Farewell

Kelly Thompson, director of advertising and public relations, announced this afternoon that today is her last day at the South Dakota Lottery. The final sentence of her final email:

“Thanks for your coverage and questions over the past 8 years! kt”

A test on the 72-hour law for meeting notices w/update

I haven’t visited Hillsview Plaza for many months, so frankly I don’t have any idea whether state government’s Department of Human Services posted an agenda July 19, as Daniel Hoblick claimed Friday, for its Monday, July 24, meeting of the Council on Development Disabilities.

But I do know this.

The agenda as of Friday morning, July 21, on state government’s boards and commissions website said the meeting was July 25.

When I asked Friday morning about the discrepancy, the response I received was that the date was a mistake and that Hoblick would change it.

Trouble was, July 25 — Tuesday — was the date on the agenda that was on the website. State law doesn’t seem to address changing the posted date to an earlier date.

Under state law that took effect July 1, state government’s boards and commissions must give public notice of a public meeting at least 72 hours before the meeting starts, not counting Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

So when you add up the time — nine hours July 24, 24 hours today, 24 hours yesterday — the department would have needed to have the agenda in a publicly visible outside window by at least 9 a.m. on July 19.

I also know that each time I looked at the boards and commissions website prior to today, the meeting wasn’t posted there.

I also checked the minutes from the council’s previous meeting. The minutes said July 24 or July 25.

This might seem like a minor deal. But it’s important to those of us who are news reporters or interested citizens.

I’ll let you know how it plays out.

UPDATE: Just received this message…

“Bob,

“The Council on Developmental Disabilities is re-scheduling their Monday meeting to a later date.

Dan Hoblick
Communications Officer
Department of Human Services”

Regulators want H & I financial reports w/update

State government’s Public Utilities Commission issued a subpoena Thursday commanding Danielle Mikkelson to deliver financial statements for H & I Grain of Hetland covering the months of March 2016 through Aug. 31, 2016.

Commission lawyer Kristen Edwards signed the subpoena. Mikkelsen works for the Watertown accounting firm Vilhauer Raml & Snyder. Edwards cited SDCL § 49-45-13. The state law’s pertinent sentence says: “The commission may, in all matters arising under this chapter, exercise the power of subpoena and examine witnesses in accordance with chapter 1-26.”

The commission could decide this morning whether to revoke the grain-buyer licenses for H & I Grain’s operations in Hetland, De Smet and Arlington.

The company owes farmers from its area $6 million or more for grain delivered and has a $400,000 bond. Several dozens of farmers have officially filed with the commission notices of their intent to sue for pieces of the bond.

The company’s owners are Duane and JoAnne Steffensen of Hetland. Their son Jared Steffensen opened a grain-trading account in 2011 with a Minnesota-based commodity-hedging company. The parents signed a guaranty for the account.

The successor firm, CHS Hedging, sued the parents last year in federal court, after shutting off the trading account in July 2016. The parents in June 2017 filed a counter-claim alleging their son didn’t tell them about his increased volume of trades. CHS Hedging allegedly loosened and ultimately removed all limits on his trading.

UPDATE: The commissioners voted unanimously to do four things Friday. They revoked the licenses. They directed the staff to open a docket regarding the $400,000 bond. They further told staff to not-pursue receivership. And they asked staff to talk to Great Western Bank about posting a redacted copy of a letter filed with the commission Friday morning.

Zinter semi-concurs in the Bosworth case

At some point in the weeks ahead, Gov. Dennis Daugaard will announce his choice to replace retired Justice Lori Wilbur on the South Dakota Supreme Court. Then Chief Justice David Gilbertson will formally announce his retirement. In turn, Justice Steven Zinter presumably succeeds to the chief justice’s chair. Justice Zinter is the next longest-serving member of the high court.

All five justices agreed this week with Justice Janine Kern’s opinion Wednesday that set aside the six perjury conviction for Annette Bosworth and upheld Bosworth’s six convictions for filing false or forged instruments. The opinion includes a semi-concurrence from Justice Zinter in which he disagreed with some aspects of the court’s majority. Here is an excerpt:

“Bosworth’s petitions were not what they purported to be because
Bosworth verified petitions as the circulator even though they had been circulated
by someone else. Nor did they have the qualities of what nominating petitions
purport to have because they did not contain the signatures of voters the circulator
obtained. That type of falsehood was more than just an untrue statement of fact.”

Bosworth was a candidate for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate election in 2014. State law required that she be present when registered Republicans signed her candidacy petitions. A physician, she was on a medical mission to the Philippines when the leader of a Hutterite colony in South Dakota circulated petitions on her behalf and in some instances signed the petitions for the voters at the colony. Those petitions were among the stack that her consultant, Patrick Davis, filed with the South Dakota Secretary of State office.

Most of the Republican voters in the 2014 U.S. Senate primary didn’t support her. She received 4,283 votes. That number was 5.75 percent of the total cast in the five-candidate contest for the Republican nomination. The winner, former Gov. Mike Rounds, received 41,377 votes, or 55.54 percent. Rounds went on to defeat Democrat Rick Weiland in the November general election. State Attorney General Marty Jackley meanwhile obtained a grand jury indictment against Bosworth a few weeks after the primary.

The five justices agreed Wednesday on Kern’s main point in tossing the perjury convictions. She said state law defined a proceeding or action more narrowly than Jackley’s application of the law. She wrote: “Signing a nominating petition under a written oath before submitting it to a state authority is not a statement made in a proceeding or action under SDCL 22-29-1.” That point now becomes something for the Legislature to consider in the 2018 session.

Three House Republicans vie for speaker pro tem

The sudden resignation by Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, to become South Dakota director of a conservative group punched a hole in the line of succession in the state House of Representatives.

Haggar was speaker pro tem, making him the No. 2 presiding officer in the House. He took the role seriously, staying late into the evenings during the 2017 legislative session, according to Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls.

Mickelson is House speaker. He said House Republicans will caucus to choose Haggar’s successor when they gather again at the Capitol for the governor’s budget speech in December.

Three Republicans are competing for the post. They are:

Larry Rhoden of Union Center, a 15-year lawmaker who served the maximum four terms in the House, went to the Senate for three terms, ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014 and then came back to the state House this year. He was House Republican leader from 2005 through 2008;

Mike Stevens of Yankton, a fifth-year House member who serves on the Legislature’s Executive Board; and

Steven Haugaard of Sioux Falls, a third-year House member who serves on the Legislature’s Executive Board.

Western Dakota, Southeast Tech cost more than others

Perhaps it’s partially a reflection of the costs of their urban settings. Western Dakota Technical Institute in Rapid City and Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls had two of the highest annual costs for students in 2015-2016, according to a report that will be delivered Tuesday to state government’s new South Dakota Board of Technical Education.

For students who didn’t live with their parents, Western Dakota topped the list of 13 tech schools in the region, with an average cost of $20,590 in 2015-2016. Likewise, Southeast Tech was near the top at $19,080.

By comparison, Lake Area Technical Institute at Watertown was roughly middle of the pack at $15,756. Mitchell Technical Institute rounded out South Dakota’s four public tech schools at $15,380.

Lowest on the price list were Salina Area Technical College in Kansas at $12,929 and Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington at $14,404.

HAVA grant board meets next week

The office of South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs operates the federal Help America Vote Act program. One function is a grant board that distributes HAVA funding to county auditors who run elections in South Dakota. The grant board meets Thursday afternoon at the Capitol (see agenda). Board members will consider applications from nine counties seeking HAVA grants. Three counties seek funding for satellite voting centers: Buffalo $2,100 for the 2018 general election; Dewey $7,76840 for the 2018 primary and general elections; and Jackson $16,121 for the 2018 primary and general. The meeting is at 2 p.m. CT in the secretary of state’s second-floor conference room.

School libraries honored

State Librarian Daria Bossman provided members of state government’s Library Board today with a list of nine libraries operated by South Dakota school districts that received awards recently as 21st Century School Libraries.

Seven were deemed “exemplary.” They were Douglas Middle School, Douglas High School, Harrisburg South Middle School, Horizon Elementary (Harrisburg), Madison Central School Libraries, West Central Middle and High School and West Middle School (Rapid City).

Rapid Valley Elementary (Rapid City) and Robert Frost Elementary (Sioux Falls) received recognition as enhanced.

The schools will be recognized in October at a conference. “It’s always great to recognize those schools that meet the highest standards,” Bossman told the board. The awards are for three years.

The ESSA plan and Native American students

It’s uncertain whether state government’s current education secretary will be retained by South Dakota’s next governor come 2019. It seems more remote that Secretary Melody Schopp would still be in the job 13 years from now, when South Dakotans re-evaluate the new federal standards in the Every Student Succeeds Act. The current governor, Dennis Daugaard, appointed her in 2011 when he took office; she was deputy secretary at the time.

State government’s response on ESSA, which needs finalization by the department and the governor’s approval before it is submitted, shows how hard Schopp and her staff at the state Department of Education toiled. Here are the goals, and the timetable to reach those goals, verbatim from the department’s pending filing to the federal government:

“In five years (2022-23), the proficiency expectation will be that all student groups, schools,
and subpopulations will demonstrate both mathematics and English language arts
proficiency levels equal to the all students proficiency percentage as measured at the 50th
percentile of public schools on the 2017 summative assessment.

“In 10 years (2027-28), the proficiency expectation will be that all student groups, schools,
and subpopulations will demonstrate both mathematics and English language arts
proficiency levels equal to the all students proficiency percentage as measured at the 75th
percentile of public schools on the 2017 summative assessment.

“Goals are set with the expectation that all student groups and subpopulations will perform
at these levels with the intent that in 2030-31, the aspirational goal is that all students will
demonstrate both English language arts and mathematics proficiency.”

Notice the words “all students.” The department is pledging to eliminate the performance gap for Native American students. South Dakota’s public schools have a big hill to climb. The 2016 statewide report card showed big gaps:

In English and language arts, for all grades tested, 49.44 percent of Native American students performed at the most-basic, or lowest, of the four levels. Statewide the number for all students was 22.14 percent; and

In math, for all grades tested, 54.60 percent of Native American students performed at the most-basic, or lowest, of the four levels. Statewide the number for all students was 25.10 percent.

Take Todd County school district as an example, with 96.90 percent of its students shown as Native Americans on the annual listing by the Office of Indian Education.

In English and language arts, for all grades tested in Todd County school district, 70.03 percent of Native American students performed at the most-basic, or lowest, of the four levels. School-wide the number for all students was 69.35 percent.

In math, for all grades tested, 73.54 percent of Native American students in the Todd County district performed at the most-basic, or lowest, of the four levels. School-wide, the number for all students was 72.78 percent.

The performance gap for Native American (or American Indian, as you prefer) is recognized throughout South Dakota’s ESSA plan. However, so are some of the successes, such as the use of career and technical education (CTE) classes to engage more students:

“During the 2015-16 school year, students who participated in these programs, taking two or more CTE classes during their high school career, graduated at a rate of 97 percent, compared with the statewide average of 84 percent. This same trend of success has been demonstrated within the American Indian subgroup. During the 2015-16 school year, American Indian students who took two or more CTE courses during their high school career graduated at a rate of 86 percent compared with the statewide average of 51 percent.”

It’s not hopeless. It will take more than what South Dakota has been doing. Schopp’s plan seeks to take some of those new steps.

Two former legislators are co-chairs for 2018 anti-corruption petition effort

Mitch Richter, a Republican former legislator from Sioux Falls, and Darrell Solberg, a Democratic former legislator also from Sioux Falls, are the co-chairmen for the group seeking signatures on the proposed amendment to the state constitution that its supporters say would fight corruption in South Dakota.

They need at least 27,741 valid signatures from registered South Dakota voters by Nov. 6, 2017, to qualify the proposed amendment for the 2018 general-election ballot.

According to Doug Kronaizl of Vermillion, spokesman for Represent South Dakota, Richter and Solberg will hold training sessions in seven cities throughout the state starting July 15.

“This is about returning power to the people,” Richter said in a prepared statement. “Creating an accountable government is not a left versus right issue.”

The six-page amendment can be read here.

The schedule of trainings calls for:

Three meetings on July 15 — Sioux Falls downtown library, 12:45 p.m. CT; Rapid City public library, 1 p.m. MT; and Madison, community center, 5 p.m. CT;

Three meetings on July 16 — Brookings public library, 1:30 p.m. CT; Spearfish public library, 1:30 p.m. MT; and Huron, Campus Center, 5:30 p.m. CT; and

One meeting July 17 — Vermillion public library, 5:30 p.m. CT.