Lion kills so far point to full-length BH season

Through Feb. 22, South Dakota hunters reported killing 30 mountain lions in the Black Hills this season, including 16 female lions. The maximums set by the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission for the Black Hills season are 75 total or 50 females, with the season closing March 31 if one of those limits isn’t reached first. The Black Hills season opened Dec. 26. Two big lions were taken on that first day, a 151-pound male estimated at 10 years old in Custer County, and a 102-pound female estimated at eight years old in Pennington County.

Unless the pace speeds up dramatically, it seems questionable that either limit will be reached in the six weeks left. The count by counties so far for the Black Hills fire protection district season are Custer eight, Pennington 11, Meade three and Lawrence eight.

Four other lions have been reported to GFP so far as killed this season. Three are kills by hunters outside the Black Hills district’s boundaries, in what’s known as the year-round prairie season. They were in Bennett, Lawrence and Butte counties. A nine-month-old male was killed by a vehicle in Pennington.

The 2014 season saw hunters take 53 lions in the Black Hills district (22 males and 31 females). The previous harvests for the Black Hills seasons were 61 in 2013; 73 in 2012; 49 in 2011; 40 in 2010; and 26 in 2009.

Matt Michels is top choice for governor in 2018 in Business Caucus survey

First, let’s start with the most intriguing result from the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s survey conducted at its Business Caucus day last week in Pierre. The business leaders in attendance answered about two dozen questions instantly using cell phones and tablets. The final question asked, “If the election were today, who would you vote in the gubernatorial primary?”

Surprisingly, there was a tie — at zero — between long-ago Gov. Tom Berry and current Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether. They were the only names to get blanked of the 12 listed. The top finisher was Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, a Republican, with 22. In second place was former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a Democrat, with 17. Notice the survey didn’t split the choices by party even though the question refers to “the gubernatorial primary.”

Current U.S Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican, received 13 votes, followed by state Attorney General Marty Jackley, a Republican, at 12 and state Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, at seven.

“The woman who found oil in North Dakota” — yes, that is the choice listed — received five. That put her ahead of state Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, at three and soon-to-retire U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson, a Democrat, at three. Getting one apiece were South Dakota State University president David Chicoine (I don’t know his political registration) and Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, a Republican.

Among presidential possible candidates, top finisher was Democrat Hillary Clinton at 25, followed by Republican Jeb Bush with 14. All of the other 19 were in the single-digit territory, including Republican Chris Christie at eight and Republicans Rand Paul and Scott Walker at six apiece.

Will private K-12 schools and home schools get state funding?

The state Senate agreed Friday afternoon to allow a debate next week on legislation from Sen. Phyllis Heineman, R-Sioux Falls, that would create a state-funded scholarship and grant program for non-public K-12 schools in South Dakota. The essence of SB 189 is insurance companies could donate money to a scholarship and grant organization and the donations would be counted as a 90 percent credit against premium taxes the insurance companies otherwise must pay to the state treasury. In other words, 90 cents of a premium-tax dollar could go to the scholarship and grant organization. The organization would have to report to the state Department of Legislative Audit.

The Daugaard administration and the South Dakota Education Association opposed the bill during its hearing Thursday in the Senate Education Committee. The panel tied 3-3 on whether to recommend the bill’s passage; the members ultimately voted 6-0 to make no recommendation. That left Heineman to take the next step of asking the full Senate to place the bill on the debate calendar. She succeeded, as senators voted 24-7 on Friday afternoon to grant her that courtesy. The bill will be set for debate Tuesday afternoon.

The supporters of the bill generally are the Christian schools, the Rapid City Catholic schools and the Sioux Falls Catholic diocese. The purpose of the bill is to pay all or part of tuition for children whose families are at or below 150 percent of the income level for free and reduced lunches. The plan also would cover up to $250 per year for a teacher’s classroom supplies, including parents of students who are home-schooled.

This proposal to allow tax credits to encourage insurance companies to pay for non-public education, and making less tax money available for public education as a result, would mark a major change in South Dakota for education policy and social policy.

Brock Greenfield will get his chance

Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, was excused for the four days of legislative session this week as he recovered from injuries suffered in a fall last weekend. While he was gone, the Senate took up a piece of his legislation, SB 159, that seeks to exempt from state sales and use tax the salaries paid by non-profit organizations to amateur baseball coaches. We’re talking primarily VFW and American Legion teams for teen-agers during their middle-school and high-school years. The only opponent at the Feb. 11 committee hearing was the state Revenue Department — aka the Daugaard administration. The bill survived the hearing on a 4-3 vote thanks to the return of Sen. Jenna Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, who broke a tie.

Greenfield is the only senator on the bill’s sponsor list. Yet for reasons that baffled some observers, the Senate proceeded to debate the bill Thursday — with Greenfield still missing. The Senate voted 17-15 for the bill. But that was one aye short of the 18 needed for passage. Taking up Greenfield’s cause was Sen. Jeff Monroe, R-Pierre. Monroe voted against the bill in committee but voted for it in the Senate. Monroe gave notice Thursday he would seek reconsideration of the bill.

The reconsideration motion came up Friday afternoon before the Senate departed for a three-day break. Senate Republican leader Tim Rave of Baltic spoke before the reconsideration vote, telling the rest of the Senate he had spoken with Greenfield. Rave said Greenfield would be back next week when legislators return to work on Tuesday. Rave suggested the re-debate of the bill wait until Tuesday. The Senate voted 28-3 in support of Monroe’s motion. Now it will be up to Greenfield — who spends a lot of time coaching summer American Legion baseball — to make the decisive pitch. If he can get the bill out of the Senate, the lead House sponsor is Rep. Tona Rozum, R-Mitchell.

Ahhh… spring training!

Senate approves stray-voltage process

The South Dakota Dairy Producers are taking some lumps this legislative session. The association opposed the creation of a new category in South Dakota’s dairy laws for raw milk for human consumption and stood against legislation regarding stray electrical current and voltage. The Senate approved the stray-voltage legislation Thursday 31-0. The prime sponsor of SB 131 is Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, and the measure is supported by the South Dakota Rural Electric Association. Tidemann’s legislation establishes a process requiring formal notice to be given by a dairy producer to an electricity utility that a cow appears to be affected. The utility in turn must take steps to determine if stray voltage is a problem and to what extent. The legislation also sets a process for going through the state Public Utilities Commission. The commission can determine if one side or the other acted in bad faith on the claim or was attempting to harass, and make that side pay for the other side’s costs of the investigation. Those steps must come before any civil action can be started in state court. The bill hearing Tuesday in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee included opposition from Walt Bones of Parker, the past state secretary of agriculture. The legislation now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration. The lead sponsor is Rep. Roger Solum, R-Watertown. So far the bill, which has broad bipartisan and geographically diverse support, hasn’t drawn a “nay.” You can read it here.

Half of the way to Oglala Lakota County

The state House of Representatives voted 64-5 Wednesday for HJR 1005 designating Oglala Lakota County as the new name of Shannon County. State law says the Legislature shall approve a county name change that was passed by the county’s voters. The resolution next goes to the Senate. The five nays in the House were Republicans Thomas Holmes of Sioux Falls, Sam Marty of Prairie City, Herman Otten of Tea, Mike Verchio of Hill City and Mark Willadsen of Sioux Falls. The resolution’s prime sponsor is Rep. Kevin Killer, D-Pine Ridge. His House co-sponsors are Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg; Elizabeth May, R-Kyle; and Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs. The only Senate sponsor is Democrat Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge.

House OKs increases for Opportunity scholarships

The South Dakota Opportunity scholarship would increase in its annual values and in its total value for a college or technical-institute student under the measure approved Wednesday by the state House of Representatives. The state Board of Regents sought the changes and Gov. Dennis Daugaard showed his support by requesting the legislation. The measure, HB 1147, passed 66-3 and now heads to the Senate. The annual scholarship amount for years one through three would increase by $300 — from $1,000 to $1,300 — and the year-four amount would increase by $600, from $2,000 to $2,600. The total value likewise climbs to $6,500 from $5,000.

These would be the first increases since the scholarship program began more than a decade ago. A year ago, the regents and the governor sought tuition freezes for in-state students. The governor decided the freeze couldn’t be repeated this year if additional money was to be spent on the scholarship-amount increases. These scholarships are for students who complete a rigorous high school academic program, choose an in-state campus for their post-secondary education and meet various requirements while they are in college or tech school. In case you were wondering, the three nays came from Republicans Steven Haugaard of Sioux Falls, Dan Kaiser of Aberdeen and Mike Verchio of Hill City.

As three switch, Senate rejects $4,000 raise

State senators fell three yes votes short Tuesday in trying to increase the annual salary of legislators to $10,000 starting in 2017 from the current $6,000. The vote was 21-11; the bill needed a two-thirds majority of 24 to pass the Senate.

There appeared on paper to be enough support but three of the co-sponsors of Senate Bill 170 wound up voting no. They were Democrats Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge and Troy Heinert of Mission and Republican Alan Solano of Rapid City. Afterward the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City, said he decided against trying to round up three more votes.

The other eight who voted no were Democrats Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton, Billie Sutton of Burke and Scott Parsley of Madison; and Republicans Corey Brown of Gettysburg, Bob Ewing of Spearfish, Jeff Monroe of Pierre, Betty Olson of Prairie City and Bill Van Gerpen of Tyndall.

There are three House bills that would change legislator salaries. All have passed the House and now face the Senate. They are:

HB 1145 — Legislators would be compensated for additional pay and expenses for attending the annual budget speech and the inauguration activities every two years. House Republican leader Brian Gosch of Rapid City is the prime sponsor, and Senate Republican leader Tim Rave of Baltic is the lead sponsor in his chamber;

HB 1149 — This measure would set the annual salary at “at least” $6,000 but doesn’t provide an actual amount. The prime sponsor is Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, and Sen. David Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, is the lead Senate sponsor; and

HB 1150 — This measure would annually adjust legislators’ salaries by the same percentage as state government employees receive through the state budget process from the Legislature. This is the companion piece to HB 1149, with Bolin and David Novstrup as the respective prime sponsor and lead sponsor.

Don’t be surprised if the Senate adopts the Gosch measure to pay for the special trips. It sailed through the House 60-1 and didn’t need a two-thirds majority.

The two others received the two-thirds majorities needed for House passage, with 1149 approved 51-10 and 1150 approved 48-19; two-thirds in the House is 47 yes. It’s unknown whether any guidance can be taken on their fates from the Senate tally on the Tieszen $10,000 bill Tuesday.

Decisive votes on balanced-budget resolution

The state Senate returned to the resolution asking Congress for a constitutional convention on a federal balanced-budget amendment Tuesday (see recent post below). The measure fell short by one yes vote during its first journey. The second time, it passed with a vote to spare. The two decisive yes votes came from two of the three senators who weren’t present during the first time. Republicans Blake Curd of Sioux Falls and David Novstrup of Aberdeen voted yes while Republican Deb Peters of Hartford voted no.

There were three senators missing for the vote Tuesday — Republicans Brock Greenfield of Clark and Deb Soholt of Sioux Falls, and Democrat Jim Peterson of Revillo — but they were all nays during the first tally on Feb. 10.

The House of Representatives voted for HJR 1001 by a roll call of 39-30 on Jan. 28. The four top Republican leaders in the House — Brian Gosch of Rapid City, speaker Dean Wink of Howes, speaker pro tem Mark Mickelson of Sioux Falls and Steve Westra of Sioux Falls — all voted for the resolution, whose prime sponsor was Rep. Jim Stalzer, R-Sioux Falls. Two of the top three Republicans in the Senate voted for it too; president pro tem Corey Brown of Gettysburg and assistant leader Dan Lederman of Dakota Dunes said yes, while leader Tim Rave of Baltic voted no.

The resolution’s passage was a victory for former Rep. Hal Wick, R-Sioux Falls, who worked hard in the lobbies and in the chambers to round up the votes — sometimes at times when a former legislator normally wouldn’t seem to be allowed to be attempting to influence legislation under the Legislature’s joint rules — with Stalzer and Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Tea, giving the decisive speeches. You can read the resolution here.

Bounced checks will cost another $10

The additional charge imposed on a dishonored check written to state government or local governments in South Dakota is going up. The state Senate unanimously approved raising the penalty to $40 Tuesday. That is an increase of $10. The state House of Representatives had previously approved House Bill 1111. Its sponsor was Rep. Mark Willadsen, R-Sioux Falls. His co-sponsors were House Democratic leader Spencer Hawley of Brookings; Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-Vermillion; and Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton of Burke. The legislation, promoted by the South Dakota Municipal League, now heads to the governor.