Category Archives: Uncategorized

Graduation requirements hearing

Gov. Dennis Daugaard (in dark suit) spoke with former state Education Secretary Don Kirkegaard before testimony began Monday at a public hearing on South Dakota’s proposed new requirements for high school graduation. Kirkegaard began July 9 as superintendent for West Bend, Wisconsin, school district. He stepped down last year as superintendent of the Meade school district in South Dakota to take the job in Daugaard’s Cabinet. Kirkegaard said he was taking a truck and boat from Sturgis to West Bend. Kirkegaard testified in favor of the changes.

Mary Stadick Smith is interim secretary through the five-plus months remaining of the Daugaard administration.

Paul Turman, chief academic officer for the state Board of Regents whose members govern South Dakota’s public universities, spoke in favor of the changes.

State board member Gopal Vyas of Mitchell supported the changes.

Board members Kay Schallenkamp of Spearfish (right) and Becky Guffin of Aberdeen also voted for the changes. The result was 7-0.

Board President Sue Aguilar of Sioux Falls spoke in support of the suggestion by another board member, Jacqueline Sly of Rapid City, for a future board to review the changes after Jan. 1, 2026.

Tonchi Weaver of Rapid City used the video feature of her phone to record the remarks by opponent Florence Thompson of Caputa…


…and Thompson next did the same for Weaver.

Rapid City Superintendent Lori Simon pointed out many of what she described as shortcomings to the plan. The state Department of Education didn’t use a task force.

Sly successfully sought review of graduation changes

Former legislator Jacqueline Sly showed savvy Monday.

The Legislature, traditionally controlled by Republicans, is in a period where it functions at times as an independent branch of state government.

One reason: The larger the Republican majority, the more factions within it. That’s long been true. Another reason: The amendment South Dakota voters made to the state constitution in 1992, limiting legislators to a maximum of four consecutive elections to the same chamber.

Several Republican lawmakers, such as the late Sen. Jim Dunn of Lead and the late Rep. Gordon Pederson of Wall, reached 30 years of service in the Legislature but didn’t get a record 32.

Among the dozens the terms-limit churned through was former Rep. Jacqueline Sly, R-Rapid City.

After reaching the maximum of four consecutive elections in the House, she lost in the 2016 Republican primary when she challenged Sen. Phil Jensen of Rapid City. Republican primaries in the Black Hills have solidified as hard-conservative contests, and Jensen clearly was more conservative than Sly during the years they served.

Jensen was a member of the Senate Education Committee that faced a significant decision on confirmation this year when Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed Sly to the state Board of Education Standards that oversees rules for South Dakota’s K-12 schools.

Sly made it through the confirmation hearing. On Monday, Sly showed her political experience (and her decades of working as a teacher). She suggested the state board set a date to review the new requirements for high school graduation.

Board President Sue Aguilar of Sioux Falls supported Sly’s idea. After getting legal advice from the board’s attorney, Holly Ferris, the seven members unanimously agreed on a date: Sometime after Jan. 1, 2026.

As she made the suggestion, Sly recalled the recent era when the Legislature considered whether to require more math.

“Maybe it hasn’t worked as well as we thought it did,” she said. She noted that view might be held by another board member, Lori Wagner of Webster, who teaches math courses through the on-line virtual school at Northern State University in Aberdeen. “We have nurtured them through,” Sly said.

Sly called it “refreshing” to look at new approaches to math that are part of the new requirements, which offer more flexibility for a basic diploma and have stronger requirements for math in the advanced endorsements.

She suggested adding a scheduled review in “four years, probably” to see whether the new requirements were working. “Ultimately we all have the same goal,” she said.

Two different approaches for LG candidates

Last weekend I wrote a piece about the plans for the two major-party candidates for lieutenant governor.

US Rep. Kristi Noem, the Republican nominee for governor, wants state Rep. Larry Rhoden to be president of the Senate and serve in a part-time role.

State Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton wants Michelle Lavallee to be a full-time lieutenant governor.

Because of its length, some of the papers I serve trimmed the story. Here is the remainder that some cut for space reasons.

Through 1972, South Dakota elected its lieutenant governor, meaning there always had been potential for candidates from opposite parties to be elected as governor and lieutenant governor.

South Dakota voters changed the state constitution in 1972, so that Democratic and Republican candidates for lieutenant governor are chosen at statewide conventions and run on the same tickets as the governor nominees.

That switch led to many variations among governors since then.

Democrat Dick Kneip wanted Harvey Wollmann of Hitchcock to be secretary of agriculture, but then-state Attorney General Bill Janklow, a Republican, said it would be illegal.

After his 1978 victory, Janklow let Lowell Hansen of Sioux Falls do little beyond preside over the Senate.

Republican George S. Mickelson chose Walter Dale Miller of New Underwood to serve full time.

That decision proved sadly prophetic: The 1993 state airplane crash killed Mickelson and seven others and elevated Miller to governor.

Janklow in his 1994 comeback chose Carole Hillard of Rapid City months ahead of the primary against Miller, in part to split Republican ranks in the Black Hills. Janklow beat Miller.

After returning to office, Janklow gave Hillard little to do other than preside over the Senate.

Mike Rounds, a surprise winner in the 2002 Republican primary, didn’t announce his pick until after his June triumph. He chose Dennis Daugaard from Garretson and Dell Rapids.

Rounds gave Daugaard some additional responsibilities but kept him part time.

Daugaard selected Matt Michels after winning the 2010 primary. Michels initially served full time and transitioned to a busy halftime role in their second term.

The consistent trend is that each governor, whether Democrat or Republican, elected since 1972 had previously been a legislator or a state constitutional officer and selected a state legislator for lieutenant governor.

Miller was the exception to the second half of that formula, picking businessman Steve Kirby of Sioux Falls. They didn’t win.

Noem has never lost an election for a state office.

She won her two races for seats in the state House. In 2010, she won a three-way Republican primary for the U.S. House of Representatives seat; then defeated the four-term Democratic incumbent, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin.

Noem has since been re-elected to the U.S. House seat three times, winning by comfortable margins. She won the June 5 Republican primary for governor, beating state Attorney General Marty Jackley, taking nearly all of the 66 counties.

Sutton, the state Senate Democratic leader, couldn’t seek election to a fifth consecutive term and carried through with a candidacy for governor. He didn’t have a Democratic primary challenger.

Both Lavallee and Rhoden faced challenges at the statewide conventions held by their political parties last month.

Neither was originally a member of the party they’re representing in the general election.

Lavallee was a Republican who changed registration to Democratic after Sutton asked her to serve with him.

Rhoden changed from Democratic to Republican about 20 years ago before his first run for the state House in 2000.

The challenge to Rhoden at the Republican state convention came from state Sen. Stace Nelson of Fulton. Nelson has loudly and repeatedly questioned the Republicanism of other legislators, including in his speech as a candidate for lieutenant governor.

Some legislative insiders already anticipate the potential of a major showdown in the Senate if Noem wins: Rhoden, who has shown just as strong or stronger, would preside over the chamber where Nelson seems like a favorite to win re-election as a senator.

Sutton’s choice of Lavallee came as a general surprise, but she had contributed to Democratic campaigns for several decades.

Many people didn’t expect Noem to choose Rhoden either, but he had been visible on her behalf for months.

Last winter Rhoden carried petitions in the legislative chambers seeking signatures for her candidacy.

He rode aboard her campaign bus during the last weekend before the June 5 primary too.

The political ties between Noem and Rhoden reach to her first term in the state House in 2007-2008 and he was House Republican leader.

Rhoden moved to the state Senate after the 2008 election because the state constitution prohibited seeking election to a fifth consecutive term in the House.

Rhoden later ran in the Republican U.S. Senate primary in 2014. He placed second in the five-way contest that former Gov. Rounds won.

Rhoden returned to the state House in the 2016 election.

After she announced her choice, Noem quickly added Rhoden to her campaign logo. He started using a Twitter account.

In Lavallee, Sutton seemed to be sending a broader message about rekindling support among Democrats and drawing back Republicans who had left the fold.

Lavallee grew up a daughter of a cattle seller in Beadle County who was locally prominent in the Huron area.

Her political alignment as a Republican symbolized the shift that had happened in the region.

The upper and middle James River Valley, where Aberdeen, Huron and Mitchell are regional centers, had been a reliably strong Democratic base as recently as 20 years ago.

By 2014 however Beadle, Brown and Davison counties had all switched to Republican, according to state voter registration records.

The same held true statewide, as Republicans broadened their margin in the past decade.

Democrats meanwhile lost tens of thousands of registered voters since 2008.

Phenomenal growth in independents and no-party affiliation voters made the attrition look worse.

Sutton wanted to signal, with his choice of Lavallee, that he welcomed the return of voters who had been Democrats but left out of disagreement with the party’s direction.

Rhoden’s 16 years as a Republican legislator included four years in the state Senate. His experience would seem to be an advantage.

Lavallee hasn’t been a candidate for legislator.

Noem, raised on a family farm in Hamlin County, is the first woman to be the Republican nominee in the history of South Dakota.

All four grew up on farms and ranches.

Four years ago, Democrats chose their first woman, state Rep. Susan Wismer of Britton.

Wismer, a certified public accountant and a third-generation lawmaker from a strongly Democratic family, chose a former legislator, Susy Blake of Sioux Falls, as running mate.

They lost to the Republican ticket of Daugaard and Michels running for a second term.

Lavallee would be the second woman to be lieutenant governor. She brings to the race decades of professional connections in the Sioux Falls business and charitable communities.

She now has her own marketing firm and previously held positions with Raven Industries, Avera McKennan Hospital and the University of South Dakota.

She’s also served on boards for Sioux Falls Development Foundation, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and the Washington Pavilion.

Sutton’s campaign hasn’t strongly featured her on his campaign’s website, however.

The video that constantly streamed Friday across the top of the Sutton website showed him on horseback with his wife and their son.

It also showed Sutton in a variety of campaign and business settings, including several in his wheelchair.

Four photos on the page show Sutton. None shows Lavallee.

The only mention of Lavallee, three weeks after her selection, is in a news release at the bottom of the page that requires a click to read. There’s no image of Lavallee there.

Her name hasn’t been added to Sutton’s logo, either.

Noem on the other hand aggressively featured Rhoden from the start.

Rhoden’s name immediately appeared in her logo.

Her campaign site pushes out front a video showing Noem talking about why she trusts Rhoden.

She spoke about his work for others during the freak Storm Atlas disaster that crushed western ranches in the first days of October in 2013.

Noem also talked about Rhoden’s activities in his church and his time in the South Dakota National Guard.

“But you know that’s what Larry does. He serves,” she said.

A split between parties on ICE

A new Morning Consult / Politico survey found a clear split between Democrats and Republicans on the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Among Democrats, a plurality of 43 percent favors getting rid of ICE.

Among Republicans, an overwhelming majority of 79 percent favors keeping ICE.

Among independents, a majority of 54 percent favors keeping ice.

The survey was conducted July 6-10 among a national sample of 1,999 registered voters. The potential margin of error for the survey was plus or minus 2 percent.

Calling for an eight-justice court?

There was an unusual point of view expressed by Sam Parkinson in his statement criticizing Republican President Donald Trump’s announcement Monday night nominating federal U.S. Appeals Court Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The South Dakota Democratic Party executive director stated: “Further, A President under federal criminal investigation for colluding with a foreign power to rig an election should not be able to nominate the person who could play a part in deciding his fate if the fight over the investigation reaches the Supreme Court.”

Parkinson said the US Senate should reject Kavanaugh or delay the vote until after Special Counsel Robert Mueller submitted a report to Congress or closed the investigation into Trump.

Justice Anthony Kennedy has already announced his retirement.

Going mobile

Only Sen. Jim White, R-Huron, attended the Legislature’s Retirement Laws Committee in person Monday. Other members participated by telephone, including Rep. Tim Rounds, R-Pierre. “I couldn’t make it in this morning. Too far of a drive. So I’m calling,” Rounds said as the teleconference began.

Saying goodbye to a very good reporter

Tena Haraldson spent 35 years with The Associated Press. When she retired in 2012, she was chief of bureau for South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska. She joined the University of South Dakota, where she became director of communications.

Tena retired from USD on June 21. Her successor is Michelle Cwach.

Michelle will pull double duty on a temporary basis while the university conducts its search for a new media-relations manager. Michael Ewald has stepped aside from that position to pursue a law degree at USD.

What I learned from Tena (a 1976 science-journalism graduate of South Dakota State University, by the way) included this: When you think the interview is over, go back over the highlights of it with the person you’ve been interviewing. So simple but so important.

The media advisory said in bold, “NOT FOR PUBLICATION.” So keep it quiet that you saw this.

APHIS wants public comments on potential rules for imports

News release from today (Friday, July 6):

Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is seeking public input regarding regulatory options for Lacey Act declaration requirements for composite plant materials. The Lacey Act—which combats trafficking in illegally taken wildlife, fish, or plants—requires an import declaration for certain plants and plant products. The declaration must include the scientific name of the plant, value of the importation, quantity of the plant, and name of the country where the plant was harvested. However, the Lacey Act does not address whether a declaration is required for composite plant materials. Composite plant materials are plant products and plant-based materials where the original plant material is broken down and re-composed or used as an extract in a manufacturing process, which may make it difficult or expensive to comply with declaration requirements.

APHIS is seeking public input on two possible approaches to an exception for composite plant materials. Specifically, we are asking for comment on the proposed definition of composite plant materials; an appropriate threshold for a proposed exception, and; whether either of these approaches is feasible, or if another alternative exists; among other things. The exception would not apply to protected plant species.

APHIS will carefully consider all comments received by September 7, 2018. This notice may be viewed in today’s Federal Register at: this link. Beginning July 9, 2018, members of the public will be able to submit comments here.

US 212 work to start at Henry

The contractor for the segment of US 212 through Henry starts work there Monday, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Webster Scale Inc. plans to reconstruct the north half while traffic moves on the south half.

When the north half is done, the company plans to work on the south half while traffic uses the north half.

The $2.2 million project is scheduled to be done Oct. 19.

Vehicles will face a width restriction of 10 feet during the work.

The project includes grading, asphalt concrete surfacing, installation of curb and gutter, disability upgrades, sidewalks and roadway lighting.

Henry is a community of about 250 people in western Codington County. Watertown is to the east and Clark is to the west on US 212.

Society wants your donations of western collectibles

Have a western collectible item you wouldn’t mind donating to a worthy cause? Contact the South Dakota State Historical Society Foundation about the auction planned Sept. 14.

The not-for-profit foundation hopes to raise money for the society at the auction, set for Expo Center in Fort Pierre at 7 p.m. Central.

Lisa Bondy said the foundation is trying to build on the experience of its first auction last year. She is administrative director for the foundation.

Popular items were art, historic firearms, crocks and Western antiques. Bondy can be reached at 605-773-6298 or