Monthly Archives: November 2010

The changes begin in the Legislature

Committee assignments are coming out for the 2011 session of the Legislature. Republicans control both chambers, which means the powers that be for assigning committees are House Speaker Val Rausch of Big Stone City and Senate president pro tem Bob Gray of Pierre. The two appropriations committees certainly have a new look.

House members are Jim Bolin, R-Canton; Lance Carson, R-Mitchell; Paul Dennert, D-Columbia; Dan Dryden, R-Rapid City; Kent Juhnke, R-Vivian; Fred Romkema, R-Spearfish; Jim White, R-Huron; Dean Wink, R-Howes; and Susan Wismer, D-Britton. Bolin, Dryden, Juhnke, Romkema and White are new to the committee. Dennert and Wismer are in the minority party. That leaves Carson and Wink as the two Republicans with appropriations experience. Wink will be chairman and Carson vice chairman.

The Senate panel will have Corey Brown of Gettysburg, the Senate Republican assistant leader, as its chairman. The vice chairman will Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, who was the House appropriations chairman last session and won election to the Senate. Gone from the committee altogether is the past chair, Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton. Tidemann is one of a core of former House members who are now in the Senate and will be on the panel. Others coming over from the House are Deb Peters, R-Hartford; Jim Putnam, R-Armour; and Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, who’s been out of the Legislature because of term limits and a past loss in a Senate run against Democrat Scott Heidepriem. Joining Brown, Tidemann, Peters, Putnam and Heineman will be two other appropriations members from the past, Jeff Haverly, R-Rapid City, and Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen. New senator Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid City, also will be on the committee. The lone Democrat is newcomer Billie Sutton of Burke.

Jean Hunhoff’s new assignments include chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, a natural fit because of her nursing experience. She’ll also be a member of the Senate’s Government Operations and Audit Committee; Judiciary Committee; and Local Government Committee.

Here are other Senate committee chairmen. All are Republicans. Cooper Garnos of Presho returns to run Education. Gray takes Legislative Procedure. Tom Hansen of Huron has Taxation. Haverly gets Government Operations and Audit. Shantel Krebs of Renner returns to her FFA roots and takes Agriculture. Tom Nelson of Lead has Commerce. Rampelberg, in a rare prize for a freshman, is assigned to run Retirement Laws. Larry Rhoden of Union Center will handle State Affairs. Todd Schlekeway of Sioux Falls, who moves from the House, gets Local Government. Craig Tieszen of Rapid City runs Judiciary. Mike Vehle of Mitchell is back in the driver’s seat at Transportation. Senate Republican leader Russ Olson of Madison isn’t chairing any committees. He’ll be busy managing the bigger picture.

On the House side, Republicans also hold the majority and therefore all committee chairmen are Republicans. Kim Vanneman of Ideal will chair Agriculture. (This might be a first with two women running the ag panels.) Roger Solum of Watertown takes Commerce. Thomas Brunner of Nisland gets Education. Carson gets Government Operations and Audit. Jamie Boomgarden of Chancellor takes Health and Human Services. Judiciary goes to Roger Hunt of Brandon. Rausch follows tradition as speaker and chairs Legislative Procedure. Mark Kirkeby of Rapid City takes Local Government. Manny Steele of Sioux Falls gets Retirement Laws. Majority Leader David Lust of Rapid City runs State Affairs (and Assistant Majority Leader Justin Cronin of Gettysburg is vice chair). Mark Willadsen of Sioux Falls returns after being out of the Legislature and will chair Taxation. Mike Verchio of Hill City is the new chair of Transportation.

Three water projects could be earmarked for 2011 Legislature

The final decisions will come from Gov. Mike Rounds and Gov.-elect Dennis Daugaard on the legislation that will be submitted. But the state Board of Water and Natural Resources recommended today that three major projects be line items for funding from the 2011 Legislature. They are the $2 million for the Southern Black Hills Water System; $3,310,000 for the Sioux Falls flood control project; and $55,000 for the Lake Andes-Wagner/Marty II irrigation project. If the list stays intact, it would mark the first time since 2002 that Sioux Falls flood control received direct state funding. The list also is notable because, for the first time in at least 1997, the Lewis and Clark rural water system won’t be in line for a direct appropriation from the Legislature as part of the annual omnibus water bill.

Departing governor makes some late-term appointments

As the calendar pages turn toward inauguration day for Governor-elect Dennis Daugaard on Jan. 8, Gov. Mike Rounds has made two important reappointments and two new appointments to state boards and commissions. He has given another term each to Britton superintendent Don Kirkegaard and retired universities president Dick Gowen of Rapid City on the South Dakota Board of Education. The new terms run until Dec. 31, 2014. Rounds also has selected former state Sen. Paul Symens, D-Amherst, to fill a vacancy on the South Dakota Housing Development Authority’s board. He succeeds the late Curt Jones of Britton, who also was a Democratic senator for the same northeast district for many years. Symens’ term runs until June 30, 2013. The state Veterans Commission gets a new member in Daryl “KC” Russell of Aberdeen, who replaces Don Loudner. Russell’s appointment runs until Oct. 1, 2016.

One of the Democrats’ problems

A legislator asked me recently why I so often write news stories about numbers. Numbers are facts, whether they’re property taxes or Cabinet appointments. A few Democrats are expressing their wishes that Gov.-elect Dennis Daugaard wouldn’t have kept so many Cabinet members from the Rounds administration. Here’s the count.

Coming back are Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth, Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist, GFP Secretary Jeff Vonk, Corrections Secretary Tim Reisch, Finance Commissioner Jason Dilges, Labor Secretary Pam Roberts, Environment Secretary Steve Pirner, and, temporarily Military and Veterans Affairs Secretary Steve Doohen.

There’s no official word yet on Personnel Commissioner Sandy Zinter. Assuming she comes back, and counting the promotion of Social Services Secretary Deb Bowman to the governor’s executive management team, and subtracting Doohen’s temporary status, there would be nine holdovers.

Not coming back, whether because they aren’t being retained or are retiring, are Tourism and State Development Secretary Richard Benda, tourism director Melissa Miller, Administration Commissioner Jeff Bloomberg, Information and Telecommunications Commissioner Otto Doll, tribal relations director Roger Campbell, Revenue Secretary Paul Kinsman, Human Services Secretary Jerry Hofer, Education Secretary Tom Oster and Public Safety Secretary Tom Dravland. That’s nine not returning.

To those nine non-returnees, add Doohen for 10. Then add a new slot as Daugaard splits Military and Veterans’ Affairs. That means 11 new faces. Add a new appointee to succeed Acting Secretary of Agriculture Jon Farris, and you’re at 12. Add the new secretary for social services to replace Bowman and you’re at 13.

The bottom line: 13 new people at Cabinet level, nine returnees (including one promotion, so technically eight). That’s turnover of 60 percent-plus, either way you figure it. The turnover actually has been deeper, broader and swifter than many in Pierre expected.

Where’s a utility insider when you need one?

Ever been to a meeting of the state Public Utilities Commission? Or listened to one via the Internet? Or read an agenda and looked at the weekly filings? You would see the incredibly diverse and incredibly technical matters the PUC’s staff and three elected commissioners face. From grain warehouses, to pipeline routes and pipeline safety; from electricity rates and transmission line routes, to telephone company interconnection agreements and wind-farm sites; those are just some of the topics. The PUC also gets to weigh in on federal regulations in energy and communications. Gov.-elect Dennis Daugaard is under fire from some folks right now because of the odd situation involving PUC member Dusty Johnson. Daugaard is hiring Johnson to be one of the six members of his new administration’s executive committee. That means Johnson, who just won re-election Nov. 2 to a second six-year term on the PUC, will take the oath for that term on Jan. 8 and then immediately resign it. Daugaard, after taking his oath Jan. 8, as governor then can appoint Johnson’s replacement for the next two years. Daugaard chose Secretary of State Chris Nelson, who ran for the Republican U.S. House nomination and lost. Because of term limits, Nelson couldn’t run again for secretary of state.

The rap against Nelson is he doesn’t have any experience in the utility industry. On the other hand, he certainly knows regulatory functions, after being state elections supervisor for 13 years and overseeing all corporation filings as secretary of state. Some people feel cheated that Johnson is resigning, and there naturally is suspicion about whether the PUC musical chairs deal was set up before the election. Unable to prove wrong-doing, and unable to nick Johnson or Nelson on their character or their popularity (Democrats couldn’t field a candidate against Nelson four years ago when he ran for re-election), the rap is that someone more qualified should have been appointed to the PUC by Daugaard. Okay, who?

Let’s look at the current trio of commissioners. Johnson was on the staff of new Gov. Mike Rounds when he decided to run for the PUC. That was six years ago. Johnson, a Republican, defeated Democratic incumbent Jim Burg. What experience did Jim Burg have when he won the first of his three terms on the PUC in 1986? He had been a successful agriculture producer, he had served in the Legislature and he had lost the Democratic U.S. House primary to Tim Johnson. And he knew a little something about electricity from being a member of a rural electric cooperative. How about another current member, Gary Hanson, who had been mayor of Sioux Falls and a state legislator? Hanson, a Republican, defeated Democratic PUC member Pam Nelson of Sioux Falls. Hanson had been utilities commissioner in the Sioux Falls municipal for six years before he was elected mayor. Professionally, he was a real estate businessman. Pam Nelson’s utility experience doesn’t come to mind. The PUC’s new chairman, Steve Kolbeck, worked in the field as a service man for telecommunications companies and was a Brandon city council member before he was elected to an open seat in 2006. The Democrat who ran for PUC this year, Doyle Karpen of Union County, knows the grain business and would have brought expertise in that area.

Utility industry officials seldom run for the PUC. Why? Because opponents can tar them as utility industry insiders who won’t represent the rate payers. Imagine the howling if Daugaard had selected a utility official, or a lawyer who routinely represents utilities. Nelson will have less than two years to prove himself. He will run for election in 2012 for the four years remaining on Johnson’s new term. We look forward to see whether any Republican challenges him for the nomination and whether any Democrat with utility experience runs.

Nothing like a little pickup basketball

President Barack Obama took 12 stitches after an elbow to the chin this morning in a basketball game. If he ever makes it to Pierre, we play four mornings a week (Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays) for an hour starting at 6 a.m. up at the Y. Bring a white shirt and a colored shirt. For a few years Lt. Gov. Dennis Daugaard sometimes played with us while he was in town during legislative session. (He’s certainly welcome if he wants to join us again, now that he’ll be in Pierre year-round.) We never did lure Gov. Mike Rounds onto the court (he’s into racketball) but his brother Dan has got good game.

We have two basic rules, which have been in place since we began down at the old city auditorium in the 1980s: 1) Remember we all have to be able to go work, so no cheap shots; and 2) We call our own fouls, and we call pretty much everything, because otherwise there’s no clear line to draw. We’ve had wrecked knees, cut faces, pulled muscles, torn-up fingers and one morning, for yours truly, the loss of several teeth. Some of us are also plagued by what’s known as OFT — older, fatter and tired. But it’s still a great workout.

Kea Warne leaving state elections office

State elections supervisor Kea Warne submitted her resignation this week. It takes effect Dec. 31. Her future is uncertain. She’s been supervisor for more than eight years, taking over the duties in 2002 after Chris Nelson won the Republican nomination for secretary of state. Nelson had been state elections supervisor for 13 years. Nelson won the general election that year and wasn’t challenged for re-election in 2006. Because of the state constitution’s limit of two consecutive terms, he couldn’t seek re-election this year. His current deputy, Teresa Bray, ran for the Republican nomination but the three-way fight at the party’s convention was won by state Sen. Jason Gant of Sioux Falls. Gant defeated two opponents in the general election. One of them, state Sen. Ben Nesselhuf of Vermillion, is campaigning to become the next chairman of  the South Dakota Democratic Party. Warne’s resignation means that the office’s top three officials will all be departing. The Gant team has large shoes to fill in ensuring fair and free elections. He’s shown a penchant for innovation. While Nesselhuf agreed with several of Gant’s legislative efforts in the 2010 session, expect Nesselhuf to keep a close eye on the Gant team’s performance if Nesselhuf win his party’s chairmanship.

Daugaard Cabinet reflects Janklow legacy

There are only eight Cabinet members from Gov. Mike Rounds’s administration who have been asked by Gov.-elect Dennis Daugaard and have agreed to stay in their posts. The announcement this afternoon shows seven of the returnees are Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth; Game, Fish and Parks Secretary Jeff Vonk; Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Steve Pirner; Corrections Secretary Tim Reisch; Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist; Military and Veterans Affairs Secretary Steve Doohen; and Labor Secretary Pam Roberts. A previous announcement listed Commissioner of Finance and Management Jason Dilges returning in an expanded role on the governor’s executive management team as chief financial officer while continuing as head of BFM. Also, Social Services Secretary Deb Bowman will be leaving the department for an expanded role on the executive management team. Dilges and Bowman will be two of six people on that team. Bowman makes for nine returnees altogether.

What is noteworthy, beyond the large turnover in the other departments and bureaus, is how many of the returnees were Cabinet members or senior aides in Gov. Bill Janklow’s administration eight years ago and beyond. Hollingworth and Pirner were in the same desks. Reisch was deputy secretary of corrections. Roberts was Janklow’s chief of operations overseeing all departments, bureaus and agencies. Bowman was a senior aide on Janklow’s central staff. Dilges was deputy budget commissioner before leaving for the private sector in Janklow’s final years, then returning to head BFM under Rounds. Also in the organization chart remains Jim Soyer, who was a senior aide and chief of staff for Janklow and who continued as a senior aide for Rounds; he’ll be continuing as a senior aide for Daugaard. Bergquist was a lawyer in DOT who worked his way up the ladder in the department as Rounds cleaned out much of the senior management.

The only truly new face remaining from the Rounds administration who will be in Daugaard’s Cabinet is Vonk. Doohen plans to retire this spring but will continue through the transition; well-placed sources have indicated Reisch might be in line as successor. Another move to watch is the break-up of the Department of Tourism and State Development into two stand-alone departments as they were prior to Rounds’ time. Daugaard also plans to split Doohen’s department into separate military and veterans affairs departments.

The flip side of the returnees is the departees. They are heavily Rounds-appointed, but many began under Janklow and were promoted or shifted to different Cabinet spots by Rounds. Those who have been told they weren’t being asked to stay in the Daugaard administration include Tourism and State Development Secretary Richard Benda; tourism director Melissa Miller; tribal affairs director Roger Campbell; commissioner of administration Jeff Bloomberg; commissioner of information and telecommunications Otto Doll; Education Secretary Tom Oster; Revenue Secretary Paul Kinsman; and Human Services Secretary Jerry Hofer. The status of personnel commissioner Sandy Zinter remains unclear in the new administration, but her name wasn’t among those in the returnees news release.

Chris Nelson is governor-elect’s pick for PUC

Gov.-elect Dennis Daugaard (left) announced this morning that he has selected Secretary of State Chris Nelson (right) to fill the first two years of a six-year term on the state Public Utilities Commission. Nelson will replace commissioner Dusty Johnson, who was re-elected Nov. 2 but has accepted an offer to be chief of staff for Daugaard’s new administration rather than serve his new term. Nelson said Tuesday he’ll be a candidate in 2012 for election to the remaining four years of the term. The switch at the PUC will take place on Jan. 8. That day, Daugaard will take the oath of office as governor, and Johnson will take the oath of office for the new PUC six-year term. Then Johnson will resign from the PUC that day, and Daugaard will officially appoint Nelson to fill the vacancy. Nelson is finishing his second four-year term as secretary of state and couldn’t seek re-election because of the state constitution’s limit of two consecutive terms. He ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. House instead and placed second in the June primary. Daugaard, Johnson and Nelson all are Republicans. Nelson said he’ll be done as secretary of state on Jan. 3, when Republican state Sen. Jason Gant of Sioux Falls plans to take the oath of office as his successor. Nelson, who lives in Pierre with his family, was preparing to return to raising cattle when the offer came from Daugaard on Saturday, Nov. 13.