Monthly Archives: May 2016

Eight candidates backed by SDGO

The Rapid City-based organization known as South Dakota Gun Owners, which is not the National Rifle Association, has put a total of $5,500 into eight primary contests for Republican nominations to seats in the South Dakota Legislature.

The group’s political action committee report filed May 27 shows $1,000 contributions to Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City; Rep. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs; and House candidate Travis Lasseter, R-New Underwood.

The PAC also gave $500 apiece to Rep. Dan Kaiser, R-Aberdeen; House candidate Drew Dennert, R-Aberdeen; former Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, who is a state Senate candidate; House candidate Taffy Howard, R-Rapid City; and Senate candidate Tina Mulally, R-Rapid City.

The PAC run by Ray Lautenschlager of Rapid City has also spent nearly $3,200 for printing and postage. The report doesn’t identify whose legislative districts’ residents have been receiving the mailing.

Lautenschlager doesn’t identify the source of $10,000 his organization gave his PAC. He reports $8,000 from a Windsor, Colorado-based group, National Association for Gun Rights. He also reports that $6,000 is owed to a business known as Front Range Consulting but no other information is shown for that business.

In a nutshell Lautenschlager-backed candidates are running for Republican nominations against Republican incumbents in most cases backed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard. Many of the SDGO-supported candidates this spring formed the nucleus of Nelson’s primary campaign in 2014 for the Republican nomination to U.S. Senate, which was won by former Gov. Mike Rounds.

Prior to the 2014 general election, SDGO gave $3,392 to Prairie Country PAC. The Brown County Republican central committee also gave $3,738.

Despite the past support from the Brown County committee, this spring Prairie Country is taking sides. Prairie Country mailed a piece in to Nelson’s legislative district showing Nelson as a U.S. Marine and showing his Republican primary opponent, Caleb Finck of Tripp, as a cross-dressed college student as part of a Hobo Days parody at South Dakota State University.

On its Facebook site Prairie Country is openly supporting Dennert, Kaiser, Nelson, Russell, Lasseter, Senate Republican primary challenger Doug Post of Volga, Howard, Republican Rep. Sam Marty of Prairie City, Republican Senate primary candidate Janette McIntyre of Rapid City, House Republican primary candidate Richard Kriebel of Rapid City and Jensen, while also attacking Finck and Republican Rep. Jaquelyn Sly of Rapid City, who’s challenging Jensen.

The people behind Prairie Country PAC are its chairman, Richard Hilgemann of Aberdeen; and treasurer Ken Santema of Aberdeen, a libertarian blogger who’s been analyzing all of the legislative primaries on his website. This spring Santema gave Prairie Country $1,000 and Dennert donated $180. Prairie Country reported in its pre-primary campaign finance report last week that it didn’t donate to any candidate but spent $1,619 on advertising.

The anti-Finck / pro-Nelson mailing sent into their legislative district no longer appears on the Prairie Country site on Facebook. Posts attacking Finck and Sly, a co-chair of the Blue Ribbon task force that called for higher teacher salaries across South Dakota, remain on the Facebook site.

Prairie Country PAC has become an unusual intersection of Brown County Republican and South Dakota Gun Owners money from 2014 and libertarian money in 2016 (small l). The PAC’s current purpose appears to be to help Nelson’s and Russell’s wing of candidates under the Republican banner.

They are challenging established Republican incumbents who supported the governor on the increased sales tax that takes effect Wednesday, June 1, for the benefit of better salaries for K-12 teachers, property taxpayer relief and pay raises for tech-institute faculty.

The primary elections are Tuesday, June 7. The results in the Republican primaries promise to be a look at what Republican voters care about most — and whether they care enough to vote in a primary.

Governor takes a side in most GOP Senate primaries

Campaign finance reports filed in recent days show Gov. Dennis Daugaard made $1,000 contributions to a variety of Republican legislative candidates who have primary elections June 7.

He focused most on Republican primaries for Senate seats. Among those receiving money from the Republican governor’s campaign committee were:

Sen. Larry Tidemann of Brookings, challenged by Doug Post of rural Volga;

Sen. Deb Peters of Hartford, challenged by former Rep. Lora Hubbel of Sioux Falls (Hubbel ran against Daugaard in the 2014 gubernatorial primary);

Caleb Finck of rural Tripp, who faces former Rep. Stace Nelson of Fulton for a Senate seat. Republican Sen. Bill Van Gerpen of Tyndall isn’t seeking re-election and donated $100 to Finck’s campaign;

Sen. Bruce Rampelberg of Rapid City, challenged by term-limited Rep. Lance Russell of Hot Springs;

Term-limited Rep. Jacqueline Sly of Rapid City, who is challenging Sen. Phil Jensen of Rapid City;

Sen. Alan Solano of Rapid City, challenged by Richard Kriebel of Rapid City;

Rep. Jeff Partridge of Rapid City, who is competing with Janette McIntyre of Rapid City for a Senate seat being vacated by term-limited Sen. Craig Tieszen of Rapid City;

Sen. Terri Haverly of Rapid City, who challenged by Tina Mulally of Rapid City; and

Rep. Roger Solum of Watertown, who is competing against Neal Tapio of Watertown for the Republican nomination to the Senate seat now held by Republican Ried Holien of Watertown. Holien hopes to be chosen as South Dakota’s Republican national committeeman and didn’t seek re-election to the Senate.

Tidemann, Peters, Rampelberg, Sly, Solano, Partridge, Haverly and Solum all voted in favor of the state sales-tax increase that takes effect Wednesday, June 1.

Daugaard proposed the tax increase as a means to raise teacher salaries and to increase property-tax relief.

Jensen, Russell, Van Gerpen and Holien voted against the tax increase.

Nelson, who ran for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in 2014, is a political ally of Russell. McIntyre and Mulally come from the same wing of Black Hills Republicans as Jensen and Russell.

Pre-primary campaign finance reports weren’t available on-line yet as of Saturday for Nelson and Russell.

In the Senate Republican primaries where both candidates have reported, the candidates backed by the governor had broader and deeper financial support than their opponents in every instance.

In several of the contests, the candidates challenging incumbents provided substantial amounts of personal money into their campaigns, such as McIntyre $15,000; Hubbel $5,000; Tapio $10,000 and Kriebel $700.

Tapio didn’t report any contributions other than his money.

Daugaard didn’t take a side in the Republican primary between former Sen. Ryan Maher of Isabel and Belle Fourche city council member Steven Ritch.

According to his report, Ritch didn’t receive or spend any money for his campaign.

34 years and 7 months later…

That’s how long Kevin Goeden has worked for the South Dakota Department of Transportation. A retirement event is planned for Friday, June 3, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the DOT commission room in Pierre. For those who don’t know (or know of) Kevin, he has been DOT’s chief bridge engineer for more than nine years. “It’s a big loss for us,” state Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist said Thursday as he announced the move to the state Transportation Commission. Bergquist said Steve Johnson succeeds Goeden in the chief bridge engineer’s role.

Satellite voting centers are in broader use

Seven satellite absentee-voting centers are in use this spring for the June 7 primary elections in South Dakota.

They include two in Pennington County at Wall and Hill City; one in Todd County at Mission; one in Oglala Lakota County at Pine Ridge; one in Lawrence County at Spearfish; one in Jackson County at Crazy Horse School; and one in Dewey County at Eagle Butte.

Pennington County Auditor Julie Pearson didn’t seek state Help America Vote Act funding for support of the Wall and Hill City centers.

An eighth site will be added for the general election this fall at Fort Thompson in Buffalo County.

The purpose of the centers is to make absentee voting easier for people who don’t live near the county courthouses. While originally sought for voters in Indian country in South Dakota, the broader use of centers this spring suggests a trend toward making them more of a standard tool.

Rollie Chicoine, 1922-2016

Rollie Chicoine served 20 years in the Legislature. There have been 28 lawmakers who spent 20 to 24 years in the Capitol’s east and west wings, and 12 more who gave 25 to 30 years. No one served more than 30. The only current legislator among those 40 is Rep. Roger Hunt, R-Brandon, who’s seeking re-election this year. Services for Roland A. Chicoine, a farmer and a Democrat from the Jefferson and Elk Point area of Union County, are Wednesday.

He was born Dec. 10, 1922. He died Thursday. His time as a legislator spanned the coming of term limits. His 20 years came in three consecutive stints: 1981-86 in the House; 1987-92 in the Senate; and 1993-2000 back in the House.

His wife, Evelyn, and he married in 1945. They had eight children. One of the sons, David, recently moved to a faculty post at South Dakota State University after serving as the university’s president. Rollie ran track at what then was South Dakota State College before World War II. He was a leader in agriculture, 4-H, water development, the Elk Point community and his local Catholic Church.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has asked that flags be lowered to half-staff Wednesday in his honor.

You can get a sampling of Rollie Chicoine’s politics from the legislation he sponsored. In the 1997 session, for example, he sought to ban discriminatory pricing of drugs and prohibit hog farming operations from operating in South Dakota if they had committed major environmental violations.

The last bill on which he was prime sponsor, in 2000, called for the state Department of Revenue to conduct a study to use agricultural income value as the basis for charging taxes on agricultural property. Chicoine served on the interim legislative committee on tax assessments that recommended that bill. The House passed the bill, voting 58-2, but the Senate killed it.

The House had also passed a companion bill the same day, limiting the study to nine counties; Rep. Jim Lintz, R-Hill City, was its prime sponsor. It too was recommended by the interim committee, of which Lintz was a member. The Senate approved that bill, which also called for appointment of a task force by the governor. Both measures relied on SDSU’s agriculture economics faculty to develop data. Agricultural income value is the system now used in South Dakota. There were plenty of hard-head politics in those days, too, but the work by Chicoine and Lintz, and then-Rep. Kenneth McNenny, R-Sturgis, and then-Sen. Paul Symens, D-Amherst and others from both parties on the interim committee, showed big things got done, too.

Final ballot-measure decisions coming soon w/update

UPDATE: The secretary of state rejected on Tuesday afternoon the challenge to the validity of the 36 percent interest rate limit petitions.

South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs said Monday she and her staff have two ballot measure challenges left. “We are still working through but we will have an answer by the end of this week on both of them,” she told the state Board of Elections.

One is the medical marijuana proposal, which Krebs initially rejected as lacking sufficient valid signatures of South Dakota registered voters. The other is a proposed rate limit of 36 percent for payday loans, which Krebs determined had sufficient signatures but an opponent challenged.

Last week, she ruled in favor of a proposed rate limit of 18 percent for payday loans. The proposal is worded so that the 18 percent would take effect only if the loan agreement wasn’t in writing, meaning payday loans generally wouldn’t be subject to the limit.

The two sides on the payday loan issue challenged each other’s petitions. The secretary of state’s decisions aren’t necessarily the final word. She confirmed the 18 percent question could still be challenged in state circuit court.

In her ruling she didn’t decide a major point made by the challenger, Cory Heidelberger of Aberdeen, who is part of the group pushing the 36 percent limit. Whether that is pursued in circuit court isn’t known yet.

Krebs said “any individual” could file a challenge in circuit court. “Even if they weren’t the challenger,” she said.

There isn’t a firm deadline for filing a circuit-court challenge, but state law requires the secretary of state to certify statewide ballot questions to county auditors no later than Aug. 16.

Krebs said legislation approved in 2015 would have established a formal timeline for settling ballot-measure disputes. But Republican lawmakers rolled other election-process changes into the legislation and opponents referred the legislation to a statewide vote.

One of the people who led the referral effort was Heidelberger. Their complaints dealt with other parts of the bill, SB 69. One set of provisions made more difficult the withdrawal of candidates and their replacement, a technique often used in legislative contests, especially by Democrats. The legislation was placed on hold until voters could decide its fate in the 2016 general election this November.

The 2016 legislative session evidently didn’t produce any measures sufficently controversial for a referral attempt. Krebs said Monday she hadn’t heard “any indication” of anyone planning a referendum petition this year.

At this point there are 10 ballot measures set for the November election, including the 36 percent ban on which Krebs hasn’t made a final decision, and excluding the medical marijuana.

Meanwhile, neither side is satisfied with the ballot-measure explanation for the 18 percent payday limit and the title for it on the ballot.

Attorney General Marty Jackley wrote the ballot explanation for the 18 percent proposal, and its supporters sued him, unsuccessfully.

Krebs said he approved the title for the measure that would appear on the ballot.

Linda Lea Viken, a state Board of Elections member from Rapid City, told Krebs on Monday the title “was very misleading to the public.”

The disagreements over the explanation and the title, as well as his explanation on another ballot measure dealing with the Board of Regents and technical institutes, could prompt a review of whether changes could improve the process and role required in law for the attorney general, who currently is in somewhat of a powerful but simultaneously no-win position as the arbiter. The only appeal is to court.

Republican group received Brohm tour w/update

While attending the state Board of Minerals and Environment meeting Thursday, this scrivener had a “hmm” moment.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources provided a tour of the Brohm mine — a federal Superfund site —  one day last October to a Republican legislative caucus.

It’s good for legislators to see the place, because South Dakota shall forever be saddled with it, at least until some developer finds some other purpose for its acid rock-plagued site in Lawrence County.

Every taxpayer should see it if that could somehow be arranged.

The Republican legislators’ tour came one day after the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Appropriations visited the mine.

State government agencies accommodate legislators when possible. Being responsive to the people who make South Dakota’s laws and oversee state government’s budget is smart and appropriate. Regardless of political party, every legislator was elected by the voters in her or his district.

UPDATE: Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, said he arranged the Brohm tour as part of events he hosted at his Black Hills cabin last fall. Schoenbeck said he also coordinated a tour for Republican legislators to see a bighorn sheep group.

No state income tax = no trust?

Pat Costello, commissioner for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said efforts to recruit workers to South Dakota have met an unexpected hiccup.

The lack of a state income tax causes people from income-tax states to question why South Dakota doesn’t have one and what they would have to give up if they move to South Dakota, he said.

The other wall is that South Dakota has a great reputation as a tourist destination but that is counter-productive to recruiting workers, he said.

So the focus at GOED right now is the “You can live here” theme, he told members of the Legislative Planning Committee on Tuesday.

Legislators want answers on rail line

The Legislature’s Government Operations and Audit Committee plans to call various parties to a future meeting to talk about conditions of the state-owned railroad line west of Mitchell. This year the state Railroad Board adopted a new practice of sending teams of its members to look at various state-owned lines. The group that reviewed the line west of Mitchell found maintenance below par. The contractor leasing the line is Dakota Southern. The company also played a significant part in rehabilitating the line and is responsible for its ongoing condition. State Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist, a Dakota Southern representative and a Railroad Board member will be asked to meet with GOAC members later this year, state Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, said Tuesday morning. Tidemann is the committee’s chairman. GOAC’s involvement adds another set of teeth.

Another year, another remodel

Frankly, I didn’t meet a legislator last winter who liked the new layouts of the remodeled meetings rooms for the Joint Committee on Appropriations on the Capitol’s third floor. Guess what? A year after the 2015 remodeling job, the Legislature’s Executive Board gave the go-ahead Monday to another remodel.

This time, the main room will become longer and the secondary room will become smaller. So small that it won’t work as a committee hearing room any longer. A conference table for eight people, and perhaps eight spectators along the walls, will fit in the second room.

Evidently the old accordion-style sliding door that separated the two rooms wasn’t acceptable any longer, because it couldn’t hold big-screen TVs for presentations. That’s why it was removed during the 2015 remodel. Now there’s a permanent wall — except it’s not all that permanent, because it’s going to be taken down and pushed deeper into the second room as part of the 2016 remodel.

The other choice was to go wider and take over the hallway outside the big meeting room. That hallway serves as a public lobby and gathering place. It has the big, wonderful half-moon window (the one you can find in photos in the state’s Blue Books from 30 to 40 years ago when the attorney general’s office was in that space).

Sen. David Omdahl, R-Sioux Falls, might be retiring from the Legislature but it isn’t because he doesn’t know how to read people. “I think there’d be a lot of pushback if we were to cover that window off,” he said.

The Legislature’s Executive Board voted 10-3 to allow the 2016 remodel to proceed. Annie Mehlhalf, the Legislature’s chief fiscal analyst, said there isn’t a cost estimate for either version of the project because the state Bureau of Administration will handle it. (Seriously. Wait until some fiscally conservative legislators call for a fiscal note on this one.)

The three who voted no were Senate Republican leader Corey Brown of Gettysburg, Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton of Burke and House Speaker Dean Wink, R-Howes. Wink liked the wider plan that would have taken away the public space in the hallway. Sutton noted the Senate Democrats will need different space to caucus if the smaller committee room becomes smaller yet.

The handsome new desk set in the smaller room also would need to be moved. It might go to a Senate committee room (423). That would mean, under the Legislature’s equal treatment approach, a House committee room (468) could get a new desk set too. Maybe the Legislature will revert the $140,000 of estimated budget surplus at the June 30 end of this fiscal year.