Press Release: Rounds Supports Working Families Flexibility Act

 Rounds Supports Working Families Flexibility Act

MikeRounds official SenateWASHINGTON—Yesterday, U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) cosponsored the Working Families Flexibility Act, which would allow employees to choose between traditional overtime pay or additional comp time when they work overtime hours.

“This bill would benefit hard-working families across South Dakota and throughout the country,” said Rounds. “It would offer private sector employees a win-win option when they work overtime: they could select either monetary compensation or paid time off to spend at their leisure. Government employees currently have this option, so it makes sense to give private sector workers the same opportunity and flexibility.”

Introduced by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), the Working Families Flexibility Act amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide employers with the necessary flexibility to allow their employees to choose either the traditional overtime pay or paid time off for any overtime hours worked. Employers would be able to offer this option to their employees on a voluntary basis.


Press Release: South Dakota PUC elects new leaders

South Dakota PUC elects new leaders

PIERRE, SD – The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission this week elected Commissioner Chris Nelson as its new chairman and Commissioner Kristie Fiegen as vice chairman. The three-member panel, which also includes Commissioner Gary Hanson, conducted the votes at a meeting in Pierre on Jan. 20.

In his nominating remarks, Hanson praised Nelson’s leadership role on a national level, particularly in the telecommunications arena. “Commissioner Nelson has ascended to the chairmanship of the telecommunications committee of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners in a short time. As such, he seeks solutions and offers advice on many complex telecommunications issues, working with federal regulators and other states’ utility regulators. South Dakotans are well served by Commissioner Nelson,” Hanson said.

Nelson joined the PUC in January 2011 by appointment by Gov. Dennis Daugaard to serve two years to fill a vacancy. He won election in November 2012 to serve the remaining four years of the term. He was voted by his fellow commissioners as chairman once before, in 2012, and has been vice chairman three times:  in 2011, 2013 and 2014. The Federal Communications Commission named him to the Federal-State Joint Board on Universal Service, representing the interests of state utility commissioners.

Nelson nominated Fiegen for the vice chairman post. He described her as an apt and able commissioner. “Commissioner Fiegen has shown tremendous dedication to utility customers, is conscientious about studying the issues and insists on integrity,” he stated.

Fiegen spoke about the work of the commission. “There are currently many exciting and challenging issues in the world of utility regulation,” Fiegen noted. “We have a busy year ahead of us at the PUC. I am grateful to be serving with commissioners and working with staff members who are deeply committed to their duties,” she said.

First appointed by Gov. Daugaard in August 2011 to fill a vacancy, Fiegen was then elected to the PUC in November 2012. This is Fiegen’s second stint as the PUC’s vice chairman, having held that role in 2012. She is a member of the NARUC Committee on Gas and serves on the Subcommittee on Pipeline Safety. Fiegen is part of the Gas Technology Institute’s Public Interest Advisory Committee.


Be careful who’s house you flood. They may end up being your US Senator.

From KELOland, this is both a little hilarious, and a sweet comeuppance:

South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds’ new job comes with a new responsibility, overseeing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. It’s an agency that flooded his property nearly four years ago.

In the summer of 2011, the Corps of Engineers authorized record releases from dams along the Missouri River after a wet spring and a snowy winter in the Rocky Mountains. That water flooded out properties up and down the river in Pierre including Senator Rounds’ new home. Now he’s been given the job of overseeing the agency as the chairman of an Environment and Public Works subcommittee on oversight. Besides the Corps of Engineers the subcommittee also oversees the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We will be actively involved in that oversight. It’s an area I said during the campaign that I wanted to be involved with and I think we’ll have the opportunity to get South Dakota’s point of view in a number of areas in terms of how the agencies have been run and are still run,” Rounds said.

Read it all here.

Do you think anyone in the Corps of Engineers noticed this, and went “Oh, hell….”?

Press Release: Rounds Meets with Nominee for Secretary of Defense, Dr. Ashton Carter

Rounds Meets with Nominee for Secretary of Defense, Dr. Ashton Carter

WASHINGTON—U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) met yesterday with Dr. Ashton Carter, President Obama’s nominee to succeed Chuck Hagel as Secretary of Defense.

“I had a productive meeting with Dr. Carter yesterday,” said Rounds. “We talked about the strategic needs of our country, among other issues. As a former Deputy Secretary of Defense he is familiar with the confirmation procedures, and I look forward to an informative and productive confirmation process.”

Rounds is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

rounds nominee


Press Release: Thune Announces Commerce Committee Hearing to Examine Freight Rail Transportation Challenges

Thune Announces Commerce Committee Hearing to Examine Freight Rail Transportation Challenges

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, today announced a hearing of the full committee entitled, “Freight Rail Transportation: Enhancing Safety, Efficiency, and Commerce” on Wednesday, January 28 at 10:00 a.m. ET (9:00 a.m. CT, 8:00 a.m. MT). The hearing will focus on challenges facing our nation’s freight rail network created by higher demand, pending and proposed rules and regulations, and infrastructure needs. Next week’s hearing continues Thune’s work to improve freight rail service for ag producers and shippers and prevent future rail service disruptions from occurring.

“Rail service challenges that began over a year ago throughout South Dakota are still fresh in the minds of ag producers and those who depend on reliable freight rail service,” said Thune. “As chairman, I recognize the important role the Commerce Committee has in overseeing our nation’s freight rail sector and believe this hearing is key to continuing our work on improving freight rail service. I remain committed to working with shippers, the railroads, and the Surface Transportation Board to examine where things went wrong in the past and determine how we can prevent backlogs and service delays from occurring in the future. The railroads have taken some steps to address these challenges, including record investment, and I look forward to examining the state of the freight rail sector during the upcoming hearing.”

Last Congress, the Commerce Committee held various rail related hearings, including a hearing on the rail service challenges facing shippers across the country, which included agriculture producers in South Dakota who struggled with access to reliable freight rail service during a record harvest. In addition, on September 17, 2014, the Commerce Committee passed the bipartisan Surface Transportation Board (STB) reform bill that Senator Thune and former Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) introduced to institute common-sense reforms regarding how the STB works and to address rate disputes and service complaints. For a complete outline of Thune’s work to address last year’s rail service backlog, visit his website.

Hearing Details:

WHAT:          Commerce Committee Hearing entitled: “Freight Rail Transportation: Enhancing Safety, Efficiency, and Commerce.”
DATE:            Wednesday, January 28, 2015
TIME:            10:00 a.m. ET, 9:00 a.m. CT, 8:00 a.m. MT
WATCH:        Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee Website


State Treasurer Rich Sattgast appointed by Governor Daugaard to serve as Acting Public Utilities Commissioner for Dakota Access Pipeline Hearings.

It’s only been mentioned peripherally, but starting last week, South Dakota has a brand new Public Utilities Commissioner. But it’s not an unfamiliar name to many of the state’s residents, as they’ve been voting for him for many years.

As a result of a conflict which caused Public Utilities Commissioner Kristie Fiegen to have to take a step back from her duties, State Treasurer Rich Sattgast finds himself doing double duty this week as South Dakota’s newest Public Utilities Commissioner, although, he’s only doing so on a temporary basis.

Hearings for the proposed Dakota Access pipeline are taking place across South Dakota this week with Commissioner Sattgast seated at the table with permanent Commissioners Gary Hanson and Chris Nelson. The dual role came about as a result of Commissioner Kristie Fiegen formally informing Governor Daugaard in writing on January 8th of a conflict of interest she faced, disqualifying her from participating in the hearing.

In her letter, Fiegen noted:

I have recently been informed that the proposed pipeline would cross land owned by my sister-in-law (my husband’s sister) and her husband in the counties of McCook and Minnehaha. Pursuant to SDCL 49-1-9, a Public Utilities Commissioner may not participate in a proceeding in which the Commissioner has a conflict of interest. Given this familial relationship, I am regretfully disqualifying myself from participating in this proceeding.

As required by SDCL 49-1-9, I hereby certify that I am disqualifying myself from participating in this docket and request that you appoint an elected constitutional officer, other than the attorney general, as a member of the Commission in my place. In order to give notice of my disqualification, I am filing this letter in Docket HP 14-002.

As a result, this placed Governor Daugaard in the position of having to choose among the eligible constitutional officers, excepting Marty Jackley who serves as the state’s lawyer. Governor Daugaard turned to Sattgast, currently our state’s most experienced constitutional officer, having been termed out of office as Auditor before assuming the position of State Treasurer where he is now starting his second term.

Commissioner Gary Hansen noted to Sattagst that while people have recused themselves from portions of proceedings before, this is the first time in modern history that due to the extensive nature of the hearings needed, the PUC believed that a suitable replacement for Fiegen in the hearings should be named by the Governor to step in and serve as the third commissioner.

Sattgast was on hand for two meetings yesterday in Bowdle and Redfield. Today, he’s serving with the commission at a meeting in Iroquois this morning, and in Sioux Falls tonight.

I asked Rich about his new experience, and he noted “It’s certainly an honor to have been asked to serve in this capacity. We’ve only been to two communities so far, and it’s been very interesting to hear from people from both sides of the issue. I look forward to performing the duties of commissioner, and doing what’s best for all involved and the State of South Dakota.”

The appointment from the Governor is an official appointment filed with the Secretary of State, and requires Sattgast to provide financial disclosure to avoid any potential conflicts of his own while doing double duty for South Dakota’s taxpayers.

During his limited tenure on the commission, those taxpayers are getting their money’s worth. Despite the additional duties as a constitutional officer, Sattgast is only allowed to receive his official salary for State Treasurer.

I did ask Sattgast if there was any chance he’d consider running for a full term on the PUC himself? Rich politely demurred from answering my leading question. And noted “he enjoys being State Treasurer.”

And In case you’re interested in the documents that made it happen…

sattgast attachment

Press Release: Thune Holds Inaugural Hearing as Chairman of Commerce Committee

Thune Holds Inaugural Hearing as Chairman of Commerce Committee

Regulating the Internet like a public utility monopoly will harm its entrepreneurial nature, chill investment, and lead to prolonged litigation. I believe the most enduring way to protect both the Internet and individual Internet users is through legislation that establishes clear rules of the digital road as well as clear limits on the FCC’s regulatory authority.”

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, yesterday held his inaugural hearing as chairman entitled, “Protecting the Internet and Consumers through Congressional Action.” The hearing focused on insights into government regulation of the Internet and fears that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is about to chart a course that will lead to overregulation that harms investment and job creation in the digital economy.

Last week, Thune and Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, released a discussion draft on principles for bipartisan legislation to provide clear rules of the road for open and unfettered access to the Internet.

Thune also invited Tom Simmons, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at Midcontinent Communications (Midco), to testify before the hearing. Tom spoke to his first-hand knowledge of the current light touch regulatory approach that has sparked innovation and driven success at Midco. Video of Mr. Simmon’s statement is available here, and his written testimony is attached.

Video of Thune’s opening statement is here and text is below:

“Today we convene the committee’s first hearing of the 114th Congress to consider an issue that has divided policymakers for more than a decade – how best to protect the open Internet. The Federal Communications Commission believes it already has the answer – impose public utility regulations on the Internet. But there is well-founded fear that regulating the Internet like a public utility monopoly will harm its entrepreneurial nature, chill investment, and lead to prolonged litigation.

“Instead of using outdated regulations, I believe the most enduring way to protect both the Internet and individual Internet users is through legislation that establishes clear rules of the digital road as well as clear limits on the FCC’s regulatory authority. Certainty about how consumers will be protected and certainty about the government’s role in the online world is critical to preserve the Internet as an engine for innovation, creativity, economic growth, and free expression.

“I want us to pass legislation providing certainty that users will have unfettered access to the entire Internet. I want us to pass legislation that provides certainty for creators at the edge of the Internet, so that they can continue to reach users across the Internet without interference. I want us to pass legislation that provides certainty for Internet service providers about precisely what rules they will be required to follow. I want us to pass legislation that provides certainty for the FCC, so that it can enforce legally-sound open Internet rules that survive beyond the current administration. The entire Internet needs this kind of statutory certainty, and only Congress can provide it.

“Last week, I put forward a set of eleven principles that I believe can be the framework for a bipartisan consensus.

“Prohibit blocking
“Prohibit throttling
“Prohibit paid prioritization
“Require transparency
“Apply rules to both wireline and wireless
“Allow for reasonable network management
“Allow for specialized services
“Protect consumer choice
“Classify broadband Internet access as an information service under the Communications Act
“Clarify that Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act may not be used as a grant of regulatory authority
“Direct the FCC to enforce and abide by these principles

“The discussion draft that Chairman Upton and I released is our attempt to turn these principles into statutory text. The details matter greatly in this debate, and we felt there could be no progress toward a solution until legislators started discussing those details. I do not expect our draft to be a final product, but I also believe that it is not a partisan starting point to the conversation. We have put forth a good faith proposal to find common ground between the parties. We hope today’s hearings will facilitate a serious conversation around a long term solution.

“I am willing to discuss how the eleven principles will be implemented, and I am eager to get to work with my colleagues, many of whom I have already spoken with. But I also want to be clear that I will not compromise these principles, particularly if doing so would leave the FCC’s authority unbounded or would leave open the possibility for harmful regulatory burdens being leveled on the Internet.

“Chairman Upton, Chairman Walden, and I have been working with our colleagues on the Commerce Committees and across the aisle since late last year to find a lasting resolution that protects the open Internet. My colleague, the new ranking member of this committee, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida, has been serious and substantive in discussions with me. I appreciate his efforts, and they underscore that there is a bipartisan interest in finding a legislative solution.

“In the absence of clear legislative guidance, the FCC has floundered for more than a decade to forge its own regulatory powers from legal authorities crafted prior to the emergence of the Internet as the most consequential communications platform of our lifetime. We have now reached an unfortunate point where both the president and the chairman of the FCC feel compelled to move forward using a tool box built 80 years ago to regulate a literal monopoly. And they do so without any apparent interest in working with Congress to solve the FCC’s legal dilemma.

“Even if the executive branch seems willing to go alone down a politically toxic and legally uncertain path, I sincerely hope that a willingness to collaborate develops within the legislative branch. After a decade of failure and wasted taxpayer resources, we should not continue to leave this issue to a five-member regulatory agency. Congress needs to reassert its responsibility to make policy, and let the FCC do what it does best – enforce clear statutory rules. I want to work together with my colleagues to finally settle the question of the FCC’s authority over retail Internet service. If Chairman Wheeler moves ahead as planned, however, the only certainty is that the FCC will again find itself tangled up in court for years to come.

“Before I finish my remarks, I want to put forward a challenge to the members of this committee. Let’s find common ground and forge a permanent solution. I have offered the president an opportunity to engage, I have spoken with Chairman Wheeler on numerous occasions, and I will engage any senator who wants to find a workable legislative solution. Having the FCC regulate the Internet as a public utility while Congress sits idly on the sideline is an outcome that will prove to be short-sighted. Let’s find a consensus solution that none of us have to call a ‘compromise.’

“I look forward to hearing from our diverse panel of experts, and also to working with my colleagues in the coming days and weeks.”


Senator Thune part of Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Unnecessary EPA Regulation of Ammunition and Fishing Tackle

Thune, Klobuchar Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Unnecessary EPA Regulation of Ammunition and Fishing Tackle

-Bill excludes ammunition and fishing tackle from TOSCA, leaving regulation to the states-

 WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) today introduced legislation to prevent ammunition and fishing tackle from unnecessary Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation. The Hunting, Fishing, and Recreational Shooting Protection Act excludes ammunition and fishing tackle from the Toxic Substances Control Act, leaving regulation up to state fish and game agencies and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which currently regulate ammo and tackle.

“I was pleased to help secure a provision in the fiscal year (FY) 2015 appropriations bill to ban the EPA from regulating lead in ammo and tackle for the remainder of FY 2015, but that’s just a start,” said Thune. “To prevent the EPA from moving forward in the future with extreme and unnecessary regulations on certain ammunition and fishing tackle, Congress must pass legislation preventing a future federal regulation that could price sportsmen and women out of the market. I am committed to ensuring that generations of South Dakotans are not unnecessarily restricted from hunting, fishing, and enjoying the great outdoors, and will continue to push for consideration of this legislation by the full Senate.”

“Hunting and fishing are not only important to Minnesota’s economy – they’re also a cherished part of our state’s heritage and identity,” Klobuchar said. “This commonsense, bipartisan bill will prevent unnecessary regulation and ensure that our state’s sportsmen can enjoy the great outdoors as they’ve done for generations.”

According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, 95 percent of ammo currently manufactured is made with lead. Steel shot is also significantly more expensive than lead shot, and can cost as much as 25 percent more per case.

Currently, regulation of lead in hunting ammunition and fishing tackle is left to the states. In addition, the federal government also already regulates the use of lead ammo for hunting on federal property, including Fish and Wildlife Service and Army Corps of Engineers land.

The legislation is supported by The National Shooting Sports Foundation, Safari Club, Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, and other hunting and fishing groups.