Rounds to Administration: Act Quickly To Protect South Dakota Tourism and Construction Industries

Rounds to Administration: Act Quickly To Protect
South Dakota Tourism and Construction Industries

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today wrote a letter to Department of Labor (DOL) encouraging the agency to act quickly to find a long-term solution for issuing temporary, seasonal employment visas (H-2B) that are critical for a number of industries in South Dakota. Earlier this month, DOL stopped processing H-2B visas following an injunction by a federal court. Today, a judge granted stay that would allow DOL to continue issuing H-2B visas while a long-term solution is established.

“I’m pleased the Administration finally took the steps necessary to get this important program moving again,” said Rounds. “South Dakota tourism and construction industries rely on this temporary work program to fully operate. Now, it’s imperative DOL works quickly to find a long-term solution so that our businesses have both the certainty and labor force they need to be successful.”

The motion to stay runs until April 15, 2015. Last week, DOL and the Department of Homeland Security announced on they intend to issue an interim final rule by April 30th, 2015. This could leave a two-week gap between the stay and the final interim ruling in which H-2B visas may not be issued.

Text of the letter can be found below:

March 17, 2015

The Honorable Thomas Perez
Secretary of Labor
Office of the Secretary
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Avenue, NW, Room S-2018
Washington, DC 20210

Dear Secretary Perez:

When the Northern District Court of Florida vacated the Department of Labor’s H-2B regulations on March 4, 2015, in Perez v. Perez, No. 3:14-cv-682, this caused great concern and adverse consequences for several businesses in our States. While the District Court today has stayed this action and allowed visa applications to be processed, it is critical that the ramifications of this court decision be addressed as soon as possible and that the Department find a definitive solution to this problem.

Seasonal industries make staffing and capital expenditure decisions months in advance. Without certainty, they cannot make these critical decisions. Due to the Federal District Court’s ruling that the Department of Labor’s H-2B rules are not compliant, seasonal businesses are left without a clear path forward through some of the most important months of the year. We urge you to act as expeditiously as you can to solve this problem, by the end of the stay.

While we realize that the Department of Labor overstepped its bounds in issuing these regulations, we believe that something must be done to remedy the problem that has arisen as a result. We understand that in response to some of our colleagues that the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security are working to issue a joint Interim Final Rule and do so by April 30, 2015. We urge you to act sooner by April 15th, the end of this stay. Businesses cannot wait these extra weeks until your Department acts.

Sincerely,

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State Auditor Barnett Named to National Committee

State Auditor Barnett Named to National Committee

PIERRE, SD – South Dakota State Auditor Steve Barnett was recently elected to the Executive Committee of the National Association of State Comptrollers (NASC). Representing states across the nation, NASC members include elected or appointed officials tasked with the financial management of state government. The eight Executive Committee positions are selected by the membership yearly at the association’s annual conference.

“It is a great honor to have been named to this committee by my peers and colleagues,” stated Barnett. “I look forward to continue using the relationships developed in NASC as a valuable tool and asset as we strive to provide maximum efficiency in the State Auditor’s office.”

The following list provides the NASC Executive Committee slate for 2015-2016:

• President: John Reidhead, Director-Division of Finance, Utah
• Vice-President: Anna Marie Kiehl, State Comptroller/Chief Acct. Officer, Pennsylvania
• Secretary/Treasurer: Tom White, State Comptroller, Alabama
• Immediate Past President: David Von Moll, State Comptroller, Virginia
• Cynthia Cloud, State Auditor, Wyoming
• Diane Langham, Fiscal Management Director, Mississippi
• Alan Skelton, State Accounting Officer, Georgia
• Steve Barnett, State Auditor, South Dakota

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Just a heads up… Maintenance ahead.

If you’re a late owl as I can be from time to time, the host server where the SDWC lives may be down for a bit in the early, early am.  As I just had noted to me,

This maintenance is required to provide patches and updates, and we will take this opportunity to update our orchestration platform, to fix other minor issues and provide additional service improvements.

It looks like it may be down from 3-6 am tomorrow, and hopefully shouldn’t interrupt anyone’s nocturnal commenting.

I thought he just considered himself “a resource.” Tom Daschle finally registers to Lobby.

Who was that who didn’t call himself a lobbyist?

“Daschle is not a registered lobbyist, but since leaving the Senate in 2005, he has been a policy adviser at large law firms”  – October 2014

Yes, it was former Democrat Senator Tom Daschle who did that. And you know, I think he’d mentioned it a time…

Lobbyists, after all, are required to register with Congress and file quarterly reports disclosing their actions on behalf of clients. The South Dakota Democrat, like a growing number of people in his line of work, has made sure he doesn’t have to do that.

“I’ve not made a call nor made a visit since I left the Senate on behalf of a client. And I don’t have any expectation that I’ll do that in the future,” Daschle told the New York Times recently.

and..

Craig Holman, a lobbyist with Public Citizen, tells HuffPost that while Daschle may not be violating the letter of the law, he’s certainly violating its spirit.

“He gets paid a fortune, he spends more than 20 percent of his time on lobbying activities and he’s regularly meeting with covered government officials,” Holman told the Huffington Post. “That guy is just flouting the law.”   – March 2010

or two…

Tom Daschle starts a new job today as a senior policy adviser in the government affairs division of DLA Piper. As he’s contemplating whether he needs a plant in his office and figuring out where to have lunch, he has already made one firm decision. Mr. Daschle won’t register as a lobbyist.

For anyone who might be unfamiliar with the term, “government affairs” is often a euphemism for “lobbying.”

Daschle has made the decision that he is not a lobbyist before. At his previous position at Alston & Bird, whose clients represent a who’s who of health care interests, Daschle acted as a “resource” to the President and high-level White House officials, and advised clients “about the personalities of his former colleagues, as well as strategies to achieve their policy goals.”   – December 2009

Or three…

“The message I deliver to labor unions and business leaders is the same one I share with doctors, hospitals and insurance companies,” Mr. Daschle wrote in a brief e-mailed statement. “I do not tailor my views to any specific group or client.”

Mr. Daschle is not registered as a lobbyist and recently told U.S. News and World Report that he preferred to describe himself as a “resource” to those in government and industry. – August 2009

But what happened today?

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, who started a public policy practice at Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz last year, said he will register with the federal government as a lobbyist for the first time in his career.

Read it here.

So, was this in honor of Sunshine Week? Because The Sunlight Foundation once noted of Daschle:

Until the 20 percent loophole in the LDA is closed, Daschle and untold numbers of former elected officials, corporate CEOs, and presidents of labor unions can act as stealth lobbyists—often with greater access and influence than the majority of registered lobbyists, and almost always without leaving a trace of what they are saying, who they are saying it to, and on who is paying them to say it.

Read that here.

Nice that he’s finally willing to disclose his activities.  Six or seven years later.

Thune: Democrats Choose Obstruction Over Progress on Human Trafficking Bill

Democrats Choose Obstruction Over Progress on Human Trafficking Bill

“If ever there were an issue that should be above and beyond politics, protecting children from human trafficking is it.”

John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressWASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) issued the following statement on Senate Democrats’ continued filibuster of the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act:

“If ever there were an issue that should be above and beyond politics, protecting children from human trafficking is it. The fact that Senate Democrats are choosing to play partisan political games with such an important bill is unconscionable. My hope is that Senate Democrats will end their filibuster and see this bill for what it is – a bipartisan, common-sense approach to targeting human trafficking and protecting its victims.”

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Noem Applauds Decision to Continue Processing H-2B Applications

noem press headerNoem Applauds Decision to Continue Processing H-2B Applications

Washington, D.C. – Representative Kristi Noem today applauded the Department of Labor’s decision to continue processing H-2B visa applications, after a temporary hold was placed on processing earlier this month.  These visas are used frequently in South Dakota’s tourism, construction, landscaping, and agronomy industries.

“Many South Dakota small businesses and road construction crews rely heavily on H-2B visa holders,” said Noem.  “Without the ability to hire seasonal workers as we approach the tourism- and construction-filled summer, many local businesses will suffer. I’m glad to see the Department of Labor’s decision to continue processing these critical applications, but we need to find a permanent solution. I will continue to keep in regular contact with the Department, as they prepare to issue their final rule on April 30.”

Earlier this month, the Department of Labor announced it planned to no longer accept or process requests for H-2B visas, which are used by temporary non-agriculture workers.  On March 16, after communications from Rep. Noem about the hardships resulting from their previous decision, the DOL filed a motion to once again continue processing H-2B applications.  As such, H-2B visas will continue to be processed with little or no disruption for businesses.  In the long term, DOL and DHS are expected to issue a joint Interim Final Rule by April 30, 2015.

Nearly 750 H-2B workers are expected to work in South Dakota throughout the summer.

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Thune names Josh Shields as manager for his 2016 re-election bid

From Jon Ellis at the Argus Leader, US Senator John Thune has announced that he’s picked his next campaign manager, and it’s someone well known in Republican circles here in South Dakota – Josh Shields.

Sen. John Thune has taken a major step toward running for a third term by hiring a veteran campaign operative to manage his 2016 campaign.

Joshua Shields has taken the top job, which he started Monday. Thune has yet to officially announce a third term, but it’s really only a matter of time before that happens.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to have Joshua back on my team to manage the re-election campaign,” Thune said in a statement. “Joshua knows South Dakota, he knows how to organize and he knows how to win.”

and…

His crowning victory came in 2010, when he managed Kristi Noem’s campaign to victory over incumbent Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin. He then joined Noem’s staff for a brief period before leaving politics to return to Rapid City, where he worked with Black Hills Corp.

Read it all here.

Big congratulations to Josh in his new position running the Thune campaign effort.

(Of course, that’s assuming Democrats manage to find an opponent.)

With session over, now it’s time to fight over new school standards for science. Here comes climate change and evolution!

Bob Mercer is reporting today that now that the fight over common core standards for Math and English are over for the year with the departure of the legislators from Pierre, we get to start fighting over standards for science curriculum:

Osmundson described climate change and evolution as “fringe ideas” but suggested there could be ways to hold classroom discussions about them without the school system advocating for or against the

Another opponent, Catherine Billion, of Sioux Falls, tied the standards movement to UNESCO — the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — and its Agenda 21 plan for sustainable development that was adopted at an international conference in 1992.

Billion said many South Dakota families have values that don’t match the school standards as proposed. “And that pits school against parents,” she said.

The state board could adopt the science standards at the May 18 meeting or direct the department to further revise them for possible final approval at the board’s July 27 meeting in Rapid City.

Read it all here.

Ugh. Why are they lumping ‘climate change,’ which isn’t settled by any means, with evolution, which has been accepted science for oh, over a century? Regardless, welcome to the next legislative session’s big fight, which could make the battle over algebra and diagramming sentences look tame.

What do you think?

Governor Daugaard on hand to welcome Black Hills Corp corporate HQ expansion in Rapid City.

BOOM! And Governor Daugaard drops the microphone. Why? Because there’s not much to say after the Black Hills corporation announced their plan to invest over $70 Million into Rapid City via setting up their new corporate headquarters.

And once again, it’s proven that South Dakota IS one of the top places for business in these United States:

Among those present was Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who said the expansion is proof of what some national media and analysts have reported of late: that South Dakota is a top state for doing business. “What a great day for Rapid City and a great day for South Dakota,” Daugaard said. The company, he said, is “demonstrating their intent to be here for the long haul.”

Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker said the $70 million project equates to about 10 percent of the city’s overall development investment over the past three years. “This is a huge investment in our community,” Kooiker said.

Emery said later that no rate hike is expected to pay for the construction. Black Hills Power recently obtained state approval for a roughly 4.35 percent rate hike for about 65,000 South Dakota customers, the second price jump in less than two years. But, Emery said, “We don’t believe the (headquarters) facility is going to directly drive a rate increase.”

Read it here.