The state Senate’s new leadership has Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, as Senate president pro tem for the 2017 session rather than Gary Cammack, R-Union Center. Greenfield defeated Cammack in the closed-door Senate Republican caucus elections last month. Some inside the room said later Greenfield gave the best speech they had ever heard from him.
Senate Republican leader Blake Curd of Sioux Falls now holds the post that Corey Brown of Gettysburg held in the 2016 session. The two big changes at the top coincide with some significant shuffling of Senate committee chairmanships by the new leadership.
Greenfield, now 41, is starting his seventeenth year as a legislator. In his campaign for the top Senate leadership post last month, he vowed to take a different approach to naming committee chairmen. He said none of the top caucus leaders would receive a chairmanship and none of the senators would receive more than one chairmanship. That meant reaching wider and deeper into the Senate Republicans’ ranks.
Republicans hold twenty-nine of the Senate’s thirty-five seats for the 2017 session. None of the six Democrats received a chairmanship or vice-chairman post. Here’s the rundown:
Agriculture – Cammack returns as chairman.
Commerce – Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, replaces Curd as chairman. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, is the new vice-chairman, replacing Ried Holien, R-Watertown, who didn’t seek re-election this year. Nelson, a former House member, returns to the Legislature after a two-year break he took to run for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in 2014. Nelson won the seat previously held by Bill Van Gerpen, R-Tyndall, who didn’t seek re-election. Nelson won a Republican primary for the nomination and the general election.
Holien is now South Dakota’s Republican national committeeman, a fully political post. He is replaced in the Senate by Neal Tapio, R-Watertown, who was South Dakota chairman for the Trump presidential campaign. Tapio defeated Roger Solum of Watertown, who was term-limited after eight years in the House, in the Senate Republican primary.
Appropriations – Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, replaces Deb Peters, R-Hartford, as chair. Tidemann was vice-chair in the 2016 session. The new vice-chairman is John Wiik, R-Big Stone City, who won election to the Senate this fall after one term in the House. Wiik takes the Senate seat held by Jim Peterson, D-Revillo, who retired for the second time from the Legislature.
Education – Jim Bolin, R-Canton, replaces Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, as chair. Bolin, a retired educator and term-limited after eight years in the House of Representatives, won an open seat that was held by 2015 governor appointee, Bill Shorma, R-Dakota Dunes. Shorma ran instead for an open House seat and lost in a three-way Republican primary. Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed Shorma after the unexpected resignation of Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes. Bolin has been a top critic of Common Core standards used in South Dakota public schools; Soholt defended the state Board of Education’s decision to adopt Common Core in 2010.
Government Operations and Audit – Deb Peters replaces Tidemann as chair. The new vice-chairman is Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg, who won election to the Senate unopposed. He takes the seat previously held by Brown, who was term-limited after eight years in the Senate and retired for family and business reasons. Cronin was term-limited in the House after eight years there. The vice-chair previously was Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, who retired rather than seek another term.
Health – Deb Soholt, a nurse and healthcare administrator, replaces Bruce Rampelberg as chair. See next committee for more on Rampelberg. Tapio is the new vice-chairman, replacing Art Rusch, R-Vermillion.
Judiciary – Lance Russell, R-Hill City, replaces Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City. Russell, a lawyer who once tried to win election as a circuit judge, was term-limited after eight years in the House and won a primary against Republican incumbent and retired banker Bruce Rampelberg of Rapid City. Tieszen, a retired police chief, was term-limited after eight years in the Senate and won election to the House. David Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, was vice-chairman in 2016 and didn’t seek re-election. The new vice-chairman is Art Rusch, a retired circuit judge.
Local Government – Kris Langer, R-Dell Rapids, is the new chair, replacing Bob Ewing, R-Spearfish, who received a major promotion to State Affairs chairman. The new vice-chairman is Jordan Youngberg, R-Madison, who narrowly defeated Democratic incumbent Scott Parsley of Madison. Langer moved to the Senate when a governor’s 2015 appointee, Scott Fiegen, R-Dell Rapids, didn’t seek election. Daugaard appointed Fiegen to fill the vacancy caused by the unexpected resignation of then-Senate Republican leader Tim Rave of Baltic immediately after the 2015 session. Rave’s departure led to Brown stepping aside from president pro tem and becoming Senate Republican leader for the 2016 session, opening the way for Cammack to win a caucus election for president pro tem.
Langer was a Daugaard appointee as well originally, taking the seat vacated by Jon Hansen, who resigned in 2013 to attend law school. Langer defeated Democrat Scott Barth of Sioux Falls for the Senate seat this fall. This is the same area that Daugaard served as a senator before his election in 2002 as lieutenant governor and his 2010 election as governor.
Retirement laws – Jim White, R-Huron, replaces Rampelberg as chairman. White was on Senate Appropriations as his only committee in 2016 and was the Senate Republicans assistant leader. That post is now held for 2017 by Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, who returns to the Legislature after a two-year break.
State affairs – Bob Ewing moves up as the new chairman. Cammack chaired it in 2016. The vice-chair is Jenna Netherton, R-Sioux Falls. Netherton, who previously served under her maiden name of Haggar before her marriage this year, replaces Alan Solano, R-Rapid City, who was a 2014 governor’s appointee after the unexpected resignation of Stan Adelstein, R-Rapid City, just before the 2014 session began.
Taxation – Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre, returns as chairman. That makes him a rarity with all the shuffling that’s taken place. The new vice-chairman is Jack Kolbeck, R-Sioux Falls, who replaces Greenfield in that post. Kolbeck won the seat that Heineman held. She had served 15 years as a legislator in both chambers over two periods.
Transportation – Ernie Otten, R-Tea, replaces Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell, as chairman. Vehle was term-limited after eight years in the Senate and retired after 12 consecutive years as a legislator. The new vice-chairman is Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls, who replaces Monroe in that post. Stalzer won election to the Senate after David Omdahl, R-Sioux Falls, didn’t seek re-election. Vehle’s Senate seat went to Joshua Klumb, R-Mt. Vernon, in the November election; Klumb, who beat Democratic former legislator Quinten Burg of Wessington Springs in November, had served one term in the House and is the new vice-chairman for the Senate agriculture committee.
Other returning Republican senators include Terri Haverly, R-Rapid City, whose one assignment is appropriations; and Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, who will have four committee assignments (two that routinely meet and two that meet less regularly). He is starting his fifteenth year as a legislator. For 2017 he moves from the House to the Senate seat held last term by son David Novstrup. Coming from the House to the Senate is Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City, who won a primary election and will specialize again on appropriations.
The number of Democrats might decline from six to five depending on the outcome of criminal charge against Sen.-elect Reynold Nesiba of Sioux Falls. He is accused of a sexual offense involving a woman he reportedly met online through Facebook. He reportedly told police he doesn’t dispute most of the victim’s version of events but said he didn’t force himself upon her. The governor likely would appoint a Republican if Nesiba can’t serve. The other Democratic senators have asked Nesiba to stay clear of their caucus while his matter is unresolved.
We’ll take a similar look at House leadership and chairmanships in the days ahead on this blog.
NOTE: The original version of this post contained an incorrect reference to the Bolin and Shorma candidacies.