Thune continuing efforts to keep EPA from regulating ditches

According to today’s Argus Leader, US Senator John Thune is continuing his pursuit of legislation to prevent the EPA from regulating water in rural ditches as being a navigable body of water subject to the strictures of the Clean Water Act:

Despite assurances from the EPA, agricultural groups contend the Waters of the U.S. rule would expand the scope of “navigable waters” protected by the Clean Water Act to include not only rivers and lakes but ditches, stream beds and self-made ponds that carry water only when it rains.

Farmers say they would face higher costs for environmental assessments and need to apply for permits to allow them to till soil, apply fertilizer or engage in some conservation practices.

A bill last year to ban the EPA from enacting the rule garnered support from almost three dozen Senate Republicans, a number that bodes well for similar legislation in the GOP-led Congress this year.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said there remains strong, bipartisan opposition to the proposal.

“Any federal regulation that could make farmers and ranchers legally liable for fines and penalties for conducting normal farming practices would be an overstep of authority and an infringement on their rights,” Thune said.

Read it all here.

You are more likely to be eaten by dogs than struck by lightning in South Dakota.

In case you missed the story today, a second person has been killed by a pack of wild dogs on an Indian Reservation within months of another horrific incident:

A 49-year-old woman on the Rosebud Indian Reservation has died following an attack from a pack of wild dogs.

Mellette County Sheriff Mike Blom tells KELO-TV he found 49-year-old Julie Charging Whirlwind surrounded by dogs around 6:30 a.m. Saturday morning. He says he shot and killed two of the dogs so emergency responders could reach the woman.

Read it here.

As you likely recall, the first attack involved an 8-year old girl on the Pine Ridge reservation in November.

Just out of curiosity, I looked up how many had been killed by lightning strikes in South Dakota in the last year in comparison. What I came up with was a somewhat shocking ten-year statistic.


Two people in the last decade have been killed by lightning. Two people within 4 months have been killed by packs of dogs.  You are more likely to be eaten by dogs than killed by lightning in South Dakota.

Not a statistic to take pride in.

Open Forum: What did YOU think of session?

Having been more involved on a couple of issues that I had been in a few years, I joked to a few as I darkened out halls of government that “Every time I spend time in Pierre, I tend to get my butt kicked, so I want to get out of here as soon as possible.”  Basically, I was more interested in winning on my issue than going to war with anyone, as I might have been tempted from time to time. So I was glad to be successful, and on my way out the door late last week.

And that might sum up much of session. People were more interested in getting work done than posturing. On the surface this session seemed pretty low key. Not a lot of conflict between individual legislators. And there wasn’t any open warfare I noticed between political parties.

But there was the fact that we had more conference committees than ever before.  Where what little conflict came up was more between the House and Senate than anyone else.

That’s my 2 cents worth.  As a broad open topic – What did YOU think of the 2015 State Legislative session?

The 411 on 69 – The practical guide to South Dakota election changes coming in 2016.

Senate Bill 69, the package of election reforms from the Secretary of State’s office has been amended, spindled, folded and pressed multiple times – and it has finally passed both houses and awaits the Governor’s signature.

But what changes in South Dakota’s election laws does this bill offer as a result of passage should the Governor sign it as expected?  Well, that’s why we’re here. To offer the practical guide to election changes in 2016 that party activists and candidates can expect as a result of Senate Bill 69.

The SDWC practical guide to the Big Changes in South Dakota election laws for 2016.

#1 – Petition circulation will now begin December 1, 2015 for the 2016 election.    According to changes in state law..

…no candidate for any office to be filled, or nomination to be made, at the primary election, other than a presidential election, may have that person’s name printed upon the official primary election ballot of that person’s party, unless a petition has been received in the office of the person in charge of that election on that person’s behalf not prior to December first of the year preceding the election, and not later than the first Tuesday of March at five p.m. prior to the date of the primary election.

This means that you have from December 1, 2015 through The first Tuesday in March 2016, in this case March 1, 2016 at 5 P.M. to have your petitions into the Secretary of State’s office.

** Special note for precinct people. This also counts on your candidacies for precinct committeeman and precinct committeewoman.

#2 – THERE IS NO MORE REGISTERED MAIL TO MEET THE DEADLINE.   Noticeable by it’s omission is arguably the worst, and most unfair change to the new law. Those in outlying areas may no longer mail by 5pm of the deadline day. They have to be in the Secretary of State’s office by 5pm 3/1/16, or you are out of luck.

What this means is that if you live in Pierre, you can circulate until about 4:30 that day. If you’re in Harding county? You’d better be mailing it a week beforehand. In a state as geographically large as South Dakota, it’s a real sin of omission.

#3 – Independents are now on a level playing field with party candidates for filing nominating petitions. This was long overdue.  Under the law in front of the Governor for his signature, Independent candidates start circulating December 1, and have to have their petitions in by March 1, 2016. According to the enrolled measure:

If the election is conducted with a primary election, each party nomination and independent petition shall be received by the first Tuesday in March. Each nomination shall be certified in a like manner as any other nomination for the purpose of a general election. The election shall be conducted, canvassed, and the results certified as in a general election. If the election is conducted with a general election, each party nomination and independent petition shall be received by the second Tuesday in August.

So, if the office is subject to a primary such as for US Senate, Congress, or state legislature, Indy’s have to have petitions in by March 1, 2016. If it isn’t subject to a primary, such as for Public Utilities Commission this next year, they have until August 9, 2016.

#4 – Petition signature requirements are going to change somewhat.  So pay attention.  The impending law says….

The petition for party office or political public office shall be signed by not less than one percent of the voters registered for the candidate’s political party at the last general election in the county, part of the county, district, or state electing a candidate to fill the office.


Notwithstanding the provisions of § 12-6-7 a nominating petition for a candidate for office in the State Legislature, county political public office, and county party office shall be signed by not less than fifty voters or not less than one percent of the voters registered for the candidate’s political party at the last general election, whichever is less. The petition shall clearly designate the senatorial or representative district for which the person is a candidate.

and for Indy’s…

The number of signatures required may not be less than one percent of the number of registered voters having no party affiliation or voters registered as other, at the last general election within the district or political subdivision.

So, what are the numbers that candidates will have to work with?  I have a chart!


As noted, it’s a minimum of 50 or 1% for each legislative or other district. Statewide, here are rough guesstimations based on the immediate pre-general election numbers. For Statewide candidates, my Republicans will need a minimum of 2405 signatures. Dems will need 1762, and Independents 1023 to qualify for the ballot.

I believe Libertarians and Constitutional candidates may have to get recertified as parties first, but that’s a post for a different day.

#5 – Independent candidates for Governor can now have their Lt’s withdraw without going to court. I’m not sure I really care, but whatever.

#6 – Presidential Primary candidates must be certified by March 1, 2016.

#7 – New political parties also have until March 1 2016 to certify. According to Senate Bill 69:

A new political party may be organized and participate in the primary election by submitting to the secretary of state not later than the first Tuesday of March at five p.m. prior to the date of the primary election, a written declaration signed by at least two and one-half percent of the voters of the state as shown by the total vote cast for Governor at the last preceding gubernatorial election

If I’m reading that correctly, (2.5% of the voters of the state as shown by the total vote cast for Governor) with 277,403 total votes cast for governor, that means new political parties need would need 6935 people to sign on to certify as a political party, which is defined in state law as:

“Political party,” a party whose candidate for Governor at the last preceding general election at which a Governor was elected received at least two and one-half percent of the total votes cast for Governor;

So, according to the vote and the chart above, since I believe Libertarians may have been de-certified as an organized political party since they didn’t have a Gubernatorial candidate, that would mean they need to add about 5558 more people to sign on to become a political party again. Constitutionalists have even farther to go.

Ouch. Better get moving boys.

#8 – Everyone else’s deadlines move up. See the proposed law, but everyone’s deadlines are changing as well for school board, county races, etc.

#9 – NO MORE PLACEHOLDERS TO GAME THE DEADLINE. Read it and weep Dems. You can’t game the deadline on purpose anymore:

If a party candidate for public office withdraws after filing petitions with the secretary of state, the appropriate party central committee may make a replacement nominee only if:

(1) The party candidate: (a) Withdraws because of personal illness or illness of an immediate family member and the illness prevents the candidate from performing the duties of the office sought; and (b) Submits with the withdrawal request a form signed by a licensed physician verifying that the provisions of subsection (a) apply to the candidate;

(2) There is no other nominee for the office sought by the withdrawing candidate as of the time of the withdrawal;

(3) The party candidate has been elected or appointed to fill a vacancy in another elective office which duties conflict by law with the duties of the office sought, has become the nominee for another elective office, it has been determined that the party candidate’s employment conflicts by law with the duties of the office sought, or is deceased; or

(4) The party candidate permanently moves from his or her physical address stated in the nominating petition filed with the secretary of state, and requests in writing, subscribed and sworn to by the candidate before any officer qualified to administer oaths and take acknowledgments that the candidate has not resided in the district for a period of thirty consecutive calendar days and has no intention of resuming residency in the district.

So, no more running just to fill a slot with the intention of being replaced later. If you’re in, you’re in.

#10 – New political parties need a minimum of 250 signatories for statewide candidates. If the libertarians can meet their new quota of 6935 people, they only need 250 of them to sign a petition to run a candidate for statewide office, or 50 for a legislative office.

Want to read all the coming changes for yourself? Here is the law being presented to the Governor for his signature.

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Protecting Our Sporting Heritage

Protecting Our Sporting Heritage
By Senator John Thune

John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressSouth Dakotans have long held a deep appreciation and respect for our Second Amendment rights. Responsible use of firearms for sporting purposes and personal protection are valued components of South Dakota’s heritage, ones that support important hunting and tourism industries, as well as keep our communities safe. As your U.S. Senator, I take seriously my responsibility to represent and protect your right to bear arms.

Last month, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) put forward a proposal that would have effectively banned the manufacture and sale of popular sporting ammunition, such as the M855 5.56 x 45 mm cartridge, to law-abiding gun owners. This significant overstep by the ATF would have limited access to ammo for commonly used sporting firearms, pricing responsible gun owners out of market.

That is why I joined 51 of my Senate colleagues in sending a letter to ATF Director Todd Jones on March 9 requesting that the ATF withdraw its proposal severely limiting access to rifle ammunition used primarily for sporting purposes. The proposal would have created a subjective test for determining whether certain types of ammunition are “primarily intended for sporting purposes,” which could exempt or restrict certain rounds from a law intended to protect law enforcement officers from armor-piercing bullets that can be fired from handguns. Historically, the attorney general has exempted such ammunition, but the ATF’s proposal would have been a significant overstep of its statutory authority and would have infringed on the rights of lawful gun owners.

Responsible firearm ownership is woven into South Dakota’s culture, and I am pleased that the ATF withdrew its proposed framework after receiving over 80,000 public comments generated since it was introduced in February. The ATF clearly saw the writing on the wall—this proposal significantly overstepped the agency’s statutory authority and ultimately would have infringed on responsible gun owners’ constitutionally-protected right to bear arms.

Unfortunately, this is not first time the Obama administration has attempted to curtail the rights of gun owners. While the ATF and other agencies may attempt to restrict the right to bear arms, rest assured, I will remain a vigilant advocate for the Second Amendment and for protecting the rights of South Dakota gun owners.


US Senator Rounds’ Weekly Column: Helping South Dakotans Navigate Federal Agencies

Helping South Dakotans Navigate Federal Agencies
By Senator Mike Rounds
March 13, 2015

MikeRounds official SenatePart of my job as a United States Senator is to provide assistance to South Dakotans who are having trouble dealing with a federal agency. In fact, it is the primary focus in my state offices. Members of my staff in South Dakota are specially trained to help constituents navigate the federal maze. We work with our fellow South Dakotans on a daily basis, addressing their concerns and issues related to the federal government.  Sometimes, we even work to remind the federal government it’s the citizens for whom they are employed to serve. Whether a constituent is having trouble handling a VA claim, accessing social security benefits, filing taxes or obtaining a visa, my staff and I are here to help. Already, we have successfully assisted many South Dakotans by expediting passports that were delayed and helping veterans obtain additional benefits which they have been promised.  I’m proud of the work we are doing and we are honored to help.

South Dakotans needing help dealing with a federal agency should contact one of my state offices. We are located in Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Huron and Aberdeen. One of my staff members will also hold office hours in Mitchell every other Tuesday starting March 10, 2015, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at City Hall in the Council Chambers, in Watertown every other Thursday as of March 26, 2015, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Watertown Regional Library and in Huron every Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Huron Public Library. My Aberdeen office will be open Wednesdays and Fridays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Office locations and phone numbers are listed on my website,, under the “Contact” tab. South Dakotans should feel free to call any of my offices for assistance. Because my team works closely together across the state and in Washington, we strive to provide a timely response to each person contacting us.

My state offices in Pierre, Rapid City and Sioux Falls are open every week day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and I would encourage anyone who has questions or issues with a federal agency to call, send a letter or simply stop in. I understand how frustrating it can be to have an issue with the government and not know the best way to resolve it. The federal agencies have lists of complex and often confusing rules. Navigating them alone can seem daunting. We understand that, and we are here to help.

One of the most important parts of my job as a Senator is acting on behalf of my constituents during times of need. I have highly qualified, talented individuals on staff, many of whom have years of experience dealing with casework on both the state and federal level. Whether we are the first call someone makes when dealing with a federal agency or their last call when they feel as if they can no longer fight the government on their own, we are here. My team and I look forward to serving the people of South Dakota any way we can.


Congresswoman Noem’s Weekly Column: More Trade Can Bring Opportunity and Peace

More Trade Can Bring Opportunity and Peace
By Rep. Kristi Noem
March 13, 2015

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014When a bill is signed, lawmakers aren’t signing a paycheck.  Instead, we are creating an environment where if you work hard and play by the rules, you can get ahead.  Those principles are important to remember – especially as we work toward finalizing trade agreements in the next few years.

We’re closest to finishing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) – a trade agreement with allies in the Asia-Pacific.  If completed, we will unlock opportunities for South Dakota job creators, ag producers, and consumers while building a healthy economy.

Today, 75 percent of South Dakota exporters are small and medium-sized businesses.  Trade agreements reduce barriers so businesses can get their products and services to more consumers.  Such agreements also give small businesses tools they don’t currently have access to in order to fight against foreign entities that may be stealing their information or technology.

For farmers and ranchers, trade agreements open new markets.  We grow more than we can sell here at home.  There’s no reason not to take advantage of that abundance – especially as nearly 96 percent of consumers are outside the U.S.

It’s not just about benefits to business, however.  The high U.S. tariffs on shoes and clothing are one of our most regressive taxes, costing Americans billions of dollars every year. With a trade agreement, we can lower that tax on consumers.

The national security benefits of open trade cannot be underestimated either – especially in an increasingly powerful region, like the Asia-Pacific.  In the first 10 years of this century, East Asian countries negotiated 48 trade agreements while the United States negotiated just two in the region.  China has been filling the vacuum, using its ever-increasing commercial ties to assert its growing power. That creates a dangerous environment for the U.S. and for South Dakota.

The best course forward for TPP would be for Congress to pass a bill establishing Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA.

Having TPA in place will help us get the strongest deal for South Dakota, because through it, we’re showing our trading partners that we’re serious, incentivizing them to put their best offers forward.

If TPA is established – and it has been for every president since FDR – Congress is telling the administration:  If a trade agreement is to get the privilege of an up-or-down vote in Congress, you must follow our rules and instructions, keep us in the loop, and remember that we have the last say.  What it does not do is give any authority to the President.  Congress sets the priorities and negotiating parameters – not the White House.  If this administration violates those parameters, Congress can revoke TPA.  Moreover, if he follows the parameters and we still don’t like the agreement, Congress has the power to vote it down.

Congress is expected to consider TPA in the coming weeks.  In the House, it will first see action in the Ways and Means Committee, of which I am a member.

With TPA, we can then move thoughtfully to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade agreements.  I’ll be fighting for agreements that are rooted in fair and conservative economic principles, protect South Dakota interests, and bolster national security, because as President Ronald Reagan said, “The freer the flow of world trade, the stronger the tides of human progress and peace among nations.”


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Eliminating Unnecessary Red Tape In State Government

Eliminating Unnecessary Red Tape In State Government
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardEvery year, from the second Tuesday in January until mid-March, the South Dakota Legislature convenes in Pierre to create laws. Legislators come to town ready to offer proposals to improve our state and better serve South Dakotans.

This legislative session, a total of 429 bills were introduced and as I write this, I’ve signed 198 of those bills into law. But not every one of those bills creates new laws. We’ve also repealed laws. So far this year, I’ve signed 13 bills to repeal unnecessary and outdated laws.

With laws, more isn’t necessarily better. Laws should be clear and easy to follow. Government shouldn’t place unnecessary hurdles before our citizens or entrepreneurs, and things shouldn’t be overly complicated for people who are trying to know and obey the law.

That’s why a few years ago I started asking state agencies to identify provisions we can repeal.

With the help of the agencies and legislators, we’ve already gone a long way in removing unnecessary red tape in state government. In this legislative session alone, we have repealed 235 sections of law and 90 sections of administrative rules. Since beginning this effort in 2012, we have eliminated over 4,000 sections of law and regulations – which amounts to a total of 444,426 words that have been repealed.

We’ve repealed outdated provisions dealing with a wide range of subjects, from petroleum products, to county prisoners, to the federal census, to traction engines, to the medical department of the National Guard, and more.

I am grateful legislators have joined me in my effort to minimize red tape and I hope this is a habit that we will continue in years to come. Our efforts to cut red tape may not be creating headlines, but they’re important.