Legislature sets plan for picking E.D.

Five finalists will be interviewed June 2-3 by the Legislatures’s Executive Board for the position of executive director for the Legislative Research Council. E-board members set the schedule Wednesday. Three interviews are planned on the afternoon of June 2, followed by two on the morning of June 3. The board plans to spend the afternoon of June 3 interviewing applicants for a seat on the South Dakota Investment Council.

Meanwhile other staff realignments continue for LRC personnel, who are the Legislature’s non-partisan professional staff. Fred Schoenfeld, the long-time fiscal chief, has been operating on an interim basis as the executive director after Jim Fry resigned from the top post last year. Schoenfeld will retire after a new executive director is selected. Annie Mehlhaff is now fiscal chief. The post-session retirement of long-time LRC’er Reuben Bezpaletz created an opening for a new chief of research and legal matters. Dave Ortbahn moves into that post.

There was a fun exchange Wednesday between Schoenfeld and Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, who is the E-board’s chairman. Schoenfeld was explaining some processes he needs to put in writing before the transition to a new permanent director. “…as I depart the field of combat…” Schoenfeld said. Maher interjected: “Are you wounded?” Schoenfeld didn’t miss a beat. “More than you’ll ever know,” he replied.

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SDHSAA picks new directors

Two men won automatic election Tuesday afternoon to new five-year terms on the board of directors for the South Dakota High School Activities Association.

Steve Morford, principal of Spearfish high school, was the only candidate nominated for the West River at-large seat. He will succeed Darren Paulson of Rapid City Central. Superintendents, principals and athletic directors are eligible for the seat.

Roger Bordeaux, superintendent of the Todd County school district, was the only candidate nominated for the Native American at-large seat. He will succeed Eldon Marshall of White River high school.

They can’t seek re-election.

Seven people were nominated for a large-school board of education member seat that is vacant. Mike Miller of Aberdeen held the seat prior to sudden illness and death last month.

Four people were nominated for the Division III (smaller schools) representative seat. Mike Ruth of Miller resigned from the seat earlier this year.

Each of the association’s member schools will cast a mail-in vote for each of the two contests. There are run-off provisions calling for the top two vote-getters to face each other in a secondary election if none of the candidates for a seat receives a majority.

There are four years remaining on the term for the seat that Mike Miller held. There are two years remaining on the term for the seat that Mike Ruth held. The winners of the two elections can’t seek another term.

The board has eight directors. Here is the association’s provisions for the board.

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SDHSAA looking, again, at football classes

The board of directors for the South Dakota High School Activities Association is meeting today and Wednesday in Pierre as part of the association’s annual membership meeting. The board voted 6-0 today to keep seven classes for football in 2015 and 2016 and to keep three classes of 9-man football and four classes of 11-man football. The staff is seeking enrollment data from the state Department of Education regarding each school district’s ratio of male students and female students. The direction under way points to male enrollment being used for setting the seven classes rather than total enrollment. Board member Dan Whalen, the athletic director for the Pierre school district, said he’s concerned that school districts are reluctant to form cooperatives because they face moving up to an 11-man class. “Over 60 percent of our teams is 9-man football,” Whalen said. “Is that where South Dakota wants to be?” Avon superintendent Tom Culver, who’s the athletic director, elementary school principal and head football coach, said there’s been an “onslaught” of criticism of 9-man football in the past four months. He said pitting 9-man against 11-man bugs him. Darren Paulson, the board’s chairman and the athletics and fine arts activities director at Rapid City Central high school, said football seems to be a constant discussion covering topics such as classes, co-ops and scheduling. “Football is its own animal,” he said.

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Four finalists selected for BHSU presidency

The spring weather and the longer hours of daylight mean Kay Schallenkamp’s time grows shorter as president for Black Hills State University in Spearfish. The state Board of Regents announced four finalists Monday to succeed Schallenkamp (or “Short Timer” as I like to call her of late). She’s aiming for a May retirement after starting the job in July 2006. The campus looks good and, in many ways, better than it did a decade ago. Student numbers are up, too. Before she arrived, the fall 2005 total headcount enrollment was 3,888 at BHSU; for the entire South Dakota public university system, it was 30,720. The fall 2013 total headcount enrollment for BHSU was 4,464; systemwide it was 36,365.

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Independents grew faster than political parties

The latest voter registration totals from the South Dakota Secretary of State office show that independents grew faster than Republicans this year, whether month by month or in total since the first report of 2014 on Jan. 15. And Democrats lost voters every month, which means the independents out grew them too.

In fact, even the Libertarians and the Constitutionalists outpaced the Democrats.

Independents gained 638 registered voters from March 3 to April 1. That came on the heels of gains of 429 in February and 209 in January. Their total was 96,049 as of April 1.

Republicans gained 1 registered voter in January, 225 in February and 371 in March. Their total as of April 1 was 235,347.

Democrats lost 515 voters in January, 179 in February and 139 in March. Their total was 175,942 on April 1.

Libertarians gained 36 since Jan. 15 and stood at 1,277 as of April 1. Constitution Party members reached a modern high of 386 in January and have kept growing each month, getting to 595 by April 1.

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Will oil trains be next for South Dakota? w/ update

South Dakota could become a shipping center for crude oil as the result of a major decision by President Obama’s administration Friday. The U.S. State Department declared a further delay on the permit application by TransCanada to pierce the U.S.-Canada border with its proposed Keystone XL pipeline. The given reason is uncertainty in Nebraska over the legal status of that state’s permitting for the project.

TransCanada already has a general permit for the segment of its proposed route through South Dakota, including the sites of the pipeline’s pumping stations. That state permit was issued in 2010. Construction was to start in 2011 and be completed in 2012. Nothing has happened, however, while the federal permit remains undecided. If federal approval doesn’t come soon, the state permit will lapse June 20, 2014, and TransCanada will need to apply again to the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission.

TransCanada’s proposed route through South Dakota would cross the old Mitchell – Rapid City railroad right of way that is owned by the state of South Dakota. The rail line is already rebuilt from Mitchell to Chamberlain. The Legislature this year approved $7.2 million to help pay for rehabilitation of the rail line’s bridge over the Missouri River between Chamberlain and Oacoma — this $1.2 million piece was at the request of Gov. Dennis Daugaard — and to help rebuild the line west to the vanished community of Lyman, where Wheat Growers wants to put a fertilizer distribution and grain shipping complex. That second piece with an appropriation of $6 million came at the request of Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell.

And for what it’s worth, the public-affairs trio whose firm is running the U.S. Senate campaign of former Gov. Mike Rounds — the former governor’s former chief of staff Rob Skjonsberg, former senior aide Jason Glodt and former state Sen. Bob Gray — also are involved in the effort to put together the money to get the line west to Lyman. It all might be a coincidence, but it’s also worth noting that the former governor’s father, Don Rounds, was a long-time lobbyist for the petroleum industry.

The question now is whether the intersection of the rail line and the pipeline in the Vivian area would be a logical location to construct a transfer center to load oil from the pipeline into rail cars. Such a center would require PUC approval. The center could be the answer for TransCanada’s Nebraska problem.

South Dakota would face a set of big decisions. Does the public want oil trains running through the state, including crossing the Missouri River by bridge? Should there be an environmental protection tax levied against the oil operations by the Legislature? Would the Legislature pay to rebuild the rail line west to the Vivian area where the pipeline would intersect? Can the rail line handle sufficient oil traffic while also taking care of grain and fertilizer? Or should TransCanada be encouraged to put a second pipe down the route already in place for the original Keystone pipeline?

I asked the PUC’s three elected commissioners recently whether anyone had approached the agency about a rail-transfer facility for the XL pipeline. The response was no. The Obama administration will be in office through 2016. With a new South Dakota permit becoming necessary, it wouldn’t be a surprise if the next move would be proposal of rail shipping that could send trains of oil in any direction from South Dakota. This matter bears watching.

UPDATE: Here is a news release issued Friday afternoon by Jason Glodt on behalf of an organization that Steve Halverson put together during the legislative session to raise local money for the proposed extension of the MRI rail line to Lyman. Steve farms, ranches and runs a hunting operation in the Kennebec area, has served on the South Dakota Wheat Commission and to my knowledge has never shown anything but the highest character.

Contact: Steve Halverson                                                                                     April 18, 2014
Cell Phone: 605.222.0270                                                                              For Immediate Release:
Email: halverson@pie.midco.net

Over $1 Million in Local Match Raised for Railroad Rehabilitation

Rails to the Future announced today that over $1 million has been raised in local match for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant the state of South Dakota is applying for.  The State’s TIGER grant application is seeking $12.6 million for a $29 million project to rehabilitate the state-owned railroad from Chamberlain to Presho.  Earlier this month, the SD Railroad Board committed $14 million towards the grant.  The local match will add over a million more in local commitments to the grant application.   

The $1 million in commitments have been made by farmers, businesses, ag organizations, tribal and local governments that support the project. 

“We are very pleased with the level of local support for this project,” said Steve Halverson, President of the Rails to the Future.  “This amount of local match will significantly increase our chances for being awarded the TIGER grant.” 

“We would like to thank everyone who wrote a letter of support or made a financial commitment for the grant application,” said Halverson.  “This project clearly has strong grassroots support and we are hopeful the grant application will be successful.”

The official grant application will be submitted by the SD Department of Transportation next week.  The state expects to know whether or not its application is successful by the end of the year. 

During the past Session, the legislature appropriated $7.2 million for rehabilitation of the state-owned railroad.  The SD Wheat Growers testified during committee hearings that they would build a $40 million shuttle loader facility and agronomy center if the railroad is rehabilitated at least as far as Lyman. 

Rails to the Future is a grassroots organization that is helping raise money for the railroad rehabilitation. Rails to the Future will continue to raise money for railroad rehabilitation.  If you would like to contribute, you can donate through their website at www.railstothefuture.com

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Looking at cold, hard facts in the U.S. Senate GOP race

I watched, and wrote about, the South Dakota Newspaper Association forum held last Saturday for the five candidates seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. I thought a lot about the forum in the days afterward. That led to looking for some objective measures of the five. And the results of that inquiry led to the story I wrote for this weekend in which I ask the lead question: Is the nomination of Mike Rounds inevitable? The story will appear on the websites and in the print editions of the seven separately owned daily newspapers I serve: Aberdeen American News, Watertown Public Opinion, Mitchell Daily Republic, Yankton Press and Dakotan, Pierre Capital Journal, Rapid City Journal and Black Hills Pioneer (Spearfish, Lead and Deadwood).

You can judge the story on your own terms. Meanwhile, I want to share a few thoughts about the forum:

Of course Mike Rounds would show up to debate. This was the SDNA. The Friday dinner speaker was Gov. Dennis Daugaard. The five Republican Senate candidates — Rounds, Stace Nelson, Larry Rhoden, Annette Bosworth and Jason Ravnsborg — weren’t going to skip the daily AND the weekly newspaper publishers, editors and many reporters.

I wasn’t surprised at all that Mike Rounds jabbed back at Stace Nelson. The Rounds family is big and, from what I’m told, there’s a lot of give and take at weekend family breakfasts through the decades. Nelson is right to bring up some uncomfortable facts from Rounds’ time as governor. Rounds is right to bring up some uncomfortable facts from Nelson’s time as a legislator.

I also thought Nelson and Rounds both were fairly polite in the tone they took talking about each other as they sat next to each other. On the ugly scale they barely registered.

Annette Bosworth did OK. I didn’t get the same vibe described by others who thought she didn’t make much sense. She did lose her place once. So did several others. The time limits will do that.

Larry Rhoden was Larry Rhoden. He’s been in the Legislature 14 years. If you follow the Legislature, you know what you’re getting. There’s nothing complex. There’s nothing weak. He’s like a cattle guard on the front of a pickup truck. You take it for granted because you can count on it.

Jason Ravnsborg might have a future. He’s unknown. He simply got into this race too late.

The forum was worthwhile. The rules were fair. The moderator, Watertown Public Opinion publisher Mark Roby, did well. The questions from Jonathan Ellis of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, Katie Zerr of the Mobridge Tribune and Lance Nixon of the Pierre Capital Journal were factual and had good range. It was a good setting to learn about the candidates’ styles, personalities and views.

None of the five candidates blew it. None of them blew the others away. None of them is going to change the ways of Washington, D.C., no matter what is promised. This contest is all about what you want as a voter.

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Alright! SDHSAA posts agendas

This is a step in the right direction for the South Dakota High School Activities Association. The SDHSAA has put on its website its agendas for its annual meeting that will be held Tuesday, April 22 at the Pierre high school starting at 2 p.m. and for its regular board meeting that begins Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the high school and continues Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. at the SDHSAA offices in Pierre.

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This Bosworth thing is getting weirder

This just in…

April 18, 2014

For IMMEDIATE Release

Bosworth Clarification of KELO Radio Interview

(Sioux Falls, South Dakota) – Statement by Dr. Annette Bosworth regarding yesterday’s radio interview with KELO Radio’s Greg Belfrage.  ”Yesterday while appearing on the Greg Belfrage show, I incorrectly and inarfully suggested that I was advised by legal counsel prior to submitting my petitions to the South Dakota Secretary of State’s office.  This was an incorrect suggestion on my part, as I did not direct or ask my legal counsel to review the petitions or process before they were submitted.  Any suggestion that counsel reviewed the petitions, the process or offered advice beforehand is incorrect and I regret suggesting otherwise.”

#30#

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Today’s lesson in state gov’t records

I asked state Commissioner of Finance Management Jason Dilges yesterday about why some state offices don’t post all of the contracts on the opensd.gov Internet site. That led to a broader discussion involving his director of financial systems and operations, Colin Keeler. Together they produced this great tutorial. And I really mean great. We spent nearly two hours on this topic. Now they know some things they previously didn’t. And I know a lot of things I previously didn’t. In the weeks ahead, the general public likely is going to know some things too. (By the way, the abbreviations such as ATG and BOA and OSA and BIT shouldn’t lead you to the conclusion those were state offices that aren’t following the law requiring that contracts be posted.)

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