Thune Questions Secretary of Transportation Nominee Mayor Pete Buttigieg

Thune Questions Secretary of Transportation Nominee Mayor Pete Buttigieg

“It is crucial that transportation policy and investment continue to recognize the importance of rural areas – where the vast majority of agricultural and industrial commodities originate – to keep the transportation system fluid, dynamic, and interconnected.”


Click here or on the picture above to watch Thune’s speech.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today delivered remarks at the committee’s nomination hearing for Mayor Pete Buttigieg to be Secretary of Transportation. Thune questioned Mayor Buttigieg on his approach to freight rail policy, tribal transportation, and support for state departments of transportation.

Thune’s opening remarks (as prepared for delivery):

“Mayor Buttigieg, thank you for being here today as this Committee considers your nomination for Secretary of Transportation.  Transportation infrastructure investment has always been an area for bipartisan cooperation, as evidenced by passage of the FAST Act, which enjoyed wide popularity in Congress and among states.

“The FAST Act included strong investments in rural America, which are critical for states like South Dakota that rely on Federal investment in transportation infrastructure to ensure the efficient flow of goods to domestic and global markets.  Freight corridors within rural areas are a critical component of the national transportation system.  Those investments benefit the entire country, not just the rural areas. Highways and railways in rural regions must be connected to our nation’s major cities, which need the many products that originate in the heartland.

“It is crucial that transportation policy and investment continue to recognize the importance of rural areas – where the vast majority of agricultural and industrial commodities originate – to keep the transportation system fluid, dynamic, and interconnected.”


Governor Noem Introduces Legislation on DEX

Governor Noem Introduces Legislation on DEX

Also Introduces Legislation to Protect Charitable Organizations

PIERRE, S.D. – Today, Governor Kristi Noem announced that she will introduce two pieces of legislation.

Governor Noem is introducing legislation that will authorize the Department of Agriculture – and future Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR) – to contract for construction of the Dakota Events CompleX (DEX).

“In South Dakota, we see challenges as an opportunity to grow, to build for the future,” said Governor Kristi Noem. “The new DEX will be a state-of-the-art facility which will attract regional and national events to Huron. I’m excited for DANR to get to work on this project and to complete the DEX by the 2022 State Fair.”

Additionally, Governor Noem is introducing legislation to protect charitable organizations from having their donor information doxed.

“South Dakotans should be free to give to charity without having their personal information released against their will,” continued Governor Noem. “I am committed to fighting for the privacy rights of all South Dakotans, especially those who generously give of their own treasures to support charitable organizations.”


Release: Hanson begins fourth term on South Dakota Public Utilities Commission with oath of office

Hanson begins fourth term on South Dakota Public Utilities Commission with oath of office

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota Public Utilities Commissioner Gary Hanson took the oath of office on Jan. 4, 2021, marking the official start to his fourth term on the PUC. Hanson’s longtime friend, Judge Larry Long, administered the oath at a private ceremony in Lincoln County.

Hanson was first elected to the PUC in 2002 and was re-elected by South Dakota voters in 2008, 2014 and 2020. During his time with the commission, Hanson has had the opportunity to take on many leadership roles including serving as the PUC’s chairman for seven years, leading the Mid-America Regulatory Conference as their current president and representing South Dakota on the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners’ Electricity Committee, Electric Vehicle Working Group, and Low-income Energy Forum, just to name a few.

“I look forward to continue working to keep utility services safe, dependable, and affordable for the citizens of South Dakota and to assure that other states’ political decisions do not adversely affect the cost or reliability of our utilities,” said Hanson.

Hanson has a long history of public service. He was elected to two terms as the mayor of Sioux Falls. Before becoming mayor, he spent six years as Sioux Falls’ utilities commissioner and was responsible for the development and day-to-day activities of three municipal utilities. He also owned several businesses before elected office and was a licensed real estate auctioneer, appraiser and broker.

Hanson’s wife, Sandy, stood with him during his swearing-in ceremony, holding a fifth generation Bible. The couple was surrounded by 14 additional family members.

View Commissioner Hanson’s full biography on the PUC website,


Erickson pardon from Trump wiped out $3 Million of restitution

As shocking as the Paul Erickson pardon was, at South Dakota Public Broadcasting, Seth Tupper tonight has noted that Erickson doesn’t just get an early release, he has $3 million of court-ordered restitution to victims wiped away:

Experts say there’s likely no obligation for Erickson to even attempt to pay that money now. Neil Fulton, dean of the University of South Dakota School of Law, said it’s his understanding that in the case of a full and unconditional pardon like the one granted to Erickson, “restitution is wiped out.”

Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama, also said it appears that the full and unconditional pardon relieves Erickson of the obligation to pay restitution.

“It’s a get-out-jail-free card and a bank-account-restoration card,” Vance said.

Go read the entire story here.

And the concept of it being wiped away is just offensive.

I do note Governor Noem’s office is making a point by expressly noting “She had nothing whatsoever to do with the Erickson pardon.”

Governor Noem Introduces Legislation to Codify Healthcare Flexibilities

Governor Noem Introduces Legislation to Codify Healthcare Flexibilities

PIERRE, S.D. – Today, Governor Kristi Noem announced that she will introduce two pieces of legislation to codify executive orders that originally provided flexibility to healthcare providers in response to COVID-19. The two pieces of legislation cover telehealth and recognition of out-of-state healthcare licenses.

“COVID-19 challenged us in new, unforeseen ways, and those challenges provided us an opportunity  to adapt and find innovative ways to deliver healthcare in South Dakota,” saidGovernor Kristi Noem. “The flexibilities that we put in place in response to the pandemic have worked, with no concerns regarding their implementation. We will continue to strengthen South Dakota healthcare by welcoming these successes, building on them, and leaving flexibility for even more innovation into the future.”

Governor Noem’s telehealth bill would make certain telehealth flexibilities permanent.

“We greatly expanded telehealth in 2020. Since March, people have used tech services like these more than 70,000 times in South Dakota’s Medicaid program alone,” continuedGovernor Noem. “In 2021, we will build on telehealth advancements and continue to find ways to remove government red tape in healthcare.”

Governor Noem’s license recognition bill would make permanent the recognition of certain out-of-state healthcare licenses.

“Workforce is one of the major challenges facing South Dakota healthcare,” continuedGovernor Noem. “As freedom-loving Americans from around the country continue moving to South Dakota, we can address workforce shortages by recognizing the good work that they did in other states and welcoming them to continue their work by serving South Dakotans.”

Both bills are a permanent extension of portions of Executive Order 2020-07 and Executive Order 2020-16, which Governor Noem signed last year to increase flexibility in the state’s COVID-19 response.


Rounds Statement on Inauguration of President Biden

Rounds Statement on Inauguration of President Biden

WASHINGTON —U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) made the following statement on the Inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris:

“The peaceful transfer of power that the American people witnessed today on the steps of the U.S. Capitol is fundamental to our republic and the future of our great nation. I wish President Biden and Vice President Harris the best as they assume the tremendous responsibility entrusted to them.

“I know we will not agree on every issue, and I’m ready to stand as loyal opposition when we disagree on issues of principle. But we all want to leave this nation better than we found it. I do look forward to working with the new administration on ways we can move our country forward, leaving more opportunities for the next generation.”


Paul Erickson pardoned by Trump on way out the door. Didn’t he bilk investors for thousands?

I was honestly a little shocked at this one. While not supported by Senator Rounds or Governor Noem, former political operative Paul Erickson was given a “get out of jail free” card by President Trump as one of his final acts of office:

The list of South Dakotans includes Paul Erickson of Sioux Falls, who was sentenced to seven years in prison in 2020 for defrauding investors. He was also the boyfriend of Maria Butina from Russia, who was deported in 2019 after serving time for failing to register as a foreign agent. Noem and Rounds were not listed as supporters of Erickson’s pardon.


Erickson was accused of defrauding investors in a proposal to develop land in the North Dakota Bakken oil field by persuading people to buy real estate and build single-family homes. One person, identified as “D.G.” in the indictment, wired $100,000 to Erickson as an investment in the project. The money laundering charge relates to transferring $1,000 of that $100,000 to someone identified as “M.B.”

Read it here.

Not sure what to say on that one, but “wow.”


Thune: Impeachment trial would further divide country

From the Argus Leader, Senator John Thune believes that an impeachment trial would “further divide the country when we can least afford it.”

“In my view, using a constitutional tool designed to remove the president from office after he has already left could further divide our country when we can least afford it,” he said. “If the Democrat-led Senate proceeds with an impeachment trial after inauguration, I will uphold my oath, listen to the evidence presented and perform my constitutional duty as I have sworn to do.”

Read the entire story here.

Governor Noem Signs Executive Order on DANR Merger

Governor Noem Signs Executive Order on DANR Merger

PIERRE, S.D. – Today, Governor Kristi Noem signed Executive Order 2021-03 to merge the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, forming a new Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources (DANR).

“With this merger, we are fostering sustainable agriculture and conservation that we can pass on to our kids and grandkids,” said Governor Kristi Noem. “This merger will simplify life for South Dakota’s agriculture producers by creating a one-stop shop in state government. It will also save taxpayers money by streamlining the state’s regulatory bodies,eliminating redundancies, and creating a better customer service experience for all.”

Hunter Roberts, current Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources andacting-Secretary of Agriculture, will serve as the cabinet secretary for DANR.

“Governor Noem has a tremendous vision for the next generation of agriculture, and we’re excited to see it through,” said Secretary Hunter Roberts. “I’m excited for the synergies that this merger will create.”

Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, who previously served as interim-Secretary of Agriculture, will continue serving in his current role of Agriculture Ambassador.

“Governor Noem and I are the only farmer/rancher duo in the country to be serving as Governor and Lieutenant Governor,” said Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden. “We are excited for the potential that this merger has to unleash the next generation of agriculture for our state. I look forward to continue working as an ambassador to the agriculture industry.”

In addition to other groups, the proposed merger has the support of the South Dakota Farm Bureau. Based on a vote of their convention delegates, representing county farm bureaus throughout the state.

“We believe this merger will make government work better for farmers and ranchers and will strengthen the future of agriculture,” said Scott VanderWal, President of the South Dakota Farm Bureau. “The agriculture industry is continually evolving, and thanks to Governor Noem’s leadership, South Dakota continues to be on the leading edge of that evolution. There is no better time than now to solidify agriculture’s role in protecting our environment and natural resources while ensuring our industry in South Dakota remains economically viable and growing.”


Some ideas are still dumb 14 years later.

From Dakota News Now:

The South Dakota Farmers Union opposes the proposed merger by Governor Kristi Noem of the state Agriculture Department with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

President Doug Sombke told WNAX in Yankton, the organization is now working with lawmakers to write a bill that would put the State Agriculture Secretary position on the ballot rather than Governor Noem appointing the position.

Read that here.

Pointing out the last time that was proposed:

Senate Bill 194

Title: provide for the election of the secretary of agriculture.
Sponsors: Senators Kloucek, Hoerth, Jerstad, Katus, Maher, and Schmidt and Representatives Ahlers, Bradford, Elliott, Feinstein, Halverson, Miles, Street, and Van Norman


02/01/2007 Agriculture and Natural Resources Deferred to 41st legislative day, Passed, YEAS 8, NAYS 1. S.J. 349

Read that here.

That idea was a dumb one in 2007. And it’s still a dumb idea in 2021.

Ag producers aren’t looking for a politician in that office, which is what they’ll get if it becomes an elected position. They want a thoughtful steward of the office, and they have the opportunity to vet them when those officials are confirmed by the Senate.

Enough said.