Gov. Dennis Daugaard is calling the Legislature into special session on Saturday, June 22. The purpose of the one-day meeting is to approve additional spending authority for construction of a new State Veterans Home at Hot Springs. The project’s cost now is estimated to be $10 million above the $41.3 million approved by the Legislature during the 2013 regular session. That amount was actually an increase of about $6.6 million above the original amount that was authorized in 2011 by lawmakers. South Dakota has a $23 million federal grant for the project and the Legislature designated $16.4 million to come from revenue bonds. Another $1.3 million was to come from the state’s general fund. The governor now estimates that $7 million to $10 million more will be available by June 30 in state revenue, while state spending from general funds will be $7 million to $10 million below the previous estimate. Between those two changes, there would be more than sufficient money available to cover the veterans home project.
Earlier this month the U.S. House of Representatives took a double-barreled vote to suspend the rules and approve the Black Hills Cemetery Act sponsored by South Dakota’s one member of the House, Republican Kristi Noem. Forty members didn’t vote. The final tally was 390-2. Who were the two?
One was a Michigan Republican, Justin Amash, who was elected to Congress in the 2010 elections as was Noem. The other was Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican who is serving in his first term. Both Amash and Massie are members of the House committee on oversight and government reform.
H.B 291 would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in its role as custodian of the Black Hills National Forest, to convey various cemeteries to the local organizations tending the cemeteries. Two additional acres of land would also be conveyed in each instance.
The cemeteries are:
The Silver City Cemetery, to the Silver City Volunteer Fire Dept.;
The Hayward Cemetery, to the Hayward Volunteer Fire Dept.;
The land adjacent to the Englewood Cemetery to the City of Lead;
The land adjacent to the Mountain Meadow Cemetery to the Mountain Meadow Cemetery Association;
The Roubaix Cemetery to the Roubaix Cemetery Association;
The Nemo Cemetery to the Nemo Cemetery Association;
The Galena Cemetery to the Galena Historical Society;
The Rockerville Cemetery to the Rockerville Community Club; and
The Cold Springs Cemetery to the Cold Springs Historical Society.
The legislation would require the land remain in its present use and the recipient in each instance would be responsible for the surveying costs. The Senate’s approval is still needed.
The decision by U.S. Senate candidate Mike Rounds to bring veteran campaign consultant Dick Wadhams aboard makes my head itch. If the Republican former governor is indeed poised to walk all over Democratic candidate Rick Weiland in the 2014 election, as so many people portray the match-up, why does the Rounds camp need to spend the money for an experienced hand such as Wadhams? The former Colorado Republican Party chairman knows something about South Dakota politics. His credits include helping shepherd John Thune’s campaign against then U.S. Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle in 2004. He also knows how to raise money at the national level for Republican Senate candidates, something the Rounds staff lacks. Wadhams isn’t a fan of Tea Party politics, and there will be plenty of sniping at Rounds from those edges during the rest of this year and throughout 2014. The big question is whether U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem decides she wants to run for the Republican Senate nomination. That might be where Wadhams becomes most important. And beside, why wouldn’t a businessman who made a lot of his money in insurance such as Mike Rounds buy some political insurance, too?
Here’s a headline today from the Minnesota Twins website: “Worley demoted to Triple-A to work on location”. The fact that his new location won’t be part of the Twins major-league pitching staff is a good start in that direction. His appearance might be the first area for improvement. Maybe the “Van-imal” as he was unfortunately labeled in a Twins commercial thinks he looks cool with the black glasses and flat-billed cap, but my guess is other teams’ batters just see a goofball and the natural bully that is in many successful athletes wants to pound the nerd. The 8-3 loss to Atlanta on Wednesday afternoon was the eighth defeat in a row for the Twins. The Braves swept them in three games, after the Twins struggled through a 2-win and 7-loss home stand. Next up, starting today, is a four-game series at Detroit. The Twins already are seven games back in the American League Central division standings, with 18 wins and 25 losses. You hate to write off a season when nearly three-quarters of the games are yet to be played. Earning a split in Detroit seems to be a must. The Milwaukee Brewers, with two games in each city next week, represent the best chance the Twins have to get back on track. Milwaukee has won just 18 games so far, and the Brewers pitching rotation seems just as susceptible as the Twins’ staff right now.
Lost in the pitching struggles of the past week were small flashes of success from new players such as Aaron Hicks and Pedro Florimon. Hicks is just 8-of-36 in his last 10 games, but that is an improvement, and the rookie popped three home runs in that stretch. The arrival of starting pitcher Sam Deduno offers a bit of hope. He is coming back from a World Baseball Classic injury, and his three AAA starts reflect why he’s with his third MLB organization in as many years. In 16.67 innings pitched this spring at Rochester, Deduno has allowed 14 hits and 10 walks while striking out 17, with a 2.70 ERA. In the three previous season he’s likewise walked too many batters. In short stretches he has been effective in the minors, but last year in 15 games with the Twins in the majors he walked 53 and struck out 57 in 79 innings pitched. Maybe Mr. Sam will surprise us. The Twins needs a shot of new life right now.
FRIDAY MORNING UPDATE: The losing streak is now at nine after the Tigers rallied to win 7-6 Thursday night.
As the Senate version of the 2013 farm bill went through amendment battles on the floor Wednesday afternoon, South Dakota’s two U.S. senators took the same side in voting to preserve the sugar support program through 2017. Their side prevailed 54-45 in defeating the amendment that sought to repeal the sugar program.
They disagreed on changing the delivery system for nutrition programs. Republican John Thune voted in favor of an amendment that would have converted to a block grant approach, while Democrat Tim Johnson opposed the change. Johnson’s side won, defeating the amendment 60-36. Only Republicans voted for it.
Thune and Johnson were together however in helping block another amendment that would have restored a proposed funding cut for nutrition programs and taken a corresponding amount of savings from reimbursements for crop insurance. Thune and Johnson were on the winning side as the amendment was defeated 70-26.
On Tuesday, they split on a Thune-cosponsored amendment that would have made $31 billion of cuts in the food-stamp program. Johnson voted against it. The amendment was defeated 58-40. Only Republicans voted for it.
Johnson and Thune voted together in helping pass an amendment Tuesday allowing Indian tribes to participate in federal soil and water conservation programs. The vote was 87-8.
Knew that would get your attention…
The Sioux Falls Argus Leader on its website is promoting an exclusive story this afternoon: Gov. Dennis Daugaard is calling a special session of the Legislature in late June. The timing is necessary so surplus money can be spent before the June 30 end of the fiscal year. They’re looking to cover a $10 million cost overrun for the new state veterans home at Hot Springs.
Somehow the governor’s office forgot to tell the news media and the general public.
UPDATE: This just in… An email message to legislators from a governor’s aide on behalf of the governor. Here is the text of the message.
From: Deb Bowman
Date: May 22, 2013, 4:02:06 PM CDT
Subject: Special Session
Governor Daugaard asked that I forward this email to you as a member of the Legislature. Deb
I want to let you know that I will be calling a special session of the legislature in late June because of developments with the construction of a new State Veterans Home in Hot Springs.
This legislative session, you appropriated $41.3 million to use for the construction of the new Veterans Home. This includes state funds and spending authority for a $23.6 million federal grant. I appreciated your support for this important project.
The State Engineer recently opened the bids from contractors for this project. The lowest bid was considerably above projections, leading to a total project cost of $51.3 million – an overrun of $10 million or almost 25 percent.
Needless to say, I am very disappointed with our architect. My priority is to build a durable, quality facility for our veterans – they deserve nothing less. I do not believe that we can cut $10 million from our plans and still build the facility that we need.
Fortunately, I do not believe that this setback needs to delay progress on building the new home. The State is approaching the end of the fiscal year, and we currently believe that our tax revenues will be $7-10 million higher than projected, and our expenses will be $7-10 million lower than projected. That means we will have $14-20 million at the end of the fiscal year.
Normally, those excess funds would go into reserves automatically. Instead, I will be asking the legislature to appropriate a portion of those funds to make up the gap for the construction of the Veterans Home.
In order to expedite this process, I will be calling a special session in late June, so that I can ask you to approve this appropriation. I do not believe that we can afford to wait until January to take action, because we would lose this construction season.
I have contacted your leadership about setting a date for the special session, which I believe can be completed in a single day, and we will let you know the date soon.
As we head into Memorial Day weekend, I’m sure we will all take time to remember the brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. Expediting the construction of the Veterans Home honors all veterans by ensuring that South Dakota will continue to provide a quality home for those who need it.
Changing times require a change in our thinking
– Headline over latest column of Basin Electric CEO and GM Andrew M. Serri
The latest issue of Basin Today magazine contains two big messages. One is the declaration by Mr. Serri that we are in a new era in energy production and change is inevitable. “Folks, there is nothing so huge that we can’t get through it together,” he writes. “We must accept what we can control, and what we can’t.” The second big message comes via a centerpiece article about a non-Basin Electric initiative. The story is about Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association, based in Westminster, Colorado. Tri-State is helping sponsor a $17 million non-profit test center to work on carbon uses. There also will be a competition, with a potential prize of $10 million or more, for carbon-related commercial projects.
If there’s another current or past South Dakota legislator with a good country song written about her or him, please let me know. Topping the tune that Rehme Sutton wrote and sings about her brother, state Sen. Billie Sutton of Burke, will be pretty hard to do. She’s back from Texas touring South Dakota this week and promoting her first album. You can check out the music at www.rehmesutton.com or you can listen live at a string of stops starting tonight in Sturgis at The Knuckle. She and the band are in Fort Pierre at the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center on Wednesday night, followed by Yankton at Roundin’ Third on Thursday, Deadwood Mountain Grand on Friday and back home to Burke at Stella’s on Saturday night. I happened to catch the extended interview that Rehme, band members, their manager and her mother did live on KOYA radio (88.1 FM) on Monday morning. Rehme handled some interesting questions. So tell me, who wouldn’t want to be in Burke on Saturday night? And, by the way, if you like old-time country, dial into KOYA for a listen. The Rosebud Sioux Tribe operates the station. It’s a different mix of music that you won’t hear many other places across the Great Plains. Likewise for KLND (89.5) out of Little Eagle, where there’s a very different mix of music too with a harder edge.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard proclaimed Thursday as Joe Kafka Day in South Dakota, honoring him on his final day as press secretary. Taking Joe’s slot in the Daugaard administration is Kelsey Pritchard. Her title will be assistant communications director. She has been director of constituent services.
Joe was press secretary in the final two years of Gov. Mike Rounds’ administration, a job he took after three decades with The Associated Press. When the Daugaard team came in, Tony Venhuizen — who was the campaign manager for his father-in-law — became director of policy and communications.
Joe’s retirement triggers another set of changes, too. Joe had been overseeing appointments to state boards and commissions. Those duties now go to Grace Kessler, who is the new director of constituent services.
The governor held a meet-and-greet reception in Joe’s honor at the Governor’s Mansion on Monday evening.
Did you know English is the legal language of South Dakota? State law says so: “The common language of the state is English. The common language is designated as the language of any official public document or record and any official public meeting.” State law also says election ballots must be in the English language. State law also says an official legal newspaper must be printed in the English language. Even fraternal societies must record their meeting minutes in English, according to state law. In addition, under federal voting-rights laws since the 2002 reforms, some counties in South Dakota receive special Lakota audio translations of election ballots, and have interpreters at polling places, as well as Lakota-language public-service announcements regarding elections.