Is it a rumor if you leak stuff about yourself? Nelson hinting about some sort of campaign announcement.

In response to my column below about Stace Nelson “wanting his $8 but saying hell no to raising legislator pay,” Nelson came out with his standard and predictable retort, the same one he uses with everyone he disagrees with, calling them a RINO.

But in an odd twist, he drops a rumor out there. About himself:

(An emoji too…)   I’m not sure that you can call it a rumor if you write it about yourself. Unless he’s referring to one of the other rumors out there.  I did poke around, and no one has heard anything recently.  You have to go back a few months to find anything.

The last rumor I’d heard came from Lora Hubbel, who criticized Nelson, and claiming his preference for the Democrat in the race for Governor…

So it could be that he’s supporting the Dem, or wants to be his running mate, or something like that. Prior to that, in May I had noted what I’d heard:

Insiders don’t expect State Sen. Stace Nelson, who placed third in the 2014 US Senate primary, to jump in a major statewide race in 2018. I’ve had people cite both health and lack of funds as reasons he’d likely stay out, although as recently as this past legislative session, it was noted to me that he was trying to talk people into it.

Read that here.

I was told that he probably wouldn’t enter the race for a couple of reasons.  (He called me names after that post as well.)  So, loving the Dem, or not running, are the only two things we’ve heard to this point.

If Nelson is trying to let on he is doing something else, if he’s dropping information about himself and a campaign announcement, I’d call it more of a hint or telegraphing his intentions than a rumor, per se. If he’s running, I don’t know that it would come as a shock.  But by the same token, I don’t know that it would cause any fanfare, either.

As I’ve noted before, Lora Hubbel has a head start on him, and likely would be splitting some of the vote for the same universe of supporters.

So, Nelson trying to tell us he’s getting into the race? Meh.  Despite the claim of a ‘campaign announcement rumor,’ no one has been buzzing about it up to this point.

If he gets in, it would be what it would be.

Legislative panel advances 70% wage increase. It might not pass, but it’s a discussion worth having.

The State Legislative Executive Board advanced a proposal yesterday to increase legislative salaries  by nearly 70% in the first serious proposal on the measure since 1998:

The Executive Board unanimously approved a resolution that would tie legislators’ salaries to the median household income in the state. And that would likely mean a 70 percent raise for the state’s 105 lawmakers.

and..

The resolution’s supporters want to set legislator salaries at one-fifth of the most recent median household income. According to the 2015 U.S. Census, South Dakota’s median household income was $50,957 for that year, which would put lawmakers’ salaries around $10,191 annually.

Read it all here.

Is an increase in legislative salaries needed, and perhaps warranted based on the amount of time that legislators are taking time away from their primary jobs? Absolutely. At the very least, discussing it every 20 years may be warranted.

Everything is more expensive now than in 1998, and there are expenses people serving run into that aren’t compensated by salaries, as evidenced by this recent legislative complaint from Senator Stace Nelson:

Recently got back travel reimbursement for the hearings. $8 worth of parking meter expense (over 2 days) denied by the State Auditor… Wait for it… because of no receipts.

Read that here.

Legislative salaries in South Dakota have long been pointed to as a problem for our citizen legislature as a reason why you don’t see more active businessmen or others from a more varied walk of life serving in the office. Because for some odd reason, they don’t see the value in it costing them sometimes tens of thousands of dollars (or more) on an annual basis to serve a term as State Representative or State Senator.

As one State Legislator who departed in the past few years noted to me, “you only have so many productive years to provide for your family,” and serving in political office is sometimes more expensive than the personal or societal rewards.

I think most who study the issue agree that the current salary limits who might consider running. The problem is that the concept of ‘legislative salary increases’ is always a political hot potato, and that the headlines about it don’t really lay out the fact that it is less than a part-time salary for what in many cases is a full time job during the months they’re in session and for far beyond.

Now that the story has come out, the concept already seems to be the target of newspaper editors who write the story headlines as “South Dakota legislators want a pay raise” and “SD Legislators seek larger salaries.”   Well, not exactly.   That’s more than an over-simplification.

Newspapers are playing up the financial aspect for more sensationalized headlines, and there are politicians who are already playing it up for purposes of political grandstanding:

Yep. Senator “Where’s my eight dollars” is already protesting the proposal to put an increase to the voters.  What was I saying about ‘political grandstanding?’  Talking about how to get more people involved in the process deserves more than a knee jerk.

The reality is, the Legislature’s Executive board – which tries to look at the big picture – is offering a proposal to get more people to serve, or at least to consider running.  From here, it goes to the legislature to be further discussed and possibly amended by both the House and the Senate. And only then does it get sent to be considered for the ballot.

Do I think the measure is going to ultimately succeed? I’m a bit doubtful.  There are more working parts in getting something like this passed than just coming up with it, and the people proposing it are well aware of it, but you have to start somewhere.

First, is money. It’s going to be expensive to propose a bump in legislative salaries. And I believe both revenue may be down from projections, and what the federal government sends to South Dakota in several areas may be in a state of flux. That might be an impossible hurdle to get past among legislators to have the measure move forward in 2018.

Secondly, and more of an abstract concept, I think we’re in a time of hostility between the public and ‘the legislature’ as a broad concept, similar to how people feel about ‘Congress.’ They like and will vote to return their federal representatives, just as they like and will vote to return their state legislators.. but they just have a negative impression of the institution.    I think politically, that could make it a tough sell with the voters.

But tough sell or not, finding ways to make legislative service more accessible to a broader spectrum of the electorate is a discussion worth having. And amidst all the debate and testimony, we may find reasons which override and supersede any short term objections in the public’s eye, and bring more people into the process.

That’s not an ignoble goal.

And at the least, maybe someday Senator Nelson will get his $8 back.

Congrats to Julie Gross, new State Rural Development Director for South Dakota!

Just saw this on Facebook where my friend Julie Gross with Lake Area Improvement Corporation in Madison just received an appointment from President Trump as announced by Secretary of Ag Sonny Perdue:

Julie and I worked together waaaay back when I was a Student Reserve Officer with the SDSU University Police writing parking tickets and she worked in the office.   A well deserved honor for a great person.

Could legislative wages on the ballot be a counter measure to a VNOE movement on ballot measures?

In an article at ArgusLeader.com this morning, apparently lawmakers are set to give raising their salaries another go for the first time in nearly 20 years:

The South Dakota Executive Board on Monday is set to consider a resolution that would tie lawmakers’ paychecks to the state’s median household income. And that would likely mean a 70 percent raise for the state’s 105 lawmakers.

Currently, South Dakota legislators receive $6,000 a year in addition to per diem payments and some reimbursement for mileage.

The resolution’s supporters want to set legislator salaries at one-fifth of the most recent median household income. According to the 2015 U.S. Census, South Dakota’s median household income was $50,957 for that year, which would put lawmakers’ salaries around $10,191 annually.

The raise is warranted, supporters said, as lawmakers haven’t seen their salaries grow since 1998, though per diem has inched up over the last two decades. Their buying power is at the lowest rate since the current payment mechanism was adopted in 1946, according to the Legislative Research Council, and some are struggling to make ends meet under the current salary.

Read it here.

While South Dakota’s legislative salaries are among the lowest in the nation and probably should be increased, as a stand alone item salary increases for our elected officials tend to be rejected by voters, as well as being the subject of grandstanding by those who are in campaign mode against those who supported it.

Coming in a year when we’re likely to have a long ballot when looking at the number of voter proposed measures to appear, some may argue against it on that basis, claiming that the sheer number of initiated measures is validation that they don’t deserve it, despite the measures on the ballot not having been brought to the legislative body first.

And it may face further opposition if certain groups come out with an effort to tell voters “Vote No on Everything” (VNOE for short).

Looking at it cynically, one might wonder if this is a bit of a chess move to counter the VNOE movement, as the tech school measure in 2016 caused similar dissent among those who considered banding together to oppose everything, but abandoned the idea because of popular support for tech schools.

Stay tuned. 2018 could get even more interesting, if that was possible.

Noem: Congress able to accomplish more under Trump Presidency

Here’s one that is going to send some heads spinning:

Over the past 11 months, the US House has been cranking out the conservative work, with a list of 400+ bills – including a repeal/replacement of Obamacare, pro-life provisions, the resources needed to fulfill President Trump’s border wall proposal, regulatory rollbacks, and much more.

Your thoughts?

Please… stop embarrassing yourself.

The (likely Stace Nelson ran) GOP Accountability Project that has put out report cards that only Stace Nelson uses as reference was lobbing insults a couple of weeks ago via facebook at the Governor and outgoing Secretary of Education Melody Schopp:

Um. Yeah.. the insult kind of falls flat if you know Katy Perry wasn’t the one who sang “Call me maybe.”  (Maybe Stace should vote more funding for arts education this next session?)

South Dakota Dems looking forward to the 2688 Election Cycle

From The Democrat website Drinking Liberally Sioux Falls:

Turning to the South Dakota Democratic Party (SDDP), in September we noted that Democratic voter registration declined statewide from a high of 38.4% of all registered voters in 2009 to a current low of 30.5% today. In absolute terms, the Republican registration advantage over Democrats increased by 48,567, from 36,688 in 2009 to 85,231 today giving the GOP an average advantage of 2436 votes in each of South Dakota’s 35 legislative districts.

We are happy to report that, since September, the SDDP has reversed this trend and lowered the Republican advantage by 24 voters. I congratulate the SDDP. At this rate, Democrats will reach parity with Republicans in about 670 years. Patience is the word.

Read that here.

Good to hear South Dakota Democrats are making progress, and are ready for the 2688 election cycle 670 years from now.

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: For Many South Dakota Families, Every Day is Veterans Day

For Many South Dakota Families, Every Day is Veterans Day
By Sen. John Thune

For South Dakota families that have a loved one who is either currently serving in the military, has already hung up his or her uniform, or whose beloved service member is no longer with us, every day is Veterans Day. These family members are proud of their mom or dad, son or daughter, and every day is an opportunity to celebrate and honor them. Speaking from personal experience, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my dad and his service to the nation during World War II. And as the world has become increasingly complex and dangerous, I am reminded daily of the freedoms and security we enjoy because of the selfless service of our veterans across our state and nation.

For folks without a family connection to a veteran or the military in general, the level of respect is no less. Veterans are an integral part of our community – they’re our colleagues, our friends, and our neighbors. No matter the connection, though, every November 11, we all pause to draw special attention to the service and sacrifice made by the men and women in uniform who have served or continue to serve here and around the world.

While Veterans Day is a time for ceremonies and parades, it’s also an opportunity for all of us to reflect on the sacrifice America’s war heroes have made over the generations and the contributions they’ve made to the strength of our democracy. It’s because of them that we’re still able to call America a beacon of hope and opportunity around the world.

This year, for the first time ever, the president has designated the entire month of November as Veterans and Military Families Month. Following the president’s proclamation, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary David Shulkin said, “Our veterans and military families are an important part of our lives throughout the year, and by focusing for the first time nationally on a whole month of activities nationwide for Veterans and Military Families Month, we can more fully celebrate and recognize their contributions to the nation.” I’m glad to see the administration is focused on this important issue.

Particularly for me as a legislator, an important part of honoring America’s veterans is ensuring we’ve got their back when they leave the front lines of the battlefield and return home to potential challenges with furthering their education, finding a good-paying job, and staying healthy.

This year alone, Congress has sent several critical bills to the president for his signature, including the “Forever GI Bill,” which expands veterans’ eligibility for GI Bill benefits. We also passed the VA Choice and Quality Employment Act and the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act, both of which have been signed into law.

I’m especially happy to report that earlier this year, Secretary Shulkin quickly acted on my request to more prominently feature the Veterans Crisis Line on the VA’s website, www.VA.gov. The line is open 24 hours per day, seven days per week, and veterans can reach out any time by texting 838255 or calling 1-800-273-8255 and pressing one. I appreciate his responsiveness on this important issue and will continue to engage with him on issues impacting South Dakota veterans.

Let’s never forget the reasons why America has so much to celebrate and be thankful for, and let’s never compromise in our collective effort to ensure America’s veterans have the tools, resources, support, and respect they need and deserve once their military service has ended.

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