Small changes sought on some speed limits

The state Transportation Commission is considering speed-limit changes on highways in three counties. They involve:

State Trunk 253 in Edmunds County at Hosmer, which would be formally set in state rule at 25 mph through town and 45 mph at the edges;

SD 34 in Lake County at Madison, by extending the 30 mph zone slightly and adding a 55 mph zone at the city’s southeast corner; and

SD 13 in Moody County at Flandreau, with a variety of adjustments involving 35 and 45 mph zones.

The public hearing is set for Dec. 18 at 9:30 a.m. CT in Pierre at the commission conference room, 700 E. Broadway Ave.

Not all ideas turn out as well as legislators hope

There was enthusiasm to some degree when Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, received lawmakers’ support in 2014 to create a state-level task force on tribal economic development. The panel meets for likely the final time Friday at 10 a.m. CT at the Capitol and the agenda, at this point, lacks specifics. There is a one-hour slot at 10:30 a.m. CT for “Tribal Presentations” and a one-hour slot at 11:30 a.m. for “Agency Presentations.” What might fill those times isn’t shown yet as of 7 a.m. this day-before.

The meetings this year haven’t produced a eureka but they have offered a forum for people interested in exchanging information, highlighting difficulties and discussing possibilities. In that sense, the task force has been a success. That’s worthwhile. You can read minutes from the four-hour meeting in Pierre on Oct. 30; the two-hour meeting in Pierre Sept. 28; the four-hour meeting on July 10 at Sinte Gleska University, operated by the Rosebud Sioux Tribe at Mission; and the four-hour meeting June 5 at Grand River Casino, operated by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, west of Mobridge.

The agenda for the meeting Friday and an audio link are here.

Voting rights and vengeance

The agreement reached between South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and the Jackson County Commission on Friday, Nov. 13, to use federal Help America Vote Act funds to pay for an in-person absentee voting center at Wanblee for the 2016 elections took a curious turn, at least from the perspective of a party excluded from the agreement. OJ Semans from the Four Directions organization contacted me Tuesday to say Four Directions wasn’t notified the agreement was in the works.

Four Directions was behind the Poor Bear v. Jackson County federal lawsuit that proved to be the catalyst for the agreement. Semans pointed out Tuesday that Jackson County is using the agreement in federal court to argue the Poor Bear case should be dismissed; this dismissal motion was filed on Friday, Nov. 13, as well, and the argument being made is the case no longer is ripe because of the Krebs agreement to provide money for the center through Jan. 1, 2023.

The dismissal motion can be read here: MEMORANDUM IN SUPPORT OF MOTION TO DISMISS. The memorandum of agreement between Krebs and Jackson County can be read here: (PDF) Executed Memorandum of Agreement for HAVA Funds. A key point in the memorandum of agreement is that Krebs can decide to withhold the HAVA money from Jackson County if the Poor Bear case proceeds to a decision on its merits.

That this case has national implications is reflected in the attorneys and their locations who are representing the four voters who brought the Poor Bear lawsuit. Only one of the lawyers, Matthew Rappold of Mission, is from South Dakota. The others work for law firms in San Francisco, New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C. How the fees for the lawyers on the two sides would be paid has yet to be determined. That likely will rest with the federal district court where the case and the dismissal motion were filed,

The thrust of Four Directions to get a voting center at Wanblee has been accomplished, so that people don’t have to travel to the courthouse at Kadoka. We’ll know soon enough if that result of easier access for some is the end of this matter or not.

Will Legislature create a second tier for SDRS?

The name is yet to be chosen, but the South Dakota Retirement System appears headed toward offering a second retirement program. The current program would remain in place for current members; the new plan would be for new members hired after June 30, 2017. The SDRS trustees meet by telephone Wednesday afternoon. Here s a summary put together by the SDRS administration about what’s in the works:

Tied Together Nov 18 v1 (1)

The ultimate decision is up to the Legislature. But one would think the SDRS administrators wouldn’t have proceeded this far unless they knew a green light would await them. And clearly Gov. Dennis Daugaard is on board with this; after all, Lt. Gov. Matt Michels is on the board of trustees. There isn’t any reason to think this won’t happen.

Legislators will receive ethics presentation

State Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, will be on the telephone Monday speaking with the Legislature’s Executive Board about ethics — specifically, an ethics presentation he recently attended in Minneapolis at St. Thomas law school. House Speaker Dean Wink, R-Howes, attended a similar presentation a year ago.

Schoenbeck isn’t a fan when legislators attend government conferences and meetings but don’t pass along the knowledge to the broader group. “I did a report to our (House Republicans) caucus,” he said Friday afternoon. His report received a good reception, he said. That led to Speaker Wink asking to put Schoenbeck on the Executive Board’s agenda. Sen. Bernie Hunhoff, D-Yankton, will co-present, according to Schoenbeck.

‘I told him (Wink) I would help make it happen,” Schoenbeck said. As we talked, he made an interesting statement about ethics: “It’s not what laws you have, it’s what’s in you.” The E-Board’s agenda for Monday is here; the ethics seminar is at 2:15 p.m. CT. The plan is that Schoenbeck will arrange for a broader presentation to any legislator who wants to attend during the first week of the 2016 session in January.

SDHSAA directors adopt meals and credit policies

The state audit delivered March 20 found a variety of financial matters that needed to be straightened out in the operations of the South Dakota High School Activities Association. The board of directors finished adopting policy changes last week to correct some of the situations, including a meals policy for employees and a credit-card policy.

Employees will be reimbursed at standard rates that will be the same as directors; the employee reimbursements previously have been actual cost using the association credit card. For non-overnight trips, the meal reimbursements will be treated as taxable income, which is required by IRS regulation. The changes align with standard practice elsewhere for government and government-related organizations in South Dakota.

The audit found the association’s credit card was used to purchase 24 tickets to a Boston Red Sox baseball game costing $1,866.80 on May 20, 2014. Reimbursements to SDHSAA reportedly were to be made by people who used the tickets, but none had been made as of Jan. 27, 2015. The audit report said the association’s central office then requested reimbursements. The official policy adopted last week by the board calls for the credit card to be used for official association purchases and acquisitions. The policy specifies the authorized items:

Office/tournament supplies, computer supplies, utility, and office equipment
maintenance, safety equipment or supplies, catering or small dining services, travel
expenses such as conference registration fees, lodging, meals, and airline tickets, fuel for
Association vehicles, and car rentals (car rentals must be pre-approved by the Executive
Director). In addition, credit card purchases are allowable for meals during corporate
partner, state event director, legislative, Board of Directors, and administrative meetings.

There also now is a $1,000 limit; larger amounts need the executive director’s authorization. If the board of directors disallows a charge, the employee must reimburse the association.

Pot lounge v. gambling compact

I never could understand how the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe planned to legally operate a marijuana lounge inside its gambling casino. The tribe has a federally recognized agreement, known as a gambling compact, with the state of South Dakota. The compact requires in section 4.1 that the tribe be at least as stringent as the state Commission on Gaming in chapter 42-7B of the South Dakota legal code. That chapter contains a statement of public policy, approved by the Legislature decades ago, that includes the following point:

All establishments where gaming is conducted and where gambling devices are operated, and manufacturers, sellers, and distributors of certain gambling devices and equipment must therefore be licensed, controlled, and assisted to protect the public health, safety, morals, good order, and the general welfare of the inhabitants of the state, to foster the stability and success of gaming and to preserve the economy and policies of free competition of the State of South Dakota…

It comes as no surprise that the tribe is now reconsidering its pot-growing and lounge plan. The gambling compact is a huge lever for state government and federal government. South Dakota voters and legislators don’t allow marijuana’s use. It would be odd if state and federal officials looked the other way so a casino could have a pot lounge.

PUC staff seeks stray-voltage rules

The state Public Utilities Commission could decide Thursday whether to open a rule-making docket regarding stray-voltage rules for South Dakota. PUC staff filed a letter Wednesday asking the commission to consider the matter. The suggested rules have 60 sections. You can read them here. The rules would be the next step following the law passed by the Legislature this year. Here is the explanation of the staff’s request from a letter filed by one of the PUC’s lawyers, Rolayne Ailts Wiest:

“We recommend receiving comments on these draft rules prior to starting the formal rulemaking process. Interested persons or entities would have the opportunity to
propose changes to the rules. The Commission would consider the comments and decide whether to make any changes.

“The next step would be to proceed to a formal rulemaking by filing proposed stray voltage rules with the Legislative Research Council.”

Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, was prime sponsor of the legislation, SB 131. The bill passed without a dissenting vote in either chamber.

NOTE: The PUC meeting is Thursday. This post previously referred to Tuesday.