County Commissioners take offense at legislator’s comments

Uh oh.  Someone made County Commissioners mad.

Despite arguably being the highest paid part-time elected officials…. who are also known to vote for taxpayer paid health insurance for themselves…  County Commissioners took offense when State Rep Don Haggar noted that they may be spendthrifts.

(I’m not sure if that’s in comparison to austere State Legislators who have measures in this year to raise their own salaries.)

During the regular weekly meeting, Dick Kelly, who has been a commissioner since 2009, scolded Don Haggar, a legislator in his second term, for comments Haggar made to the House of Representatives in Pierre. Kelly said Haggar owes an apology to South Dakota’s 325 county commissioners he insulted with his remarks.

Haggar compared funds given to county governments to candy and implied the more a county is given, the more it will spend. The House was debating HB 1216 at the time. That bill, which failed on the House floor 22-46, had the intent to “repeal the limitation on the total amount of revenue payable from taxes on real property for all taxing districts, except school districts.”

In his prepared remarks, Kelly said, “I don’t normally comment on statements made by other elected officials on the floor of the legislature, but remarks made on the House floor by State Rep. Don Haggar last Wednesday during debate on HB 1216 pertaining to the restriction on property taxes deserves an answer. He state the proposed amendment to 10-13-25 was tantamount (his words) to putting a jar of candy on a representative’s desk and expecting it to say full, though I can’t understand why you would put it there and not expect people to partake if they feel the need. He then went on, and I quote ‘those county officials are going to find ways to spend the money. Their appetites will rise to the level of the candy available. That’s what will happen.’

Read it here.

Basically Don illustrated his point by saying they’d gobble up all the candy, Don Kelly says “I can’t understand why you would put it there and not expect people to partake if they feel the need”  and then he grumbles because he doesn’t like the comparison.

Come on guys – can’t we all just get along?:

Rapid City Journal profiles freshman Republican Legislator Lynne DiSanto

Freshman Republican Legislator Lynne DiSanto is profiled in today’s Rapid City Journal. Here’s an excerpt:

DiSanto said her greatest surprise and a “profound honor” occurred early in the session when she was one of two women asked to speak on a measure urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider its decision in Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling upholding a woman’s right to abortion.

“It was a powerful moment for me to be standing in the House speaking on an issue that I feel so passionate about,” DiSanto said. “You really feel in that moment that you have been called to this place. When I sat down I said to myself, `Thank you so much, God, for allowing me to be here and talk about this issue because it really is such a blessing.’”

While grappling with the challenges facing South Dakota — from funding for maintenance and repair of an aging infrastructure, improved education and low teacher pay, and student privacy in a digital world — DiSanto said she had been most impressed with the camaraderie and collegiality of her fellow legislators.

Read it here.

Is the GOP starting to be less dogmatic, and more pragmatic?

Upon starting up my iPad, this post from State Representative Mark Mickelson greeted me in my facebook feed this morning:


Obviously, this was Mickelson making a declaration as to his reasons why he was opposing a second amendment bill. The thing that struck me was that it’s not often that you see a prominent Republican voting against a gun bill.

And it wasn’t just this measure on permitless carry. Representative Mickelson cast a “No” vote on House Bill 1116; a similar bill which has the full backing of the National Rifle Association, and will likely be used in rankings for this next election.

It’s not just on guns that you see Republican legislators deviating from a strong conservative viewpoint. State Representative Steve Hickey has allied himself with Democrats on several measures related to eliminating the Death Penalty in South Dakota, one of which has other notable Republicans joining him on the measure with Democrats.  Hickey has also notably allied himself with former Obama campaign staffer Steve Hildebrand to take on payday lenders.

This past summer, we had a committee of mainly Republicans led by State Senator Mike Vehle propose a $100 Million dollar tax increase, arguably the largest tax increase in state history, Since then, it’s been considerably watered down from the “shoot for the sky” proposal, but the fact is that a package of tax increases ares moving forward.

All of this leads me to speculate – are we coming around full circle to when I first got into politics, and we regularly had moderate Republicans in office?

Over the past few cycles, We’ve had holy wars between candidates all the way up to the US Senate level over who was and was not adhering completely with the Republican platform to the letter, and faux scorecards painting some candidates more in adherence… and others would get robocalled.

Now that the dust is settling from last election, those who wanted to marginalize some Republicans find themselves marginalized themselves.

I have to wonder, are we moving away from burning down the Republican village to save it, and closer to a point of live and let live, and a time of more civility where people won’t worry about bringing their best ideas to the table?

What do you think?

Do you think it helps Democrats win elections in small town South Dakota?

Over the past decade or so, Democrats in South Dakota have and continue to be reduced in numbers in the state.  Some attribute it to the Democratic party moving away from issues that resonate with voters who might find sympathy with their messages of social justice, and putting their energies into areas of pure liberalism which don’t resonate in conservative, small-town South Dakota.

If you recall, for some of these “true-believer Liberal Democrats,” Stephanie Herseth was too conservative to be their candidate in the last 2 elections, preferring instead to go with members of the Weiland family as their champions of South Dakota Democratic liberalism. (Which didn’t really work that well in either case.)

The latest example of that in in an on-line petition that Democrats are touting that takes on something that a lot of small towns in South Dakota take pretty seriously – their local high school sports teams. And Democrats are howling loudly about a legislative measure introduced by Representative Jim Bolin and Senator Ernie Otten that rescinds a rule passed by the High School Activities Association:

South Dakota GOP legislators obviously didn’t get the message last year with SB 128 and are back to spreading hate across our state.


HB 1195 and HB 1161 are aimed at preventing the SD High School Activities Association from allowing transgender students to participate in activities because of the legislators own insecurities.

These bills all work differently, but have one common theme: they amount to bullying the LGBT community, and we need you to stand up again and say enough is enough!

Read it here

You could sign their petition if you agree with them… but it doesn’t work because the links are all dead.

The South Dakota High School Activities Association passed the controversial rule this year, and it obviously didn’t pass unnoticed, with those legislators sponsoring the measure, and it passing the State House overwhelmingly 51-16, and moving on to the State Senate.

Obviously, people have strong opinions on the issue one way or the other. Some think the SDHSAA is ok to pass it, to preempt any lawsuits that could come their way. Some think their decision was good in the interest of equality, and some think it’s social engineering.

Regardless, it affects those sports teams in small-town South Dakota, which typically trends quite conservative. So I ask the question – What do you think about the SDHSAA rule-nullification Bill?  And with the Democrats drawing battle lines on the issue, does taking up arms on the issue help Democrats win elections in small town South Dakota, or does it hurt them?

Does Kathy Tyler have imaginary tea parties with President Obama as well?

From Kathy Tyler’s Facebook:


“No matter how one feels about the topic, we, as legislators, should not be interfering with decisions made by other, non-legislative entities.”

Um…. What’s this “we as legislators” stuff? The last time I checked, Kathy Tyler is not a legislator, and the fact she was beaten in the November election should have been a big hint to her that she wasn’t going to be a legislator any more.

What else does she do when playing make believe, besides pretending she’s a legislator? Is she having imaginary tea parties with President Obama?

You know, once you get past a certain age, if you’re still playing make believe, people kind of look at you funny.

Senate Bill 166 – The Petition signature measure – tabled. It’s going to take a lawsuit to figure this one out.

From the Rapid City Journal, State Representative Corey Brown has asked for Senate Bill 166 which proposed to make state petition law consistent with the constitution to be withdrawn.

He said Friday afternoon that he received a message from the Legislature’s page adviser Thursday evening. He said she told him the pages were answering calls from opponents of SB 166, including some who cursed at the high school students.


Brown said the state law setting the threshold at 5 percent of governor votes for a statewide initiative or referendum doesn’t match other state laws, such as 5 percent of registered voters needed for a municipal initiative or referendum.


Brown said he expects the next initiative petition to be challenged if the signature count is based on 5 percent of the governor vote.

“I do believe that there’s still a problem,” he said. He added, “I guess maybe there’s other avenues to fix that.”

Read it here.

Cursing at high school kids? Nice. I always thought people of good conscience could disagree in a civil society. Apparently we’re setting the bar too high. Based on what Senator Brown notes, It sounds as if it’s going to take a legal decision based on the laws’ inconsistency with the state constitution to void SDCL 2-1-5.

What do you think, was Senator Brown’s decision to ask for his bill to be tabled a good move, or should this bill have gone all the way?

Light posting almost done…

Parts are installed, and I’m in the process of adding programs back to my computer, so I think the worst is over at the SDWC’s great computer crash of 2015.

I had a very enjoyable evening last night with South Dakota Realtors, Homebuilders, School Administrators and Legislators. And after sitting at the Ramkota watching them all Karaoke, I think most need to take voice lessons.

I did sit down with Corey Brown, Billie Sutton and Troy Heinert at the Ramkota last night. (Do Heinert & Sutton constitute sitting down with half of the Democratic Caucus?  I kid.. I kid…)  We all had a nice discussion, although I’m not sure Sutton & Heinert took my suggestion to switch parties seriously.

Otherwise, keep watching this space for more stuff.  We’re just about back on the air.


Where should the line be drawn in determining the number of signatures needed for the ballot?

There’s been a bit of fuss on line over Senate Bill 166 which, in case you’re wondering, intends to alter the determining the number of signatures needed for the ballot. The language of the measure notes:

Introduced by: Senators Brown, Lederman, and Novstrup (David) and Representatives Stalzer, Bolin, Gosch, Haggar (Don), Rounds, Solum, Westra, and Wink

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to revise the method used to calculate the petition signatures to place initiated measures on the ballot and to declare an emergency.

Section 1. That § 2-1-5 be repealed.
2-1-5. The total number of votes cast for Governor at the last preceding gubernatorial election, shall for the purposes of this chapter, be the basis for determining the number of petitioners required.
Section 2. That chapter 2-1 be amended by adding thereto a NEW SECTION to read as follows:
For purposes of this chapter, qualified electors shall mean the total registered voters eligible to cast a ballot for Governor in the preceding gubernatorial election as determined by the secretary of state.
Section 3. Whereas, this Act is necessary for the support of the state government and its existing public institutions, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, and this Act shall be in full force and effect from and after its passage and approval.

Follow SB 166 here.

What the measure states is that the number of petition signatures required for placing a measure on the ballot is not based on the “total number of votes cast for Governor at the last preceding gubernatorial election,” but “the total registered voters eligible to cast a ballot for Governor.”  There have been some fussing on-line over the move to revise the definition. Some are calling it an attack on the power to petition, and noting that all the legislators proposing it hate cats and woodland creatures, etc and so on.

But playing devil’s advocate there are a couple of things worth pointing out.  Because much of the criticism ignores it.

For the first part of it, I go to the state constitution:

§ 1. Legislative power–Initiative and referendum. The legislative power of the state shall be vested in a Legislature which shall consist of a senate and house of representatives. However, the people expressly reserve to themselves the right to propose measures, which shall be submitted to a vote of the electors of the state, and also the right to require that any laws which the Legislature may have enacted shall be submitted to a vote of the electors of the state before going into effect, except such laws as may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, support of the state government and its existing public institutions. Not more than five percent of the qualified electors of the state shall be required to invoke either the initiative or the referendum.

This section shall not be construed so as to deprive the Legislature or any member thereof of the right to propose any measure. The veto power of the Executive shall not be exercised as to measures referred to a vote of the people. This section shall apply to municipalities. The enacting clause of all laws approved by vote of the electors of the state shall be: “Be it enacted by the people of South Dakota.” The Legislature shall make suitable provisions for carrying into effect the provisions of this section.

Read that here.

It would appear that the corresponding provision in the state constitution requires that no more than 5% of the qualified electors of the state shall be required to invoke either the initiative or the referendum.

Just like the measure being proposed.

A little history on the constitutional provision – this portion of the State Constitution was solely amended in 1988, despite multiple attempts previously to do so. What changed? A former requirement which mandated the legislature formally ratify an initiative to appear on the ballot was removed:
Aside from that sole amendment, the constitutional provision has remained unchanged since 1898. In comparison, the SDCL 2-1-5 has been in it’s current form only since 1976. (I’m going to have to do a little more digging when I’m in Pierre on Tuesday or Wednesday for the specifics on that change in the law.)

But, when you dig into it, 2-1-5 is almost a little out of place.

As opposed to being something arbitrary that legislators are coming up with off of the top of their heads, the change that’s being proposed in Senate Bill 166 is to make the definition in statute mirror the definition in the state constitution.

But it’s not just the constitution. Other portions of state law also note the larger requirement. Take SDCL 2-1-1:

2-1-1.   Initiative petitions–Number of signatures required. All measures proposed by initiative shall be presented by petition. The petition shall be signed by not less than five percent of the qualified electors of the state.

Read it here. What? It says right there that “The petition shall be signed by not less than five percent of the qualified electors of the state.” But that’s not the requirement. And the confusion doesn’t get any better.

SDCL 2-1-3 notes:

2-1-3.   Referendum–Laws subject to petition–Form. Any law which the Legislature may have enacted, except one which may be necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or support of the state government and its existing public institutions, shall, upon the filing of a petition as hereinafter provided, be submitted to a vote of the electors of the state at the next general election. Such petition shall be signed by not less than five percent of the qualified electors of the state. The form of the petition shall be prescribed by the State Board of Elections.

Read that here.   And only then we get to SDCL 2-1-5:

2-1-5.   Total vote used to determine number of signers required in petitions. The total number of votes cast for Governor at the last preceding gubernatorial election, shall for the purposes of this chapter, be the basis for determining the number of petitioners required.

Read that here.

I sense an issue of inconsistency here, muddied with contradictory laws. Both the initiated measure law, and the referendum law are consistent with the constitutional definition. And then we have SDCL 2-1-5 tossed in to revise those laws, despite the fact they’re still in force.

Are you thoroughly confused yet in trying to figure out how 2-1-1 & 2-1-3, play against 2-1-5 in the big scheme of things?  I doubt you’re alone.   Yes, changing SDCL 2-1-5 will raise the number of signatures some. But it will also make it consistent with two other laws governing the same thing, as well as the state constitution.

I guess it all depends where you think the line be drawn in determining the number of signatures needed for the ballot.   Historically, for every good measure on the ballot, we’ve had more than our share of nutty Informed Jury, Jail for Judges, and Open and Clean Government initiatives paid for and ran by out of state organizations using South Dakota as the beachhead for launching privately funded assaults on laws nationwide.

But what do you think? Is this a hurdle too far, or is it time to remove the misplaced law, and place the requirements for initiated measures back to what our constitutional framers intended?