Governor Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Buffalo Roundup is a one-of-a-kind experience

Buffalo Roundup is a one-of-a-kind experience
By Governor Kristi Noem
Sept. 24, 2021

The Buffalo Roundup is one of my favorite events to host as the governor. Once a year, tens of thousands of spectators gather on a hillside at Custer State Park to watch 60 cowboys and cowgirls (along with a dozen 4WD vehicles) round up almost 1,500 American Bison. It’s an amazing scene that brings our history and culture to life, and all for a good cause.

The annual event — this year is the 56th annual Buffalo Roundup — also includes a three-day Arts Festival. The roundup offers an opportunity to showcase three keystones of life in South Dakota: our beautiful landscapes, the iconic buffalo, and a long history of cowboy culture.

I’ve ridden in the Buffalo Roundup many times, and I still get excited when I feel the rumble of the herd running through the hills. Custer State Park is my favorite place to be in South Dakota. Adding the Roundup to it brings nostalgia for the great cowboys who have made their mark on our state.

James “Scotty” Philip, who is credited as “the man who saved the buffalo,” is a key figure in why the Buffalo Roundup is possible today. Philip served in the South Dakota State Senate. He was also a prolific rancher who was passionate about preserving the iconic symbol of the West, the American Buffalo. He purchased a herd and built the first-ever enclosed “Buffalo Park.”

Scotty was committed to returning herd numbers to what they once were. While we haven’t gotten there yet, the herd at Custer State Park is an example of how responsible management can ensure the buffalo remains an enduring symbol of the American West. The genetics of the buffalo in this herd can be traced back more than 100 years. That is worthy of our conservation efforts.

There also are cowboys like Bob Lantis who at 86 years old has ridden in the Roundup for almost 50 years. Bob has seen this event grow from a few cowboys to now dozens who participate annually and come from around the country. That includes his son and grandsons who rode with us in this year’s roundup. And Bob has no intention of quitting anytime soon.

Buffalo Roundup is a dramatic start to fall tourism following an already busy peak season for the western region of our state.

Mount Rushmore and the Badlands National Park both saw an uptick in visitors with a 17% and 25% increase, respectively. Badlands Park Superintendent Mike Pflaum recently reported that July was the busiest month ever at the park.

State parks, like Custer, are also seeing record increases, with an overall boost of 34% in visitors. Custer State Park, with its many camping grounds, trailheads, and wildlife loop road, saw a 23% increase in visitors.

About 20,000 people attend the Roundup each year. This event allows us to educate visitors about this historic herd – one of the oldest buffalo herds in the country.

Great care is taken to ensure the herd is both sustainable and healthy. To maintain our efforts, the Roundup is followed by an annual auction where bidders can purchase buffalo from this historic herd. I bought five buffalo last year that now live at my ranch near Watertown.

This year’s auction will feature about 370 buffalo for sale. The number of buffalo auctioned is chosen specifically to meet the goals of health and sustainability.

In the last five years, 1,689 buffalo have been sold at the auction, raising $3.02 million for the park fund. That money supports trail management, road maintenance, and other key features to keep the park in top working condition.

There are so many reasons to love the Buffalo Roundup. The most important part, though, is promoting Custer State Park as the best example of balancing habitat and access for visitors. South Dakota will always protect our parks and preserve our heritage. We must provide opportunities for future generations to experience and enjoy all that our great state has to offer.

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Amendment C postcards hitting mailboxes statewide

Through member organization Americans for Prosperity group, South Dakotans Against Higher Taxes has sent a postcard statewide in favor of Amendment C, to put tax increasing measures on the same playing level at the ballot box as the hurdles that tax increases face in the South Dakota State legislature.

As noted by the Secretary of State, in a rare move, the statewide measure will be on the ballot next June:

 

Absentee voting for the measure begins April 22, 2022.

Vermillion Schools sets course towards wide-ranging public battle over the transgendered bathroom/locker room issue.

Uh oh.

You remember that issue over transgendered individuals participating in sports and using bathrooms opposite of their birth gender? It’s back. And it’s going to be badder than ever.

This past legislative session, there was more than a bit of a stink over it, but we managed to move past the issue, because there really wasn’t any need to get hot and bothered over the issue, because except for arguing, it wasn’t prescient. It was more hullabaloo at the state level than it was the local level.

Until this week. Because the issue has been simmering in one of our university communities, and it started to boil over last night. And the Vermillion School Board has put the issue front and center in policymakers crosshairs, and pitted parents who vehemently disagree with boys being in girls bathrooms and vice versa against those who don’t think it’s a problem.

And I’d guarantee that also means we’re going to see it in Pierre once again, except this time with a little more urgency, because there’s a real world example to point to:

The Vermillion School Board spent nearly two hours Wednesday evening receiving public comment on a passionate topic – the restroom gender policy for the district.

The issue became the focus of attention when Vermillion School Superintendent Damon Alvey told board members last month that from time to time, requests are received for students to be able to use bathrooms opposite of their birth gender.

Read (and listen to) the entire story here.

And in case you wanted to see what Vermillion parents are going to be fighting with each other over….

Vermillion School Transgendered Bathroom Sample Policies by Pat Powers on Scribd

Students will be allowed to use the restroom and locker room that corresponds to the gender identity they consistently assert at school. No student will be required to use facilities that conflict with his or her gender identity consistently asserted at school. A transgender student or any other student who has a need or desire for increased privacy may be given the option of using a separate or private restroom or changing area, such as a single stall restroom, if such is available. No student shall, on account of their transgender status, be required to use such separate facilities.

The determination of consistently asserted gender may be determined in collaboration of any the following –parent/guardian, counselor, and/or building administrator. This policy does not require a student to provide any documentation about a gender dysphoria diagnosis but does require that the identity be consistently asserted.

As I said. “Uh oh.”

I get the distinct feeling that there’s going to be a battle involving parents, school boards, politicians at all levels, the SDSHAA, and given that we have a Democrat President, very possibly the federal government thrown in for good measure. This issue promises to be hard fought on either side, and I’d guarantee that we’ll see more than one bill coming in January.

I was communicating with one parent tonight who expressed that a number of parents “are trying to figure out if we can homeschool our kids successfully with our busy schedules,” and they’re “trying to get the word out to state legislators to let them know” about what’s taking place.  Yeah, I can guarantee that legislators are going to know.

And the battle in Vermillion over kids being in the bathrooms opposite of their birth gender is going to be an issue that will be one of the major flashpoints for conflict this next legislative session.

South Dakota State Treasurer Josh Haeder Announces Re-election Bid   

Haeder Announces Re-election Bid   

Huron, SD – South Dakota State Treasurer Josh Haeder formally announced today his intent to seek re-election to a second four-year term.

“Since 2019, my team at the Treasurer’s office has returned tens of millions of unclaimed property dollars back to the rightful owners in South Dakota. In my first full year in office we increased claims 185% in South Dakota (8,598 to 24,639).

We increased the number of claims filed each year by more than 10 percent, streamlined workflows and implemented more advanced technology. Throughout the pandemic we continued to engage with the public and increase unclaimed property awareness. Online engagement and interaction with constituents has increased by approximately 256 percent.  Additionally, over the past 12 months, our office has rejected more than 200 potentially fraudulent claims totaling $8.5 million for unclaimed property.

When I look at the accomplishments during my first term, it has been important to deliver on the promises I made to the people of South Dakota. My team works hard every single day to make a difference, keep South Dakota’s unclaimed property and tax dollars safe – not just pass the time.”

During his first two years in office, Haeder was selected by his peers as national chairman for the Financial Empowerment Committee for the National Association of State Treasurers (NAST). He was also recently elected Vice Chair for NAST, along with serving on the NAST executive board and legislative committee.

“As it relates to fiscal policy, it’s important that South Dakota has a seat at the table. The best way to help other states succeed and improve the conversation at the federal level is through showing good fiscal discipline in South Dakota. It’s an honor to work with leaders in South Dakota and across the country to promote sound fiscal decisions that will leave a better future for the next generation.

“When looking at a second term, there is much to be accomplished, continuing to increase awareness and returning more unclaimed property will continue to be a primary focus. Another critical area of focus as we move into a second term will be making financial education tools readily available for South Dakotans who desperately need them. Having access to the tools to gain solid fiscal discipline is needed now more than ever. The Treasurer works with money and in states across the nation, treasurers are looked to as a resource for financial education.”

Josh Haeder is a Huron native and has been married to his wife Amanda for 9 years. They have two daughters, Maggie (7) and Laikyn (5). Haeder is a partner in Haeder Organization LLC, a family real estate investment company and has experience in banking and credit counseling. Haeder holds a master’s degree in Intelligence and Global Security from Point Park University.

Haeder is set to pursue the Republican nomination for Treasurer at the party’s state convention in June of 2022.

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First the COVID vaccine is an “unwanted gene serum” and now it’s the “mark of the beast.”

In their campaign to legislators for an anti-vax special session yesterday we had the Citizens for Liberty goofballs claiming that being vaccinated against COVID was an “unwanted gene serum.

Since then, I was sent this snapshot of a legislator’s spouse encouraging a special session because she doesn’t want people to have to comply with “the mark of the beast.”   (And apparently her husband is on notice.)

Thune: Democrats Push Radical Federal Takeover Agenda

Thune: Democrats Push Radical Federal Takeover Agenda

“South Dakota election officials are doing just fine without having their every move dictated by Washington bureaucrats.”


Click here or on the picture above to watch the video.

 WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor about legislation that would restrict states’ rights and grow the power of the federal government. Thune highlighted how Democrats’ misguided proposals would put the federal government in charge of elections and eliminate states’ pro-life laws.

(Bonus! Senator Thune also had comments outside of the Senate Floor)

Citizens for Liberty want to expand special session to prevent “injection with an unwanted gene serum”

As the legislature prepares to tackle a solemn subject, you can count on Rapid City’s Citizens for Liberty to bring the crazy.

So this mass e-mail just went out to legislators from Tonchi Weaver representing the group, as she encourages them to expand the special session in November to prevent “injection with an unwanted gene serum.” And no, I’m not kidding:

From: [email protected] <[email protected]>
Sent: Wednesday, September 22, 2021 
To: [email protected] <[email protected]>
Subject: Special session

Dear Senator:

If the legislature convenes a special session to deal with the impeachment of AG Ravnsborg, why not also hear draft bills 55 (Hansen, Odenbach) and 76 (Gosch)? 

The impeachment question is important, but whether or not an employer has the right to coerce employees to be injected with an unwanted gene serum, or to demand vaccination status is even more important to the average South Dakotan.  

Laws protect employees from sexual coercion.  Medical coercion is even more invasive, and all the risk is assumed by the person receiving the unwanted shot.

We encourage you to hear these necessary bills.

Respectfully, 

Tonchi Weaver
SD Citizens for Liberty
Rapid City, SD
605-348-7521 (h)  605-390-4078 (c) 

“whether or not an employer has the right to coerce employees to be injected with an unwanted gene serum.” Not sure what you say about that.

Looking for someone to bring the crazy? Apparently Citizens for Liberty managed to do that and more.

Legislators making vote to call special session for impeachment secret, after House held press conference to push impeachment earlier this year

Article III    § 31.   Convening of special sessions upon petition. In addition to the provisions of Article IV, § 3, the Legislature may be convened in special session by the presiding officers of both houses upon the written request of two-thirds of the members of each house. The petition of request shall state the purposes of the session, and only business encompassed by those purposes may be transacted.

– Amendment proposed by SL 1990, ch 2, approved November 6, 1990.

In 1990, a constitutional amendment was passed to grant the South Dakota Legislature additional authority to call itself back for a special session when two-thirds of the members of each house petition for a special session for a specific purpose.  That authority has only been utilized by the South Dakota Legislature on a very limited basis since that time, and up until now, only for redistricting.

According to a 2021 draft memorandum on the topic from the Legislative Research Council:

The Legislature’s ability to call a special session was approved by the voters in 1990. As a result, Article III, § 31 provides, “In addition to the provisions of Article IV, § 3, the Legislature may be convened in special session by the presiding officers of both houses upon the written request of two-thirds of the members of each house. The petition of request shall state the purposes of the session, and only business encompassed by those purposes may be transacted.” Since 1990, the Legislature has called special sessions in 2001 and 2011. Both sessions were called for the purpose of redistricting. The Legislature has also called for a redistricting special session to be convened on November 8, 2021.

Read that here.

As noted, the “Special Session by Legislature” has previously been exercised three times, and you can find a couple of them on-line if you look hard enough:

Redistricting is a fairly ministerial task, so while people are going to quibble about where the lines are drawn, people agreeing to hold a session for that purpose is fairly non-controversial.

But now we’re faced with a call for a special session for a more controversial purpose, for the impeachment of a state official. In connection with the call for the convening of the legislature, the Speaker of the House is setting forth that the vote on whether or not to come into session will be held as secret from the citizens of South Dakota:

..South Dakota’s House Speaker Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, told the Argus Leader this week the names of lawmakers who sign the petition for a “Special Legislative Session on Impeachment” will not be released to the public.

“We’re just voting for a meeting. That’s all we’re voting for,” he said. “So ultimately, who voted on whether or not we should get together is not relevant.”

and..

And though he intends to make resolutions, testimony and committee meetings regarding impeachment open, he cites a provision in South Dakota’s open records laws allowing correspondence among public officials for keeping petition signatures secret.

and..

In the Senate, two-thirds of members are also required to sign on to the House leaders’ petition and those names won’t be public either. That’s because Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck, the Watertown Republican who presides over that chamber, said he’s following the House’s lead.

Read that all here.

As you can read in the article, open government advocates disagree with the decision.  The law for “correspondence among public officials” is the one being cited to give the legislature an out for releasing the vote on the petition. But what does that law actually say?

1-27-1.5. Certain records not open to inspection and copying.

The following records are not subject to §§ 1-27-1, 1-27-1.1, 1-27-1.3, and § 1-27-1.23:

(19)    Personal correspondence, memoranda, notes, calendars or appointment logs, or other personal records or documents of any public official or employee;

Read that here.

But that’s personal correspondence. Under this law,  I’m not sure how one considers the actual written petition to impeach as personal correspondence.

While it’s noted that legislators are “just voting for a meeting,” the State Constitution is pretty clear that the special session demands that it can only be held “upon the written request of two-thirds of the members of each house.”  Written is definitely stated. So, these written documents should be filed somewhere.

The bigger question is whether they will ever see the light of day. Because the State Constitution does provide the legislature a more clear-cut out, but it’s not going to play as well when it’s invoked:

Article III  § 15.   Open legislative sessions–Exception. The sessions of each house and of the committee of the whole shall be open, unless when the business is such as ought to be kept secret.

That’s the portion of the State Constitution that allows the South Dakota State Legislature to invoke “we’ll do what we want,” and decide for themselves what they want to keep from the voters of the state. I’m not sure any court has tested the “ought to be kept secret” portion of the constitution, but it would make an interesting debate as to what scenarios the courts believe that would entail.

Now, not all legislators are so concerned with keeping where they stand on a special session hidden from the public.  In fact, some are more open about it, such as State Senator Dave Wheeler:

His position is certainly not enviable, but legislators were elected to make decisions on behalf of all their constituents. And there is a general expectation from the people of South Dakota is that they will do so in the light of day.

The past session, there were a number of legislators who stood up and were eager to be on the record, so much so that members of House leadership held a press conference. Which makes the more recent reluctance to be on the record a bit confusing.

I’m sure we’ll see this play out more in the days to come while we wait to see what the legislature decides to do.

Stay tuned.