Reserve a seat now…

…on the Minnesota Twins bandwagon! It’s happening, folks. A 10-1 win over the Texas Rangers on Thursday led me to this pre-season revisit:

Based on the Opening Day roster the Twins look mediocre, but they absolutely have a chance to build on last season’s surprising success and make a run at the AL Central title.

Those aren’t my words, but that’s how I felt. The Twins are now 30-55 for the season, and would need to win 55 of their next 88 games to finish at .500. Unfortunately, there aren’t 88 games left. But they’ve won three in a row, and six of their past 10. Playing .600 baseball for the rest of the season would be impressive.

The oversight in state public-meeting law

People who are interested in state and local government and public schools scored a major victory a few years ago when the Legislature decided that nearly all materials presented for a public meeting should be public documents and available at least 24 hours before the meeting. (There is an exemption for materials that would apply to executive sessions.) The public received another major victory this year when the Legislature decided there must be two intervening days between the posting of a public-meeting notice, such as an agenda, and the actual public meeting of a state board or commission. The old 24-hour notice requirement remains in effect for local governments and school boards. What we, who take interest in such progress, didn’t catch was the 24-hour provision on meeting materials. That remains in effect whether for local governments, school boards or state government boards and commissions. You can read that section of law here. Of course, state government boards and commissions could post the documents anyway. But in the meantime, SDCL 1-27-1.16 needs to wait for a possible change in the 2017 legislative session. As we say sometimes, drat!

Supreme Court sends dairy case back

The South Dakota Supreme Court decided a dispute over a conditional use permit for a dairy operation in Brookings County needs to go back to circuit court for further consideration. The case turns on the question of whether the county commission properly adopted zoning ordinances in 2007 and properly authorized the county’s board of adjustment to apply them – and not whether the county’s board of adjustment properly followed the ordinances in granting the permit to Killeskillen LLC, which sought the permit for up to 3,999 dairy cows. You can read the Supreme Court opinion here. This is a big case for South Dakota’s 2004 livestock zoning law.

Holiday lighting

During the Christmas season I switch our outside lightbulbs to red and green. Yesterday I purchased red and blue lightbulbs. I installed them this morning. They’ll be on tonight and the night of July 4. I also spent 20 bucks on two strings of lights, one red and one blue. I haven’t decided yet whether to put them up, too. As for fireworks, I’m leaving those to the neighborhood’s kids this year. They’ve certainly been practicing!

Crow Peak target is July 4 w/update

Presuming the information posted on the incident command site on the Internet is still accurate from last night, the crews working to contain the Crow Peak forest fire near Spearfish have a July 4 target. The public report posted last night shows the fire 15 percent contained and covering more than 1,600 acres with 537 personnel assigned to it. That’s approximately three people per acre. The fire is approximately four miles west of Spearfish and two miles south of Interstate 90. The fire began with a lightning strike on Friday, June 24. Black Hills State University in Spearfish is the housing center for many of the firefighters. As BHSU president Tom Jackson gently and carefully made the point Wednesday to the state Board of Regents during his budget presentation in Madison, the situation might be very, very different if the eastern side of Crow Peak was burning, rather than the western side that is out of sight from the campus. Fire fighting focused Thursday night in the Higgins Guclh area for one, as a line of defense to deter the fire from spreading eastward. The fire is roughly due west from BHSU. One of the university’s residence centers is Crow Peak Hall. The incident site has links for other feeds including Twitter, if that is helpful to you.

Friday a.m. update: The fire size is now listed at 2,600 acres.

When you’re 1-7 against…

the Chicago White Sox already this season, it’s no-wonder your club is in a deep hole. Such is the case of the Minnesota Twins, who at 25 wins and 52 defeats have cemented their stature as one of Major League Baseball’s losing teams in 2016. Their 9-6 loss last night to the White Sox in Chicago had started with promise, as Eduardo Nunez opened the game for Minnesota with a solo home run. But a crazy sequence in the second inning, with an uncontested stolen base and a throw home that ricocheted off runner J.B. Shuck’s leg let the Sox take the lead for good 2-1. The White Sox are now 7-1 against the Twins this year. The Twins are perhaps the No. 1 reason the White Sox are at .500 with 39 wins and 39 losses. Reverse the 7-1 record and the two teams would be bumping one another in the AL Central standings. Instead, the Twins face a mountain to make 80 wins this season (I’m still holding out…) while the White Sox are in a strong enough position to challenge for an AL wild card slot, just three wins back, and they could even catch Cleveland, the division leader at 47 wins and 30 losses. My hope for a Twins’ 80-wins season took a downturn yesterday with the announcement by the Twins that pitcher Phil Hughes would be shelved for the rest of 2016. His shoulder is hurt. The surgery is Wednesday. He had one win and nine defeats this season, after going 11-9 in 2015. He already was on the 60-day disabled list with a fractured knee. As Minnesota fans have learned since the opening of roof-less Target Field, when it rains it seems to pour.

Youngberg’s challenge to Parsley

Jordan Youngberg of Madison is the Republican candidate for the state Senate seat in District 8 covering Lake, Miner, Moody and Sanborn counties. He is challenging the Democratic incumbent, Sen. Scott Parsley of Madison. More than four months before the general election, Youngberg has a surprisingly large number of campaign signs along S.D. 34 between I-29 and Madison. This district has a complex recent history. Republican Senate leader Russ Olson of Wentworth had it in firm control until he had to step down because he received the Heartland chief executive officer post. The replacement chosen by Gov. Dennis Daugaard was Republican Chuck E. Jones of Flandreau. Parsely, a first-term member in the House of Representatives, challenged Jones and won in the 2014 general election. Jones won Moody and Sanborn counties, but Parsley overcame the deficit with victories in Miner and Lake counties. The final totals were Parsley 4,452 and Jones 4,188. The history and the early activity this year suggest District 8 Senate is a contest to watch.

Another side of the Medicaid coin

There isn’t the will in the Legislature to expand Medicaid services to more lower-income working South Dakotans. But the Legislature clearly has demonstrated its will — as has Gov. Dennis Daugaard — for channeling more money to providers of Medicaid services in South Dakota because their employees make relatively little for jobs that are often very hard, physically and mentally. If savings materializes from the change regarding Indian Health Service, where state government wouldn’t be providing a portion of the cost for IHS-eligible patients who receive services outside the IHS system, what would be wrong with the Legislature and the governor putting those savings toward better reimbursements for Medicaid providers on state-funded services? The Legislature’s interim committee on Medicaid payment methods meets today in Pierre, and perhaps providentially the governor’s healthcare solutions coalition that’s been working on the IHS issue meets by teleconference Thursday afternoon. Getting better pay into Medicaid workers’ hands seems like a solid direction — and something that conservative rural Republican legislators would welcome.

‘I didn’t run on Medicaid expansion’

It’s no surprise that Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard couldn’t find enough support for Medicaid expansion to cover the working poor that was necessary to call a special legislative session.

He received a message in the Republican primary elections for several Senate seats earlier this month, with the victories by former Rep. Stace Nelson of Fulton, Rep. Lance Russell of Hot Springs and Sen. Phil Jensen of Rapid City.

But just as significantly, many Republican legislators elected in 2014 had emphasized in the past year they didn’t run for election promising Medicaid expansion.

Some were willing to consider Medicaid expansion on one condition: That state government wouldn’t have to pay anything for Indian Health Service patients’ care delivered outside the standard IHS system.

But when President Obama’s administration decided to stop requiring states to pay for part of IHS care when it occurs outside the IHS system, Daugaard lost that leverage.

Largely unacknowledged is the significance of Daugaard’s victory on the IHS funding question.

It promises to save millions of dollars annually for South Dakota’s state government. Now those dollars can be spent in other ways as the savings accumulate in the coming budget years.

Daugaard didn’t start as a supporter of the Medicaid expansion that is subsidized through the Affordable Care Act aka Obamacare. He, like many Republican legislators, didn’t know whether the federal government could be trusted and disagreed with spending money the federal government clearly doesn’t have

But in pursuing the IHS subsidy/Medicaid expansion trade-off, Daugaard sparked a revolution among South Dakota’s all-Republican delegation in Congress.

Suddenly senators John Thune and Mike Rounds and our one U.S. House member, Kristi Noem, took urgent interest in the Indian Health Service’s operations in South Dakota and nationally. Their records weren’t strong on the matter until 2016.

The poor service at IHS facilities that has been documented by them has only fed further suspicion of the IHS.

Four years ago South Dakota voters rejected a sales-tax increase, from 4 percent to 5 percent, that was intended to fund Medicaid expansion and teacher salaries. This year, Daugaard led the Legislature to raise the sales tax to 4.5 percent for teacher pay and property tax relief.

There was discontent but there wasn’t a backlash in the Republican legislative primaries earlier this month over the sales-tax increase approved by state lawmakers.

The inference became this: Voters wanted to support their schools but didn’t want to pay more for Medicaid services.

Raising the white flag on Medicaid expansion seemed inevitable once Daugaard received the IHS letter and won the sales-tax increase fight this year.

Medicaid expansion likely is dead for the 30 months remaining on Daugaard’s second and final term as governor. And for what it’s worth, he didn’t run for re-election on Medicaid expansion, either.