Rave resignation took effect Tuesday

The official listing on the Legislative Research Council website says Tim Rave resigned March 31, 2015, from his seat in the state Senate. The news spread this morning with the official announcement by Rave and his employer, Sanford Health. Rave, R-Baltic, will oversee public policy for the Sanford system as a vice president and moves up from marketing director. A 13-year legislator, Rave most recently had been the Senate Republican leader since 2013.

Two points come to mind. Rave became Senate leader after the job-related resignation of the previous leader, Russ Olson of Wentworth, who was promoted to CEO of Heartland Consumers Power at Madison. At the time Rave was the Senate Republican assistant leader. Unlike that succession, however, there isn’t anyone waiting in the next chair this time. That’s because Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes, surprised the Senate Republican caucus on Monday, the final day of the 2015 legislative session, by announcing his immediate resignation. So Senate Republicans have two leadership slots to fill. A slot also opens on the Legislature’s Executive Board with the Rave resignation. And Gov. Dennis Daugaard now has two vacancies to fill for Rave’s seat in District 25 that covers part of Minnehaha County and for Lederman’s seat in District 16 that covers Union and part of Lincoln counties.

Rave, 47, had been a constant in the Legislature. He first won election to the House of Representatives in 2002 and gradually moved up the House ladder, rising to speaker for his fourth term in 2009-2010. Term-limited in the House, Rave ran for election to the Senate in 2010 and won. In his second Senate term, he was selected by his fellow Republicans as assistant leader for their caucus during the 2013 session. The resignation of Olson opened the way for him to take the step up to Senate Republican leader.

Tim Rave could be stern when necessary but his general approach was to keep the boat moving ahead without tipping too far to either side. He won some tough election campaigns. He clearly could be trusted. He didn’t rebel openly but instead quietly achieved important steps forward when money could be found, especially for education. His political magic came through private discussions first, finding consensus, and then bringing the fruit of that work into the open for legislative action. Political credit didn’t seem to matter to him personally. He was about helping South Dakota forward.

We now better understand the thick emotions in the Senate chamber on the final night of the 2015 session’s main run three weeks ago, as Rave and his counterpart across the political aisle, Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton of Burke, exchanged parting compliments that seemed to carry some tears. Tim and Lisa’s son, Mitch, joined his dad on the Senate floor for what we now know were some of his last and most meaningful hours as a legislator, as lawmakers approved the highway and bridge funding package.

Who will succeed Tim Rave and Dan Lederman as the Senate Republicans’ new top figures isn’t clear. The Senate president pro tem remains Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, and he will continue to provide a steady hand at the wheel. The three Senate Republican whips — the lieutenants, if you will, of the caucus power structure — are Deb Soholt of Sioux Falls, Ried Holien of Watertown and Ernie Otten of Tea. As for the two House members from Rave’s district, they are Republican veteran Roger Hunt of Brandon — who has always preferred to serve in the House, to the point where he sat out terms twice when he was term-limited, so that he could run again for the House rather than the Senate — and Kris Langer of Dell Rapids. Langer is one of the four House Republican whips and is in her first elected term; she was appointed by the governor to fill a vacancy in August 2013 after the resignation of Jon Hansen.

In closing, two cliches come to mind about Tim Rave because they are true. The shoes are big. And the Legislature is left with less without him. The governor said it well this morning in a Twitter comment: “As Dells Rapids natives, Linda and I were always proud to have Tim Rave as our legislator. I am sorry to see him go.”

The six on rules review

The new members look a lot like the past members of the Legislature’s Rules Review Committee. For the 2015 term, the House sends Democrat Peggy Gibson of Huron and Republicans Timothy Johns of Lead and Jean Hunhoff of Yankton, while the senators are Democrat Jim Bradford of Pine Ridge and Republicans Phyllis Heineman of Sioux Falls and Mike Vehle of Mitchell.

Five of the six — all but Heineman — served on the panel in 2014. The changes are these:

Rep. Ann Hajek, R-Sioux Falls, didn’t seek re-election last year. That created a vacancy;

Hunhoff was a senator who served on the committee. She won election to the House last year. She fills the Hajek spot on the committee from the House; and

Heineman fills the Hunhoff spot on the committee from the Senate.

Some readers might be thinking: Wasn’t there another change? Your memories are on the mark. At the start of the 2013-2014, the committee’s Democratic member from the Senate was Angie Buhl O’Donnell of Sioux Falls. Her employment prevented her from participating on a consistent basis. Consequently Bradford was tapped to replace her.

The committee’s first meeting for 2015 is April 20. The committee is scheduled to meet seven times from April through December. The chairman this year is Vehle, while Johns is vice-chair.

The panel’s main responsibilities are to review whether the correct processes were followed by a state agency or a state board or commission in proposing and approving a rule; to review whether the rule is within the authority granted by the Legislature; and decide whether to allow the rule proceed into effect or return to an earlier step in the process for more work. The committee’s role is highly important in a state where a rule carries the weight of law in our courts.

The hypocrite, the family man and the FEC

On Oct. 25, state Sen. Dan Lederman posted a message on the Internet site for his Rushmore political action committee. Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes, announced an “ad campaign directed at Weiland hypocrisy.” His first sentence said:

 “After campaigning on the premise of “telling the billionaires and special interests that they can’t buy South Dakota” it turns out that 63% of Mr. Weiland’s campaign donations have come from out of state and that ads attacking his opponent, Mike Rounds, came from dark money and Soros funding.”

Five paragraphs later, his message concluded:

“The Campaign advertisements include a full page advertisement which will appear in several newspapers, as well as a 60 second radio advertisement, with both pointing out the inconsistencies of Rick Weiland’s words and his deeds.”

As we know, Republican former Gov. Mike Rounds went on to get more than 50 percent of the vote and defeat Democratic candidate Rick Weiland and others in the Nov. 4 election for a South Dakota seat in the U.S. Senate.

On Monday, the final day of the 2015 legislative session, Lederman publicly declared he was resigning immediately from his seat in the state Senate to spend more time with his family. The quality of the long message he posted on the Internet site for his campaign made clear that some time had been spent preparing to make the announcement.

What we also now know is the Federal Election Commission has been looking lately at the activities of Lederman’s Rushmore PAC from last fall during the period of the anti-Weiland advertising. The FEC sent a series of letters to the PAC’s treasurer, Blake Jenness; one is dated March 19 and the subsequent two are dated March 23. The letters address various errors and inadequacies of the PAC’s activity reports. An excerpt from one of the March 23 letters covers the period of Oct. 16 through Nov. 24 when Lederman conducted the anti-Weiland advertising:

- Schedule E of your report indicates that your committee may have failed to
timrly file one or more of the required 24 hour report(s) regarding “last minute”
independent expenditures (see attached). A political committee must file a 24
hour report with the Federal Election Commission as specified in 11 CFR
§104.4(c), within 24 hours of any independent expenditures of $1,000 or more
with respect to a given election, made between two and twenty days before an
election. The report must be received by the Commission by 11:59 p.m. on the
day following the date on which independent expenditures that aggregate
$1,000 or more are publicly distributed or disseminated. These expenditures
must then be fully itemized on Schedule E, or as memo entries on Schedule E
and reflected on Schedule D if distributed or disseminated prior to payment, of
the next report required to be filed by the committee. Although the
Commission may take further action concerning this matter, your prompt
response will be taken into consideration. (11 CFR §104.3(b))

Lederman’s PAC filed three such “independent expenditure” reports on Oct. 28 covering 10 purchases of radio time and newspaper space. A fourth such report was filed Oct. 31 covering one additional purchase of newspaper space. Those however, based on the FEC letter, evidently didn’t cover all of the purchases listed on the report filed Dec. 1 covering the period of Oct. 16 through Nov. 24. This error doesn’t appear to rise to the level of a federal penalty, however, based on the final sentence from the FEC excerpt above regarding “your prompt response will be taken into consideration.”

However, these FEC letters draw attention to what Lederman accomplished in a very short span of time against Weiland through the Rushmore PAC’s federal side. Lederman collected $5,000 contributions from Jeff and Tammy Broin of Dell Rapids, Todd Broin of Sioux Falls, Donna and Paul Christen of Huron, Harry Christianson of Rapid City, Dana Dykehouse of Sioux Falls, Jeff and Linda Erickson of Sioux Falls, Thomas Everist of Sioux Falls, Holly and Mike Hesse of Dakota Dunes, Ted Hustead of Wall, Cynthia and Harvey Jewett of Aberdeen, Dan Kirby of Sioux Falls, Steve and Suzette Kirby of Sioux Falls, Marlys Lawrence of Sioux Falls, Scott Lawrence of Sioux Falls, John Link of Nokomis, Florida, and Gary and Susan Reichling of Lucas, Texas. Lederman also brought in $2,500 contributions from Garry Jacobson of Sioux Falls, Craig Lawrence of Sioux Falls, and William Metz of Sioux City, Iowa, and $1,000 from Mark Griffin of Sioux Falls. The $123,500 of itemized contributions paid for the $115,294.77 of independent expenditures against Weiland, covered some operational expenses for the Rushmore federal PAC and provided $5,000 to Friends of Dan Lederman, his state Senate campaign account, and $500 to the Rushmore state-level PAC Lederman also operates.

The Rushmore PAC as a whole lists two advisory board members. They are state Rep. Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City, who now is the House Republican majority leader; and Jacob Millner, director of government affairs for the Minnesota Dental Association. At the state campaign level, the Rushmore PAC has been involved in many legislative campaigns, providing three-figure donations to candidates, but also has made some four-figure contributions in various contests. For example, Rushmore PAC provided $2,700 three years ago to the mayoral campaign of state Sen. Mark Kirkeby, R-Rapid City, and $3,450 to Kirkeby’s state Senate campaign; $1,000 to the campaign of Rounds; and $3,500 last year to state Attorney General Marty Jackley as he ran for re-election and $1,000 to Gosch.

In the new era of federal campaigns where money equals speech and therefore activities blur, it might seem to no longer be a contradiction that the Rushmore PAC could launch an “independent expenditures” advertising blitz against Weiland in late October, approximately six weeks after the Rushmore PAC also hosted a “Speakers Series” event where Rounds and U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa were the features guests at a brunch Aug. 16 at Eldon’s Restaurant in Sioux City.

Given his past actions, It wouldn’t be a surprise in the months ahead to see Dan Lederman take an active role in raising and coordinating contributions in South Dakota and Iowa for a candidate seeking the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. For now, he says, he is focused on the debt he owes his family.

UPDATE: The FEC posted amended reports Tuesday night from Blake Jenness as well as an explanatory note from him that he had tried to timely file the 24-hour notice reports. Jenness said two were late by a day each.

Lottery officials oppose a new ‘Wire Act’

The South Dakota Lottery, through its membership in the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries, is working against a measure in Congress known as Restoration of America’s Wire Act. The federal legislation comes from U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii. State lotteries generally take the view that the new legislation would affect or shut down many lottery games. transactions, services and information distribution that take place over the telephone and Internet.

The legislation comes as the South Dakota Lottery, for example, is moving into digital marketing of video lottery in an effort to show names and addresses of places where people can gamble on the video machines. Norm Lingle, the executive director for the South Dakota Lottery, told members of the state Lottery Commission last week that NASPL is fighting the legislation. Chaffetz and Gabbard represent the only two states that, in the words of Chaffetz, “reject all forms of gambling.”

“I think it could affect the business plans of lotteries as they look forward,” Lingle said. “We are working to actually defeat this bill, collectively as a lottery association.”

However, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley was among a group of attorneys general who signed a joint letter to members of Congress last year appearing to support the federal legislation. You can read the letter here.

Further thought on timing of youth wage

Recently I posed some easy questions to the folks at the state Department of Labor about how the youth minimum wage of $7.50 will be applied. In summary, the following will happen:

1) Workers younger than age 18 will be paid the current statewide minimum wage of at least $8.50 per hour;

2) That is, until July 1, when the youth minimum wage of $7.50 per hour takes effect across South Dakota.

3) Then employers can decide whether they want to continue to pay workers younger than age 18 at least $8.50, or pay them at $7.50, or some spot in between.

That will put some wobble into matters. But there will be more uncertainty for those workers younger than 18 — and the business people who employ them.

That is because of the decision by blogger and activist Cory Heidelberger to attempt to refer the youth minimum wage legislation, SB 177, to a statewide vote.

Heidelberger faces a 5 p.m. June 29 deadline to submit the signatures on the referral petition.

If he uses every possible minute, that means Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and her election staff will have that night of June 29 and the day of June 30 to declare before July 1 whether Heidelberger has sufficient valid signatures.

That means employers will need to pay attention to what Heidelberger does and to what Krebs decides — and to any challenges of the petitions by other parties.

In the event that Heidelberger does submit sufficient valid signatures, the youth minimum wage would be put on ice until the November 2016 election, so that voters can decide whether it should be the law of South Dakota.

Complicated, yes, and fascinating.

Aberdeen blogger seeks to refer two measures

Cory Heidelberger, who now operates his Dakota Free Press political blog from Aberdeen, filed notice with Secretary of State Shantel Krebs that he will lead petition drives to refer two pieces of 2015 legislation to statewide votes in South Dakota’s 2016 general election. Heidelberger is taking aim at SB 177, which sets a youth minimum wage of $7.50 per hour for workers under age 18, and at SB 69, a complex and detailed package of changes in state election laws. Heidelberger’s own blog post can be read here. Secretary of State Krebs told Heidelberger the signature gathering can begin Tuesday, March 31, the day after the Legislature adjourns the 2015 session. He will need 13,871 valid signatures of registered South Dakota voters for each referral and submit them by 5 p.m. on June 29.

State offices will close Good Friday afternoon

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has issued an executive order declaring state government offices under his control will close at noon on Friday, April 3, because of the Good Friday religious holiday. This is a traditional practice. “All other units of government and the private business sector shall make independent judgments on this matter,” the order states.

Railroad Board re-elects leadership crew

The state Railroad Board voted on its officers for this year Wednesday and it was no contest — literally. The old team of president Todd Yeaton from Kimball, Sheldon Cotton from Volga and Carl Anderson from Aberdeen were re-elected without opposition. “Thank you for your vote of confidence again, guys. It’s greatly appreciated,” Yeaton said.

Will there be roadblocks?

The Oglala Sioux tribal council took an unusual position in adopting a resolution that bans sales of the Rapid City Journal on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The dispute is over the headline and story in the Jan. 31 edition of the newspaper that questioned whether Indian children on a school trip Jan. 24 didn’t stand for the National Anthem at the Rapid City Rush hockey game where some students reportedly had beer spilled on them and had bad things said to them. The tribal council wants an apology. The paper had previously issued a correction and apology in the Feb. 2 edition. This doesn’t seem likely to turn out well. Remember 1985 when South Dakota banned hogs from Canada?

Fun on the front pages

Just a quick note of appreciation. The Watertown Public Opinion looked ahead Thursday to the change of season the next day by putting a robin at the top of its Thursday afternoon edition next to the small headline “Spring arrives tomorrow!” And the Pierre Capital Journal marked its big news on Friday morning by turning the top half of the front page into a replica of a Monopoly board with the cities replacing the street names — and Pierre in the best slot of all where Boardwalk normally is — with a headline “Pierre monopolizes vote to get primo place on new edition of board game”.