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.
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.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard selected former state auditor and treasurer Vern Larson of Vivian to succeed Jarrod Johnson as state commissioner of school and public lands, the governor’s office announced this afternoon. Johnson plans to resign this summer. His term of office runs through the end of 2014. He is term-limited and couldn’t seek a third four-year term. Larson doesn’t plan to be a candidate in 2014, according to the governor’s announcement. Larson was elected six times as state auditor, starting in 1978. South Dakota voters approved term limits in 1992. Larson’s final term as auditor ended in 2002. He was then elected to two terms as state treasurer. He retired rather than run for another office in 2010. Johnson’s resignation takes effect Aug. 15. His current salary is $80,714. Larson turned 64 on Oct. 25.
The state Board of Education is spending a relaxed lunch hour at Western Dakota Technical Institute in Rapid City, awaiting the appointed time of 1 p.m. MT for a public hearing on the proposed increase in the teacher certification fee. The board and the Department of Education presenters finished most of the rest of their agenda before lunch. Assuming board approval and clearance from the Legislature’s rules review committee, the certification fees would increase on July 1, 2015. The changes are relatively small. A one-year certification would increase to $21 from $18. Multi-year certificates would increase, depending on the duration, $4 to $12.
UPDATE: No one testified at the hearing and no one sent any comments. The increases were adopted unanimously by the board. Tami Darnall, the department’s finance director, said the increases are the 20 percent maximum allowed under state law. She said the certification fees currently don’t generate enough to cover the program’s costs but there was sufficient reserves remaining to cover the deficit for several years. She said another round of increases could become necessary within a few years. The fees currently generate about $160,000 annually but the program costs about 50 percent above that. She said the increases will produce about $30,000 more annually. South Dakota has the lowest teacher certification fees in the nation, according to Darnall.
Twenty-seven years is a long time to reach back in memory, but the 1986 general election in South Dakota was a rare event for Democrats. They nearly swept the top three offices on the ballot: U.S. Rep. Tom Daschle ousted Republican U.S. Jim Abdnor; Democratic state Sen. Tim Johnson won the U.S. House seat; and Democratic state Rep. Lars Herseth came close — 48.2 percent to 51.8 – to winning the governor’s office over Republican George S. Mickelson. Two of the Democratic candidates — Daschle and Herseth — came from Brown County. During the campaigns that fall, there was a clear sense in the Herseth camp that the Daschle organization was doing whatever necessary regarding voter turnout to win the Senate race even if it was counter-productive to Herseth winning the governor race. Those feelings were compounded in the final weeks before the election and in the months afterward, as Lars Herseth spent more than his campaign had been able to raise. He struggled a long time working to reduce that debt. The appearances in South Dakota by then-U.S. Sen. Al Gore as he sought the 1988 presidential nomination were part of Herseth’s effort to bring in money to climb out of that hole. Daschle meanwhile was backing his House mentor and friend, then-House Democratic leader Dick Gephardt, for the 1988 presidential nomination. Gephardt, not surprisingly, won South Dakota’s special early primary while Gore placed far back in third in a crowded field. Perhaps the Daschle organization did things behind the scenes to help with Herseth’s problem, but none comes to mind.
All of this comes to mind after the past week, when we saw Daschle encourage and then put his name on the line for fundraising to assist Rick Weiland in a campaign for the Democratic nomination to the U.S. Senate in 2014 as Johnson retires. The Weiland announcement came as the U.S. attorney for South Dakota, Brendan Johnson, declined to be a candidate. His father is the senator. The other announcement came from Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, whose father was the former legislator and 1986 nominee for governor, and whose grandfather Ralph Herseth was governor for one term. She decided against running for the Senate seat. Herseth Sandlin beat Weiland and several other candidates for the 2002 Democratic nomination for the U.S. House. She lost to then-Gov. Bill Janklow in the general election, then won a special election in 2004 for the House seat after Janklow’s manslaughter conviction and resignation. She won again in fall 2004, and in 2006 and 2008, before losing to Republican challenger Kristi Noem in 2010. The liberal Obama-supporting wing of the South Dakota Democrats rose against her in 2010, looking to Kevin Weiland — Rick’s brother — to challenge Herseth Sandlin in a primary. That effort dissipated, but Herseth Sandlin couldn’t get any momentum. Neither she nor Noem was able to get a true majority that fall in a three-way race. In voting against Obamacare, it seems Stephanie Herseth Sandlin sealed her fate. Instead the Daschle-Obama wing turned to Rick Weiland, who was Daschle’s Senate staff state director for a period. It must be remembered, too, that Tom Daschle and his former staff had much to do with the rise of new U.S. Sen. Barack Obama and his victories for the presidency in 2008 and 2012; Daschle was in line for the post of secretary of human services in the Obama Cabinet in 2009 until tax problems over limousine rides helped derail him, and Daschle wrote a book about Obamacare, praising the political victory while making clear they needed to go farther. So yes, Herseth Sandlin’s vote against Obamacare was consequential, on several levels.
As for 1986, R. Lars Herseth beat George S. Mickelson in Brown County with 10,428 votes to 5,936. Tom Daschle beat Jim Abdnor 9,503 to 6,890. (Tim Johnson did the best, rolling past Dale Bell 10,749 to 5,609.) The two most-populous counties were where Daschle won the Senate and Herseth lost the governor’s chair. In Minnehaha County, Daschle pushed past Abdnor 26,942 to 21,648, while Herseth trailed Mickelson 21,572 to 26,628. In Pennington County, Daschle kept the margin reasonably close, getting 12,114 votes to Abdnor’s 14,466. Herseth lost there by a broader margin to Mickelson 10,318 to 16,013. Had Herseth been able to do as well as Daschle in Minnehaha and Pennington, Herseth likely would have been elected governor.
In 2010, when Herseth Sandlin lost to Noem, the pattern was somewhat the same. Herseth Sandlin won in Brown County with 8,100 votes to Noem’s 5,712 and Thomas Marking’s 665. In Minnehaha County, Herseth Sandlin won with 32,430 votes to Noem’s 28,968 and Marking’s 3,698. Neighboring Lincoln County, now a force after being a minor factor in 1986 (Mickelson won 3,231 to 2,8900), turned decidedly in favor of Noem, however. Noem received 9,440 to Herseth Sandlin’s 7,699 and Marking’s 862. Pennington County proved just as problematic for Herseth Sandlin as for her father. She received just 13,597 votes to Noem’s 21,489 and Marking’s 2,002.
Now, 27 years after the historic set of Tom Daschle and Lars Herseth contests, the opposition to a Herseth Sandlin candidacy for the U.S. Senate was loudest among Democrat activists in those same counties of Pennington and Minnehaha. So she’s not running. Instead her critics on the left will get their way and offer Rick Weiland. He lost his only statewide general election, to Republican John Thune, for the U.S. House in 1996. Thune beat Weiland in nearly all of South Dakota’s 66 counties, including Brown, Minnehaha, Lincoln and Pennington. And, for what it’s worth, Herseth Sandlin beat Weiland in 2002 in the Democratic primary for the U.S. House nomination. She beat him in nearly every county, including Brown, Minnehaha, Lincoln and Pennington. We shall see how those four key counties turn in 2014.