Watch for many new approaches in Legislature

The Republicans in the state House of Representatives certainly stayed conservative in selecting their new leadership team for the 2017-2018 legislative term. As expected Rep. G. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, moved up one big step to House speaker after serving the current term as speaker pro tem. The race for speaker is traditionally decided two years earlier in the race for speaker pro tem, or assistant speaker. Moving into the speaker pro tem post will be Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, for the 2017-2018 session. He is one of the chamber’s fiscal and social conservatives, perhaps more so than the outgoing speaker, Rep. Dean Wink, R-Howes, who didn’t automatically go along with every socially conservative piece of legislation that went through the House.

Haggar has been a strong opponent to Medicaid expansion and was prime sponsor this year of HB 1234 that would have required legislative approval before a governor could expand Medicaid. The House approved his measure but it died in a Senate committee. Republican Gov Dennis Daugaard initially opposed Medicaid expansion, then began to pursue it during the past year as one piece of an effort to also improve healthcare services for American Indian people, and announced this month after the election of Donald Trump as U.S. president and a conversation with former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, that he wouldn’t pursue it any longer for South Dakota.

The new House Republican caucus leader is Rep. Lee Qualm, R-Platte. He is a steady personality in legislative matters who hasn’t appeared to have aspirations for statewide office. He is a farmer by profession and a strong ally for moving agriculture forward in South Dakota. In that light, he served as chairman of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee during the 2015-2016 term.  He also is a defender of the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and was prime sponsor of legislation this year to allow concealed-carry of pistols in the state Capitol and county courthouses; he likewise was lead House sponsor of a Senate bill to allow concealed-carry in the Capitol. One of the co-sponsors of the Haggar Medicaid bill was Qualm.

The private elections Saturday chose Rep. Kent Peterson, R-Salem, as the House Republicans’ assistant leader. Peterson is a farmer and has been working with Mickelson the past two sessions on ways to streamline the local-approval process for farmers and ranchers who want to open or expand concentrated animal-feeding operations most frequently known as feedlots. He wasn’t prime sponsor of any House bills in 2016 and one in 2015. He seems to be well-liked in the House.

The five House Republican whips — each is assigned a group of House Republicans from whom they get information and opinions and likewise communicate information from the House Republican leaders — are fiscally and socially conservative across the board in Lynne DiSanto of Rapid City, Larry Rhoden of Union Center, Leslie Heinemann of Flandreau, Arch Beal of Sioux Falls and Isaac Latterell of Tea.

Rhoden returns after a one-term absence. He served four terms in the House 2001-2008 and, term-limited there, he then won three terms in the Senate 2009-2014 before running for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in 2014.

The Senate Republicans overhauled their leadership for 2017-2018 as well. They chose Brock Greenfield of Clark as the Senate president pro tem, the No. 1 legislator in the body. He has promised that he won’t appoint any of the Senate leadership to positions as committee chairmen or vice chairmen. That will spread out responsibility and perhaps open avenues for more senators (and possibly more House members) to get their legislation through committee hearings to the Senate floor for votes by all 35 members. Many past House members who firmly were fiscal and social conservatives won election to the Senate for the coming 2017-2018 term, so that portends a cooperative working relationship between the two chambers. The Senate Republican caucus leader is Blake Curd of Sioux Falls. The Senate Republican assistant leader is Ryan Maher of Isabel.

With Medicaid expansion off the agenda by governor’s decision, and with state government receiving less in tax revenues than forecast, the coming session promises to focus on state government’s budget and services and on tax issues. Look for transgender policy to be a major fight again after Daugaard’s veto of Rep. Fred Deutsch’s restrictions in the 2016 session. Removing some concealed-carry restrictions will likely be attempted again. The new state-aid formula for state aid to public schools, now based on teacher-student ratios, likely will be considered for adjustment now that the first-year numbers are in. The other very big issue will be the many deep restrictions approved by voters on legislators, state office holders and lobbyists in Initiated Measure 22, known as the Anti-Corruption Act.

Republicans will hold 60 of the House seats in the coming session while Democrats hold 10. The House Democrats chose Spence Hawley of Brookings to return as their caucus leader. In the Senate Republicans will 29 of the seats, while Democrats have six in name; they aren’t including Sen.-election Reynold Nesiba of Sioux Falls in their caucus while he awaits prosecution on a sex-related charge. The Senate Democrats chose Billie Sutton of Burke again as their caucus leader.

With Anti-Corruption Act, thorny situations now face Daugaard administration and some legislators

The majority of voters in South Dakota on Nov. 8 decided to pass Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act, despite Republican legislators in some instances openly opposing it. The restrictions are bringing to light just how closely many lobbyists worked with legislators, of which 80 percent are Republicans. We’re now seeing that same type of relationship in the backlash against the Anti-Corruption Act during the past week, as legislators decide they don’t want to risk running afoul of the $100 limit on gifts from a lobbyist or company or organization. As someone who lives in Fun City, I know $100 buys two to three to four to five to six to seven to eight to nine to 10 meals, depending where you’re eating and which meal of the day and if you’re running a bar tab too.

In fact, there are enough lobbyists and companies and groups represented by lobbyists that legislators can eat free three meals a day even with a $100 gift limit. But the passage of the Anti-Corruption Act really does shine a light at some questionable situations that go beyond the ingrained practice of free meals any day a lawmaker wants one. The state constitution long has restricted conflicts of interest for legislators in Article 3, Section 12:

No member of the Legislature shall, during the term for which he was elected, be appointed or elected to any civil office in the state which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased during the term for which he was elected, nor shall any member receive any civil appointment from the Governor, the Governor and senate, or from the Legislature during the term for which he shall have been elected, and all such appointments and all votes given for any such members for any such office or appointment shall be void; nor shall any member of the Legislature during the term for which he shall have been elected, or within one year thereafter, be interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract with the state or any county thereof, authorized by any law passed during the term for which he shall have been elected.

South Dakota went through the fight in 2001 over whether then-Rep. Carol Pitts, R-Brookings, could be paid for a job with the South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension Service while she was serving as a legislator. The state attorney general at the time, Mark Barnett, told Pitts she had a conflict of interest under the state constitution. She sued the state treasurer at the time, Vern Larson, to be paid for her job. The South Dakota Supreme Court refused to order Larson to do so. The decision is here.

What hasn’t been directly decided by the state’s five justices is whether a spouse of a legislator can be paid for work for state government. Three current legislators come to mind. They are:

Rep. Mary Duvall, R-Pierre, whose husband, Ron, holds a $77,404 job in Pierre in the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources;

Sen. Terri Haverly, R-Rapid City, whose husband, Jeff, holds a $58,059 job in Rapid City with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development; and

Rep. Tim Rounds, R-Pierre, whose wife, Kristin, has a $59,164 position in Pierre with the state Department of Health.

The question has been whether those types of household arrangements pose a violation under the state constitution. The passage of the Anti-Corruption Act now forces the related question of whether Gov. Dennis Daugaard would allow employment to continue and, likewise, whether the legislators would continue to serve. Would the current attorney general, Marty Jackley, pursue an extension of Barnett’s position regarding Pitts? Would the current treasurer, Rich Sattgast, refuse to pay the spouses of the three legislators? So far Jackley and Sattgast have stood clear of that ice.

The trigger in the Pitts case was the 2002 state budget taking effect on July 1, 2001. She had voted for it and thereby violated one of the prohibitions in the state constitution. During the 2015 legislative session, when the fiscal 2016 budget legislation passed, the three current legislators voted for it. The same during the 2016 session when the current fiscal 2017 budget legislation passed.

In 2002, Carol Pitts resigned from her seat in the state House of Representatives. She later returned in the 2006 election and served from 2007 through 2010. Her case split the Supreme Court 3-2. The only remaining member from the Pitts decision is the current chief justice, David Gilbertson, who wrote a dissent arguing for a narrow definition of the constitutional provision. He would have allowed Pitts to be paid. The majority decision written by now-retired Justice Richard Sabers, the special concurrence by the late Max Gors as an acting justice and the dissent by Justice Gilbertson show the path has somewhat zigged and zagged on the broader issue of legislator conflicts of interest. As Gilbertson noted, at least three people served in recent decades as legislators while working for the Board of Regents (Lyndell Peterson, R-Rapid City; the late Mary Wagner, R-Brookings; and Alice McKay, R-Rapid City). And as Gors retorted in his special concurrence, “Although this may be true, acquiescence does not make a prior practice constitutional.”

Some legislators and commentators are complaining that the Anti-Corruption Act reaches into marriages In the cases of lawmakers Duvall, Haverly and Rounds, that is a true observation. It is a thorny matter. If it is resolved, South Dakota could have clarity going forward. Another matter yet to be explored is whether the Anti-Corruption Act affects Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, who has continued to work for a major healthcare provider while also serving in his state post. That one cuts to the heart of the Daugaard administration.

Some thoughts on future ballot measures

The 2016 elections exposed the need for many changes in South Dakota’s laws and processes regarding statewide ballot measures.

1. We clearly need a requirement that a fiscal-impact note be prepared on each one. Voters aren’t treated the same as legislators. A legislator can request a fiscal note and the process pauses for the preparation of one by the Legislative Research Council’s non-partisan professional staff. Voters don’t have this same opportunity on ballot measures. Getting a fiscal note from LRC on each ballot measure would provide voters with more information. Then they can know how much a Marsy’s Law or an Anti-Corruption Act potentially costs.

2. Related to the fiscal note, the sponsor or sponsors of a ballot measure should be required to supply a response to the fiscal note and explain the source of the funding. Right now, we have an unusual situation involving Marsy’s Law and the additional $500,000 that state Attorney General Marty Jackley estimates he needs to convert the SAVIN victim-notification system to comply. As attorney general, Jackley’s duty was to write the explanation of the ballot measure for voters. At the same time, Jackley has been preparing for years to run for governor. The consultant working with Jackley on his governor campaign is Jason Glodt of Pierre. The consultant hired to run the Marsy’s Law campaign by its California proponent is Jason Glodt. One of the funding sources that’s been suggested by the attorney general is to ask the California proponent for the SAVIN money. Meanwhile county governments face additional costs to meet the Marsy’s Law victim-support requirements. The SAVIN system has yet to be triggered statewide.

3. Clarification is needed whether voters can tell the Legislature to spend money, and if so, whether the voters can dictate the sources of the money and the specific amounts. This is what’s contained in one portion of the Anti-Corruption Act with its Democracy Credits program for public funding of candidates seeking state offices. The Anti-Corruption Act tells the Legislature to appropriate $100 for each registered voter and allows each voters two $50 Democracy Credit vouchers that can be directed to candidates. Supporters and critics can argue whether public campaign funding is a good idea — the federal government does it, but you have the option on your federal tax return whether you want part of your taxes to be used — but the unresolved question in South Dakota right now is whether a ballot measure can be used to establish a specific spending program.

4. It’s time to move the attorney general, regardless who holds the office, out of the responsibility for writing ballot-measure explanations. The attorney general must defend the state in court if a measure is challenged after voters decide it should be law. There is a clear conflict between requiring an attorney general’s pre-election analysis and ultimately opinion, and then requiring the attorney general to defend the initiated law in court. There’s also an inherent opportunity for bias from any attorney general in preparing the explanations. And then there is the potential, or in the case of Marsy’s Law, the actual political entanglements. The Legislative Research Council might be the better choice for performing the ballot-measure explanations. The LRC is non-partisan and answers to the full Legislature with lawmakers from multiple political parties and wings of those parties. Who would oversee the LRC’s explanations? It could be the Legislature’s Executive Board, which isn’t politically balanced but seems to fairly represent the House and the Senate. The board could serve as a forum for a public hearing on whether an explanation is fair and accurate. Right now that determination is up to one person and there’s really not any review. We saw another example of political entanglement when Rep. G. Mark Mickelson proposed the constitutional amendment empowering the Legislature to decide how the technical institutes should be governed and drawing a barrier against the regents running them; at the time Mickelson was aiming to run for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018, as was Jackley, and it’s fair to say the technical-institute community was surprised and somewhat disappointed by the way the attorney general framed this issue in his ballot measure explanation.

5. Require a statement on each ballot measure that tells voters when the law would take effect if voters approve it. Also tell voters that the Legislature has the authority to change an initiated law but doesn’t have the power to change a constitutional amendment. A wing of Republicans seems anxious to erase parts of the Anti-Corruption Act for various reasons when the 2017 legislative session opens in January. Their outcry naturally prompts the question from some voters: “How can they change what we just did?” We likewise saw the same situation in 2015 when the Legislature’s Republican majorities decided the new minimum wage that voters approved in November 2014 wouldn’t apply to workers younger than age 18; the youth minimum wage was forced to a referendum and put on the November 2016 ballot. Voters rejected the youth minimum wage law’s lower pay for those under 18.

There are various technical changes that could clean up the petition and signature-gathering process. The state Board of Elections has been considering some of those and the Legislature will get its crack in January. But there needs to be a significant overhaul so that voters — and petition signers — can know more about what is being put in front of them to decide.

Rail board meets new administrator

The state Department of Transportation hired Jack Dokken about one month ago as its administrator for air, rail and transit programs. Dokken introduced himself Wednesday to the state Railroad Board, one of the DOT panels he serves. He previously worked for six years in the state Department of Public Safety. He focused there on federal emergency management grants. Likewise, federal grants are a major source of funding for the rail, airport and transit programs at DOT. Dokken said he has “a pretty wide experience” with different types of infrastructure. Railroad Board members led by chairman Todd Yeaton of Kimball welcomed Dokken aboard.

Joel Jundt, who is deputy secretary of transportation, oversaw the rail, air and transit programs during the past three months since the departure of Bruce Lindholm. Jundt said Wednesday he’ll continue to work in those areas during the weeks ahead with Dokken. “We’re going to do well,” Jundt told the rail board members. “This transition is going to take a little while.”

Specifics in the air, rail and transit areas were somewhat new to Jundt, a long-time DOT employee whose expertise previously had been as director of planning and engineering in the roads and bridges program. State Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist promoted Jundt to the post of deputy secretary in December 2015. Jundt had been director of planning and engineering since 2008. Succeeding Jundt in that post is Mike Behm.

Jundt announced Wednesday that the governor had reappointed rail board members Jerry Cope of Rapid City and Harlan Quenzer of Mitchell. Jundt said the governor was still working on a successor to Carl Anderson of Aberdeen, who resigned earlier this year for health reasons.

The Railroad Board and rural shippers have aggressively pursued federal grants, made loans and corralled more state and private funding to improve state-owned rail lines during the six years of the Daugaard administration and restore them to full service. The line west from Mitchell now serves two major elevators at Kimball and Kennebec. The Britton line serves a new elevator there. Service is about to be restored on the Napa line in the months ahead. New sidings are being added on the privately operated line connecting Rapid City, Pierre and Brookings so train traffic can increase.

So far this fall, the new Kennebec elevator and the new Britton elevator have loaded five trains apiece. “We’re seeing equal movement. That’s pretty impressive,” Yeaton said upon being told that. He manages the Kimball elevator.

Jundt said Wednesday that he attended a national meeting in Boston earlier this week where experts made their predictions on what to expect from the administration of President-elect Donald Trump. Jundt said expectations are more federal investment in infrastructure including TIGER grants for railroads. Yeaton asked Jundt to have the DOT staff ready to pursue another TIGER grant. Past ones were used on several rail lines in South Dakota.

State Board of Education delays rewriting statement of purpose in wake of ‘R’

The South Dakota Board of Education unanimously re-elected Don Kirkegaard of Sturgis as president and Deb Shephard of Watertown as vice president on Tuesday. That was after Kirkegaard asked for the brakes to be applied by the board to one of its planned tasks for the meeting: Reviewing its 1995-era mission statement to see if updates are needed.

South Dakota voters approved Constitutional Amendment R last week telling the Legislature to decide who governs the public technical institutes. The outcome wasn’t a landslide: 178,187 yes and 173,924 no. The amendment failed in two-thirds of the counties. Only Brookings, Brown, Buffalo, Clay, Codington, Davison, Deuel, Grant, Hutchinson, Hyde, Jerauld, Lincoln, Marshall, Minnehaha, Oglala Lakota, Todd and Yankton counties supported it.

Here’s how state Attorney General Marty Jackley described R in his official ballot explanation:

Under the South Dakota Constitution, the Board of Regents is responsible for postsecondary educational institutions funded entirely or in part by the State. Constitutional Amendment R applies to postsecondary technical education institutes that receive state funding and offer career and technical associate of applied science degrees, certificates, or their equivalents. Currently, there are four such institutes: Lake Area Technical Institute, Mitchell Technical Institute, Southeast Technical Institute, and Western Dakota Technical Institute. Under the amendment, postsecondary technical institutes will be governed separately in a manner to be
determined by the Legislature.

The amendment also clarifies that the Board of Regents retains control over state-funded postsecondary educational institutions offering associate of arts, associate of sciences, bachelor’s, and postgraduate degrees.

The Legislature proposed the amendment. Currently the regents govern the state universities and the two special schools for the deaf and visually impaired. The state Board of Education oversees the four technical institutes at Watertown, Mitchell, Sioux Falls and Rapid City, but the institutes are each separately operated by the local public school districts. (Some rainy day I’ll try to dig out the history of this unusual arrangement.) For decades there has been push and pull between the two state boards. Several regents have routinely expressed criticism that the tech schools encroach on the universities’ academic turf. For a while the two sides signed articulation agreements intended to ease the transition of tech graduates to state universities. And during the previous decade, then-Sen. Dave Knudson, R-Sioux Falls, labored at times to define a line separating the regents from the tech schools but he didn’t succeed. The latest attempt came from Rep. G. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, during the 2015 session. He had overwhelming support to put it on the ballot. He wanted to create an opportunity for the tech schools to grow and expand their missions for the purpose of workforce development. The amendment doesn’t tell the Legislature how to draw the line but says the Legislature can. Here’s the exact text:

Postsecondary technical education institutes that offer career and technical associate of applied
science degrees and certificates or their successor equivalents and that are funded wholly or in part by the state shall be separately governed as determined by the Legislature.

All of which brings us back to Tuesday’s non-action by the state Board of Education and the board’s statement of purpose. “We just passed Amendment R. How will that affect the state Board of Education?” Kirkegaard asked. Board member Marilyn Hoyt of Huron agreed and suggested tabling the review until the May 15 meeting in Rapid City. Board member Glenna Fouberg of Aberdeen seconded Hoyt’s motion and the eight board members present voted unanimously for that path. The delay is intended to allow the Legislature time to finish its 2017 session. The final day of session is scheduled for Monday, March 27, after the board’s January and March meetings.

The reason, by the way, the board wanted to review its statement of purpose is the black eye over the Gear Up scandal. The board doesn’t have authority over the program but its members repeatedly say they’re taking heat. Perhaps there’s a message for the board in that heat: Rather than change a purpose statement that the average citizen likely doesn’t know exists, maybe the board should ask the Legislature for authority over more of the state Department of Education’s activities and personnel. Right now the board’s main functions are approving standards for K-12 schools, rule making for the department and setting courses, tuition and fees for the technical institutes.

You can read the existing 1995 version and the proposed draft version.

The new Greenfield standard

My Monday mail brought another surprise: A direct-mail piece from state Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark. The oversized postcard lays out Brock’s standard for how the state Senate should be run. (Click on the images below to enlarge them.) He won the secret caucus election among Republican senators for the post of Senate president pro tem, the body’s top officer. He succeeds Sen. Gary Cammack, R-Union Center, whom he defeated Saturday. One senator said Greenfield’s speech was the best he’d ever heard.

Below are the front and back of the postcard. There is some math involved. The Senate has 35 elected members. Eliminate the five leadership posts that he lists, and you’re at 30 senators who potentially could be chairs or vice chairs of committees. There are 13 committees, give or take depending on how the Senate is organized for the 2017 session. The 30 senators include 26 Republicans and four Democrats. If each Republican received an appointment as a chairman or vice chairman under his “no duplication” standard, every Republican could be a cog (or vice cog) in the Senate’s mechanism. Sending a mailing to members of the public also suggests that Greenfield wants to spread his message directly. This promises to be interesting to watch take shape in the months ahead.

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Rules review panel needs at least four new faces

The legislative elections last week shook things up in many ways in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Legislative committees will get new chairmen and different members in many instances. Lawmakers will get opportunities to try their approaches. These should be interesting and possibly exciting times ahead in 2017 and 2018. One panel that needs a big change of personnel is the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee. The three House members and three Senate members act on behalf of the full Legislature during the nine months outside sessions. Their job is to ensure that state offices, boards and commissions correctly followed state laws regarding rule-making. Four of the current six can’t come back in 2017. Retiring are Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron; Sen. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls; and Sen. Mike Vehle, R-Mitchell. Defeated on Tuesday was Sen. Jim Bradford, D-Pine Ridge, who ran for a House seat because he was term-limited in the Senate. The panel’s two other members are Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, a retired judge who fully understands the legal importance of rules; and Rep. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, who is a stickler on process and public input.

Change under way at SoS website

Here’s what you’ll find this weekend if you go the South Dakota Secretary of State website to conduct a business search:

NOTICE: On Thursday, November 10, 2016, at 5:00pm., all Business Services, DBA/Fictitious Names and UCC Systems will be down and unavailable until Monday, November 14, 2016, at 8:00 a.m. Our New Business Online Filing System will go live on November 14, 2016, at 8:00 a.m.

Looking forward to state Senate in 2017

Oh say, can you see the red glares and f-bombs bursting in mid-air? Surely I exaggerate, but the relationships promise to become very interesting when the 2017 session opens in January, between the two chambers of the Legislature, and between the Senate and the Capitol’s second floor where the governor’s administration resides.

The secret elections held Saturday by Senate Republicans reportedly chose Brock Greenfield of Clark as the new Senate president pro tem. That means Greenfield, who at age 41 has 16 years of legislative service already on his resume, gets to make the Senate committee assignments and decide which bills go where for their committee hearings. He succeeds Gary Cammack of Union Center, who held the post for the 2016 session after a complete revamping of the Senate Republican leadership (Senate Republican leader Tim Rave of Baltic resigned after the 2015 session for a job opportunity, Senate Republican assistant leader Dan Lederman of Dakota Dunes resigned for personal reasons after the 2015 session and then-President pro tem Corey Brown of Gettysburg moved into the Republican leader spot. Those changes opened the way for Cammack and for Jim White of Huron, who served one year as Senate Republican assistant leader.)

The caucus elections Saturday washed out all old Senate Republican leadership (Brown was term-limited and left the Legislature altogether). Greenfield at times when he could, has tormented two successive governors in Mike Rounds and Dennis Daugaard. He has been the kind of senator who voted no against the general budget bill but didn’t offer alternatives. He’s also been unafraid to challenge the state Revenue Department and push to override vetoes. Now he’s in the ultimate post of Senate leadership. Just saying no won’t work any more, unless he wants to shut down state government. And who knows, maybe he would be OK with doing that. But he probably is ready to make a push for the agenda that’s been taking shape among he and his fellow Opera House Republicans (guys who liked to gather at Republican operative Jason Glodt’s property a few blocks from the Capitol).

The new Republican leader for the Senate is Blake Curd of Sioux Falls. The surgeon, who flies between Pierre and Sioux Falls, missed time in past sessions because of his medical duties. He is a good debater and maybe the best in the 2017 bunch. He placed third in the 2010 Republican primary for the U.S. House of Representatives. His selection on Saturday means all three of the 2010 candidates now hold important positions, with U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem fresh off her re-election Tuesday and Public Utilities Commission chairman Chris Nelson winning a second term Tuesday with what South Dakota election historians said were a record number of votes and percentage. Curd, who appears very intelligent, can do the talking for the caucus in public and probably would be very good at it.

The Republican assistant leader will be Ryan Maher of Isabel. He began as a Democrat in the Legislature from 2007 through 2010 and converted to a Republican in March 2010. He sat out the 2015-2016 term because he was term-limited and didn’t want to run for a House seat. Maher, 39, runs a restaurant and bar. Last winter, he crashed while driving home from work and left the scene; he wasn’t found to be over the DUI limit the next day when law enforcement caught up with him but he pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident. He too has enjoyed needling the Daugaard administration when he could. Like Greenfield, Maher never has been reluctant to take on the Revenue Department. Maher and Greenfield don’t mind tangling with the state Game, Fish and Parks Department either.

The three Senate Republican whips — lieutenants, if you will, who each has a sub-group of Republican senators with whom they meet and communicate positions — reportedly are Kris Langer of Dell Rapids, who moved from the House; Al Novstrup of Aberdeen, who comes from the House too and at age 62 has 14 years of legislative service behind him; and Bob Ewing of Spearfish, the former Lawrence County commissioner who’s starting his third term in the Senate.

During the 2016 session the divisive issue was the governor’s proposal for raising the state sales tax by one-half cent to increase teacher salaries and reduce commercial property taxes. In the House, HB 1182 needed two tries to pass. There Langer voted no and Novstrup voted yes. In the Senate the bill needed one try, as Curd and Ewing voted yes and Greenfield voted no. Don’t be surprised if Greenfield tries to roll back the sales tax far enough to offset the property-tax relief.

The Senate Republican leaders have some balance in experience and in their philosophies. We’ll have to see how committee chairmanships are distributed; the leadership winners need to reward their ayes, and some of those posts could be very interesting. The Daugaard administration has two years left in office. Whenever able, Lt. Gov. Matt Michels can be expected to be presiding over the Senate floor debates. Watch the appropriations process, given that state tax revenue hasn’t been meeting projections and state government might need to tap reserves.

While the governor was promoting Medicaid expansin as recently as the past few days, it’s difficult to see any chance for Daugaard to proceed on his Medicaid plan, given the Senate’s new leadership, and given the election of Donald Trump as president and the likely repeal of Obamacare by Republicans in Congress. (All three South Dakotans — Noem, Rounds and John Thune — favor the repeal.)

The state Senate turned decidedly more conservative Republican in the elections Tuesday, with Neal Tapio of Watertown (the Trump chairman in South Dakota) coming into the Senate as a freshman who might be looking to go higher places, and Stace Nelson of Fulton coming back to the Capitol after two years away, when he challenged Rounds for the 2014 Republican nomination for U.S. Senate, and switching now from the state House to the state Senate. One doesn’t see Stace Nelson quietly going away any time soon.

Also moving from the House to the Senate, in addition to Langer and Novstrup, are hard conservatives Lance Russell of Hot Springs, Jim Stalzer of Sioux Falls, Jim Bolin of Canton, John Wiik of Big Stone City, Joshua Klumb of Mount Vernon, Jeff Partridge of Rapid City and Justin Cronin of Gettysburg. That’s a lot of political talent, and this is the deeply conservative team Brock Greenfield aka The Old Skipper has been waiting a long time to lead.

GMM lived with a view almost none of us ever had

The decision announced yesterday by George Mark Mickelson that he wouldn’t run for the Republican nomination for governor in 2018 came from a place that only he could understand. His father, the late Gov. George S. Mickelson, and his mother, Linda Mickelson Graham, had three children in Mark, Amy and David. Mark, the oldest, was a third-year Harvard Law student when his father and seven other men died in the 1993 state airplane crash. As I watched the family come down the front steps of the Capitol after the official state ceremony that April afternoon a few days after the crash, and then watched the procession of automobiles prepare to head east on U.S. 14 back to their hometown of Brookings, I couldn’t get the question out of my head about what the four of them were going through and what waited in the hours, days and years ahead.

Frankly, I was surprised in recent years with the talk that Mark would run for governor. He carried the weight of the same first name as his father and his grandfather, Gov. George T. Mickelson. When Mark won election to the state House of Representatives, and his fellow Republicans then chose him as speaker pro tem for the 2015-2016 term,  the steps began to move into place for a run for governor. Others would have a better idea what influences happened within his family and within the circle of friends of the family and within the ranks of his father’s past supporters. Many of those people wrote big checks in 2015 when Mark formed a political acton committee for the 2018 governor’s candidacy in addition to his state legislator’s election committee. The Mickelson PAC allowed him to receive larger contributions from supporters than even a governor candidate could. He would be able to later donate from the PAC to his governor committee after he made it through the 2016 election and started a governor committee. His formation of the PAC affected another Republican who wants to be elected governor in 2018, state Attorney General Marty Jackley, who then formed a PAC too in addition to his AG committee account. Mickelson drew nearly $1 million to the PAC, with much of it coming from his father’s generation of supporters, and immediately left Jackley behind. It had been George S. Mickelson, as the 1986 Republican primary winner, who made a decision at the 1986 South Dakota Republicans’ state convention that he would support Roger Tellinghuisen of Lawrence County, rather than Michael Jackley of Meade County for the Republican nomination for attorney general. Tellinghuisen won the nomination and the 1986 statewide election. He served one term and stepped aside. Marty Jackley, whose father is Mike Jackley, knew he had a formidable opponent in 2018 if Mark Mickelson ran too for the Republican nomination for governor.

They both had another formidable possible opponent in the U.S. House of Representatives if Kristi Noem decided to run for governor in 2018 after eight years of flying back and forth between South Dakota and Washington, D.C. Personally, I didn’t see how Mark Mickelson or Marty Jackley could win the 2018 nomination if Kristi Noem ran too. She was the only one of the three who had run in a statewide Republican primary, for the U.S. House nomination in 2010, and had run four seriously contested campaigns against solid Democratic opponents, starting with Noem’s giant upset in 2010 of Democratic U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. How Kristi Noem might fare head to head with Marty Jackley in a two-way primary remains to be seen. The decision by Mark Mickelson, announced yesterday, that he wouldn’t run in 2018 removed one piece of the Republican 2018 field.

It should be known too that three set of legislation advanced by Mark Mickelson in the 2015-2016 term didn’t turn out as well as intended. He took up the technical-schools fight and convinced the Legislature to put Constitutional Amendment R on the 2016 ballot. It says the Legislature can decide who governs the technical institutes. Jackley wrote the ballot-measure explanation that seemed to indicate the regents might already have control if the regents chose to exert it. Voters supported R on Tuesday, but it was close: 178,187 yes and 173,924 no. On a geographic basis, voters in two-thirds of the 66 counties opposed R. There wasn’t any magic stirring behind R.

Mark also was prime sponsor of the two sets of conflict-of-interest restrictions hurriedly approved by the Legislature in 2015 and 2016. Jackley hasn’t been shy about candidly pointing out the difficulties for enforcing them. And the last thing most South Dakotans who serve on public boards and commissions, whether at the local level or for state government, want is to have to fill out more paperwork and publicly declare their conflicts of interest, as though they were doing something nefarious. There was a fear factor, too, as people declared conflicts just in case, such as a husband’s serving on a public charity board that could get a public contract. There were some real conflicts of interest, however, and those people moved on, quietly, because of the new laws. Those laws passed because of the EB-5 and Gear Up scandals that began during the Rounds administration and have since led to four indictments and seven deaths by shotgun. Mark stepped forward to take the lead on the conflicts legislation. He did the courageous thing when many legislators seemed more comfortable to just stand around. But the legislation reached deep into every South Dakota community, directly affecting their school boards and school administrations. Being held accountable chafes.

Mark also felt he needed to connect with the agriculture community in some meaningful way. He stepped forward on legislation intended to streamline the county permitting process for concentrated animal feeding operations. Feedlots cut both ways at the community level. His bills became law, but they stirred opposition to him as a person and brought him into direct political conflict with some rural organizations and activists. People understand the political power of manure. Nobody wants those kind of ads run against them.

I haven’t seen a current deep poll on the 2018 governor’s primary. I don’t know what the numbers would have shown. I don’t think U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem would be looking at a possible candidacy unless numbers she’s received indicate a path to victory. And there are plenty of Republicans urging her to run for governor, in part because they have favorites they want to see run for the U.S. House seat if it’s open in 2018. Likewise state Attorney General Marty Jackley must have numbers that show him a path to victory. He is constantly criss-crossing South Dakota already talking to almost any group willing to host hm. People are always quick to note that Jackley could run for the U.S. House seat too, although I haven’t heard that from him.

Noem’s family is front and center at many times. Her husband, Bryon, and their three children are grassroots South Dakota with their small-town and farm backgrounds in Hamlin County. It would be easy for her to say, in answer to the question why she would give up a sure seat in Congress to take a chance on running for governor, that she could do more as governor for South Dakota every day. That is the challenge facing any candidate for governor: Can she or he show up, every day, even on Sundays, and meet the expectations of South Dakota’s people? The drudgery of being governor, such as receiving child-support complaints from parents stiffed by the other parents, leads some people against running. A conversation with Janklow about the everyday duties clearly shaped the decision of then-U.S. Rep. John Thune to run for the U.S. Senate in 2002 rather than for governor.

The perspective that Mark, Amy and David Mickelson have from their childhoods is one almost none of us can understand. When George Speaker Mickelson decided to run for governor in the 1986 Republican primary, he had been laying the foundation for years. He had served in the state House from 1975 through 1980. He connected with Dwight Adams to manage his campaign. Dwight pushed Speaker to campaign door to door. For the better part of three years, the son of a former governor knocked at the storm doors and screen doors of people’s homes and told them he wanted to be their next governor. Frankly, George Speaker Mickelson worked harder on a day-in, day-out basis to win the nomination than did his fellow three Republicans in the 1986 primary. He placed ahead of former congressman Clint Roberts, then-Lt. Gov. Lowell Hansen and then-Secretary of State Alice Kundert. To win the primary outright, and avoid a secondary election between the two top finishers, one candidate needed at least 35 percent. Mickelson received 35.30 percent, followed by Roberts at 32.08, Hansen 18.85 and Kundert 13.77. Mickelson drew 40,878 votes in the primary. A few hundred less and he would have been in a run-off against Clint Roberts, a rancher, in the depth of South Dakota’s worst agricultural economy since the depression. Every one of those homes visited by George Speaker Mickelson potentially made the difference in his victory.

The lore of the 1986 race deepened when, on the Democratic side, state legislator and farmer/rancher Ralph Lars Herseth of Houghton won the Democratic nomination, defeating former Gov. Dick Kneip and public utilities commissioner Ken Stofferahn. Herseth was the son of a former governor, too, Ralph Herseth, who served the 1959-1960 term and ran four times. George Speaker Mickelson edged Lars Herseth in the 1986 general election. Stephanie Herseth, the daughter of Lars, ran for the U.S. House seat in 2002 and lost to then-Gov. Bill Janklow, a Republican. After motorcyclist Randy Scott died in a collision with Janklow’s car in 2003 near Flandreau, when Janklow went through a stop sign, Janklow was convicted for manslaughter and resigned from the House seat. Stephanie Herseth received the Democrats’ nomination for the vacant seat in the 2004 special election and won. She was re-elected three times before losing to Noem in 2010 in a three-way race where no candidate received a 50 percent-plus-one majority.

In the 23 years since the 1993 plane crash, a new generation of South Dakotans has moved into the voters’ ranks, replacing the older generation. Our tree each Christmas bears an ornament that George Speaker Mickelson sent upon the birth of our daughter. Our son wasn’t yet born when the crash occurred. I don’t know that either understands the immense grief so many South Dakotans felt on that April evening when the news from Iowa became public. I don’t know that any of us can understand the feelings, then or now or every day in between, inside Linda Mickelson or her children Mark, Amy and David.  That George Mark Mickelson considered attempting to be the third member of his family tree to run for governor was a climb none of us can understand. It’s easy to understand, however, why he decided he would rather focus on his family — wife Cynthia and their three teen-aged sons — and why he would ultimately decide against committing the next 10 years of his life, and their lives, to it. Sometimes there are calls you cannot in good conscience answer because you know things and have a perspective almost no one else does.