Governor holding firm against expanding Medicaid to able-bodied adults.

In the Argus Leader this morning, Governor Dennis Daugaard’s opposition to the expansion of Medicaid is discussed.

Governor Daugaard says things are stuck at the moment, with taxpayers aren’t ready to expand Medicaid to all 48,000 uncovered at this time with many of them being able-bodied adults, and the federal government unwilling to compromise to allow South Dakota to cover a portion of them:

Expanding Medicaid as prescribed under the Affordable Care Act would eventually cost the state an extra $36 million a year. In contrast, he said, the state this year is only seeing an increase in revenues of $49 million, which is money the state needs to increase funding to education and other programs.

Still, Daugaard said he understands there is need among the poorest adults for expanded medical coverage under Medicaid.

“I’m open to considering their lot,” he said. “But the president has said it’s all or nothing. And 48,000 people is too big of a bite, in my estimation.”

Read it all here in the Argus Leader.

Butte County GOP chairman demanding “Public Official Loyalty Pledge.” Is that supposed to somehow help?

This newspaper ad appeared in the Faith Independent newspaper as an advertisement on January 7th from James Pietila, Chairman of the Butte County Republican Central Committee.

In this ad, the county party notes Senator Betty Olson and Representative Sam Marty signed the pledge. It holds out Speaker of the House Dean Wink for declining to sign, and notes no response from Representative Tom Brunner, nor Senator Gary Cammack for the groups’ “Public Officials Loyalty Pledge.”

party_loyalty_OathAm I the only one who remembers those days of yore when Republican party organizations worked to get Republicans elected? Instead of beating them up, and trying to throw them to the wolves?

And, who benefits from the action taken by this county chair?  Possible primary campaign opponents? Possibly?  Democrat challengers who might try to take an opportunity to further the dis-unity? More likely.

The fact is that at the extremes, there are those in the party who demand blind subservience to how they individually interpret the GOP Platform. And there are elected officials who believe their loyalty is solely to the broad base of voters (on any side of the aisle) who cast a ballot for them, and not a political organization.

Except for his last campaign against Tim Johnson, Larry Pressler was an example of the latter, and often spent his time fighting with the party leaders. The dwindling number of Gordon Howie-ites would be an example of those who interpret and dispense their pronouncements on who is and is not following the platform.  As they run as independents against Republicans, and try to re-register as Republicans when the election is over.

In either extreme, I’m not sure how any of them build the Republican party and pay it forward – to further the goal of electing all Republicans to office. Because what Mr. Pietila did failed to manage anything close to that. And isn’t what he was supposedly elected to be chairman for?

In this case, I don’t think I can point out any instance of the people Mr. Pietila called out for not signing his “Public Official Loyalty Pledge” for any non-Republican behavior. None at all.  So, I’m not sure why this ad needed to be placed? In case Obamacare suddenly breaks out all over?

If you look at this, “the loyalty pledge” was adopted back in July! So what purpose did it serve to run in January, other than to take a backhanded slap at people?

Leading up to the general election, according to pre-general and year end reports, the Butte County GOP raised $300 and didn’t report spending any of it to elect the candidates to office that they’re now demanding a loyalty oath of. Yet, I’m sure this advertisement cost the county party money (despite the fact it illegally lacks a disclaimer).

So, at least to this outsider across the state, on the surface, it looks like the Butte County Chairman spent more of the County GOP’s bank account to call out and attempt to embarrass Republican office holders after the election than they did to elect them in the election.

Maybe it’s just me, I’m not sure how this promotes a stronger Republican party in South Dakota.

State Representative Steve Westra Announces South Dakotan’s for Jeb Bush Group

From a release:
IMG_1254.PNGState Representative Steve Westra Announces South Dakotan’s for Jeb Bush Group

PIERRE, South Dakota – (January 20, 2015) – Today State Representative Steve Westra (R-SD), announced the formation of the South Dakotans for Jeb Bush group. “South Dakota has the opportunity to create one of the first grassroots efforts to encourage Jeb Bush to seek and win the Presidency of the United States,” said Westra. “Jeb Bush is as conservative as South Dakota. His views align with the majority of South Dakota voters who want limited government, balanced budgets, and a strong America.”

Rep. Westra today unveiled a Facebook site that will collect the names and contact information of South Dakota voters who want to be counted as early Jeb Bush backers. The group is encouraging those who want to send a signal of support to Jeb Bush to visit . Supporters who visit the Facebook page like the page and enter their name on the petition will be submitted to Jeb Bush at the end of February.

Bush announced in December of 2014 that he was creating a Presidential exploratory committee. “We want to send a clear message to Jeb Bush, that just as South Dakotans stood with his Dad and his brother, we will stand with him,” said Westra. “Jeb Bush shares South Dakota values on guns, protection of the unborn, a strong defense, and conservative fiscal policy. Now is the time for South Dakota voters to play an early role in the upcoming 2016 Presidential election, by registering your support for Jeb Bush.”

“This is an all-volunteer effort by South Dakotans to show Jeb Bush that we will strongly support him and his message of positive conservativism to help restore opportunity to South Dakota and America,” said Westra. “At the end of this push we will send to Jeb Bush the names of his early South Dakota supporters, and hope that this send the early message that we need Jeb Bush to run and win the Presidency of the United States.”

Representative Steve Westra was recently elected to the position of the Assistant House Majority Leader by his fellow South Dakota Republican legislators. Representative Westra serves District 13 in South Dakota which includes parts of Minnehaha and Lincoln County. He is the Chief Operating Officer at Hegg Companies, Inc.

Steve Westra,
South Dakota State Representative for District 13
[email protected]

Adam Timmerman,
Coordinator for South Dakotan’s for Jeb Bush
[email protected]


What are your thoughts on the proposed citizenship test requirement for high school students? My view? Meh.

If I dug hard enough in my boxes of “stuff” in my garage, somewhere I have an early 50’s Iowa grade school report card for my mother (who passed away 14 years ago), where it had a specific printed line item for the grade she had earned in ‘citizenship.’

The understanding of it back then was an abstract judgement of how you conduct yourself in normal society. And in some schools, it’s used yet today with phrases such as “_______ is a very dependable student. She frequently helps her classmates without being asked to do so. Thank-you for your help” scribbled in the margin as an explanatory/praising phrase on the report card.  Basically, a nice way to classify a child’s behavior amongst their peers.

Articles have been appearing in the media recently about how a group in South Dakota (as well as in 6 other states) want to take the definition beyond getting along with your peers, and require actual state level testing on actual citizenship:

“It’s kind of a no-brainer,” state coordinator Georgia Hanson said. “The kids should know this stuff.”


South Dakota schools already must cover statehood and the United States Constitution, “not later than the opening of the eighth grade and shall continue in the high school,” according to state law.

But Hanson’s group would go a step further.

Starting with the 2016-17 school year, the North Dakota measure would require all public, private, and home school students to answer at least 60 percent of questions on the test correctly to be eligible for a diploma. Students can take the test once a year, any time between seventh grade and graduation.


Organizers for the South Dakota initiative plan to introduce a bill for the 2015 legislative session, though Hanson said there was no rush.

“We’ve got time here to get this put together, and we want to make sure that everybody has a chance to either sponsor it or support it,” Hanson said.

Read it here.

The South Dakota law the article mentions (but fails to cite) is SDCL 13-33-4, which reads:

13-33-4.   Instruction on United States and state Constitutions required–Years when given. In all public and nonpublic schools located within the state there shall be given regular courses of instruction in the Constitutions of the United States and the State of South Dakota. Such instruction shall begin not later than the opening of the eighth grade and shall continue in the high school to an extent to be determined by the South Dakota Board of Education.

The law goes back to the state’s codification of laws back in 1939, and may pre-date it even further.  So it’s not as if South Dakota ignores a basic need for this type of instruction.  I don’t have a problem with this broad kind of guidance.

Maybe it’s my contrarian nature, but I can’t escape the notion in my head that the proposal being floated seems like yet another legislative measure for yet another standardized test for yet another graduation requirement. Yes, it’s about things that kids should know, but it’s also coming in the form of a mandate that a special interest wants to see thrust upon school children. And I’m quite sure that it will be administered without funding, leaving it at the expense of school districts and the state.

Before we get too far down the road on a bill being introduced, I think I’d raise the question of how adding this graduation requirement and changing the state’s legal requirement on instruction for the US Constitution was received by the South Dakota Board of Education when it was presented to them.

If it was ever presented to them.

If the parents in the state feel the instruction that schools are currently offering in this area is somehow deficient, the State BOE standards for that type of curriculum should be the first place to look. Going down the legislative path just opens the door for the “Why SDSU is better than USD” standardized graduation requirement, or the “Blogs are Awesome” curriculum law.

And that’s the last thing schools need from the state legislature.

But, that’s just my 2 cents worth.  What do you think?

(If you’re interested in finding out what the current graduation requirements are, there’s a 24 page booklet from the DOE available to view on-line.)

Sooo…… Am I the only one who thought the John Kerry/James Taylor diplomacy towards France was the oddest thing I’ve ever seen?

I hadn’t gotten to it because of being down with the flu last week.

But, am I the only one who thought the John Kerry/James Taylor diplomacy towards France was one of the weirdest things they’d ever seen?

First, the Administration screws up what should have been a staggeringly easy show of solidarity with our NATO partner. And then they followed it up with this weirdness?

What are your thoughts?

Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: A Better Road Ahead

A Better Road Ahead
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardThis week, I delivered my State of the State address on the opening day of the South Dakota State Legislature. I used a major portion of that address to discuss South Dakota’s roads and bridges.

In a rural state like South Dakota, good quality roads are our lifeline. And right now, our roads are underfunded. In all corners of the state, we have road funding needs. State highways, municipal streets, county oil, township gravel, and hundreds of rural bridges are in need of additional maintenance.

Sixteen years ago, when I was a state senator and Bill Janklow was governor, the Legislature implemented the current 22-cent-a-gallon fuel tax.  Since then, construction costs have doubled, but our gas tax hasn’t.  It is still 22 cents per gallon.

We have 82,000 miles of roadway in South Dakota, many of which are in disrepair. Between local roads and state highways, we could easily spend another $150 million per year. We have nearly 1,400 bridges that are still safe, but structurally deficient or functionally obsolete. The replacement cost for those structures is about $240 million.

In 2003, $1 million would buy 7.8 miles of asphalt overlay, 1.5 miles of rural roadway reconstruction, and about 0.4 miles of urban concrete roadway reconstruction. In 2013, just 10 years later, that same $1 million could only overlay or reconstruct about half as many miles of roadway.

Our state highway system is South Dakota’s most valuable physical asset, and if we want to maintain it, we must act now. That is why I am proposing a road and bridge funding bill that meets the need at both state and local levels. My proposal generates about $50 million more this year, and in the long run it will permanently fix the current imbalance between road construction needs and funding.

When President Ronald Reagan proposed a gas tax increase in 1982, he said this: “America can’t afford throwaway roads or disposable transit systems. The bridges and highways we fail to repair today will have to be rebuilt tomorrow at many times the cost.”

President Reagan was exactly right. This year we need to fix this problem, for good.

Maintaining our roads and bridges is one of the most fundamental functions of government, and it is vital for this year and for decades to come. I don’t want to leave this problem to future generations.


Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Hitting the Ground Running

Hitting the Ground Running
By Rep. Kristi Noem
January 16, 2015

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Over the last few years, thousands of South Dakotans have reached out to me about the Affordable Care Act – or as most people refer to it, “Obamacare.”  Undoubtedly, there are a handful of people who have talked about the new access they’ve received, but the vast majority have contacted me about the problems they’ve faced – whether that’s significantly higher costs for their family, new restraints on their small business, or concerns about losing the healthcare coverage they trust, as it’s already gotten their family through some pretty serious medical situations.

By this time, most people reading this column understand that I want to fully repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and replace it with a patient-centered plan that gives you more control over your healthcare while simultaneously targeting the elements of healthcare that are driving insurance costs up, such as frivolous lawsuits and a lack of competition.  I’ve voted numerous times to repeal the legislation and have put forward an alternate plan, but I remain convinced that repeal is not possible under this President.  To him, this is his legacy and so he will veto any full repeal.  And while we have hopes to overcome some presidential vetoes with the new Republican majority in the Senate, there is not enough support from Democrats to override a veto on the repeal of ACA.

While I remain committed to ultimately replacing the President’s healthcare law, I will do what I can today to lessen its impact on South Dakotans. With just two weeks under our belt in 2015, I’ve already helped the U.S. House of Representatives pass three reforms this year that specifically benefit veterans, volunteer firefighters, and small businesses.

The first, the Save American Workers Act, updates ACA’s definition of “full-time” – something I’ve talked to many South Dakota small businesses about in the last few years.  Under ACA, full-time was defined as 30 hours per week – rather than the traditional 40 hours per week.  The 30-hour definition is almost unheard of.  Even France defines full-time as 35 hours per week.

As a result, some hourly workers – including many in the services industry – saw their time being cut from 40 hours per week to 29.  Fewer hours means less pay.  Through the Save American Workers Act, we aim to save workers from having their hours cut.  This legislation passed with bipartisan support, 252-172.

We also passed the Hire More Heroes Act.  Under ACA, employers with more than 50 full-time workers must help employees pay for insurance through an employer-sponsored plan or face a penalty.  But many veterans receive healthcare through Tricare or the VA.  The Hire More Heroes Act says that veterans don’t count toward ACA’s 50-employee threshold.  I’m hopeful it will encourage folks to hire more of our heroes, while also allowing small businesses to grow without being held back by ACA’s red tape.  This legislation passed the House unanimously.

Finally, we made similar exceptions for volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel, as most receive healthcare through other means.  I’m hopeful this legislation, which also passed the House unanimously, will help preserve precious emergency response dollars.

These three reforms are expected to be considered in the Senate soon, but they continue to face an uphill climb in the White House.  Nonetheless, I remain hopeful that we’ll be able to get some reforms enacted.


US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Agriculture Remains a Top Priority in the New Congress

Agriculture Remains a Top Priority in the New Congress
By Senator John Thune

John_Thune_official_photoLast year’s passage of the 2014 Farm Bill was a significant step forward for South Dakota farmers, ranchers, and agri-businesses, as it included critical livestock assistance and a secure crop insurance program. While not perfect, the bill provided important reforms to the previous Farm Bill to help move ag policy into the 21st century. As we move into the new session of Congress guided by a Republican majority in the House and Senate, ag policy remains a top priority for me.

As South Dakota’s senior senator, lone member of the delegation serving on a congressional agriculture committee, member of the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, and chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, my committee assignments provide unique opportunities to address key agriculture priorities.

My role as chairman of the Commerce Committee will help strengthen South Dakota’s rail, transportation, and telecommunications infrastructure, which is important to keeping our agriculture and business economy strong and healthy. This past harvest season, agriculture producers were hit particularly hard by the rail service backlogs. As chairman of the Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over transportation issues, I will continue working closely with the Surface Transportation Board, which has direct oversight over our railroads to prevent future backlogs from occurring.

As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax and trade issues, I am committed to working toward tax reform that will simplify the tax system. Comprehensive tax reform is particularly important for farmers who pay taxes at the individual rates. According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, more than 96 percent of farms and 75 percent of farm sales are taxed at the individual tax rates. I will also be reintroducing my legislation to repeal the federal estate tax, better known as the death tax. Protecting South Dakota agriculture from the confiscatory and unfair death tax is critical if we want to allow family farms to pass to the next generation.

South Dakota’s agriculture industry is very dependent on exports, with more than 40 percent of its annual soybean crop sent overseas. As a Member of the Finance Committee, I will fight for Trade Promotion Authority and favorable trade agreements to open new markets abroad to South Dakota’s agricultural products.

Finally, as a member of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, I will continue to keep a watchful eye on the implementation of the 2014 Farm Bill. Crop insurance is the most important safety net tool for our state’s farmers. Thanks to crop insurance and past federal Farm Bill programs, most farmers have been able to sustain their operations while providing the safest and most affordable food supply in the world. I will continue to advocate for South Dakota’s farmers and ranchers as the U.S. Department of Agriculture implements Farm Bill commodity programs, conservation programs, and other important agriculture programs.

Agriculture is the backbone of South Dakota’s economy. As your U.S. Senator I am eager to work on the pressing issues facing South Dakota, and I look forward to being a strong voice in Washington for the South Dakota agriculture industry.


US Senator Mike Rounds Weekly Column: Time to Pass Keystone XL Legislation

Time to Pass Keystone XL Legislation
By Senator Mike Rounds
Jan. 16, 2015

MikeRounds official SenateOne of the first items the 114th Congress is taking up is a bill that would authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. A long-time supporter of the project, it was the first bill I signed onto when I took office. The pipeline would bring new sources of energy, create tens of thousands of jobs in the U.S. and free up rail space for South Dakota crops to be sold.

Unfortunately, this project has been politicized by this Administration. By refusing to approve the project – despite having studied it for seven years and undeniable evidence showing that it should be built – the President gives Congress little choice but to take matters into our own hands. With a new Republican majority in both chambers of Congress, we now have an opportunity to put a Keystone bill on the President’s desk. The House of Representatives wasted no time passing Keystone XL pipeline legislation, just as they have in past sessions of Congress. Shortly afterward, the Senate voted 63-32 to bring the legislation to the floor for an open amendment process. I expect the Senate to pass it soon and get it to the President’s desk within weeks.

Unfortunately, the President has already threatened to veto the bill, despite widespread bipartisan support in Congress and the overwhelming support of the American public. A recent CNN poll shows a majority of Americans— 57 percent —support the Keystone XL pipeline. But the President is more concerned with using the pipeline as a political football.

The proposed pipeline will run more than 1,000 miles and carry 830,000 barrels of crude oil to refineries on the gulf coast. It will enter the United States in Montana, then run through South Dakota to connect with an existing pipeline in Nebraska. Separate from Keystone, which has been politicized, thousands of miles of pipeline have already been built and are in use in South Dakota.  Over the past seven years, the federal government has run a number of environmental impact studies along the route, coming to the conclusion that construction of the pipeline would not cause any significant environmental risks. Yet the Administration continues to delay its approval, showing us that American jobs and energy independence are not their top priorities. Earlier this month, a lawsuit holding up approval of the route through Nebraska was overturned by the Nebraska Supreme Court, removing another excuse the President has used to delay the project.

Since the pipeline will pass through our state, this would bring job opportunities for South Dakotans. It would also play a significant role in an “all of the above” approach to our nation’s growing energy needs and free up rail space for South Dakota grains. I’m pleased my colleagues have agreed to take matters into our own hands on this important issue. I look forward to debating amendments on the Keystone bill in the Senate. Doing so brings us one step closer to finally building the pipeline, bringing along an economic boost to our country.

Kathy Tyler trying to claim bias in her firing. It’s not working.

So much for the state constitution.

In a press release this AM, Kathy Tyler is trying to politicize the state constitution this morning by claiming it’s biased against Democrats because of EB-5., despite the federal program being younger by about 140-150 years than the state’s founding document.


PIERRE, SD — Republican leaders have fired a legislative secretary in the State House of Representatives, leaving Democrats wondering whether the incident is related to the EB-5 inquiry.

Republican and Democrat leaders are allowed to employ staff secretaries during the legislative session. Both Republicans and Democrats have Caucus secretaries. Because of their minority status the Democrats only have two — a secretary to the House Minority Leader and a secretary to the Senate Minority Leader.

House Minority Leader Spencer Hawley interviewed applicants and selected former legislator Kathy Tyler as the House secretary, but she received notice that she was terminated on Friday (Jan. 16). Republican leaders pointed to a constitutional provision (Article 3, Sec. 12) that says legislators may not have an interest in a state contract while in office or for a year after leaving office. The provision has proved controversial in the past because of its vagueness.

Read it here.

Controversial? Apparently Tyler doesn’t know her state constitution. Or bothered to look at the issue other than having her written hissy fit.

Because last I checked, it’s been far more Republicans who have been stung by this. Such as in the last time this came up in Pitts v. Larson.

[¶ 5.] On February 9, 2001, the Attorney General of South Dakota learned from the media that Pitts was a state employee. The Attorney General advised Pitts that her employment with SDSU CES and her position as a member of the House of Representatives presented a conflict of interest. Pitts, her attorney and the Attorney General’s Office entered into discussions on the matter. At the conclusion of the discussions, Pitts was advised that if she continued her employment with the State after July 1, 2001, the date on which the General Appropriation Bill was to take effect, her employment contract would be voided and she would not receive any compensation for her services.

It was pretty cut and dried the last time the issue came up. If Kathy Tyler had bothered to look at the history of this constitutional provision she would have quickly found that it was neither controversial nor should it have come as a surprise.

For something she should have clearly realized, pouting about it in the manner she is just diminishes Tyler’s prior service and makes her look silly.

And that’s not shocking given her tenure.