as Senate appropriations chairman, Senate president pro tem (giving him the power of assigning committee members) and most recent as Senate Republican caucus leader. One of the district’s two representatives, Justin Cronin of Gettysburg, was term-limited in the House and ran, unopposed, for the Senate seat. Cronin was House appropriations chairman for the past term, after previously being House Republican assistant leader. The district’s other representative, Michele Harrison of Mobridge, decided against seeking re-election to a second term. All three are Republicans.

Hoffman had served three terms in the House and didn’t run for re-election in 2014. That opened a path for Harrison to serve. It also re-set the calendar for Hoffman regarding term limits and took him off the path where he and Cronin might have competed for the Senate nomination this year.

The move by Dick Werner from Huron, where he had been a banker, back home to rural Herreid created an unusual situation. Werner continued to represent the voters of District 22 in Beadle and Kingsbury counties who elected him in 2012 but was competing for election in 2016 from the District 23 counties of Campbell, Edmunds, Faulk, Hand, McPherson, Potter, Walworth and part of Spink.

The four Republicans indeed competed hard in the primary campaign. The eight counties of District 23 make it one of the more challenging geographically and therefore politically. Gettysburg, with Cronin and Brown, has been the power center for eight years. With Cronin moving to the Senate and Lake’s victory, the status of Gettysburg remains for another term in the Legislature.

The results by county reflect the local flavor of this primary and the complexities of a contest where voters could choose two candidates.

Campbell County favored Werner with 33.11 percent and Hoffman with 27.87 percent. Edmunds County liked Hoffman best with 27.89 percent and Werner second with 25.46 percent.

Faulk County voters liked a different combination. There Lake received 39.75 percent, with Werner second at 29.25 percent. Hand County preferred the same pair, giving Lake 34.52 percent and Werner 28.48 percent.

McPherson County voters saw it another way. Hoffman did best with 37.20 percent and Gosch broke through with 24.80 percent.

Potter County made its favorite clear. Lake received 63.57 percent. Gosch placed second there with 15.95 percent. Lake won 801 of his total 2,466 votes in his home county. Gosch had 201 votes there, Hoffman 187 and Werner just 71.

Walworth County did the same but in different order. Gosch won his home county with 45.41 percent, followed by Lake with 25.05 percent. Gosch received 890 of his total 2,135 votes there. Next were Lake with 491, Hoffman 341 and Werner 238.

The part of Spink County that’s in this district preferred Werner with 39.74 percent and Lake at 36.42 percent. But for Werner those 60 votes didn’t do much to offset results elsewhere.

The district’s voters sent a message in 2014 when Hoffman sat out and they chose Michele Harrison, a Mobridge community leader, for the second House seat in a five-way Republican primary, largely on support in Walworth County for Harrison and Cronin (and the cross-over Republican candidacy of former Rep. Dale Hargens from Miller, who had been a Democrat and who won Hand County in the 2014 Republican primary — proving local support matters).

This time, the district’s Republicans elected two new lawmakers, again from Walworth and Potter counties, in Gosch and Lake, over two veteran lawmakers in Hoffman and Werner. Where they will fit in the House Republican caucus, and how Justin Cronin fares in the new dynamics of the post-Brown Senate Republican caucus, won’t be publicly clear until January. But it’s a place to watch.

Now come the replacement candidates — maybe for the last time

This is a long post about a complex subject. What’s been happening in a few legislative election contests in recent days is noteworthy, because in the future the selection of replacement candidates could be more difficult.

There are restrictions proposed that would strongly discourage the use of placeholder candidates who are to be replaced later on the ballot. The restrictions would become state law if South Dakota voters approve Referred Law 19 in the November general election this year.

Opponents used South Dakota’s referral process to temporarily block the 13-page bill, which was SB 69 in the 2015 legislative session, until a statewide vote could be held on it. SB 69 contains many proposed changes to South Dakota election laws beyond the restrictions on placeholder and replacement candidates.

One example is an overhaul of the filing period for partisan candidates seeking state and county offices. It would start Dec. 1 of the preceding year rather than Jan. 1 of the election year and would close at 5 p.m. on March 1 rather than late March. (This year the final day to file was March 29 for partisan candidates.)

Originally SB 69 came from the state Board of Elections and new Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, a Republican former legislator. But current Republican legislators took control of SB 69 and inserted additional provisions, such as the restrictions against placeholders.

Section 21 of SB 69 carries the new restrictions on placeholders:

If a party candidate for public office withdraws after filing petitions with the secretary of state, the appropriate party central committee may make a replacement nominee only if:

(1) The party candidate: (a) Withdraws because of personal illness or illness of an immediate family member and the illness prevents the candidate from performing the duties of the office sought; and (b) Submits with the withdrawal request a form signed by a licensed physician verifying that the provisions of subsection (a) apply to the candidate;

(2) There is no other nominee for the office sought by the withdrawing candidate as of the time of the withdrawal;

(3) The party candidate has been elected or appointed to fill a vacancy in another elective office which duties conflict by law with the duties of the office sought, has become the nominee for another elective office, it has been determined that the party candidate’s employment conflicts by law with the duties of the office sought, or is deceased; or

(4) The party candidate permanently moves from his or her physical address stated in the nominating petition filed with the secretary of state, and requests in writing, subscribed and sworn to by the candidate before any officer qualified to administer oaths and take acknowledgments that the candidate has not resided in the district for a period of thirty consecutive calendar days and has no intention of resuming residency in the district.

Those restrictions were in an amendment presented by Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, during the legislation’s first hearing by the Senate State Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Jan. 28, 2015.

Brown and other Republicans expressed their disdain for the tactic often used by Democratic organizers of finding people willing to let their names temporarily be used as candidates during the filing period. Those temporary candidates withdraw later.

Sometimes actual candidates are selected later to replace them. Sometimes the slot is left empty.

The proposed restrictions would deter this practice in South Dakota legislative contests to some considerable extent.

The ballot-measure explanation by state Attorney General Marty Jackley attempts to summarize major effects of SB 69 in one page. The replacement restrictions aren’t mentioned in the explanation.

This year the withdrawal activity is somewhat limited, at least so far.

Senate candidates who withdrew before the primary elections were Sen. Ried Holien of Watertown and David Bergan of Sioux Falls, both Republicans. House candidates who withdrew before the primary elections were Republicans Stephen Eckrich of Rapid City and Rep. Fred Deutsch of Florence; and Democrat Tony Pier of Sioux Falls.

Holien’s decision led to a Republican primary won by Neal Tapio of Watertown over Rep. Roger Solum of Watertown. John Mills of rural Volga was selected to replace Deutsch as a Republican candidate in District 4. In District 14, J.R. LaPlante of Sioux Falls is replacing Pier.

More could be coming. The last day for candidates to withdraw from the general election is Aug. 2. The last day for party central committee to fill vacancies caused by withdrawals is Aug. 9.

You’ll see much more information in the coming four months about Referred Law 19 and what it would change if voters adopt it Nov. 8. There are many significant changes in its 13 pages.

Some significant changes at PUC and LRC

First the retirement news: Rolayne Wiest stepped down June 8 after nearly 20 years at the state Public Utilities Commission, where she most recently was commission attorney. Comments by commissioners at a recent meeting showed their deep appreciation for her abilities and her precision.

Her departure meant Adam de Hueck moves from a PUC staff attorney to commission attorney. His promotion opened a desk for Amanda Reiss to join the PUC as a staff attorney. She has worked the past five years as a lawyer on the Legislative Research Council staff. That creates a vacancy the LRC has yet to fill.

The LRC meanwhile recently filled a vacancy on its fiscal staff. Aaron Olson left as a senior fiscal analyst during the legislative session to take a top finance spot at the Unified Judicial System within state government. The LRC hired Jeff Mehlhaff, who started Thursday. He comes from the South Dakota Municipal League, where he was director for electrical service. He is assigned to be the LRC analyst for the state Board of Regents. (Ann Mehlhaff, the fiscal section’s head in LRC, said he is “a fifth or sixth cousin” to her husband, Jim, who works at the PUC.)