Lottery Commission plans special meeting

The South Dakota Lottery Commission will hold a special teleconference meeting Wednesday, April 23, starting at 10 a.m. The meeting will be conducted from room 414 at the Capitol. The commission met April 10 and took a vote on repealing a 1991 declaratory ruling. The vote was 3-2 in favor of the repeal, but after the meeting was finished it was determined at least four yes votes — a majority of the seven members of the commission — were necessary for the repeal. The ruling conflicts with the commission’s new promotions plan for video lottery. You can see the promotions plan and the ruling as part of the April 10 meeting documents available here. They are exhibits D and E.

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Take an hour and check SDHSAA site

The South Dakota High School Activities Association hosts its annual meeting of members next week at Pierre’s Riggs High School. The board of directors meets at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, April 22, followed by the general membership meeting at 2 p.m. (The board continues its meeting Wednesday morning back at the SDHSAA offices on North Euclid Avenue in Pierre.)

Leading up to the annual meeting, the SDHSAA’s advisory committees met in Deadwood two weeks ago to discuss a variety of proposals and matters. The SDHSAA has posted the results of those advisory meetings on its website. You might need an hour to get through all of the material but it is fascinating for the complexity of the issues and the complexity of the politics.

Some proposals were clearly rejected. Some were clearly supported. Some had strong support from smaller schools and met strong opposition from larger schools. Some proposals split within a class of schools. Some proposals pit sportsmanship against participation. One proposal tied together a lot of complicated issues. It called for eliminating cheerleaders at Class B and Class A state wrestling matches as a way to make more motel rooms available for fans. Go here to see the whole packet.

The main address on the Internet for the SDHSAA site is www.sdhsaa.com and the agenda hasn’t been posted on the site yet for the annual meeting (or for the board of directors meeting) but to get a feel for the proceedings you can to this link for the 2013 annual meeting bulletin.

One item on the agenda for the annual meeting this year is the new open-meeting and public-record policy. The Legislature this year applied South Dakota’s open-meeting and public-record requirements to the SDHSAA.

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Hacked again

Sorry for the spam attack in the past hour. If you received an email from Bobmercer1@aol.com with “News” in the subject line, please disregard. And please accept my apology.

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A few changes could help primary elections

The more I look at South Dakota’s election calendar, the more I see some dates that might need to be changed. Let’s start with one small example. This year the deadline was 5 p.m. on March 25 for primary-election candidates to file their petitions and paperwork. The next deadline was March 27 for primary-election candidates to withdraw. The problem is that some primary candidates were still being certified by the secretary of state’s office on or after March 27, including legislative candidates Democrat Robin Page of Rapid City, Republican Larry Baker of Rapid City, Democrat Elle Spawn of Sioux Falls, Democrat Carrie Ackerman-Rice of Lake Andes, Democrat Thomas Van Norman of Eagle Butte, Republican Lance Russell of Hot Springs, Republican Nancy Trautman of Rapid City and Republican Chip Campbell of Rapid City. In fact Campbell, Trautman, Russell, Van Norman, Baker and Page were certified after the withdrawal deadline.

Next comes the thornier matter. Because South Dakota allows as much time as possible for absentee voting aka early voting, the deadline for printing and delivering primary-election ballots to county auditors statewide is tomorrow (Wednesday, April 16). The actual primary election day is June 3 this year, but absentee/early voting starts this Friday, April 18. To meet those deadlines, ballots needed to be rolling off printing presses no later than yesterday and today. As Circuit Judge Mark Barnett pointed out in a candidate-eligibility challenge that was brought before him in recent days, as a practical matter, the question of whether a candidate can be on the primary ballot needed to be settled as of last Friday, April 11.

That leaves a 17-day window, starting after the March 25 filing deadline, for someone to inspect a candidate’s petitions, file a challenge with the secretary of state, have the secretary of state re-inspect the petitions, get a decision from the secretary of state, appeal that decision to circuit court, and get the parties into court for a hearing before a judge. Completing those seven steps in 17 days is difficult. When a candidate’s petitions are certified after the March 25 filing deadline, because they were sent by registered mail prior to 5 p.m. on deadline day, the window gets smaller. The window becomes a knothole if the matter gets appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Is this a problem? Consider these facts. Four candidates for U.S. Senate and governor were certified on March 25. One, Republican Annette Bosworth, was certified on March 26. Her candidacy for U.S. Senate was subsequently challenged. Secretary of State Jason Gant re-certified her. State Rep. Steve Hickey, R-Sioux Falls, went to court Thursday to block her. But a hearing couldn’t be held Friday before Judge Barnett, and time ran out. Hickey withdrew his action Monday. Meanwhile a list of questions remains unresolved regarding her petitions and the signatures on them. Whether you support or oppose Bosworth, her candidacy goes into the June 3 primary under a cloud, and no one knows with any legal certainty whether the cloud is legitimate.

The easy change for the Legislature to make would be setting the filing deadline at an earlier date, such as March 1. The drawback is this would wipe out more than three weeks of signature-gathering time. That’s probably not so significant for county-level candidates. It is significant for legislative and statewide candidates. The solution there might be changing the starting date for gathering signatures. Currently it is Jan. 1. Allowing a Dec. 1 start in the preceding year to gather signatures would be an accommodation to consider. There were 53 candidates for the Legislature who were certified on either deadline day or the day after this year, plus the eight who were certified at least two days or more beyond the deadline.

I count more than 60 candidates for courthouse offices — auditor, finance officer, treasurer, register of deeds, sheriff and commissioner — who were certified on March 25 or after the deadline. That actually is a small number considering the hundreds of candidates for those offices. Those contests show it’s possible to get petitions done in January and February, or at least early March. They have an advantage over legislators, however. Legislators are in Pierre at least four days of the week once session starts in January, rather than back home in their districts where they need to get the signatures of registered voters on their petitions. That’s why the Dec. 1 starting date, at least for legislators and statewide candidates, might make sense.

South Dakota already requires that proposed constitutional amendments have their petitions filed by one year before election day.

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Big in Memphis

Mike Miller scored 21 points and helped the Memphis Grizzlies capture the eighth and final playoff seed in the NBA’s Western Conference with a 97-91 victory Monday night against the Phoenix Suns. Miller, who played his high school basketball at Mitchell, made five of six shots from three-point range. He scored 14 points in a six-minutes span in the second quarter during which he made five of six shots including four treys. Now 34, his season-high 21 points came in the team’s most important game of the season. The Suns fell from the playoff race with the defeat. The Grizzlies have a final regular-season game left, against the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. Both are 49-32 on the season. The winner gets the seventh seed in the West and will face the Oklahoma City Thunder. The loser gets the eighth seed and faces the San Antonio Spurs. Miller has played in every game this season and averaged about 20 minutes per game. That doesn’t suggest Miller would retire after this season, his 13th in the NBA. Either way, if you follow basketball, check out the Grizzlies in the first round of the playoffs. Mike Miller doesn’t make headlines very often these days, but he showed Monday night that he still can — and did — with the game on the line.

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SDEA elections are underway

The South Dakota Education Association members are electing a new president to succeed Sandy Arseneault of Custer. Campaigning for the post are Mary McCorkle, a language arts teacher at Mobridge-Pollock high school, and Bonnie Mehlbrech, a high school special education teacher at Sioux Falls. McCorkle currently is South Dakota’s delegate to the National Education Association and Mehlbrech currently is SDEA treasurer.

Seeking the vice presidency are Steve O’Brien, a language arts teacher at Watertown high school, and Linda Mallory, a middle school mathematics teacher at Spearfish. Both currently serve on the SDEA board of directors. The current vice president is Janelle Gregg, a high school English teacher at Sisseton.

Competing for the post of National Education Association delegate are Barbara Lindquist of Tyndall, where she is special education coordinator for the Bon Homme school district, and Kathy Meyer, a kindergarten teacher at Huron. SDEA uses mail-in ballots. The election began April 5 and ballots must be postmarked by midnight April 21.

SDEA’s new leadership will be in an important spot in the coming months and next year as the Legislature possibly embarks on a sustained effort to improve teacher salaries in South Dakota.

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Larry Pressler pays his own way

Former U.S. Sen. Larry Pressler isn’t attracting much money in campaign donations for his run as an independent for the Senate this year. He issued a news release this morning reporting that he received $9,580 from individual contributors in the first three months of 2014, while he loaned his campaign $29,873.61. He said his expenses for the quarter were $28,760. Pressler, as a Republican, held a Senate seat for South Dakota from 1979 through 1996. He was defeated in 1996 by Democrat Tim Johnson, who’s held the seat since then but isn’t seeking re-election this year. Pressler will be on the November ballot with Democratic candidate Rick Weiland and one of the five Republicans seeking their party’s nomination in the June 3 primary election. There also is the possibility that another independent will be on the ballot, such as Republican former legislator Gordon Howie of Rapid City, who vows to run if state Rep. Stace Nelson doesn’t win the Republican primary.

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EPA wants conflict rule adopted

South Dakota law already covers this, according to officials at the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. However, they haven’t told the federal Environmental Protection Agency about the law (1-40-25.1). So on Thursday, April 17, the state Board of Minerals and Environment holds a public hearing on adopting a conflict of interest rule that EPA is now requiring from all states regarding clean-air regulations that states enforce on behalf of EPA. Assuming the proposed rules are adopted by the state board, there would be two specific sections in state rules dealing with direct and indirect (see final two pages of proposal) conflicts of interest and the requirements for recusal from a contested case hearing on a clean-air permit. The hearing is set for 10 a.m. CDT Thursday at the Matthew Center in Pierre located in the DENR building at 523 E. Capitol Avenue, next to Hyde Stadium. Written comments on the proposed rule must be received by the department no later than the close of business on Wednesday, April 16. Comments also can be entered directly via the Internet at this spot on DENR’s web site.

This rule proposal is also an opportunity to note once again that state government now has a single location on the Internet (rules.sd.gov) where the agencies under the governor’s authority post their rule proposals. The governor has invited other state agencies and offices to use the site too as a one-stop public-information site on rules and rule changes. Also, DENR’s rules site is noteworthy for its public-comment feature. The DENR location is http://denr.sd.gov/public/default.aspx and you can sign up there for public notices by e-mail on permit applications and rule changes, and you can sign up at rules.sd.gov for e-mail notifications on all rule proposals. These are two relatively new features adopted under the Daugaard administration in the past few years.

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A word of warning: I’ve been hacked

If you received an e-mail from my Bobmercer1 account in recent days, beware. The word from several people on Friday was my aol.com account had been hacked and someone was using my address book to distribute e-mails under my name, with the only content a link. Don’t open that link (I don’t know what it is, but it can’t be good). I don’t send e-mails with only a link for the message. Please accept my apology if you have received this hacker-spam. And please consider yourself fortunate if this cyberattack missed you.

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Change ahead for Open Meetings Commission

Newspaper reporters, editors and publishers, and their broadcast counterparts, need to look back in time to understand how far South Dakota has come in the past decade regarding open meetings and public records. Much of that progress can be traced to Circuit Judge Larry Long during the years he was state attorney general starting in 2003. The state’s Open Meetings Commission was created in law in 2004. The modern processes for obtaining public records and appealing for their release were put in law in 2008. Long, whose father was a publisher of a weekly newspaper, had much to do with both. You could say he had some ink in his blood — and a lot of democracy too. One of Long’s allies naturally was David Bordewyk, executive director for the South Dakota Newspaper Association. Another important figure was Sen. Dave Knudson, R-Sioux Falls. In fact, nearly all members of the Legislature strongly supported the changes.

One of the lawyers on Long’s staff, Diane Best, was assigned to the Open Meetings Commission. Long stepped down as attorney general in 2009 to accept an appointment from then-Gov. Mike Rounds to be a circuit judge in Minnehaha County. Rounds appointed former U.S. Attorney Marty Jackley as attorney general. We now have indication from Attorney General Jackley that Diane Best will be retiring. Jackley spoke briefly about this Friday during the South Dakota Newspaper Association convention. He didn’t disclose the name of her successor in regard to the Open Meetings Commission.

Diane Best did a solid job. Jackley’s choice will be of importance to news reporters but much more so to the general public. Many of the complaints taken to the commission since its creation came from citizens questioning the actions of their school, county, municipal and township officials.  The commission operates under the attorney general’s authority. Its five members are state’s attorneys from counties. They are appointed by the attorney general. Watching them on occasion left this reporter with the sense the five are practical and fair-minded people who look  foremost to see whether the law was followed and want proof.

The commission’s record of actions from 2004 through 2013 is 27 findings of violations and 13 findings of no violations or lack of jurisdiction.  There have been as many as seven cases in a year and as few as two. The summary provides a report on each case. The five most-recent members were John Steele of Aurora County, Mark Reedstrom of Grant County, Lisa Rothschadl of Bon Homme County, Emily Sovell of Sully County and Kevin Krull of Meade County. Since the commission’s mid-2013 decisions (one violation, one no-violation), a new complaint hasn’t been filed.

 

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