Monthly Archives: January 2011

I’ve warned you and warned you

Sen. Tom Nelson, R-Lead, and Rep. Chuck Turbiville, R-Deadwood, filed legislation today that would let people violate South Dakota’s smoking ban twice before they could be fined. Their measure, SB 163, says a warning ticket shall be issued for any first or second violation. A third or subsequent violation would be a petty offense punishable by a $25 fine. You have to wonder how much it’s going to cost to run the statewide data base, complete with live downloading capacity for every law enforcement officer in South Dakota, to track all of these first and second offenders. Did we mention Tom and Chuck are the only legislators who put their names on this bill?

No shuffle for regents, but BofE gets new member

Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s press office announced Monday afternoon he’s reappointed Harvey Jewett of Aberdeen and Kathryn Johnson of Hill City to further terms on the state Board of Regents, whose members govern South Dakota’s state universities and special-needs schools. Jewett’s been on the board since 1997, Johnson since 2005. The governor also chose a replacement for Sen. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, on the state Board of Education. She is Julie Mathiesen of Sturgis Mathiesen has been the director since 2008 for the Technology and Innovation in Education (TIE) organization based in Rapid City. She previously was a biology and art teacher in the Meade school district. Heineman resigned in December after she won election to the Legislature. Mathiesen will serve the remainder of the Heineman term through Dec. 31, 2012, when she will face re-appointment.

Daugaard seeks to keep giving away millions

South Dakota’s program that rebates the taxes on large business and agri-processing projects is scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2012. Now Gov. Dennis Daugaard wants to re-start it in a different form. He’s proposing to continuously divert 22 percent of South Dakota’s contractor-excise taxes into a special fund and allow the state Board of Economic Development to provide grants to business projects. The legislation, HB 1230, was introduced today. What it means, bottom line, is that the program would continue to drain the state treasury by more than $10 millon annually. To qualify, the project would need to be at least $5 million in costs and could be, according to the legislation, laboratory and testing facilities, manufacturing, power generation, power transmission, agricultural processing and wind energy facilities.  The project couldn’t be used predominantly for retail sales, other than retail electricity; or for residential housing or transient lodging; or for health care services; or for raising or feeding of livestock. The project also would need to be subject to property or gross-receipts taxes.  The legislation would allow the Board of Economic Development to write its own rules, including requiring repayment if grant terms weren’t met by a recipient. This program began under Gov. Mike Rounds and is one reason why South Dakota is in a structural deficit.

Trying to make a point through the barrel of a gun

State Rep. Hal Wick, R-Sioux Falls, doesn’t like the federal mandate that people must have health insurance. To make his point, he filed legislation that would require all South Dakotans to purchase or acquire a firearm for self defense within six months of their 21st birthdays. His provision wouldn’t apply to people otherwise barred under law from possessing a firearm. In a news release, Wick acknowledged that he and the co-sponsors of HB 1237 don’t really believe that the State of South Dakota can require citizens to buy firearms. Of course, they didn’t think to require that people also buy ammunition. One of the things we can’t get back in life is wasted time.

How about South Dakota Certified Milk?

Interesting facts frequently surface during state government’s budget hearings before the Legislature Joint Committee on Appropriations, and here’s one that came up Monday morning during the state Department of Agriculture’s appearance. Approximately 60 percent of the milk produced in South Dakota leaves the state’s borders for use elsewhere. That 60-40 split happens to also be the ratio that funds the state’s dairy inspection program. Approximately 60 percent of the proposed funding for the inspection program will come from the fees paid by the dairy industry, while the other 40 percent comes from state general funds. The fee revenue from the industry has steadily risen in recent years, which has reduced pressure on state government’s general funds. Meanwhile, the South Dakota Certified Beef program continues to idle. Many cattlemen participate in age-and-source programs to ensure beef quality and send their livestock to slaughter outside South Dakota. The Aberdeen beef plant remains unfinished, with no certain date for opening, although the latest hopes are some time in 2011. Currently there isn’t a contract for marketing the beef that would be processed at the plant. Until the plant opens, there likely won’t be a contract. The plant will need 300,000 to 350,000 head annually for full production.

Regarding the state secretary of education

After Gov. Dennis Daugaard decided against retaining Tom Oster as state secretary of education in his new administration, speculation flew like a flock of blackbirds through South Dakota’s K-12 school administrators that Mitchell superintendent Joe Graves would be next in line. The governor appointed Melody Schopp, a state Department of Education employee who had climbed the ranks to deputy secretary, to serve on an interim basis as secretary. The governor also named a search team and said publicly that many educators’ contracts would prevent them from taking the post in the middle of a school year when his administration took office Jan. 8. Well, the answer regarding Joe Graves might be contained a story in the Jan. 25 issue of the Mitchell Daily Republic newspaper. The Mitchell school board on Monday night voted unanimously to extend Graves’ three-year contract an additional year. He’s currently in the middle of the first year of that contract. As for Melody Schopp, she has been very interested in the secretary post on a permanent basis.

Whatever happened to the News Web?

The News Web was started in South Dakota state government back in Bill Janklow’s fourth term as governor. Mike Mueller and I put it together (I was press secretary during that term). So I take some paternal interest in our attempt at a 24/7 site for reporters and the public to use to access state government news releases and other documents. The site gradually grew into deeper and deeper neglect during the Rounds administration. At some point in recent months, the link to the News Web disappeared from the front page of state government’s web site. Months ago I also seemed to no longer be able to directly access the News Web site either. (I took a back door to it by going to the governor’s web page and clicking on the news tab.) I mentioned this situation a few weeks ago to Tony Venhuizen, the director of policy and communications for new Gov. Dennis Daugaard, and he said he had run into the same problem. Well, in a round-about way, I finally found the secret code to directly access the News Web. The link is www.state.sd.us/news/ and that second backslash seems to be the difference.

From Kuwait to Egypt on a stolen credit card number

Citibank’s fraud unit called me the other day to check a transaction on my credit card. No, I said, I didn’t purchase a ticket on Kuwait’s airline to fly to Egypt. Citi cancelled my card, issued a new one and didn’t bill me for the ticket. I have a suspicion of how someone pirated my card number. I also wonder if my old card was used by someone who’s part of the uprising under way this week against Egypt’s government. This is an oddly uncomfortable feeling, not knowing whether my account might be used to accomplish violence and perhaps bloodshed.