House Passes Noem Bill to Protect Families Challenged by Drug Abuse

House Passes Noem Bill to Protect Families Challenged by Drug Abuse 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Kristi Noem today led the House in passing H.R.2857, the Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act, which aims to strengthen a state or tribe’s ability to keep families together through the parent’s drug addiction treatment. 

Earlier this month, South Dakota released new data showing accidental drug overdose deaths in the state climbed 59 percent between 2013 and 2016. Additionally, between 2005 and 2015, both drug-related arrests and the violent crime rate nearly doubled in the state.

“Drug treatment programs that keep families together and children out of foster care have proven to produce better outcomes for both the parent and child,” said Noem. “Even so, government-induced barriers exist that make a family-focused approach difficult. I’m hopeful the Supporting Families in Substance Abuse Treatment Act will offer another evidence-based tool to those on the drug abuse epidemic’s front line, helping them strengthen families and change lives.”

Under H.R.2857, states and tribes would have the authority to grant federal foster care support payments to children while placed with a parent in a residential, family-based treatment facility. 

In addition to H.R.2857, the House today passed H.R.2834, the Partnership Grants to Strengthen Families Affected by Parental Substance Abuse Act. Led by Reps. Noem and Danny Davis, this bipartisan legislation would also help keep families together by strengthening the Regional Partnership Grant program. This program provides funding to state and regional grantees seeking to provide evidence-based services to prevent child abuse and neglect related to substance abuse.  


Thune Statement on House Passage of Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act

Thune Statement on House Passage of Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act

“As today’s economy and workforce continue to evolve, so too must Congress and our approach to reforming outdated laws that hinder, rather than spur, economic growth.”

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), a member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, today issued the following statement after the House of Representatives passed its version of the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act. In March 2017, Thune and Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) reintroduced the Senate version of the legislation (S. 540) that, like its House counterpart, would simplify and standardize state income tax collection for employees who travel outside of their home state for temporary work assignments.

“As today’s economy and workforce continue to evolve, so too must Congress and our approach to reforming outdated laws that hinder, rather than spur, economic growth,” said Thune. “Members of Congress from across the ideological spectrum support the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act, which is why I’m hopeful the Senate can do its part to quickly send this common-sense legislation to the president for his signature.”

While some states require state income tax filing for as little as one day of work in the state, S. 540 would establish a common-sense 30-day threshold to help ensure that an equitable tax is paid to the state and local jurisdiction where the work is being performed while alleviating burdensome tax requirements on employees and their employers. 

This bipartisan legislation currently has nearly 40 co-sponsors in the Senate and is supported by over 300 organizations and business groups nationwide, including the South Dakota CPA Society.


Noem’s Women, Peace, and Security Act Passes House

Noem’s Women, Peace, and Security Act Passes House

Washington, D.C. – Sponsored by Rep. Kristi Noem, H.R.2484, the Women, Peace, and Security Act, today passed the U.S. House of Representatives with unanimous support. This bipartisan legislation would require the U.S. to develop a comprehensive strategy to increase and strengthen women’s participation in peace negotiations and conflict prevention globally.

“Conflict knows no gender, just as peace should know no gender,” said Noem. “Even so, it’s true women are often impacted by conflict differently than their male counterparts. In some cases, terrorist groups, like ISIL, traffic women to generate revenue. In other cases, it’s women who primarily manage a war-torn country’s economy, as they keep markets, schools and the like running while their sons, brothers and husbands fight. In either case, it’s critical their voice be heard. Through meaningful congressional oversight, the Women, Peace, and Security Act will help ensure women gain a seat at the negotiating table. I’m hopeful this will help produce longer-lasting results – particularly in areas where increased stability can create greater security for the United States.”

Research shows that peace agreement is 35 percent more likely to last at least 15 years when women are involved. While some work has been done to include women at the negotiating table, this legislation would require a focused strategy with greater congressional oversight.

Companion legislation has been introduced in the Senate.


To ban, or not to ban. Out of state money is the question.

From the Argus Leader:

If 2016 was the year out-of-state dollars poured into the state to influence votes on ballot initiatives and constitutional amendments, 2018 should be the year South Dakota decides to put a stop to that practice, Rep. Mark Mickelson said Monday night.

After pushing an unsuccessful set of proposals in the Statehouse that would have set limits or required disclosure about who donates to certain dark money groups, the Sioux Falls Republican says he’ll bring a proposal to block out-of-state funds from the ballot measure process entirely.


The non-partisan Legislative Research Council in its assessment of the bill raised red flags about whether the proposal would be constitutional. The Supreme Court has previously ruled against limits on donations to ballot measure campaigns, saying the gifts constitute political speech.

Ben Lee, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said aiming to outlaw businesses or groups is the wrong approach when many entities span across geographic borders. The former director of the campaign to defeat Initiated Measure 22 said the measure could profoundly limit individuals’ free political speech.

“Our state had some goofy things happen in 2016, but silencing citizens’ voices as a response is a step in the wrong direction,” Lee said.

Read it all here.

When it comes to ballot measures and out of state money –  “To ban, or not to ban?”  That’s a darned good question.

For every Rick Weiland funneling in money from out of state for goofy unconstitutional measures, there’s an AFP marshaling forces to fight them. For every “yet another” pot legalization measure taking in national money to try to legalize what is now illegal, there’s a Verizon Cellular phone company with offices all over the state who is legitimately fighting a cell phone tax.

I think Mark Mickelson is a person with good intentions. So is Ben Lee.  What’s the answer?  Is there an answer that’s a happy medium?  I don’t have that answer. And there may not be one. And whatever may be proposed needs to have a hard look at the unintended consequences.

Personally, I hold out the example of the State of South Dakota’s pseudoephedrine law. Used to be if you were a sinus sufferer (as I am during the cold & allergy season) you could buy it over the counter.  Because bad people can make meth with it, and lawmakers thought something needed to be done about it, you can still buy it over the counter, but now you have to produce a government ID and be entered into a registry.

A government registry for buying cold and allergy medication.  Did that solve the meth problem? Oh my, no. It’s as bad as it ever was.

What these laws providing restrictions and reporting requirements did in the process was to make us less free by subjecting us to a government registry.

If we believe we live in a free country, then we need to practice what we preach. The freedom to support causes and candidates of our choosing should not be infringed upon.

If a proposal makes us less free, then the cure might be worse than the disease.

Attorney says South Dakota needs a law to solve the Work Comp problem. How bad is that problem…?

From the Rapid City Journal, a solution in search of a problem in the area of Worker’s Compensation:

South Dakota doesn’t have a state law that explicitly requires companies to provide workers’ compensation insurance coverage for employees, according to a Rapid City lawyer who represents people who say they’ve been hurt while at their jobs.

“This is unfair not only to the employees, but it’s unfair to the other employers,” attorney James Leach told state government’s Workers Compensation Advisory Council members Monday.

Leach suggested businesses have sidestepped responsibility, sometimes by declaring bankruptcy after a claim was made, but he didn’t know the frequency.

“I don’t think it’s a large number. It’s a small number,” Leach said. “I don’t know what the answer is.”

Read it here.

Don’t get me wrong. I think there are are areas of improvement that could be made in the protection of workers from having to bear the cost of on-the-job injuries. But, without knowing the extent of the problem, how can it be solved?

In one of my other jobs, I manage claims administration for an insurance agency, and write on various insurance related topics when I have time. Trust me, in the insurance industry many are acutely aware of the need for employers to have coverage, primarily because some of the penalties for not having it can be harsh.  Arguably, the most draconian would be California:

Failing to have workers’ compensation coverage is a criminal offense. If the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement (DLSE) determines that an employer is operating without workers’ compensation coverage, a stop order will be issued. This order prohibits the use of employee labor until coverage is obtained, and failure to observe it is a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment in the county jail for up to 60 days, a fine of up to $10,000, or both.

Read that here.

How would you like to go to jail because you don’t carry a type of insurance? South Dakota takes a far different approach than a state such as California, leaving it a bit more open ended in that if you don’t have coverage, you’re self-funding.  But that can also be a terribly risky proposition in the face of a worker being injured. It could potentially wipe a business owner out.

Is there a good solution? Hard to tell. It’s a Catch-22 of instituting more government oversight & regulation on one hand, versus leaving a lot of workers having to trust that their employer is smart, and has purchased the insurance coverage they should have if they have employees.

Press Release: Rounds, Durbin Introduce Bill to Help Families of Wounded Warriors

Rounds, Durbin Introduce Bill to Help Families of Wounded Warriors

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) today introduced legislation to help make certain wounded warriors and their families are fully aware of the services available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) caregiver program. The Caregiver Program Information Improvement Act of 2017 would require the caregiver program to be added to the list of statutorily-mandated counseling items for service members pending separation from the Department of Defense.

“Our wounded warriors are among the best and bravest our country has to offer,” said Rounds. “Unfortunately, they are often the most vulnerable. Many require around-the-clock care long after their service to our country, placing additional burdens on their loved ones who become their caregivers. The VA has programs in place to assist loved ones with their transition into the caregiver role, but too often we have heard from families that they were unaware of the VA’s caregiver program. Making sure they are fully aware of the support and resources available to them is but one step we can take to ease the challenges of our injured service members and their families, who have sacrificed so much defending our freedoms.”

“America owes each and every veteran a great debt of gratitude,” said Durbin. “The VA Family Caregivers Program proved it can make a difference in the lives of our service members and the dedicated caregivers who made the decision to care for them. Ensuring that every veteran is educated about this program will make countless more families aware of their eligibility for critical homecare services and financial assistance.”

The VA caregiver program allows the VA to provide benefits to eligible caregivers who support a wounded veteran who sustained a serious injury and is in need of personal care services. Services available to caregivers through the program include travel expenses, access to health care insurance, mental health services and counseling, VA caregiver training and a monthly stipend.

In addition to requiring the caregiver program to be added to the list of counseling items, the bill would include:

  1. A requirement that all service members be asked if they have a caregiver at home, and
  2. A requirement for identified caregivers to be invited into appropriate sessions of DOD pre-separation counselling with the transitioning service member in order to facilitate a better understanding not only of the services available to the caregiver but also how the transition will impact the caregiver as well as the service member.

The original VA family caregivers program was created by a Durbin-authored provision in the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009, which was enacted in 2010. In recent years, Durbin introduced the VA Family Caregivers Expansion and Improvement Act, which expands eligibility for the VA Caregivers program to support veteran caregivers of all service eras. The VA Caregivers program helps ensure that veterans as well as their caregivers receive the support they need and deserve, and significantly outweighs costs associated with alternative, institutionalized care.

# # #

Former Rapid City Dem candidate trying to blame Donald Trump for Bernie Sanders campaign volunteer shooter? 

Predictably, calls for unity didn’t last long. 

On the Argus Leader website, Rapid City (District 32) Democrat State Senate candidate David Hubbard is in the newspaper actually trying to blame Republicans and Donald Trump for the Bernie Sanders campaign worker who attempted to murder several Congressman in Washington DC:

Republicans who blame Democrats for the recent [Republican Congressional baseball practice] shooting are deflecting blame. Conservatives cut funding to aid the mentally ill, while simultaneously allowing them to purchase firearms.

This issue is divisiveness caused by people like the President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers with their inability to crack down on lawlessness by their own supporters. Hate crimes have risen.

It’s time for those who openly call for violence against others (i.e. President Trump) to take responsibility for their hate-filled rhetoric. Do not place all the blame on liberals or Democrats, conservatives and Republicans have been openly calling for violence since Trump became their candidate.

While I renounce the attack, I have to ask, “Trump, what the hell do you think was going to happen?” Isn’t this exactly what he has been calling for? Violence?

Read that here.

This issue is divisiveness caused by people like the President Donald Trump and Republican lawmakers?” 

Wow.  Former candidate Hubbard is doing some serious acrobatics to try to somehow shift blame to Republicans for the action of the shooter, and manufacture a claim that “conservatives and Republicans have been openly calling for violence since Trump became their candidate.

Maybe that’s the exact kind of hate which is the problem that started it all in the first place.

Dems pick next 1st Mate of the Titanic (a.k.a., Executive director)

South Dakota Democrats are announcing tonight that they have picked “the next first mate of the Titanic,” otherwise known as the democrat state party executive director:

South Dakota Democratic Party Announces New Executive Director

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – The South Dakota Democratic Party today announced the hiring of Sam Parkinson as its new Executive Director.

“I am pleased to announce our Interim Executive Director, Sam Parkinson, has accepted the position on a permanent basis,” said Ann Tornberg, South Dakota Democratic Party Chair. “Sam has been a real asset to the Party through his work as Finance Director and Interim Executive Director. I look forward to his leadership working alongside our talented and dedicated staff, our energized volunteers, and our growing list of candidates for 2018.”

“I’m excited to take on the role of Executive Director for the South Dakota Democratic Party,” said Parkinson. “The Party is seeing a new surge of interest and energy from South Dakotans looking for a change from the corrupt and out-of-touch political establishment in Pierre. I am committed to build upon this great new energy so Democrats have a successful election in 2018.”

Parkinson has served as Finance Director for the South Dakota Democratic Party since August of 2015 and became Interim Executive Director in April of this year. Parkinson holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Dakota, majoring in Political Science. He grew up in Rapid City and is a graduate of Rapid City Stevens High School. Parkinson previously interned in the South Dakota Legislature for then-House Minority Leader Bernie Hunhoff and was a Young Elected Legislative Leaders Fellow during the 2014 election cycle.

So, is Parkinson going to be able to stick around after the next scheduled attempt to get rid of Ann Tornberg, set for July 8th?

This could be a very short term job.

The Watertown Mayoral Race – will early voting matter as much as the campaign?

If you’ve been watching SDWC, as well as seeing some of the postings from Watertown locals on Facebook, you’ll know there’s a heated election up in Watertown tomorrow.

There’s the Mayoral race which has gathered a bit of attention, as well as a City Council Race. The word out of the City is that there has been a strong early voting (or in-person absentee, if we’re getting technical) trend which might show strong interest in a race that would normally be decided on by about 2200 people in a good year.

So how is that going to all fall out? Your guess is as good as mine.

As I had written a couple of weeks back during this month’s Sioux Falls School Board election, early voting could account for up to 30 percent of the turnout:

When the number of votes coming in early ranges anywhere from 20% to 30%, it’s an indication that candidates need to pay very strong attention to a campaign where people are voting 45 days out – all the way back into September in a general election.


The Absentee/Early Voter needs to be part of any campaign strategy, and in light of numbers approaching 30%, they need to be courted and have sufficient resources devoted towards attracting their favor.

In other words, The Early Bird Catches the Early Voting Worm.

Read that here.

Where is that early voting bump going to land in Watertown?  That’s a good question. There was a lot of turmoil right around the time early voting began.

WHAT IS THIS MESS? I think it’s some sort of a newspaper ad.

The mayor had some negative press early on, and the local newspaper has crusaded against him constantly, but it is unclear whether the challenger was ever able to fully capitalize on it.  Sarah Caron’s job was to convince voters that they made a poor decision in electing the current mayor a few years back, and they needed to rectify that error.

All the Mayor has to do was to convince people they made a good choice before, and to stay the course. Which is why the power of incumbency is so powerful. OF COURSE people made the right choice. Ask anyone if they make bad decisions – they’ll always tell you that they’re right!

Rushmore PAC postcard

I’m hearing from people on the ground in Watertown that the sign wars were about equal, but in her campaigning, Caron’ was seemingly gaining some steam…. but peaked about 2 weeks ago, and then fell off the planet. Right about the time Caron was fizzling, the Mayor’s campaign efforts were continuous and ongoing, and last week a multiple postcard barrage as well as a door-to-door push arrived from Rushmore PAC in support of his candidacy.

I had one local political prognosticator tell me they see the vote potentially shaking out as 50%+ for Thorson, maybe up to 40% for Caron, with the rest for Mike Davis. Although, they also thought Davis might pull more strongly than 10%, fracturing and dividing the anti-mayor vote, and ensuring the incumbent returns to office.

With a race that close, as noted, depending on whose message was able to penetrate the most effectively in the early stages of the election, the 20-30% of the electorate who participated in early voting in the contest may play a significant factor in determining who walks away a winner, and who will be licking their wounds after tomorrow night.

Could it be close enough that it goes to a runoff, if no one gets over 50%? It’s possible.  But if I were to guess, which I am since I’m not in that town, I think the stronger money is on the incumbent at this point.

So, if you’re wondering how it will all turn out, hop on Al Gore’s Internets tomorrow night and keep an eye on the 2017 Watertown Municipal Election!

Attorney General Explanations Released for Four Constitutional Amendments Regarding Campaign Finance and Lobbying Laws

Attorney General Explanations Released for Four Constitutional Amendments Regarding Campaign Finance and Lobbying Laws

PIERRE, S.D. – South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley announced today that Attorney General Explanations for four separate proposed constitutional amendments have been filed with the Secretary of State. For each Amendment, the statement will appear on a petition that will be circulated by the sponsor. If the sponsor obtains a sufficient number of signatures (27,741) by November 6, 2017, as certified by the Secretary of State, the amendment will be placed on the ballot for the November 2018 general election.

  1. An initiated amendment to the South Dakota Constitution changing campaign finance and lobbying laws, creating a government accountability board, and changing certain initiative and referendum (VERSION #1)
  2. An initiated amendment to the South Dakota Constitution changing campaign finance and lobbying laws, creating a government accountability board, and changing certain initiative and referendum provisions. (VERSION #2)
  3. An initiated amendment to the South Dakota Constitution changing campaign finance and lobbying laws, and creating a government accountability board. (VERSION #3)
  4. An initiated amendment to the South Dakota Constitution changing campaign finance and lobbying laws, and creating a government accountability board. (VERSION #4)

Under South Dakota law, the Attorney General is responsible for preparing explanations for proposed initiated measures, referred laws, and South Dakota Constitutional Amendments. Specifically, the explanation includes a title, an objective, clear and simple summary of the purpose and effect of the proposed amendment and a description of the legal consequences. The Attorney General Explanation is not a statement either for or against the proposed amendment.

AG Statements for 4 Initiated Constitutional Amendments 6.19.2017 by Pat Powers on Scribd

To date the Attorney General has released Attorney General Explanations for the following:

  1. An initiated measure requiring students to use rooms designated for the same biological sex, and requiring public schools to provide a reasonable accommodation for students whose gender identity is not the same as their biological sex
  2. An initiated measure authorizing a South Dakota-licensed physician to prescribe drugs that a terminally ill patient may take for the purpose of ending life
  3. An initiated measure to legalize marijuana for medical use
  4. An initiated measure to legalize certain amounts of marijuana, drugs made from marijuana, and drug paraphernalia, and to regulate and tax marijuana establishments
  5. An initiated measure requiring people to use certain rooms designated for the same biological sex
  6. An initiated measure to legalize all quantities of marijuana
  7. An amendment to the South Dakota Constitution regarding initiated and referred measures.