Monthly Archives: February 2014

More strong new candidates for state Senate

Evidently the state House of Representatives will lose Republican Gary Cammack of Union Center and Democrat Scott Parsley of Madison. They’ve filed their candidacy petitions for state Senate seats.

Cammack is running for the District 29 seat now held by Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, who’s seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. There will be a Republican primary there, with Susan Cheshier of rural Newell the first to be filed for that seat.

Parsley meanwhile wants the District 8 Senate seat currently held by Republican Chuck Jones of Flandreau. Jones, who hasn’t filed yet, was appointed by the governor last year to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Senate Republican leader Russ Olson of Wentworth.

We already knew Rep. Betty Olson, R-Prairie City, would be leaving the House because she’s term-limited there. Her candidacy paperwork is in for the District 28 Senate seat held by Republican Ryan Maher of Isabel, who’s term-limited too. Maher lives in the same House sub-district as Democratic incumbent Dean Schrempp of Lantry and doesn’t plan to challenge him. (More on that in an upcoming newspaper story profiling Maher…)

Olson doesn’t have a free path, however. Oren Lesmeister, a Democrat from Parade, has filed for the District 28 seat too. Maher went unchallenged in 2012.

Democrats’ slide continues

These numbers are three weeks late (the fault is mine, not anyone else’s) but they’re worth getting on the record. The latest monthly compilation of voter registration for South Dakota shows, as of Feb. 7, that Republicans gained one voter since Jan. 15, 2014. Democrats lost — gulp — 475. Independents gained 209. Increases also were posted by: Constitutionalists 26 and Libertarians nine.

Republicans, Democrats and independents all took thumpings in previous months as county auditors whittled their registration rolls for voter inactivity. Since January 2013 the Republicans are down about 10,000 and the Democrats are down about 14,000. Independents are down about 850. Here’s the full report.

We should have new March numbers next week.

Agricultural land definition isn’t changing

The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee killed legislation Thursday that sought to change the definition for agricultural land for property tax purposes in South Dakota. The House of Representatives needed two tries to pass Rep. Mike Verchio’s measure, HB 1097, and finally got it done Feb. 19 on a 37-33 vote. The criticism during those two debates was that the plan hadn’t been vetted through the Legislature’s special tax force on agriculture land valuations. On Thursday the legislation that came from Pennington County via Verchio, R-Hill City, ran into stiff opposition at the Senate committee hearing. Lined up against were the state Revenue Department, Ag Unity, the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Associated School Boards of South Dakota — as well as the task force’s chairman, Sen. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center. The vote was 9-0 to kill the bill. The motion came from Sen. Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid City, who was the legislation’s lead sponsor in the Senate. We’ll work to get more information about what happened in the committee and what will happen next regarding the task force taking up the issue. Even if Verchio and Rampelberg could have pushed the bill through the Senate, a veto seemed highly likely from Gov. Dennis Daugaard. And it seemed very UN-likely that a big bunch of House members would switch sides and vote to override a veto. In the bottom line sense, the bill was dead when it didn’t get two-thirds in the House in the first place. The Senate committee just finished the deed today.

‘The Rifleman’ shooteth and shooteth and…

The annual Kids Voting charity basketball game between the state Senate and the state House of Representatives on Wednesday night ended in a 135-110 victory by the Senate (second year in a row for the Senate, by the way…) and raised approximately $14,000 for the South Dakota program. On Thursday afternoon, House Speaker Brian Gosch called forth Rep. Jim Bolin. Turns out Bolin made 52 — yes, FIFTY TWO — of 60 free throws.

Bolin, who is 63, received a small trophy and a nickname to cement his spot in legislative history. Gosch dubbed him “The Rifleman.” Bolin, R-Canton, normally is one of the most articulate speakers in a House debate. He struggled for words in the emotion of the moment Thursday afternoon. He did manage to share that shooting a basketball was a big part of his life from about age 5 until early in college.

Here’s a wow fact: His personal best is 59 made in a row. Greatness comes in many forms.

What’s that quacking in the hog-house?

Hog-house describes gutting a piece of legislation and inserting new language that is somehow related to the original version. This act of legislative transplant recently was performed on HB 1185 (here is the amendment) in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Originally the legislation from Rep. Dick Werner, R-Huron, sought to create a new special class of waterfowl licenses for non-residents who previously were South Dakota residents. Werner had backing from businesses for this promotional effort, but he was opposed by the South Dakota Wildlife Federation, the Izaak Walton League and the state Game, Fish and Parks Department.  This is a battle largely about duck hunting. The House passed Werner’s bill 36-32. In the Senate, where Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, is the lead sponsor, the decision was made to take a different direction. The hog-housed bill now simply says the Game, Fish and Parks Commission can increase the number of non-resident licenses for waterfowl hunting by up to 5 percent per year. This approach now has support from GFP and the two sportsmen’s groups as well as the governor and South Dakota’s major associations for business, retail and tourism. The revised bill flew out of the Senate committee 8-1 Tuesday and, after the required waiting period of an intervening day for a newly amended bill, it is at the top of the Senate debate calendar today. This being a Thursday, which this week is the equivalent of Friday under the Legislature’s four-day approach to its work weeks, it’s uncertain whether the bill will be debated today or next week. But there’s definitely a duck in the hog-house. We’ll find out soon whether it’s a mallard or a coot.

Dakota Rural Action’s groundwater resolution

Dakota Rural Action lost its attempt for more groundwater restrictions regarding in-situ mining in South Dakota. The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee killed Rep. Troy Heinert’s bill, HB 1193, two weeks ago. It was aimed at the Powertech uranium project. Powertech’s local manager, Mark Hollenbeck, showed the committee there wouldn’t be any further protection for groundwater at the mining locations but the company would face another five years to get clearance. Now DRA and Heinert, D-Mission, have introduced a House concurrent resolution that says “the Legislature recognizes the need for ongoing evaluation of our groundwater management based on rapidly changing technology and the impacts of technological advances on our groundwater resources.” The House of Representatives is scheduled to consider HCR 1025 this afternoon.

More resolutions cometh, for better or worse

Rep. Spencer Hawley, D-Brookings, spoke out Tuesday about the time being burned in the House of Representatives by speeches about concurrent resolutions that carry no effect on the people of South Dakota. His remarks came amid debate over an anti-Common Core resolution from Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton. For the record, House members have introduced 32 concurrent resolutions. That’s less than one per member in the 70-seat House. And further for the record, 11 of those 32 came from Nelson. The last of the Nelson resolutions could come up today, attacking Obamacare and honoring former Texas congressman Ron Paul. And further for the record, the Senate has seven concurrent resolutions. One House concurrent resolution was withdrawn Tuesday by its sponsor, Rep. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs. It honored the 22nd anniversary of the Kjohaly massacre.

The politics of free fishing licenses w/update

The state House of Representatives will vote today on HB 1215, which is Rep. Elizabeth May’s attempt to allow South Dakotans age 85 and older to receive a resident senior fishing license for free. Seems simple enough… but it hasn’t been. Initially May, R-Kyle, received a 13-0 endorsement from the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. The panel liked her bill so much, and saw it as so inoffensive, that it was placed on the consent calendar, meaning the House wouldn’t even debate it. House Republican leader David Lust of Rapid City however had it referred back to the committee. The state Wildlife Division opposed the bill at its second hearing, and the committee eventually tabled it on a 7-6 vote. May used the “smoke-out” rule, which requires at least one-third support from House members, to force the committee to send down the bill for the full House to consider. The committee voted 13-0 to forward the bill without recommendation. That meant May needed to clear another hurdle by getting a majority of House members to vote to put it on the debate calendar. Evidently the original feeling — this was a matter worthy of the consent calendar — wasn’t too far off. House members voted 55-15 Monday to put it on the House calendar. It’s up for a decision today.

UPDATE: This bill became a running joke, in a good way, throughout Tuesday afternoon. Great quotes from Rep. May, who amended the price from free to $1. House members defeated it 36-33. She gave notice of intent to reconsider, and House members decided they hadn’t had enough fun yet, so they gave her one more chance on a 45-24 vote. In the end, they didn’t change, killing it 37-32. An astute follower of the legislative process suggests we check the final audio from the House session before House Speaker Brian Gosch brought down the gavel for adjournment. Hmmm… Who are these merry political pranksters?

HP in line for new HQ in RC

The state House of Representatives will decided today or tomorrow — Monday or Tuesday — whether to approve legislation authorizing money for a new South Dakota Highway Patrol headquarters in Rapid City. HB 1038 sailed out of the House Appropriations Committee on a 9-0 vote Friday. The legislation calls for $1.4 million of general funds and $300,000 from other funds for the complex that will include a motorcycle training center. Presuming the House gives its OK, next stop would be the Senate.