Category Archives: SD Government

GFP answers questions about ‘Open Waters Compromise’

The South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks Department published its Internet link Friday regarding the ‘Open Waters Compromise’ approved by the Legislature and signed into state law by the governor June 12.

You can go here and find the information at the bottom left corner under “Nonmeandered Waters Information.”

The new law declares all nonmeandered waters as open for public use until the landowner closes the water. GFP officials also received authority under the new law to pursue agreements with landowners for public access to waters that landowners close.

New model coming to University Center-Sioux Falls

A consultant has recommended that state government’s Board of Regents proceed on a different model for University Center-Sioux Falls. You can read the report here.

Essentially it calls for converting the focus to two-year associate degrees — a major switch for a system built on bachelor and graduate degrees, and, in some cases, doctorates — and putting the campus under the supervision of the University of South Dakota.

The consultant, by the way, is based in Nashua, New Hampshire. You can read the $90,000 state contract here.

The regents, who govern South Dakota’s system of six traditional public campuses and three university centers, are scheduled to discuss the FutureWorks report during their meeting next week in Aberdeen. The topic is on the agenda for Thursday.

Governor makes six CDBG awards

Gov. Dennis Daugaard awarded Community Development Block Grant money to help six small cities with infrastructure improvements.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development announced the grants Thursday morning.

“The CDBG awards include the following:

“The city of Blunt will use a $515,000 grant to make improvements to the city’s wastewater infrastructure and treatment lagoons.

“The city of Faith was approved for a $515,000 grant to upgrade its wastewater system.

“The city of Lake Andes was approved for a $750,000 grant to upgrade the city’s wastewater system.

“The town of Langford will use a $565,000 grant for construction of a new drinking water storage system and increase the capacity of the city’s water infrastructure.

“The city of Newell was approved for a $324,370 grant to assist with replacing the city’s water mains.

“The city of Veblen will use a $765,000 grant to make improvements to its wastewater infrastructure and collection ponds.

“The CDBG program provides local governments with funding to complete projects that improve living conditions. The CDBG program is funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.”

Corn and bean farmers want money from grain company

Twelve people filed notices of their intent to sue H&I Grain of Hetland in recent days over many thousands of corn and soybeans.

The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission scheduled a meeting for Friday on the commission’s intent to immediately suspend the company’s grain buyer license.

H&I operates in Hetland, Arlington and DeSmet. Each location has a separate license from the commission.

On June 16, the commission’s grain-warehouse division received a draft copy of the company’s fiscal 2016 balance sheet and statement on profit and loss.

“The draft balance sheet shows significant deficiencies in working capital and equity,” commission lawyer Kristen Edwards said in a letter asking for a docket to be opened.

She added, “We are specifically aware of acts of insolvency and stress an immediate suspension of the license at each of the three locations is the only way to prevent further potential damage to South Dakota producers.”

The commission meeting is scheduled for Pierre at 9 a.m. CT Friday in the Capitol, room 413.

SDRS elections marred by low participation w/updates

Rob Wylie, the top administrator for the South Dakota Retirement System, said Monday he didn’t know why voter turnout was so low in four contests for seats on the SDRS board of trustees.

The 2017 round of elections marked the first time SDRS offered on-line voting as an option, with the hope that participation would increase, at least among the teachers, state employees and county employees with access to computers.

SDRS also mailed approximately 50,000 paper ballots and informed those members whose classes had seats at stake in the elections that they could vote on-line or by paper.

The return rates were far from great.

Of 14,363 ballots sent to teachers, the company handling the election received 1,157 back, between on-line and paper, and counted 1,154. The response of 8 percent was the lowest for teachers since at least 1989. James Appl of Aberdeen won the four-candidate contest with 476 votes.

There were 8,380 ballots mailed to state employees. They cast 1,089 and 1,079 were counted. The 13 percent response tied the 2013 turnout as the lowest since at least 1992. Incumbent Laurie Gustafson of Pierre won the four-candidate race with 487 votes.

Retirees, who have one seat among the 15 voting trustees, were sent 23,445 ballots. They cast 7,704 and 7,660 were counted. The 33 percent turnout was lowest since at least 1989. Incumbent James Hansen of Pierre won the seven-candidate contest with 1,754 votes.

County employees were mailed 3,622 ballots. They cast 468 and all 468 were counted. The 13 percent participation was the lowest since at least 1992. Winner in the two-candidate race was the Incumbent, Kathy KJ Peterson of Rapid City, who is the deputy auditor for Pennington County. She received 344 votes.

Wylie said the SDRS trustees and administrative staff are “concerned” about the long-term trend of declining turnout. For comparison, turnouts were retirees 46 percent in 1989; teachers 36 percent in 1989; state employees 23 percent in 1992; and county employees 29 percent in 1992. All four have gradually but steadily dropped during the decades since then.

“We had hoped that the electronic voting initiated this year would improve the vote count, though we knew the impact on the retiree election would be minimal.,” Wylie said.

“We will take a closer look at this to determine if there are other steps we can take. I anticipate that we will discuss this matter in more detail with participating employers and members also.

“In short,” Wylie concluded, “I do not think the electronic voting lowered the turnout, but the long-term trend of lower vote counts continued in this election.”

FIRST UPDATE: The electronic voting numbers, by the way, were teachers 251; state employees 240; retirees 853; and county employees 66.

SECOND UPDATE: The trustees appointed Roy Lindsay Jr., mayor of Madison, to the elected-municipal official seat. His term runs July 1, 2017, through June 30, 2021. He succeeds Pierre Mayor Laurie Gill, who didn’t seek re-election this spring. No one was a candidate for the seat.

THIRD UPDATE: Here’s the Election Returns Comparison 2017 (1).

USD dean elected to medical schools board

Mary Nettleman, dean of the Sanford School of Medicine at the University of South Dakota, was recently elected to the board of directors for the Association of Medical Colleges.

USD announced her election in a news release Monday. The release stated:

“The board of directors provides fiduciary and strategic oversight and direction to the work of the AAMC, a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to transforming health care through innovative medical education, cutting-edge patient care, and groundbreaking medical research.

“AAMC, founded in 1876, is comprised of all 147 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and more than 80 academic and scientific societies.

“AAMC represents 148,000 faculty members, 83,000 medical students, and 115,000 resident physicians.”

Where to buy a pair of Dockers

JCPenney is closing its department store in Pierre. I don’t know where I can go later this year, when I shop for the dressy Dockers and Stafford shirts that I want to wear for the 2018 legislative session. If there is somewhere else to shop for them in town, I’m not aware. Perhaps I need to change my look and go western. Suggestions?

Zero states want House GOP health bill

That is the conclusion of the New York Times in an Upshot article this week. The piece uses a combination of polling to arrive at the conclusion.

Of specific interest is the finding regarding 15 of the 19 most-Republican states. The 15 include South Dakota and each of the 15 has two Republican senators.

Just as the passage of Obamacare handed the U.S. Senate’s majority to the Republicans in the 2010 elections, the House-passed repeal of Obamacare could hand the Senate’s majority back to the Democrats. It depends most on the match-ups in each state, and the voters’ perceptions in each state of the specific match-up.

The U.S. House of Representatives approved big changes in the health-care legislation that most of its Republicans passed this spring. The Senate Republicans quickly took their deliberations behind closed doors. One reason might be the Senate Republicans’ sensitivity to their party colleagues in the House. A Republican senator doesn’t need to be publicly pitted against Republican representatives.

The spread in South Dakota, according to the estimate by the Times, is 15 points: 48 percent of South Dakotans oppose the House Republicans’ measure, while 33 percent support it.

The aye cast by U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem might not affect her in the Republican primary contest for the nomination for governor against state Attorney General Marty Jackley and possibly other Republican candidates. We won’t know until the votes are counted after election polls close on the evening of June 5, 2018. She is South Dakota’s only member in the U.S. House.

Her vote could have some effect in the November 2018 general election. The state Senate’s Democratic leader, Billie Sutton of Burke, recently declared his candidacy for governor next year. But that election is 17 months away.

The U.S. Senate could (and probably will) pass a less-offensive version of the health-insurance law, perhaps later this year. That would put the Senate and the House on a path to negotiating the differences. The House and Senate roll calls that follow those negotiations likely would focus those voters who care most about this matter. That aye or nay will count.

Thune statement on Iran and Russia sanctions

A statement from U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, moments ago:

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) issued the following statement regarding passage of the Countering Iran’s Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017, legislation that provides the Trump administration with the tools necessary to pursue a comprehensive approach for deterring threats from Iran and expands current U.S. sanctions on Russia.

“Iran’s hostile behavior is a threat to our national security,” said Thune. “Time and time again, the Iranian regime has proved it cannot be trusted, and the flawed nuclear deal the Obama administration made is not an excuse for failing to hold Iran accountable. Iran remains the number-one state sponsor of global terrorism and is a principal supporter of the Assad regime in Syria. By imposing tough sanctions on Iran for its continued support for terrorism, prohibited arms transfers, and ballistic missile testing, this legislation sends a powerful signal that our nation stands firm against Iranian aggression.

“The bill also expands sanctions against the government of Russia — a nation that continues to stir unrest in the Middle East. Russia’s continued aggression in Syria, its brazen cyberattacks and interference in elections, and its alarming human rights abuses must not go unchallenged. With passage of this bill, we ensure that Russia will face consequences for its actions.”