Should school lunch be a government entitlement? Or is it a deeper debate than just feeding kids?

The Sioux Falls school board announced today that the days of free lunch are coming to an end in the school district next week for those who haven’t signed up for free or reduced-price lunch. And they may have reignited a bill that was killed last year, in what could be a one of the more challenging debates for legislators. Because the cost isn’t insignificant, and neither is the issue:

The total school lunch debt in the district is about $92,000, child nutrition coordinator Gay Anderson said. The district accrues about $3,000 each day in lunch debt, community relations coordinator DeeAnn Konrad said, compared with a total yearlong debt of $7,000 more than a decade ago in 2012.


But starting Dec. 4, the district will have to enforce school board policy, stating students with meal accounts in debt of $75 or more will not be provided further meals “until the account is back in good standing,” or if a payment plan is set up with the student’s parents or guardians.

Read that here.

They accrue $3000 in school lunch debt each day? Good lord. What do you do with that?   And that’s a group who fall outside of those who have signed up for free/reduced cost programs.

So how do you categorize that group?

Before it was electronically tracked, I know I’ve had kids a time or two forget to deliver low-on-lunch-money-notices.. and they found themselves getting a sterner note, or worse, the dreaded cheese sandwich, instantly prompting them to go “Daaad.. I need lunch money.”  Keeping track was never helped by those deciding to eat breakfast at school, order a la carte, etcetera. But it was always remedied quickly.   In more recent years, I just get a nagging daily notice from the school in my e-mail box as soon as the balance goes below $20.

But it’s not as simple as that.  Is it parents not keeping track? No. And it’s concerning as a society that we seem to have this problem as schools keep accruing significant debt for feeding kids.

As the spouse of a long-time educator & school administrator, I’ve heard more than once that there are kids out there that the only hot or nutritious meal they get in a day may be the one they get in school. Or worse, it might be their only meal. And I don’t think most people would argue with the statement that Teachers have a much harder time educating kids who are starving.  But how do we fix it? And where is this problem originating?

What makes up this gap?  According to, it is noted..

Children unable to afford a proper meal are defined as being food-insecure; they lack reliable access to food. Many of those children who owe school meal debt are part of families who earn too much to be considered for free or reduced lunch, but also earn too little to afford regular school meals.

  • 1 million students receive free school breakfast, compared to 1.7 million who pay a reduced price of $0.40, and 7.7 million who pay the full price.
  • 8 million students receive free school lunches, compared to 0.74 million who pay a reduced price of $0.30 and 2.23 million students who pay full price.

The fact that the number of full-price lunches is just over 15% nationally is somewhat shocking.  Because it isn’t a gap. The numbers seem to be saying that free and reduced price lunches are the majority.  If this is accurate locally, the Sioux Falls School District is accruing a $3k a day cost they have to try to chase that in all actuality is a portion of the 15% who haven’t signed up for a free or reduced cost program?

South Dakota is one of the few states that has no statewide policy on school lunch debt, preferring to leave it to individual districts.  This coming January lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are already offering solutions that propose to solve the problem.

If the majority of school lunches are free or reduced cost anyway, why don’t we at least remove the issue and the overhead of having schools having to chase that debt?  We argue that schools should have fewer mandates anyway… which comes right before we put new ones on them, and legislators try to send their funding elsewhere.  So, why not make it free?  Or is the concept of a free lunch for public school children a tougher debate than that?

During the last legislative session, a Democrat-sponsored measure lost in committee which proposed to open up the state’s checkbook for school lunches. Just flat out making it a Department of Education expense. Which counted among it’s opponents, the Department of Education, as well as some legislators individually:

Graves told the committee that during the two years free meals were offered, dozens of meals would be thrown out daily without being touched by students. Graves provided an anecdote about the visit of a federal delegate for the program. Graves wanted to demonstrate how much food was being wasted and so he spread out the unopened, pre-packaged items along two, eight-foot-long tables.

“I decided I wasn’t going to show the member of the federal delegation because I was embarrassed,” Graves said.


Republican Senator Jim Bolin also spoke in opposition to the bill citing his experience as a former teacher.

“What you’re really doing here, if this bill were to pass, is providing what I would call, sort of the equivalent of a middle-class entitlement for those that can afford lunches already,” Bolin said. “It doesn’t seem right to me.”

Read that here.

The Democrat bill that was attempted last year which is certain to return, and a Republican sponsored measure for 2024 differ somewhat..

Wittman’s bill had a fiscal note that estimated ongoing budgetary impacts at $38.6 million, while Deutsch said his bill, which he directed the Legislative Research Council to draft at his direction, has a fiscal impact estimated by the LRC to be $394,095.

Read that here.

Whether there are competing measures, it’s a given that either one of them will reopen the attempts to distill the issue down to cause and effect, as they try to identify a problem that government can solve by making a law, or elevating the issue from the level of the school district.  No one would argue that they want kids to go hungry. But, can they come up with a solution that works?

Your thoughts? Or your solutions?

Release: Shorma to seek re-election to South Dakota House

Shorma to seek re-election to South Dakota House

William “Bill” Shorma is excited to announce his 2024 bid for Re-election to District 17 House of Representatives. Shorma and his wife Marcie live in Dakota Dunes, and are involved in the S. Union County communities and Clay County towns as well. Shorma has started and managed companies who employ over 600 employee’s in South Dakota and Bill and Marcie currently own a Manufacturing Company in Springfield SD that employs 50-60 people year around.

Shorma serves on the House Commerce and Energy, Transportation and Military and Veterans Affairs committees. While in the Senate in 2016, Shorma served on the Health and Human Services, Transportation, and Commerce and Energy Committee’s. Shorma’s has also learned from his 50 years in Business, through his leadership on Boards of Directorships with his Church, serving on the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, and serving on Family Business Co.’s Boards, all that provided experience for service In the the South Dakota House of Representatives.

Gov. Noem to Host Christmas at The Capitol Grand Lighting Ceremony

Gov. Noem to Host Christmas at The Capitol Grand Lighting Ceremony

PIERRE, S.D. – Governor Kristi Noem, First Gentleman Bryon Noem, and Pierre Mayor Steve Harding will host the 2023 Grand Lighting Ceremony for Christmas at the South Dakota Capitol in the Rotunda on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 7 pm CT.

“This is always one of my favorite events of the year,” said Governor Noem. “Bryon and I can’t wait to greet all of the families at the Capitol for our annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. We hope you can join us for an evening of festive fun!”

The Capitol Christmas trees will be lit by the Harris family. The Harris family felt the call to foster and have since been called to adopt as well. They are incredible success story of foster and adoption, and they represent the great work our Department of Social Services is doing to build stronger families. They embody the spirit of the holidays, and we are excited to welcome them to light our very special Christmas trees.

The Capitol Christmas display includes 90 trees decorated by volunteers from communities, schools, churches, nonprofit organizations, and state government offices. This year’s theme for Christmas at the Capitol is “Winter Wonderland.”

The largest tree in the Capitol, a 27 ft Black Hills Spruce, is being decorated by the Great Plains Zoo and Butterfly House in Sioux Falls and was donated by Isaac Lalonde of Onida, SD.

At the ceremony, music will be provided by Surprise Package from the Pierre/Ft Pierre area.

Santa will be here to say hello to the kids and set out his North Pole Mailbox for the year. Children can write letters to Santa at home and bring them along to the Capitol and drop them into the mailbox, which will be located on first floor by the South Dakota First Ladies and First Gentlemen Exhibit while the display is open to the public.

Beginning on Wednesday Nov. 22 visitors can come see the Christmas trees from 8am to 10pm daily, including holidays and weekends. The last day to view the display is Tuesday, Dec. 26.

You can follow the Christmas at the Capitol events on Facebook and Instagram.


Attorney General: Draft Explanation Released For Initiated Measure Submitted by Rapid City Man

Attorney General: Draft Explanation Released For Initiated Measure Submitted by Rapid City Man

PIERRE, S.D. – An explanation for a draft initiated measure, proposed by Emmett Reistroffer of Rapid City, that would legalize recreational marijuana and create dual-use licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries, has been submitted for public review by the South Dakota Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General Marty Jackley takes no position on any such proposal for purposes of the ballot explanation. He has provided a fair and neutral explanation on the initiated measure to help assist the voters.

This proposed initiated measure would allow individuals 21 years old or older to possess, grow, sell, ingest, and distribute marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia. The initiated measure does not affect laws dealing with hemp.  The measure also authorizes the South Dakota Department of Health to issue dual-use licenses to medical marijuana dispensaries.  A dual-use license allows dispensaries to sell marijuana to persons 21 years or older.

The ballot explanation can be found here.

State law requires the Attorney General draft a title and explanation for each initiated measure, initiated constitutional amendment, constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature, or referred measure that may appear on an election ballot. The Attorney General’s explanation is meant to be an “objective, clear, and simple summary” intended to “educate the voters of the purpose and effect of the proposed” measure, as well as identify the “legal consequences” of each measure.

Once the Attorney General has filed and posted the draft explanation, the public has 10 days to provide written comment. The explanation was filed Nov. 17, 2023 (Friday), and the deadline for comments on this explanation is Nov. 27, 2023 at the close of business in Pierre, South Dakota. The final explanation is due to the Secretary of State on Dec. 7, 2023.

The initiated measure would require 17,509 valid petition signatures to qualify for the 2024 general election ballot.

To file written comments on a draft Attorney General’s explanation please use one of the following methods below. Copies of all received comments will be posted on this website.

Comments may be submitted via mail, or through hand delivery, to the Attorney General’s Office at:

Office of the Attorney GeneralBallot Comment1302 E. Hwy. 14, Suite 1Pierre, SD 57501

Comments that are hand delivered must be received by the close of business in Pierre, South Dakota, by Nov. 27, 2023.  The Attorney General’s Office will be closed Nov. 23-24 for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Comments that are mailed must be received by the Attorney General’s Office before the deadline expires to be accepted.

Comments may also be emailed to [email protected] by Nov. 27, 2023.  Comments should be clearly expressed in the body of the email. The Attorney General’s Office will not open attachments in an effort to prevent malware or other digital threats. Please include your name and contact information when submitting your comment. The title of the comment must be included in the subject line of the email.


Rounds Leads Legislation to Rename Post Office in Honor of Fallen Army First Lieutenant Thomas Martin

Rounds Leads Legislation to Rename Post Office in Honor of Fallen Army First Lieutenant Thomas Martin

HURON – U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) introduced legislation to designate the Huron Post Office as the “First Lieutenant Thomas Michael Martin Post Office Building.” Originally from Huron, 1LT Martin was a 5th generation Beadle County Martin whose great-great-grandfather homesteaded northeast of Huron in the 1880s. He died in action while serving his country in Iraq.

“1LT Martin represents the best of our country,” said Rounds. “He gave his life to defend the freedoms we enjoy in America. The First Lieutenant Thomas Michael Martin Post Office will stand as an important reminder of him, and others who made the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the American people. Though we will never be able to repay the debt we owe 1LT Martin, this renaming is one way to honor and remember his life of sacrifice and service.”

1LT Martin was born in Huron and later moved to Texas and Arkansas due to his parents’ active duty service that moved the family out of South Dakota. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1998 and would go on to attend the United States Military Academy at West Point. 1LT Martin died during combat operations on October 14, 2007, while serving his country in Iraq.

“Our family is so honored to have a prominent building named in memory of our son, in the city I grew up in, and where two of our four children were born,” said Ed Martin, 1LT Martin’s dad. “Our family is confident that Tom’s legacy will live on for years, as those who pass by the Huron Post Office will give cause to pause and research who he was, what he stood for, and why our beautiful historic Huron Post Office is named in memory of our Tom.”

“To be able to show respect by naming a public, federal building after 1LT Thomas Michael Martin for his brave service to our country, where he made the greatest sacrifice, is a wonderful, humbling gesture,” said Laurie Shelton, President & CEO of the Huron Chamber & Visitors Bureau.

BACKGROUND (Courtesy of the 1LT Tom Martin Memorial Foundation):

1LT Martin was born October 10, 1980, in Huron, South Dakota. He left South Dakota as a very young boy, went to school for a short time in San Marcos, Texas and then graduated from high school in Cabot, Arkansas in 1998. That same year, he enlisted in the United States Army completing Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training as a Field Artilleryman at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. In 2000, after an assignment to Camp Stanley in Korea, 1LT Martin was accepted for admission to the United States Military Academy. After attending the United States Military Preparatory School, he entered West Point in the fall of 2001. As a West Point Cadet, 1LT Martin started on the Rugby team, was a member of the Military Tactics Team and earned his Parachutist Badge by graduating from Airborne School at Fort Benning, Georgia. He majored in Military Science and graduated with his class in May 2005. 1LT Martin was commissioned as an Armor Officer and completed the Armor Officer Basic Course at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

1LT Martin volunteered for Ranger School and graduated earning his Ranger tab in May 2006. He reported to the 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Richardson, Alaska in June 2006. Upon arrival, he was assigned as the Sniper Platoon Leader in Crusader Troop and deployed with the unit in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in October 2006.

Click HERE for full bill text.


Pennington County GOP promoting scorecards and special interest groups with fringe views, not Republican candidates.

Grr.. just had someone flag this for my attention, as it seems the Pennington County GOP is committing one of my pet peeves when it comes to what is and what isn’t the job of a county Republican party organization.  

The Pennington County Republican Party was exhibiting that behavior this last weekend at their latest meeting, as they promoted the work of outside groups that aren’t affiliated with, nor support the Republican Party or it’s candidates.

As noted by their agenda, as part of their meeting they’re promoting and seemingly endorsing the SD Freedom Caucus, an outside organization which is certainly not a Republican affiliated group or auxiliary, and they’ve given them floor time as part of their “2024 Legislative Process Overview.”

And it gets even better, as during part of the presentation, they had a big thing to do at the event with “legislators who scored 100% on the 2023 New American Legislative Scorecard.

The “New American Legislative Scorecard?” Nothing at all to do with the Republican Party, and actually related to the John Birch Society.  So, why would the Pennington County GOP be giving them air time?

In fact, if you look at the scorecard the Pennington County GOP is clucking about like proud roosters, Legislators only got 100% if they opposed the budget.  So, if you voted against funding veterans services, state aid to education, state parks, etcetera and so on, you got 100%.

Or even better, if you were recognized as supporting their position 100%, you one of the few who voted in favor of laws to criminally prosecute women who obtained an illegal abortion:

Literally, you could not get a 100% score unless you fought over 92% of the legislature AND Governor Noem who signed their support of House Bill 1220, the measure to provide criminal immunity for women who have abortions. The bill’s sponsors include just about every member of the legislature who sit on the SD Right to Life Board, and was supported in committee by the Governor’s office, South Dakota Right to Life, Concerned Women for America, and the South Dakota Catholic Conference.

Why on earth would the Pennington County Republican Party be featuring and favoring those few legislators who were such jerks that they want to send women who have an abortion to jail, a position in direct opposition to 92% of the legislature and Governor Noem?

The problem that the Pennington County GOP finds itself in is not an uncommon one, and one that more and more county groups face. You might call it mission creep, or prestige theft for lack of a better term. Outside groups are always pushing their agenda onto Republican Party groups and attempting to borrow their name in support of their own goals.  The Republican Party’s mission is to elect Republican candidates to office and to support their continued election. The problem gets to be when these outside groups try to come in and tell Republicans who is the better Republican, and the party. They have no other interest except in promoting themselves and ensuring the growth of their group at the expense of the GOP.

Their parasitic nature doesn’t provide any benefit to the GOP as a whole; it’s one sided, and is ultimately unsustainable. They care about their mission. Not the GOP’s. Which is why it is just crazy for GOP groups to give them the air time.

It actually hurts them as it drives people away, because it tells other Republicans who don’t believe that women who have abortions should be in jail that they aren’t welcome. If the Legislature and Governor Noem are any indication, that would be just about all of them.

Let outside groups do their own thing. GOP groups need to stick to their job – organizing the county for purposes of getting ALL Republicans elected.

Not just the Republicans who outside groups like.

Governor Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks
By: Governor Kristi Noem
November 17, 2023

Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season. As we spend time with family and friends during this special time of year, many of us may have a tradition of going around the table and sharing what we’re thankful for. It is important to take this time to think of all the things in our lives we can be grateful for. But it is even more important for us to remember to be thankful all year long.

The first verse of Psalm 136 reads, “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” This verse doesn’t tell us to give thanks to the Lord on Thanksgiving or to give thanks to the Lord on Christmas and Easter. It simply tells us to give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. We can be thankful for the gifts that God has given us every single day.

In America, we have even more to be grateful for. Our founders built this nation on the ideal that each and every one of us have God-given rights that no government can take away. Brave men and women throughout history have fought and died to preserve those rights. Today, we get to enjoy our rights and our Freedoms because of the sacrifices made by those who came before us.

This Thanksgiving, and every day of the year, I am thankful for South Dakota. I am proud to be from a state that still respects those core principles and ideals that our founders risked their lives for. I am proud to be from a state that embodies the true meaning of the American Dream. And I am proud to be from a state that values hard work, personal responsibility, and patriotism.

More than just the state itself, I am grateful for the people of South Dakota. They inspire me daily. I have watched South Dakotans get up and work hard my entire life. I truly believe that you cannot find a harder working group of people.

South Dakotans work to take care of their families. They do not do anything halfheartedly. When a South Dakotan sets their mind to something, you can rest assured that they’re going to accomplish it. Our state has thrived because of our people and because of our attitude.

In South Dakota, we never give up. We never say, “good enough.” We know that we can always do better, always strive for more. That is the attitude that I have every day when I go to work. And I am thankful that it is the attitude of so many folks across our great state.

This holiday season, I hope you are able to spend time with those closest to you. I hope you share what you are thankful for. But I also hope that you keep the spirit of the holidays with you all year round.

To the people of South Dakota, thank you for all the work you do to make this the greatest state in the nation.

God bless you – and happy Thanksgiving!


Senator Thune’s Weekly Column: Food, Family, and Faith

Food, Family, and Faith
By Sen. John Thune

There’s a beautiful simplicity that I love about Thanksgiving. It consists of just three basic parts: food, family, and faith. Our forebearers saw fit that Americans should have a day dedicated solely to giving thanks for all that we have, and generations of Americans have looked forward to pausing from the buzz of daily life on Thanksgiving Day for just this reason.

Like nearly every Thanksgiving, I’ll be home in South Dakota, celebrating with my family: my wife, my daughters, my sons-in-law, and my five grandchildren. We have our family traditions. I’ll be on turkey-carving duty – and helping with the dishes. We’ll have plenty of pies on the table, including my favorite: anything in the cream pie family. And we’ll likely spend some time outdoors throwing around the football with the grandkids.

My family has a tradition of going around the table and sharing something for which we’re thankful every year. It’s a long list and each item on it brings a little more joy to our table. I consider myself a lottery winner for being lucky enough to be born in the greatest country on earth. I’m grateful to live in a country whose foundation is freedom, where we can freely live out our faith, and pursue a better life for the next generation. I’m thankful to be from, and to have raised my family in, South Dakota, where people work hard and help each other out, where the bounties of our agriculture industry feed the world, and where the natural beauty of creation is all around us.

I am also profoundly grateful for the brave men and women who serve our country in the Armed Forces. They have answered the call to defend our country and protect the freedoms we hold dear, often at great sacrifice for themselves and their families. Each Thanksgiving, I think of these Americans whose duties require them to be away from their families, sometimes in harm’s way, during the holiday season. Please keep them in your prayers.

As my family goes around the table, I reflect on how each of our blessings comes from God. For my family, our faith in Him is the guiding light that keeps us focused. On Thanksgiving, we remember that we can lean on His wisdom and guidance every day, and that His strength is always with us.

In his 1986 Thanksgiving Proclamation, President Reagan eloquently expressed the simplicity of Thanksgiving. He wrote, “Let us pause from our many activities to give thanks to Almighty God for our bountiful harvests and abundant freedoms. Let us call upon Him for continued guidance and assistance in all our endeavors. And let us ever be mindful of the faith and spiritual values that have made our Nation great and that alone can keep us great.”

I wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!


Conressman Dusty Johnson’s Weekly Update: The Big Three – Looking for Change

Looking for Change
By Rep. Dusty Johnson
November 17, 2023

BIG Update

Interest rates are at a 16-year high. This doesn’t just impact homebuyers or businesses needing loans. Governments around the world pay interest on their debts. America’s high interest rates and bloated national debt have created a problem that may take generations to tackle. American taxpayers are footing the bill for the reckless spending in Washington that led to our $33 trillion debt and high interest rates. In fact, the U.S. pays more on interest on government debt than any other country in the world.

Last week, Moody’s Investors Service lowered its fiscal outlook for the U.S. government from stable to negative due to high interest rates and historic spending in Washington over the past few years.

House Republicans are working to cut spending and right-size government programs. I’ve opposed nearly $13 trillion in excessive spending proposed by the Democrats since 2021, and there is more work to do. Congress must work toward balancing the budget and getting our fiscal house in order.

BIG Idea

Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe President Anthony Reider came to discuss one of the tribe’s projects and permitting reforms. Earlier this year, House Republicans passed the most significant permitting reforms in more than 40 years, which would greatly benefit the tribe’s project. These reforms were signed into law, cutting bureaucratic red tape and lowering costs for Americans.

BIG News

On Wednesday, President Biden and China’s President Xi Jinping met for the second time since Biden took office. Before this meeting, the Select Committee on China sent a letter to Biden with a list of realistic demands the People’s Republic of China must fulfill to show they are serious when it comes to engaging with the United States.

Reports express the meeting was cordial and while this could be positive, America should not try to curry favor with the CCP. These meetings cannot be filled with empty pleasantries. President Biden must stand against tyranny every chance he gets.

The Biden Administration’s weak foreign policy has invited countries and terrorist groups to think they can get away with invading and attacking innocent civilians. Strong American leadership on the global stage establishes peace and security. When we retreat from this position, we create space for our enemies to expand. From Ukraine to Israel, we must stand for freedom around the globe.