State Historical Society holds rules hearing Thursday

The governor’s executive order moving the State Historical Society to the state Department of Education from the state Department of Tourism hadn’t taken effect yet when the society first published its notice of proposed rules changes back in the March 2, 2015, issue of the LRC Bulletin. The proposals also didn’t make it to state government’s rules-proposals site (rules.sd.gov) on the Internet. The site is still somewhat new. The society plans a rules hearing tomorrow, Thursday, May 28, at 1 p.m. CT in Pierre as part of the organization’s big annual meeting and conference. In case you want to know more about the proposals, and fax or email some written comments today or attend the hearing tomorrow, here are the two sets of documents:

2015PublicHearingNotice

2015Rules

And, if you want more information about the conference, it’s here. The society does good work for South Dakota.

Static for Blue Jay Wireless

The state Public Utilities Commission provided an unusually cool reception Tuesday to an application by Blue Jay Wireless. The suburban Dallas, Texas-based reseller of cellular phone service wants a permit to provide federally subsidized Lifeline service in South Dakota as well as other cell plans. Commission members took turns asking detailed questions during the permit consideration Tuesday. The company’s officials said they already have permits in 13 states and Puerto Rico and they have applications pending in five more states and await federal clearance for nine additional states and the District of Columbia. The commission didn’t grant but also didn’t deny a permit for South Dakota. Instead, commissioner Gary Hanson said, “I would like to take the information under advisement at this time. To which commission chairman Chris Nelson responded, “That’s fair with me.” Commissioners asked questions covering a range of details from advertising messages and income definitions to personnel plans and penetration. The issue that seemed to be paramount among commissioners was that non-Lifeline telephone customers could have to pay more into the federal universal service fund through their carriers as more Lifeline users are added nationally. Blue Jay officials in turn reminded the commission several times that South Dakota isn’t using taking its proportionate share of Lifeline subsidies. None of the commissioners made a motion to accept the permit application. Instead, Blue Jay — represented by former PUC lawyer Kara Semmler — was told to provide various additional points of information for further consideration at a later date.

The docket has been open since May 2014. At one point the PUC split the application into rural and non-rural decisions. Tuesday’s action dealt with the non-rural piece, where Blue Jay would overlay the current CenturyLink territory in South Dakota. Budget Prepay already offers Lifeline’s basic cell services in all of CenturyLink’s areas; Budget Prepay runs on Verizon and Sprint cell networks. James Valley offers Lifeline in its Aberdeen exchange area. Long Lines offers Lifeline in a handful of exchanges. Blue Jay plans to use Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile. A PUC staff analysis indicates Blue Jay would provide more options to customers. The staff also makes note that CenturyLink didn’t seek to intervene in the Blue Jay docket: “CenturyLink’s non-intervention acknowledges that they do not believe this designation would have a detrimental impact to them.”

There appear to be some deeper concerns swirling for the three South Dakota commissioners, who are Republicans, on Lifeline in South Dakota and nationally. Here’s a national advertisement about the program. And here is the sample advertisement Blue Jay provided with its application for the South Dakota permit. The commission doesn’t regulate medical services, but it’s worth noting in this discussion that Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, and the Legislature’s Republican super-majorities haven’t yet accepted Medicaid expansion for South Dakota as part of Obamacare. Two points don’t necessarily make a pattern, but sometimes they do.

Bosworth trial takes break until Wednesday

Circuit Judge John Brown told the jury on Friday afternoon that the trial of Annette Bosworth will continue on Wednesday at 2 p.m. CT. The prosecution and the defense completed calling their witnesses on Friday at about 4:15 p.m. Judge Brown said preparation of closing arguments by the lawyers would be lengthy and therefore he would allow the jury to leave until Wednesday.

KELO television has been broadcasting the trial from the Hughes County courthouse via the Internet. This is an important step and both the TV station and Judge Brown deserve credit.

My impression, from Bosworth’s testimony on Friday, is that she didn’t comply with various state requirements regarding signatures on her U.S. Senate candidacy petitions in 2014 and fraud took place on several fronts. Her defense is that she didn’t intentionally attempt to  mislead anyone and that she had enough signatures to make the Republican primary ballot without the ones in question.

She acknowledged she wasn’t present when some of the signatures were put on the petitions, even though she signed that she had witnessed the signatures. Testimony also indicated forgery was committed on some signatures ostensibly collected from Hutterite colony voters.

Valley Queen disputes Otter Tail’s pricing

The state Public Utilities Commission never seems to have a dull day of late. The latest dispute to land in the laps of commissioners Chris Nelson, Kristie Fiegen and Gary Hanson is a complaint from Valley Queen Cheese. Lawyers for the Milbank company claim that Otter Tail Power owes $1.4 million in damages covering the period of 2009 through 2014 because the utility didn’t provide the lowest possible rates as required. It’s complicated. You can read the complaint here.

Cosmetology commission gets new members

Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed Laurie Brandner of Pierre and Crystal Carlson of Beresford to the state Cosmetology Commission. Carlson succeeds Nora Slykhuis of Custer. The terms for Brandner and Carlson run until April 15, 2018, as does the latest term for vice president Lois Berreth of Artas. The current term of President Tammy Ugofsky of Yankton runs until April 14, 2016, while the current term of Lori Little of Spearfish continues until April 14, 2017.

Other state panels receiving new members by gubernatorial appointment include:

Kyle White of Rapid City was named to the state Transportation Commission, succeeding Ed Seljeskog of Rapid City. The governor also reappointed Ralph Marquardt of Yankton;

Eric Abrahamson of Rapid City succeeds Fee Jacobsen of Pierre on the South Dakota Humanities Council, and Katie Hunhoff of Yankton succeeds Rebecca Schenk of Pierre; and

Molly Hall-Martin of Pierre replaces Clint Waara of Sioux Falls on the Hagen-Harvey Memorial Scholarship Board.

The governor also reappointed two members of the state Board of Regents. They are president Randy Schaefer of Madison and Kevin Schieffer of Sioux Falls. Their new terms run until March 31, 2021.

More on the Idaho connection…

In addition to Jason Hancock, the executive director for the Legislative Research Council hired last year from Idaho, and Michael Rush, who starts June 29 the new executive director for the state Board of Regents chosen Monday from idaho, an alert reader points out this morning there are three more recent connections between Idaho and South Dakota regarding top personnel in the two states’ university systems. They are:

Chuck Ruch, who had retired in idaho as president of Boise State University and was hired in 2003 as the president for the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, where he spent five years;

Bob Wharton, who succeeded Ruch in 2008, came from Idaho State University, where he was provost and vice president of academic affairs. He died in 2012 while still president at SDSMT; and

Chuck Staben, who was provost and vice president for academic affairs at the University of South Dakota, was hired as president for the University of Idaho in 2014.

SDHSAA seeks new assistant exec. dir.

James Weaver has accepted a position with the Sioux Falls school district as fine arts coordinator, according to Wayne Carney, executive director for the South Dakota High School Activities Association. Consequently the association is seeking a new assistant executive director for administration of fine arts activities, as well as other duties that he handled. Applications must be postmarked no later than May 27. The screening committee will conduct its work before June 2. The recommendation for hiring will be made at the June 10 meeting of the association’s board of directors.

Interim study panels are taking shape

The Legislature’s Executive Board considered which lawmakers Monday to appoint to the two interim committees. Each panel would have 11 members, according to the board’s chairman, Rep. Dean Wink, R-Howes, because that’s how many are in the budget.

Rep. Fred Romkema, R-Spearfish, headed a subcommittee of the board to nominate legislators for the panels.

The county-government study members suggested are representatives Kristin Conzet, R-Rapid City, Mary Duvall, R-Pierre, Dennis Feickert, D-Aberdeen; Leslie Heinemann, R-Flandreau; Joshua Klumb, R-Mount Vernon; Elizabeth May, R-Kyle; and Jim Schaefer, R-Kennebec; and senators Bob Ewing, R-Spearfish; Deb Peters, R-Hartford; Jim Peterson, D-Revillo; and Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell. Conzet will chair it and the vice chair is Ewing.

The high school activities association panel members suggested are representatives Julie Bartling, D-Gregory; Jim Bolin, R-Canton; Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City; Roger Hunt, R-Brandon; Kris Langer, R-Dell Rapids; Tona Rozum, R-Mitchell, and Kyle Schoenfish, R-Scotland; and senators Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings; Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City; and Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall. Tieszen was proposed as chair and Bolin as vice chair.

Gosch, the House Republican leader, asked the board to delay its decisions until all of the nominees could be contacted to see whether they are still interested. Gosch said he was previously interested but now knows he can’t serve. Hunt agreed: “I think we have some time.” The board’s next scheduled meeting is June 9 in Sioux Falls. The board delayed the decisions until then regarding members, chairs and vice chairs. The ratio of House members to Senate members also might be reconsidered.

Law enforcement expenses would top the list of county-government topics, according to Bob Wilcox, executive director for the South Dakota County Commissioners Association. County officials are looking for additional sources of revenue to meet costs rising faster than their property-tax bases.

The Idaho connection

The decision by the state Board of Regents to select Michael Rush as the executive director for South Dakota’s public universities system today marks the second major leader brought to our state from Idaho. Jason Hancock was selected in June as the Legislative Research Council’s executive director. Hancock had been deputy chief of staff for the Idaho Department of Education. Rush takes the reins for the Board of Regents officially on June 29, succeeding Jack Warner, who’s retiring and returning to Rhode Island. Rush is executive director for the Idaho Board of Education and Board of Regents. His portfolio also includes community colleges and public television in Idaho. South Dakota uses a split approach, with the regents governing the public universities, the state Board of Education overseeing K-12 and the four public technical institutes and the Bureau of Information and Telecommunications, a part of the governor’s cabinet, in charge of South Dakota Public Broadcasting.

Lawyer asked for limits regarding pipeline case

The state Public Utilities Commission is in uncommon territory of late with the process of certifying the construction permit already held by TransCanada for the proposed Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline from Alberta and the process of considering the application for a construction permit for the proposed Dakota Access oil pipeline from North Dakota. By uncommon territory I mean the cross-currents of motions and replies by the many interveners in each docket. On the KXL, the commission granted the permit in 2010; now, because the project hasn’t commenced, state law requires the commission consider after four years whether the permit conditions will still be met. The interveners, many of whom didn’t fight against the original permit, are trying to use the certification process to block it. The Dakota Access proposal is new, and the interveners seem to want to stop it too.

We’ve seen the commission already get jammed up on procedures in the Keystone XL docket and found itself forced to reschedule the hearing that was supposed to occur last week. Now the hearing will come in late July. The lawyers for TransCanada have appeared to show varying degrees of cooperation with requests from interveners for information. The same small drama is playing out now with Dakota Access. On Tuesday, a lawyer for Dakota Access, Brett Koenecke of Pierre, asked the commission to stop allowing other lawyers and interveners from arguing their cases to the commission by telephone during the commission meetings.

“I think it would add a lot of genuine character to the entire proceeding,” Koenecke said. He hoped to achieve more face to face interaction. Replied commissioner Gary Hanson: “It surprises me you ask for it.” Hanson said he thinks there is an advantage to a party who is present. Koenecke responded that he didn’t expect the commission to grant the request. “There’s been nothing impolite. It’s been something I’m not used to in front of the commission,” Koenecke explained. The commission turned down the request.