Monthly Archives: April 2015

Clusters of appointees in the Legislature

South Dakota has 35 legislative districts. Each district has two representatives and one senator. In Pennington County, there is a district — 32 — where all three legislators were appointed by governors to fill vacancies. The three lawmakers are:

Rep. Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City, who was named Sept. 24, 2007, to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of Alan Hanks;

Rep. Kristin Conzet, R-Rapid City, who received an appointment Dec. 1, 2009, to fill the vacancy left by the resignation of Brian Dreyer; and

Sen. Alan Solano, R-Rapid City, who was appointed Jan. 13, 2014, when Stan Adelstein couldn’t continue to serve because of health issues.

This comes to mind today after Gov. Dennis Daugaard chose Bill Shorma, R-Dakota Dunes, to fill the District 16 Senate seat left open by the resignation one month ago by Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes.

Two of the District 16 seats now have been filled through appointment. Almost two years ago, the governor chose David Anderson, R-Hudson, to serve the remainder of Patty Miller’s term in the House after she resigned to care for her husband. Anderson won election last November.

The same will be true soon in District 25, as the governor ponders the replacement for Tim Rave of Baltic. Two years ago, Daugaard chose Kristen Langer, R-Dell Rapids, to serve the rest of Jon Hansen’s term in the House after Hansen resigned to attend law school. Langer won election last November.

And, for what it’s worth, serving a partial term at the start doesn’t count against the state constitution’s limit of four consecutive terms in the same chamber. Gosch, for example, just served his eighth session and he gets a ninth in 2016.

Some veterans seek to refer HB 1179

That’s the pending law that expands the definition of a veteran in South Dakota. The names on the petition are Theodore Fowler and Terry Bacon, each of Aberdeen. Here is the pending law but the actual legislation gives a better picture of what HB 1179 actually changes. The governor supported the measure, as did 97 of the 101 legislators who voted on the final version. The petitioners need at least 13,871 valid signatures of South Dakota registered voters and must submit them no later than 90 days after the March 30 adjournment of the 2015 legislative session. So the clock is ticking. This is third referral attempt in play this spring. The others attempt to refer the youth minimum wage in SB 177 and a catalog of election law changes in SB 69. If sufficient signatures are gathered — each measure has a separate petition — the measure wouldn’t take effect as law July 1 and instead would be suspended until after the November 2016 general election.

If you planned to attend the TransCanada proceedings…

… next week, make different plans. The state Public Utilities Commission decided today to push back the May 5-8 evidentiary hearing to either late July or early August. The new dates will be selected Thursday. The commission also postponed the public-input meeting that was planned for the evening of May 4. That too will be rescheduled. The proceedings deal with whether the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline project can continue to meet the requirements set in the original permit granted by the PUC in 2010. TransCanada has been unable to proceed without White House approval that is needed to pierce the Canada-U.S. border. South Dakota law requires that a permitted project be certified whether it can continue to meet the permit conditions if the project hasn’t started in four years. That is the purpose of the present proceedings. While the opponents haven’t used their time to its greatest efficiency, the company also has been rapped twice now for moving slower than the PUC wants in providing information to the opponents during the discovery process. Commissioners Gary Hanson and Chris Nelson made clear today they won’t tolerate another extension of time. Nelson said he was ready to go. So appears to be TransCanada.

Will Legislature separate its IT system? (w/update)

The Legislature’s Executive Board meets today (Monday, April 27) and one of the topics is an IT (information technology) system upgrade. What we’re hearing through the grapevine is some lawmakers want to move forward with a separate IT system that would be independent of the executive branch. Currently the state Bureau of Information and Telecommunications provides services to the governor’s departments and bureaus and to those other elected executives who choose to use BIT. The judicial branch is already separate. We’ll know more later today. The matter is scheduled for this afternoon. The main meeting starts at 10:30 a.m. CT and the agenda is here. If you want to listen to the meeting, the audio link is here (click on the SDPB logo to the right of the chart).

UPDATE: The Executive Board voted 14-0 to proceed with an independent system. It would be in operation for the 2016 legislative session, although the Legislature would continue to pay BIT through the end of the session in what LRC director Jason Hancock described as belt and suspenders.

Opponents want protective order dropped on KXL pipeline documents

The state Public Utilities Commission just announced a special meeting will be held Monday morning at the Capitol regarding the evidentiary hearing scheduled for May 5-8 on the permit for TransCanada’s proposed Keystone XL petroleum pipeline. Opponents want a protective order vacated or changed regarding various documents that TransCanada wants kept confidential. The seven opponents jointly filed their 10-page motion today (Friday). The motion came from Dakota Rural Action, Rosebud Sioux Tribe, Yankton Sioux Tribe, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Indigenous Environmental Network and Bold Nebraska. The PUC meeting will be at 9 a.m. CT in room 414. The motion is here. Exhibit lists are due Tuesday, April 28. The motion contends that the parties can’t file their exhibit lists without the protective order being vacated or changed. The motion further argues that TransCanada didn’t apply for the protective order as required by the PUC’s rules and the order therefore should be invalid. The order makes confidential, according to the motion, approximately 2,508 files in 222 folders. The motion also argues there isn’t sufficient time from April 28 to May 5 to sufficiently examine the exhibits that are being provided by TransCanada.

Big Twins series in Seattle starts tonight

They’re each at six wins and nine losses so far in the 2015 major league baseball season. Those records put the Minnesota Twins and Seattle Mariners one game ahead of the American League-worst Cleveland Somebodies right now. The Twins visit the Mariners for three games starting tonight. The Twins send their best pitcher from 2014, Phil Hughes, against the Mariners’ perhaps all-time best pitcher, Felix Hernandez, this evening. Tonight should be a chance to see or listen to good baseball. On Saturday and Sunday, the pitching matches would seem to favor the Twins, but the Mariners have added some good batters in the past two off-seasons. Wouldn’t it be great for Twins fans to see their club come home 9-9? Next up for the Twins is a visit Monday by the Detroit Tigers.

Meanwhile Michael Cuddyer, a former Twins outfielder, is raking again this spring, this time for the first-place New York Mets, who are 13-3 heading into Friday action. Cuddyer has scored 10 runs and has eight RBI while hitting .273 so far (with a .355 on-base percentage). The only Twins regular doing “better” than Cuddyer so far in 2015 is Joe Mauer at .291 / .375 — but with only two runs scored and five RBI. The Mets are clicking. It’s been a while for them. It’s been a while for the Twins, too.

PUC adds public-comment night on TransCanada permit

The final piece is now in place for the state Public Utilities Commission’s process for considering the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline’s permit to construct through South Dakota. The commission will hold what is described as a public-input session on the evening of May 4 at the state Capitol, room 413. The commission will listen to comments from the public from 5:30 p.m. through 8:30 p.m. CT.

The public-input session is on the eve of the main evidentiary hearing on the Keystone XL permit. The commission originally granted the permit in 2010. But TransCanada hasn’t moved forward with construction in the states of Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska, largely because President Obama’s administration hasn’t granted the company official clearance to pierce the Canada-U.S. border. TransCanada plans to use the pipeline to transport tar-sands petroleum from Alberta into Nebraska, where it can be shipped elsewhere for U.S. processing or for sale elsewhere.

The evidentiary hearing is set for May 5-8 at the state Capitol, room 414. The hearing starts at 9 a.m. CT on May 5. For the subsequent days, the starting time is 8 a.m. CT. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether the conditions set in the original 2010 permit will still be met. State law requires this step if a work hasn’t started on a project within four years after the permit was granted.

The commission’s lengthy docket on certification for the permit is here.

SDHSAA audit drew silence (w/update)

An odd thing happened att the annual general-membership meeting Tuesday of the South Dakota High School Activities Association. Executive director Wayne Carney gave brief remarks about the annual financial audit and asked for questions. No one took the opportunity. The report from the state Department of Legislative Audit is posted on the SDHSAA website here. It is worth a look. We will report further on details of the questions raised in the audit. Those start on page 6 of the audit packet.

The first finding relates to the recent practice of transferring money between accounts to cover the cash-flow deficits during part of the year, with a total of $250,000 moving out of investments into operations and then moving back to investments. A similar practice is again under way this fiscal year.

The second finding discovered corporate sponsorships weren’t properly tracked. A shortfall of $10,500 was found. This was money that was promised in a five-year $210,000 contract that began in 2009. One payment of $10,500 wasn’t made, according to the audit.

The third finding dealt with two matters. The audit uncovered use of the association’s credit card to pay for meals that weren’t itemized and including some that appeared to be in excess of the standard per-diem amounts set. The audit also found the purchase of 24 tickets to a Boston Red Sox game on June 30, 2014, in Boston. The auditors didn’t get a clear answer about the tickets, how the tickets fit into the association’s mission and whether recipients of the tickets reimbursed the association. The tickets were purchased using the association credit card in three payments from a reseller, StubHub.

The fourth finding reported the association failed to remit $8,890 of unclaimed property to the state treasurer and therefore didn’t comply with South Dakota law. The amount reflected the total of 36 outstanding checks issued as far back as 2005.

Four state legislators had been in the audience for another portion of the meeting Tuesday dealing with transgender athletic participation policy. They didn’t appear to be in the auditorium when the audit was mentioned. The specific findings in the audit weren’t mentioned at the meeting.

UPDATE: Wayne Carney briefed the board on the audit findings Wednesday morning during the second day of the board’s meeting. The audit wasn’t on the agenda. Carney used the “Board Sharing” item on the agenda to provide more information.

The baseball-tickets purchase was part of a trip by board members and staff to the national meeting last summer in Boston. Carney said the tickets were purchased using the SDHSAA credit card and the people who received the tickets were supposed to repay the association. They didn’t. Carney said the matter has since been rectified.

The meals purchases reflected joint meals for the board and staff at various times, whether at restaurants as a group or for food such as pizza brought to board meetings for quick lunches, Carney said. The board policy provides for actual expenses. But the receipts weren’t itemized and didn’t reflect the occasion or the participants, Carney said. The practice has been adjusted so receipts carry the required details, he said.

The missing contract payment involved ball-maker Baden. Carney said SDHSAA didn’t send invoices to Baden and the company was on a quarterly payment schedule. He said Baden didn’t notice that a payment was missed, and SDHSAA didn’t notice because there wasn’t a practice of sending invoices to Baden. He said that has been corrected.

The unclaimed property issue is still being worked on, he said. No money has been turned over yet to the state treasurer. He said a staff member is trying again to contact the various people who have been given checks by SDHSAA but haven’t cashed the checks.

Rail projects seek state loans

The state Railroad Board meets Wednesday (April 22) in Pierre and will consider loans for several major projects.

The South Dakota Pulse Processors LLC of Harrold and the Hughes County Railroad Authority seek a state loan of $696,000 that will be in addition to local financing for a siding and two switches at Harrold to get service from the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern railroad. The processors want to develop a service for yellow peas and other pulse crops.

The Brookings County Railroad Authority asks for a $4 million state loan to use for its proposed loop track at the Novita Aurora livestock protein meal and vegetable oil processing facility. The project has $40 million in capital and is seeking $26 million in commercial bank financing. The plant would be served by the RCP&E railroad.

South Dakota Wheat Growers requests a state loan of $4,312,442 for a loop track at the proposed facility at Kennebec on the Mitchell-Rapid City state-owned rail line. The Wheat Growers are investing based on the Railroad Board’s plan to continue rehabilitating the MRC line west from Chamberlain. The state board also will look at bids on the rehab project Wednesday.

In other rail news, the Railroad Board has been informed that construction started on the Britton elevator. That triggers replacing about 30 miles of existing track in Marshall County with heavier rail and constructing a new wye at Britton. A state Future Fund grant is planned to pay for the wye, while the Marshall County Railroad Authority has purchased the site for the wye. The Dakota Minnesota Valley Railroad and Western Railroad operates the track between Aberdeen and Geneseo Junction, including the Britton line and Britton junction. The Marshall County Railroad Authority and the DMVW will share the estimated $9 million of rail-replacement expense.

Three seats up for SDHSAA elections

Members of the South Dakota High School Activities Association will select three new members to their organization’s board of directors in the next month. The board has eight directors. Each is limited to one five-year term. Two directors’ terms expire June 30. They are Todd Trask of Wall, who represents school board members from small districts; and the board’s chairperson, Rick Weber of Flandreau, who is the at-large member representing the eastern half of South Dakota. The third seat up for election is becoming vacant, as Dan Whalen steps down as athletic director for Pierre. His term expires June 30, 2018. Nominations will be made for the three spots during the general membership meeting Tuesday in Pierre. Schools will then be sent ballots bearing the nominees’ names by May 1. The ballot also will ask the schools to decide on a constitutional amendment that would add a ninth seat to the board, so that the student enrollment is split into four sizes of schools rather than the current three. The change would need 60 percent approval. The amendment’s base of support is the Sioux Falls area, which has struggled to get someone elected as director in recent times.