Monthly Archives: February 2016

The transgender bathroom debate and the RNC w/update

We stumbled upon an item Saturday via Twitter indicating the Republican National Committee endorsed a resolution opposing transgender general use of bathrooms and other facilities during the RNC’s mid-January national winter meeting. The resolution can be found here. The resolution and the meeting minutes don’t appear on the RNC main website. The resolution’s wording is similar to the legislation, HB 1008, that awaits Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s decision whether it becomes law. The legislation’s prime sponsor is Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence. The resolution helps explain why there reportedly is similar legislation pending in more than one dozen states. The South Dakota Republican chairman is Pam Roberts of Pierre. The South Dakota Republican national committeeman is Dana Randall of Aberdeen. The South Dakota Republican national committeewoman is Sandye Kading of Rapid City. We haven’t been able to find yet official RNC documents showing the resolutions that were proposed to the RNC resolutions committee, the resolutions that were sent from the resolutions committee to the full national committee or the full national committee’s decisions including how the committee members voted.

Why are these items significant? They put the decision facing Daugaard, a Republican, in a different perspective. His choices are whether to veto HB 1008, allow it to become law without his signature or sign it into law. The RNC resolution appears to be push-back for the U.S. Department of Education’s policy decision regarding gender-segregated bathrooms under an interpretation of Title IX non-discrimination law and regulations. The RNC resolutions committee did reject 9-0 a proposed resolution seeking President Barack Obama’s impeachment during that same mid-January meeting, according to reports from some news sources and activists’ blog posts. The transgender resolution surfaced from Time magazine political reporter Zeke Miller. The Washington Blade newspaper followed up Saturday with this story and various organizations also published reports.

The governor’s deadline under the five-day rule in the South Dakota Constitution is Tuesday. Major corporations in Sioux Falls stand opposed to the legislation. The legislation swept through the state House of Representatives 58-10 on Jan. 27 and met more resistance in the Senate, where it passed 20-15 Feb. 16. The RNC resolution encouraged legislatures to take action.

UPDATE: Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, said he began working on HB 1008 last summer and its later drafts received “tweaks” from Family Heritage Alliance personnel. His bill was pre-filed, prior to the Jan. 12 start of the 2016 session, and received its first reading on Jan. 12. The RNC meeting happened later that week. In an email about the RNC resolution Sunday he wrote, “That’s all news to me. Wish I had known about their resolution. I would have used it during testimony.”

A special session? Sure…

The good news of course is President Obama’s administration agrees the federal government should pay 100 percent of the health care costs for American Indian people and Alaska natives rather than rely on states to pay their Medicaid share for services delivered outside of Indian Health Service facilities. Those savings are what Gov. Dennis Daugaard has planned to use to pay for expansion of Medicaid services for lower-income workers in South Dakota.

The timing of the announcement from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid on Friday doesn’t leave South Dakota much room to pull together all of the agreements and calculate all of the budget adjustments before the end of March when the 2016 legislative session ends. With the teacher-pay discussion far from settled in the Legislature, don’t be surprised if the Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate and the House of Representatives and Gov. Dennis Daugaard jointly decide to come back later this year for a special legislative session.

Daugaard said he would take the matter to the Legislature once he knew that tribal governments agreed with the plan and that the expansion wouldn’t cost any more money than South Dakota already spends on Medicaid. This would be a giant change for South Dakota and Daugaard needs to overcome some tough critics in the Legislature to proceed. A special session later this year would allow legislators, and South Dakota citizens in general, to focus solely on the Medicaid expansion question.

2016 legislative session: Day 28 “Taxman!”

Sen. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, listened to testimony Thursday during the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on the governor’s proposal to increase South Dakota’s sales tax to 4.5 percent from the current 4 percent. Among those testifying was Rep. Jacqueline Sly, R-Rapid City. Shown behind Sly are Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, and Tony Venhuizen, the governor’s chief of staff. Soholt and Venhuizen also testified for it. The Senate committee endorsed the proposal 7-2, with Heineman as one of the “no” votes.

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2016 legislative session: Day 27 “Ain’t no mountain…”

The debate over the name Harney Peak found its way back into the Legislature again Wednesday, as the Senate State Affairs Committee considered legislation from Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, to restrict the authority of the state Board on Geographic Names. Schoenbeck’s measure, HB 1060, says the board “may only act on a name change for a geographic place name that has been identified by state law as being offensive or insulting. The board may not act on any other proposed name change.” The House of Representatives passed the bill in that form 54-15 on Jan. 26. Schoenbeck testified as the only supporter of the bill Wednesday. Various opponents questioned the necessity of the legislation, including descendants of Chief Little Thunder and Gen. William Harney, who is remembered in history for a massacre of Indian people at Little Thunder’s camp in Nebraska in 1856. The two men, Phil Little Thunder (left) and Paul Stover Soderman, shook hands for the first time as a symbol of reconciliation at the end of their testimony to the committee. Sen. Alan Solano, R-Rapid City, asked for the bill to be deferred so he could work on what he described as a “two-phase” role for the board; the committee’s chairman, Sen. Gary Cammack, R-Union Center, (left) decided to grant Solano’s request. It also means Schoenbeck, who planned to resign after today’s legislative work, might have reason to stick around through the 11 work days remaining in the 2016 session.

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2016 legislative session: Day 26 “A fight over life”

The state Senate gave its approval 21-14 Tuesday to a fetal-pain standard for when abortions should be illegal in South Dakota. The legislation, SB 72, would prohibit most abortions starting week 20 after fertilization. Current law sets the cut-off at 24 weeks. The prime sponsor is Sen. Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre. One of the opponents was Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, who told the story of the birth of their son at 24 weeks as his wife, Gena, and child struggled for life. The legislation now goes to the state House of Representatives, where it has 37 members on its sponsors list. The bill would need 36 ayes to pass in the House.

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Class warfare in House on municipal tax

As in class of municipalities… as in population of municipalities… as in leaving out the three largest cities. That’s what happened Tuesday evening, when the state House of Representatives cleared the way for an additional 1 percent city sales tax for all municipalities with populations less than 25,000. The amendment from Rep. Elizabeth May, R-Kyle, excludes Sioux Falls, Rapid City and Aberdeen. House members approved the May-amended version 37-30. The measure, HB 1116, came from the South Dakota Municipal League and now moves to the Senate. Its prime sponsor is Rep. Scott Munsterman, a Republican who is the past mayor of Brookings. Its lead Senate sponsor is Sen. Scott Fiegen, who’s been mayor of Dell Rapids and was appointed last year by Gov. Dennis Daugaard to fill the Rave vacancy for this legislative term. The May amendment likely cost the measure some support in the House, where opposition from representatives for the three excluded cities ran approximately two to one in comparison to support from representatives for the three cities. The bill got over the hump of 36 ayes needed largely through support from legislators in the Sioux Falls area’s fast-growing suburban communities.Whether the Senate would remove the May amendment isn’t clear yet; if the Senate amends the bill in any way and then passes it, the bill would return to the House for another vote. The Daugaard administration opposes this optional tax increase, so it also will be worth watching to see if the Senate version can get a two-thirds majority of 24 ayes; a two-thirds majority would be needed to overcome a veto. At this point, the House is 10 ayes short of the 47 that would be needed to overcome a veto there.

Schoenbeck now is reconsidering

South Dakota Public Radio reporter Charles Michael Ray is reporting this evening that Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, now plans to hold off on his resignation Wednesday and consider the matter with his family this weekend. We’ll report more as we get the opportunity. The state House of Representatives is still working as of 6:20 p.m. CT.

Contemplating Schoenbeck’s resignation w/update

Overnight state Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, posted on Facebook that he would resign from his legislative seat Wednesday. This came 12 hours or so after Schoenbeck was barred from the House Republicans caucus meeting. He was barred after he issued numerous criticisms of House Republican leader Brian Gosch of Rapid City, starting last Thursday night and continuing through the weekend. On Monday afternoon Schoenbeck issued a statement on Twitter that Republicans shouldn’t ever elect Gosch to anything again. All this amid Schoenbeck providing a big push on behalf of the tax increase sought by Gov. Dennis Daugaard to spend on teacher salaries, school programs, property tax relief and — because of a Schoenbeck amendment — salaries for technical institute instructors.

Schoenbeck hasn’t made any secret that he didn’t plan to seek re-election to the House this year. His House counterpart from the Watertown legislative district, Rep. Roger Solum, R-Watertown, is term-limited. So both of the district’s seats would be open for new candidates to seek this spring.

The questions puzzling people last night and this morning are why Schoenbeck would resign and why Wednesday? We’re trying to find out from him. In the meantime, here are some things to consider. Wednesday is working day 27 of the 38-day session. Wednesday is what’s known as crossover day, when all legislation is supposed to have received action one way or another in its chamber of origin. We can only speculate why that date would be important (assuming it even is) for Schoenbeck.

Given his behavior in the past week, another question that naturally arises is whether there is something else in his life that is affecting him. But he seemed like a smiling, normal guy every day, other than poking and trash-talking at Gosch and Rep. Steve Westra, R-Sioux Falls, who is Gosch’s assistant in the House Republicans caucus (and who beat Schoenbeck for that post in the caucus elections last fall).

But there’s another side to Lee Schoenbeck. He often is wily when it comes to politics. Resigning now would allow the governor to name a successor for the remaining few weeks of the 2016 legislative session. That successor would instantly have a leg up in a Republican House primary come June.

Or maybe Schoenbeck just succumbed last night to the feelings many people sometimes have and asked himself, Why am I still doing this?

UPDATE: Rep. Lee Schoenbeck confirmed this morning he indeed plans to resign Wednesday. He wrote: “Your last line of your post was spot on. Also, I was thinking crossover day was today so our heavy lifting would be done, way to go. Now I need to stick around until we get through Wednesday calendar.” He added that he has a bill scheduled for a committee hearing Wednesday morning.

Are some sales taxes better than others?

The state House of Representatives gets to answer that question either today or Wednesday. After approving the governor’s request for an additional one-half percent of state sales tax on a 47-21 vote Monday, House members get to vote on a request from the South Dakota Municipal League to allow municipalities to impose an additional 1 percent of local sales tax for specific purposes over specific periods that would be set in city ordinance. The House Taxation Committee voted 9-6 to endorse the cities measure, HB 1116, on Feb. 11. The bill has been deferred three times in the ever-longer line of legislation awaiting action in the House, but with the crossover deadline arriving Wednesday for bills to receive action in their chamber of origin, the big vote will come this week.

The House Taxation Committee’s vote on the cities plan and the full House’s two rounds of voting on the governor’s plan meanwhile provide an interesting set of cross-references. Four House Republicans cast nays all three times. They are Arch Beal of Sioux Falls, Don Haggar of Sioux Falls, Isaac Latterell of Tea and John Wiik of Big Stone City. Two other opponents of the governor’s plan, Republicans Liz May of Kyle and Lance Russell of Hot Springs, however voted in favor of the cities plan in the committee. The two other nays on the cities plan in the committee came from Republicans Al Novstrup of Aberdeen and Roger Solum of Watertown; they voted twice for the governor’s plan.

Seven of the committee members voted for the cities plan and twice for the governor’s plan. They are Democrats Julie Bartling of Gregory, Kevin Killer of Pine Ridge and Pat Kirschman of Sioux Falls; and Republicans Mary Duvall of Pierre, Nancy Rasmussen of Hurley, Mark Willadsen of Sioux Falls and Tona Rozum of Mitchell.

One more wrinkle on this matter from the House: The cities legislation has among its sponsors three of the opponents of the governor’s plan, Republicans Lana Greenfield of Doland, Roger Hunt of Brandon and and Mike Verchio of Hill City.

It’s worth watching to see how House Speaker Dean Wink, R-Howes, rules on whether the cities plan needs a simple majority because it’s permissive authority or a two-thirds majority because it authorizes a tax increase. That’s a difference between 36 ayes and 47 ayes.