Michael Clark: My time in the Office –Week #4 Coffee anyone?

A mainstay of the legislative session is the Cracker Barrels and Legislative Coffees. This is where the legislators go back to their districts an discuss the issues.

So far I have many semi-private sessions, kind of hi-Jacked Theresa Stehly’s Coffee with the Council,  and Yesterday I had my first public event.

Normally, when I meet some one for coffee to discuss the issues, I have some idea about topic. I can do a little research, and be prepared with facts. With the public forum, other than IM 22 issues, I didn’t have a clue what topics would be discussed. Given the amount of mail I have received on SB 61 (updating regulations dealing with nurse practitioners) I guess this would come up.

Last Friday was the last day for bills to be submitted, and there were a number that dropped; Many, we didn’t get a chance to read. To my (I can’t speak to the rest of the panel) delight, the moderator referred to the bills by number. That made it easy to look up, to be honest some of those bill I was wonder what the problem was, others it was glaringly obvious.

I should give a tip of the hat to the Sioux Falls Police and the South Dakota Highway Patrol. They did a great job in keeping the peace, and making sure everyone behaved themselves. The was one IM22 protester holding a sign, and he was asked to put the sign away, and he left. Near the end, there were a few shouts from the crowd, and the moderator quickly restored order. There was also a group who had unhappy face signs and would show them when ever something was said that displeased them.

The real action happen afterwards. This is when we can have one on one conversations with the people. For the most part they were productive, except, the coffee ran out.

This is the only coffee for this session I have been scheduled for. I am sure there will be more opportunities for me to meet the the people of district.  I prefer the more informal format, where we can have a discussion, instead of just one question one answer.

Michael Clark: My time in office-Week #3 From Outside In to Inside Out

As a citizen journalist, during session I can go to the capitol, sit in on committee hearings and observe the testimony  offered on various bills.  I can sit in the darken galleries and observe the floor debate.  aside from a passing ‘Hello’ or ‘Hi’ You’re pretty much left alone.  The Sergeant-at-Arms will come by to check on you and make sure that you are not up to any shenanigans. You can watch the coming and going of various people.  If you ask someone a question, they are courteous enough to help you find your way.   If you are really lucky, someone will spot you and offer a real comment.  Watching a floor debate on a topic like HB 1069 is really interesting, there is a lot going on.  Once you’re done you can leave and no one will really notice, except now, there will be an empty parking spot in the parking lot.

Looking in from the outside

My day as a legislature starts with a cup of coffee.  I check my e-mail and news feeds to see if anything happened overnight I might need to be aware of.  Unless I have breakfast somewhere, I will grab a sandwich at McDonald’s or Burger King.  If I have some extra time, I might stop by the Highlander. Some time in the morning, I will video chat with my wife, and make sure all is well at home.

When I get to the capitol, I will typically park as far back as I can.  I can use the exercise, I generally don’t have to compete for a parking space and the parking lot is clean off a bit better, there isn’t as much ice to navigate.  I will normally use the grand staircase to get to the third floor. I use the public lobby on the north side of the chamber, I noted there are a number of lobbyist either on the phone or working their computers.  I get to my locker, to hang up my hat and coat.  I get my coffee cup and get a fresh cup, then walk to my desk to find a pile of papers, nic-nacs and other ‘stuff’  I read, review, and deal with each piece.  I set up the I-Pad, and answer some e-mail and review the day’s bills.

The lobbyist have moved from the lobby and balcony to the back of the chamber. They will come to my desk ask for my attention.  They might pitch a position or ask me to sponsor a bill.  fellow legislators will ask questions, the pages and interns are busy dropping more stuff, I try to listen to each one.  After each visit I try to get going on the e-mails, again.  Sometimes I may have to start the same e-mail six or seven times before I can send it.  If I have a committee meeting, I will take the tablet so I have everything in front of me.  Each day is a little different, some days I need to stop by the LRC, or some other office.  Sometimes I need to reach out a contact for some research for a bill.  There is never a shortage of people who want to talk to me about just about any topic.

From the chief clerk position. From the Inside looking out

If someone is serving lunch, at the capitol I will grap a bite. otherwise, I will head to the basement and grab something from Tom’s Cafe.  Unless I can’t avoid it, I will not bring food to my desk. Coffee, water, maybe even some juice; However for food, my desk is a no-go zone.

SDBP Camera sees all.

During the session I try to stay focus on the task at hand.  It is easy to get distracted.  E-mails are coming in there are chat requests.  on occasion some jerk will flash something in the gallery.  I am ever mindful that everything I say, everything I do is duly recorded and transmitted on South Dakota Public Broadcasting network via the internet.

After the session I try to get some more e-mail answered, I know there a number of social events in going on. and I try to attend as many I can, even if it is just to pop in make an appearance, then off to the next event.

I try to end each day with another video chat with my wife and daughter, A glass of wine (I do not drink and drive.)  and try to decompress the day.

As a legislator, everyone trys to remember my name, and where I’m from, and they will write, call, and e-mail me.  Some of them remember me from this blog, some know me as Raymond’s dad, and some know me because I wear a hat.

Some of you know that each session is different for different reasons.  I just didn’t expect to get this intense this fast.

This weekend we had a four day weekend! and we’ll be back at it Tuesday morning for Week #4.

Michael Clark: My time in office- Week one.

I went to Pierre a few days before the session started.  I wanted to make sure I had a place to sleep.  Hotel living is okay, for a week or two, beyond that, not so much.  I refuse to live out of a suitcase for two months.  I have a room with some family friends a couple of blocks from the capitol.  I needed to get a few things to make my stay a little more bearable, like a coffee pot.  I figured it would take a day or two get everything settled.

If I could summarize the first week in the legislature I would say it is very similar to the first days of High School.  There is finding your locker, your desk, where you need to be at.  There is paperwork that needs to be filled out.  There is even picture day.  They only thing missing is Delta Dental stuff to take home. There is meeting old friends and making new ones. The legislature has routine, that works, I just need to fit in.

Mail is delivered to my desk twice a day. There is no shortage of ‘stuff.’ Someone somewhere thought it was important enough to bring to my attention; I read everything at least once.  I notice my desk is rather smallish compared to what I am used to.  I also noticed my desk is at a slant to the front of the room.  From what I gathered it was so everyone can see and hear the speaker, who ever that may be.

The days routine are pretty simple, Committee hearing in the morning, followed by party caucus meetings, then the session in the main House Chamber. In the evening we have a ‘full’ social calendar.  The first few days we were on ‘Auto-Pilot’   There wasn’t much debate on anything, mostly informational hearings.

One of the first Items of business was taking the Oath of Office.  I truly felt honored and humbled that the people of Humboldt, Hartford, Crooks, Wall Lake and Sioux Falls have chosen me to represent them.  This not a duty I take lightly.  Swearing an oath to that duty is an honor.

On to the elephant in the room, Initiated Measure 22.

On the opening day, there was a group of a dozen or so people demonstrating on the capitol steps,in the cold, asking to have their voices heard.  That is their right, and I do not want to take that away from them.  However If you really want your voice heard, come in out of the cold, I will buy you a cup of coffee, or hot coco, and we can have a discussion.  Waving signs on the capitol steps is media stunt.

If you really want to have a discussion, call me, E-mail me, write me, meet with me, I will even set up a time for a video chat, and we can have a discussion.  So far I have received only two E-mails and one video chat.

IM 22 is a monster, loaded with (un)intended consequences. Yet, even after being warned twice that the measure would be challenged as unconstitutional, the sponsors still pushed the campaign, and the voters approved it.  We, as a legislature, have heard the voters, we know you are tired of hearing about the scandals, tired of hearing about the corruption. We are working on a series of bills to address those issues.  It is not going be fast, however it be done right.  ‘nuff   said on IM 22

This weekend I am back home!  I need to take care of a things, like laundry.  I also have a company Holiday Party to attend.

Then back to Pierre for week two.

Michael Clark: I Won! Now what?

I know it has been awhile since my last update. The last months of the campaign, the pace really picked up.  Between the door knocking, attending events, and standing on street corners sign waving it has really been busy.  All the hard worked paid off because after hours of waiting at the Minnehaha GOP victory party, I got the results and I had won!

Time for the happy dance.


The election is over!  All the signs have been picked up, cleaned, and shrink-wrapped and stored away.  Time to pay the finial bills, then moth-ball the campaign until 2018 season starts up.  This could be sooner rather than later.

Now It time to start being a legislator!  I didn’t have to wait long.  On Saturday, my mailbox was filled, my E-mail inboxes sprang to life. I received congratulation cards, letters and resumes from legislators looking for leadership positions, and stack of invitations to almost every social event in Sioux Falls.   I also received a packet of paperwork from the LRC.

Oh! Wow! There is no chance of my head getting any bigger

Most important was the flowers from my biggest supporter and loudest critic, My lovely bride, Mrs. MCimg_20161110_131803I was getting ready to accept some of the invites when my Facebook messenger popped up with a message from Senator Peters, not to accept any of the invites until the details of Imitated Measure 22 can be sorted out.  What!?!  I checked with a few other current legislators, and the blogs, to get a better feel for what I should be doing.  The general consensus was to not do anything, just to sit tight.  The Executive board, the Governor, The Attorney General and a few others were already working on a solution.  Meanwhile I sit here with a fist full of invites I can’t do anything with.  The worst part is, these groups have information I need to be able to do my job as a legislator.  It is like having a library card, but not able to read any of the books.

I also got notice of the Caucus elections, along with a gently worded warning to keep everything hush, hush.   I really don’t know how much I can release, and when I can release it.  I have to work with these ladies and gentlemen, and I will need their support in the coming months.  So, I’m sorry, Pat, I kept my keyboard on silent.  I wish I could say the same for my cell phone.  The Republican House Caucus Social dinner was held on November 18th, with the elections held on the 19th.  There was a bit of snow on the evening of the 17th that made a real mess of the roads east of Mitchell.  Long story short, it was white knuckle driving from Sioux Falls to Mitchell, and even after Mitchell it was best to keep your wits about you.   During this drive time I received about five phone calls from various legislators, each one looking to sway my vote one way or another.  Thank goodness for the Bluetooth headset so I can keep my hands on the wheel and my eyes on, well, where I think the road should be.  I also received a number of text messages from various people checking on my progress, including If I gone in the ditch yet.

The social dinner was a quick hand shake and this is who I am, then move on.  Not really enough time to really get to know someone.  I have been advised that what happens in the Caucus, stays in the Caucus, Therefore, I’m not going to tell, so please don’t ask.

I did get a chance to wonder a bit around the capitol and get a feel for where everything is at.   There were a few groups decorating trees for Christmas at the Capitol.img_20161119_115019995_hdr img_20161119_115013449 img_20161119_115322622 img_20161119_115216678

My next taste will the Governor’s Budget address on December 6th with some additional training on the 7th.


I have been told that for this budget address I will be seated somewhere on the floor of this chamber.

More updates to come …

Senate Bill 5 – Putting School Districts’ focus back on educating students. Not lawsuits.


If you’ve been following any of the pre-filed legislation coming out from Pierre so far this year, you noticed Senate Bill 5, as introduced by the School District Boundary Task Force, and primed in the Senate by State Senator Deb Peters.

I asked Deb to give us some background on the measure, and why it’s specifically needed. Specifically, unbeknownst to many in South Dakota, in several instances school districts have taken to suing each other, as they fight over their tax base.  According to Senator Peters:

It’s about boundaries: it’s to put the focus back on educating students.Deb Peters

The Sioux Falls School District has been gobbling up high value land away from surrounding districts and making them insolvent.  For example, the Tea area school district has spent over $100,000 on lawsuits to defend their tax base.  West Central gave up $380,000 of taxable land just last year in order to avoid a lawsuit and Tri-Valley has spent considerable amount of money defending their tax base.  If we aren’t going to talk about consolidation of schools and we are going to keep the school districts intact; then we need to protect the tax bases to ensure the school districts stay solvent.

School Districts’ priority should be educating students – not protecting tax bases to stay solvent in order to educate our students.

This may not be the end of legislation on this topic, but it’s a significant start.

Legislator calling for special session? Why? There will be time for grandstanding next January.

From today’s KCCR:

A group of legislators, led by State Representative Elizabeth May of Kyle, claim that the Blue Ribbon Taskforce is not the appropriate way to address South Dakota’s education funding needs.

A media press conference will be held in Rapid City Thursday morning to announce the group’s plans to try and tackle the issue.

May says that something immediately needs to be done on this issue, and there have been several legislators that are hearing an earful from their constituents…

May adds that they are going to have a press conference and they will announce the call for a special session of the South Dakota Legislature…

Read it all here.

If someone calls for a special session, and no one pays attention, do they still hold a press conference?

Liz May, who has been somewhat critical of the Blue Ribbon Task Force, is not going to wait and hear what the task force has to say before calling for a special session?  Then why are we having the task force in the first place?

This marks the second time May has called for a special session, with the first being last month. Her justification for it then was cited in part because she didn’t like who was selected to be on the panel.

Representative Elizabeth May of Kyle is making a bold statement, saying that a special session is needed to truly address the teacher shortage and the financial crisis that most school districts are facing.


May has been critical of the “Blue Ribbon Task Force” that was created by South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard. May states that the Blue Ribbon task force is failing to address the negative effects that the federally mandated standards and assessments are having on school districts financially and academically.

May says that she knows that the people selected to the task force will do a good job, but is also disappointed with who was selected.

Read that here.

A special session is not just something you ask for at the drop of a hat, especially considering the expenses and expenditures of taxpayer dollars involved. And if it’s because of her dislike for the panel, that’s a worse reason yet.

Let the panel do it’s job, and then legislators can have their day in the sun talking about the study’s outcome. There will be plenty of time for grandstanding next January.


Legislators preview the 2016 Legislative session’s upcoming bills relating to marriage.

From the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, it sounds as if there’s a pile of measures coming with regards to how the state interacts with private individuals in the arena of marriage.

County officials apparently count on taxing marriage as revenue, but that’s not going to stop proposals to just take the state out of it:

A Sioux Falls lawmaker who introduced legislation that would have ended state licensing of marriages says he will likely make another run at the issue next year.


Instead of licensing, married couples would submit a certificate of marriage to their county register of deeds. The certificates would come from churches or those who officiated weddings.


County officials originally opposed Haugaard’s bill, in part because they didn’t want to lose revenue.


But an effort to end state licensing of marriages won’t be embraced by all groups that support traditional marriage. Dale Bartscher, the executive director of the Family Heritage Alliance, said he appreciated Haugaard’s thinking on the issue, but ultimately he said his group couldn’t support the bill.

Read it all here.

What do you think? With the recognition of same-sex marriage, is it time for the state to just get out the marriage license business, and let counties serve as a filing agency?

And as noted by Representative Scott Craig in the article, does there need to be “protection provided to government employees – judges and clerks who declined to perform marriages or issue licenses based on First Amendment objections?”

We probably need to look at whether there is an easy way (or any way) to balance our First Amendment rights to freedom of religion against the 14th Amendment rights of equal protection of the law, on which the same-sex marriage rights are based.  (Given the Supreme court’s position, we probably can’t get into a discussion on state’s rights anymore.)

Or is seeking both a fair and equitable balance between religion and rights just wishful thinking that’s never going to happen?