Senate to conduct inquiry over accusations from final day of session

The Argus Leader and KELOland news are reporting tonight that Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer and Senate President Pro Temp Brock Greenfield are being investigated by fellow members of the State Senate after accusations made by Senator Phil Jensen… and apparently House Majority Leader Lee Qualm.   As noted in the Argus Leader tonight:

In a text to several members sent by House Majority Leader Lee Qualm and provided by Jensen, Qualm said “I want everyone to know that dealing with the Senate tonight has not been fun. When we were done we tried to find the Senator’s and they were nowhere to be found. Tried to call Sen. Greenfield but he wouldn’t answer. I finally got ahold of the Lt. Governor and he said they were coming back in. When Sen. Greenfield and Sen. Langer got off the elevator they couldn’t hardly walk they were so drunk. This easily added 2 hrs to our session. Thanks so much for your patience.”

Read that here.    KELOland is noting:

The Senate’s majority and minority caucuses will name five Republicans and four Democrats to look into an allegation that Senate Republican leader Kris Langer and Senator Brock Greenfield were intoxicated at the Capitol.

The report is due no later than June 30.

The Legislature’s Executive Board voted 12-1 for the motion from Senator Jim Bolin, the Senate Republican assistant leader. House Republican leader Lee Qualm seconded the motion.

Read that here.

I have no idea what happened, and haven’t watched or listened to any part of the proceedings, so I don’t really have an opinion.

I guess I’m not sure what to say, other than this seems like a mess not made any better by what might be termed bad blood between the House and the Senate at times, especially given the texted accusation from the House Majority Leader.

16 Republican House Primaries, 2 Democrat contests

House of Representatives is still at half of the Legislative Districts with primary elections (Top two vote getters move on to the General Election.). Most are Republican, but two of the single representative districts (Represented in Blue) have Democrat contests:

District 5 – Hugh Bartels, Nancy York, Jacob Sigurdson
District 6 – Ernie Otten, Nathan Block, Aaron Aylward, Thomas Werner
District 7 – Doug Post, Tim Reed, and former State Senator Larry Tidemann
District 9 – Bethany Soye, Rhonda Milstead, and Michael Clark
District 12 – Greg Jamison, George Hendrickson, Amy Miller, and Arch Beal
District 14 – Tom Holmes, Taylor Rehfeldt, Brad Lindwurm
District 16 – David Anderson, Kevin Jensen, Bill Shorma
District 17 – Richard Vasgaard, Sydney Davis, Charlie Kludt, Dan Werner
District 2 – Lance Koth, Barry Volk, Paul Miskimins
District 23 – Spencer Gosch, JD Wangsness, Kevin Watts, Charlie Hoffman
District 24 – Jeff Monroe, Will Mortenson, Mike Weisgram, Bob Lowery, Noel Chicoine
District 26A – Alexa Frederick v. Shaun Bordeaux (only 1 elected)
District 28A – Dean Schrempp v. Oren Lesmeister (only 1 elected)
District 29 – Thomas Brunner, Dean Wink, Kirk Chaffee, Lincoln Schuck
District 30 – Tim Goodwin, Kwin Neff, Trish Ladner
District 31 – Dayle Hammock, Brandon Flanagan, Mary Fitzgerald, Julie Ann Olson, and Scott Odenbach
District 33 – Melanie Torno, Phil Jensen, Taffy Howard
District 34 – Jess Olson, Mike Derby, and Jodie Frye-Byington

11 Senate GOP Primaries – Here’s the list to date.

The GOP added another Senate Primary this afternoon. Absent any additional stragglers coming in, here’s the Senate lineup we’re going to be choosing from this June:

District 6 – Herman Otten versus Isaac Latterell
District 14 – Larry Zikmund v. Dave Zellmer
District 15 – Thor Bardon v. Brenda Lawrence
District 17 – Art Rusch v. Nancy Rasmussen
District 21 – Lee Qualm v. Erin Tobin
District 23 – Bryan Breitling v. Larry Nielson
District 29 – Gary Cammack v. Terri Jorgenson
District 30 – Julie Frye-Mueller v. George Kotti
District 31 – Tim Johns v. John Teupel
District 33 – Dave Johnson v. Janet Jensen
District 35 – Jessica Castleberry v. Kevin Quick.

Primary-palooza.. update on the State Senate Primary Races, and here’s what to watch in the House

I had earlier mentioned what to watch for on the Senate Primary elections, and before I got to the House races, they shifted again slightly.  Here’s a quick recap…

District 6 – Herman Otten versus Isaac Latterell
District 12 – Curd v. Steele – Steele withdrew
District 14 – Larry Zikmund v. Dave Zellmer
District 17 – Art Rusch v. Nancy Rasmussen
District 21 – Lee Qualm v. Erin Tobin
District 23 – Bryan Breitling v. Larry Nielson
District 29 – Gary Cammack v. Terri Jorgenson
District 31 – Tim Johns v. John Teupel
District 33 – Dave Johnson v. Janet Jensen

Add to that District 35 – Jessica Castleberry v. Kevin Quick. Castleberry, who was appointed by Governor Noem prior to the legislative session is being challenged by Kevin Quick, a Rapid City area vape shop owner and pot activist.

I’m also aware that there’s at least one more that appears to be coming. More on that tomorrow.

Moving on to the House of Representatives, slightly under half of the Legislative Districts currently have active Republican primary elections (Top two vote getters move on to the General Election.)

District 5 – Hugh Bartels, Nancy York, Jacob Sigurdson
District 6 – Ernie Otten, Nathan Block, Aaron Aylward, Thomas Werner
District 7 – Doug Post, Tim Reed, and former State Senator Larry Tidemann
District 9 – Bethany Soye, Rhonda Milstead, and Michael Clark
District 12 – Greg Jamison, George Hendrickson, Amy Miller, and Arch Beal
District 14 – Tom Holmes, Taylor Rehfeldt, Brad Lindwurm
District 16 – David Anderson, Kevin Jensen, Bill Shorma
District 17 – Richard Vasgaard, Sydney Davis, Charlie Kludt, Dan Werner
District 23 – Spencer Gosch, JD Wangsness, Kevin Watts, Charlie Hoffman
District 24 – Jeff Monroe, Will Mortenson, Mike Weisgram, Bob Lowery, Noel Chicoine
District 29 – Thomas Brunner, Dean Wink, Kirk Chaffee, Lincoln Schuck
District 31 – Dayle Hammock, Brandon Flanagan, Mary Fitzgerald, and Scott Odenbach
District 33 – Melanie Torno, Phil Jensen, Taffy Howard
District 34 – Jess Olson, Mike Derby, and Jodie Frye-Byington

And tomorrow we’ll probably add District 30 to that, as right now we have Tim Goodwin, and supposedly they will add Florence Thompson, plus whoever was recruited to run against her. Aaand… I’ve heard of a couple of other Districts out there that may yet be coming.

On the Democrat side in District 26A, it appears that Shawn Bordeaux is being challenged by Alexa Frederick. And that’s about it.

So what happened to the Liz May for Congress $250 for 25 signatures bounty?

If you recall last week, Congressional wannabe Liz Marty May took a few minutes from chanting Cull the Herd – which is a really unfortunate slogan in the time of coronavirus – to place a $10 a signature bounty on collecting names to place her on the ballot in the form of a $250 travel card.

Interestingly, after I wrote about it, the terms seemed to change a bit, according to this post a day or so later from the Liz May for Congress facebook page:

That $250 travel card for 25 valid signatures was now being referred to as  “we are rewarding you with travel redemption points.”

Tonight, one of the Liz May followers – Florence Thompson  (who is rumored to be running for D30 House) – was commenting on the facebook page for the original post:

Well…  You can put me in the camp of those who think it’s kind of hard to call it a scam against Liz when the e-mail certainly seemed to have gone out from her campaign.  Although, they might be hoping to disavow the promised reward of “$250 travel cards” (or now “travel points”), depending on what they find themselves on the hook for if May fails to make the ballot.

2 more days and petitioning is over. And then the silly season will really get going!

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: The American Spirit is Unbreakable

The American Spirit is Unbreakable
By Sen. John Thune

Throughout the coronavirus outbreak, I’ve continually encouraged South Dakotans to follow the common-sense and consistent recommendations of health care professionals around the country: avoid crowds; stay home if you can, especially if you’re not feeling well; and cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.

I’ve always believed in leading by example, which is why when I recently felt under the weather, I decided it was best to avoid my colleagues on Capitol Hill. It unfortunately meant that I had to miss a few votes, but given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, it was the responsible thing to do. Practice what you preach, after all.

Over the last several weeks, my colleagues and I have been focused on supporting the American people during this national emergency. The Senate recently approved a significant coronavirus relief bill – the third piece of bipartisan legislation we’ve considered since the beginning of the outbreak. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is the product of numerous bipartisan ideas, all aimed at providing relief to American families, workers, and small businesses.

The CARES Act will help get emergency cash into the hands of the American people quickly. Once this bill becomes law, individual taxpayers who earn $75,000 or less per year are eligible to receive $1,200 from the federal government. Married couples who file jointly and earn $150,000 or less per year are eligible to receive $2,400. Parents will also receive an additional $500 per qualifying child. It’s cash, there are no strings attached, it doesn’t matter what your employment situation is, and it’s not taxed.

One of our top priorities with the CARES Act is to help bridge the gap between this crisis and when life eventually returns to normal. It sets aside billions of dollars to assist small businesses that are trying to stay afloat and keep people employed. It delays payments for employer-side payroll taxes and offers forgivable loans to small businesses that retain their employees throughout this crisis. It also sets aside billions of dollars so states, whose battle needs are different in this crisis, have the resources they need to respond to the outbreak.

For people who lost their job as a result of this crisis, the CARES Act makes a significant investment in states’ unemployment programs. Under this bill, most Americans who file for unemployment insurance benefits will receive an additional $600 per week, and eligibility for benefits is extended for an additional 13 weeks.

The bill will also temporarily enact provisions of the bipartisan Employer Participation in Repayment Act, legislation I introduced last year with Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), which will allow employees to receive up to $5,250 tax-free from participating employers to help pay down their student loan debt. The bill also waives the 10-percent early withdrawal penalty for distributions up to $100,000 from qualified retirement accounts for coronavirus-related purposes. And for the already struggling agriculture community, the CARES Act includes targeted funding that I worked hard to secure that will provide assistance to farmers and ranchers in South Dakota, including livestock producers, who have been hit hard by market volatility.

Most importantly, though, the CARES Act will help ensure the nation’s medical professionals have the tools and resources they need to fight this battle on the front lines. It provides $117 billion for our nation’s health care community, including veterans’ health, to support doctors, hospitals, and other health care professionals. It also increases access to much-needed telehealth services, which we know are critical in rural South Dakota. These services are needed now more than ever across the nation to help keep patients and health care workers safe.

These are tough times. Staying home is inconvenient. Canceling vacations isn’t fun. Encountering empty grocery store shelves can be alarming. We’re going to get through this, though. And when this outbreak is over, we will have learned a lot of things – not the least of which will be that the American spirit is unbreakable. It’s unbreakable, especially when we stand together. We can do this.

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US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: COVID-19 Relief Available for South Dakota Families and Businesses

COVID-19 Relief Available for South Dakota Families and Businesses
By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)

COVID-19 is impacting every American. Schools have closed, public events are canceled and many businesses are asking employees to work from home for the foreseeable future. Meanwhile, medical providers have been working around the clock, sometimes with limited resources and equipment, to help patients during their time of need. We are so grateful to them, and to all essential service employees who continue to go into work during these uncertain times to help their communities.

I’ve just returned home to South Dakota after working in Washington over the past few weeks to pass emergency relief legislation that focuses on saving lives, providing immediate relief to families and businesses, and stabilizing our economy. Nobody wants to see families struggle to pay bills, businesses close up shop and workers lose jobs due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The bill that was passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by President Trump seeks to stop this by providing $2400 for a family making up to $150,000 a year and $500 per child to help them get through this tough time. It also includes provisions to help businesses so they can continue operating, and provides additional resources for hospitals so they can continue to put patients first.

It is not a perfect bill, but it gets resources to state and local governments, who know the needs of their communities better than anyone else. It also removes regulatory barriers so businesses can get people the help they need during this time of crisis.

I fully understand the seriousness of initiating legislation of this magnitude. Voting on emergency legislation of this size is not something I take lightly. However, if we fail to act and respond appropriately, the cost to our citizens and our economy as a whole would be devastating. The federal government has a responsibility to act in emergency situations such as this to protect lives and safeguard our country from undue harm. This legislation is not a stimulus bill—it’s emergency relief for families and businesses to get through the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bill that we passed provides loans for businesses both large and small so they can continue to pay employees even if they aren’t able to operate. Eight weeks of payroll, utilities, rent and certain other business expenses may be forgivable if businesses keep their staff employed. The bill included funding for hospitals to acquire the equipment necessary to deal with increasing numbers of patients. Our legislation also provides funds directly to states, local units of government and tribes since they know best what their communities need.

Our bill includes bipartisan legislation I introduced with Sen. Doug Jones to establish a Ready Reserve Corps within the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps. This means that when USPHS Commissioned Corps Officers are relocated to help during public health emergencies, Ready Reserve Corps Officers are available to fill any vacant positions within federal agencies like the Indian Health Service or the Bureau of Prisons. I also worked to make sure the Senate recovery legislation includes provisions to help cattle producers, who have been unfairly hurt in recent years despite a growing demand for U.S. beef and who are now facing further loss due to the spread of COVID-19. We’re glad our bill included $9.5 billion for direct support to producers, specifically including cattle producers, to offset losses attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Importantly, our relief legislation does not include all of the far-left proposals that some Democrats wanted to sneak in, like nationalizing state-run elections, mandating all airlines offset carbon emissions and protecting collective bargaining for federal employees. Legislation aimed at helping Americans during an historic crisis is no place to insert their political wish list.

In the history of our nation, we’ve never faced a challenge we weren’t able to overcome. The COVID-19 crisis is no different. No one is immune to the disease or its impact on our everyday lives. We’re in this together, and we’ll get through this together.

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Congressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Column: FAQ on COVID-19 Federal Help

FAQ on COVID-19 Federal Help
By Rep. Dusty Johnson

Q: Will I receive a $1,200 check from the federal government to help with the economic stress of COVID-19?

A: Most likely, yes – if you make less than $75k a year individually or $150k as a couple and filed taxes in 2018, 2019, or have a Form SSA-1099 that the government can reference, you will receive a payment in a few weeks. Parents will also receive $500 per child. Social security beneficiaries are also eligible for the payment. Couples who file jointly will be eligible for up to $2,400. If your income exceeds one of the income thresholds, your tax rebate will be $5 less for every additional $100 of taxable income.

Q: I own a small business – can I get a loan? Am I eligible?
A: If your business is struggling from the COVID-19 outbreak, you may be eligible for different types of Small Business Administration (SBA) loans such as an Economic Injury Disaster Loan or a Paycheck Protection Loan. Businesses and 501(c)(3)s with less than 500 employees will likely be eligible. The SBA will offer loans at a low-interest rate, that may be partially forgivable, and that are 100% guaranteed by the SBA. Contact the Small Business Administration, South Dakota District Office at 605-330-4243 or sba.gov/sd for more information.

Q: I own a small business and can’t pay rent. What will the Paycheck Protection Loan cover?
A: Small businesses will be able to use the Paycheck Protection Loan program to take out a loan for up to $10 million. If a business retains its staff, a small business owner may have 8 weeks of payroll costs, health care benefits, rent, and utilities forgiven as part of the loan by the government. Contact the Small Business Administration, South Dakota District Office at 605-330-4243 or sba.gov/sd for more information.

Q: I’m an independent contractor – am I eligible for unemployment?
A: Yes. The Phase Three CARES Act expanded unemployment insurance for an additional four months. Individuals who are self-employed or an independent contractor are now eligible.

Q: I lost my job and can’t pay my student loans. What do I do?
A: Federal student loan borrowers can pause their federal student loan payments until September 30, 2020. The president has also suspended interest on federal student loans until further notice. Borrowers must contact their loan servicer to suspend their payments. 

Q: As a rancher feed cattle prices and my business have been hit hard by the market downturn. Will I get any help?
A: The CARES Act includes $14 billion to replenish the U.S. Department of Agriculture Commodity Credit Corporation, making another round of MFP possible and gave the Secretary of Agriculture an additional $9.5 billion to provide relief to livestock and dairy producers. The South Dakota delegation fought for these funds, and while the USDA Secretary will determine how they are allocated, our producers will receive help.

Q: Will tribal governments receive federal assistance?
A: Yes – there is a pot of relief funds specifically for tribal governments. Additional resources have been allocated for the Indian Health Services, Indian education, food distribution on reservations, and tribal housing entities.

Q: My child’s school is shut down until May, will they have to repeat the school year?
A: Contact your local school about their plan for the remainder of the year. Congress has provided flexibilities by diverting funds to technology programs for distance education. Additionally, the Trump administration has waived the requirement for standardized testing for the year.

Q: I can’t afford to get tested for COVID-19. What should I do?
A: All tests for COVID-19 are covered with no out of pocket costs.

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Governor Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: During This Time of Uncertainty, Remember to Reflect

During This Time of Uncertainty, Remember to Reflect
By Governor Kristi Noem 

For weeks, we’ve all been glued to the news searching for updates about COVID-19. Since March 10, 2020, I have provided almost daily updates about the science, data, and facts that are informing my decision-making, not just on a day-to-day basis, but sometimes on an hour-by-hour basis. Our team is doing its absolute best, and our best is very good.

It’s important to remember, this is not an ancient plague – we have the knowledge and the resources of modern medicine that give us the tools to defeat this, as we have so many other illnesses that we’ve dealt with in the past from polio to flu. Rest assured that we will do so.

Earlier this week, I addressed the people of South Dakota, not as my bosses, but as my neighbors. I asked each and every one of you to pause and to take a step back. Let me tell you why.

One of my staffers was recently trying to pick up groceries. She asked the cashier when she went through the line how she was doing, and unprompted, this woman got very emotional. She started to get tears in her eyes, and she said, “I’m really scared.” Then for several minutes, the cashier outlined all of her fears and what was keeping her awake at night.

I understand that. I’ve heard from many of you myself – from my family, my friends, and some total strangers – who feel exactly the same way. I’ve spoken about how we’re in this for the long-haul. For South Dakota, we expect this to take many, many weeks – perhaps even months – to run its course.

I have state employees who are – quite literally – working around the clock. I recently had a young man who passed out in the middle of a meeting from dehydration. He is doing well now, after some much needed rest.

But I share that with you because what you need to know is that the folks who are helping me – the faceless state employees, who are doing everything they can to get information to you, to help those who have questions, who need guidance about what kind of resources there are or how they can help people, they are working 60, 70, and 80 hours a week. The same is true for EMS workers, hospital workers, and many volunteers in your communities.

Friends and neighbors may be sick. Family members may be worried about how their bills are going to be paid this month, how they’re going to put food on the table, and how they’re going to keep a roof over their head, if this continues much longer.

So my message to you is please take time to press pause. Put down your smartphones, turn off your TVs, maybe go for a walk. Spend time with your family. Call a loved one. Just take a break. Focus on the good things that you have in your life – the blessings. Reflect with gratitude on how fortunate we are in this country to live in the modern world. A threat like this can break us down – or it can make us truly appreciate the many blessings that we do have.

If there’s anything that we all can rally around today, it’s that we all have a common enemy – and that’s this virus.

It’s okay to be uncertain at times. But at the same time, we can also pour ourselves into our families, into our neighbors, and into our communities. People are afraid, and they’re worried. And some may be losing hope. But my message to you is hang in there. We will get through this, and we will persevere.

So, even if it’s just for a little bit, would you please consider taking a step back. Press pause. Go for a walk. Just be quiet for a little bit, and really reflect on the good things that we do have.

My hope is that, despite this situation, we all find a way to allow this to help bring us all together. To remind us of what is truly important in life. To remind us of three things: faith, hope and love, and the greatest of these is love.

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