Tom Cool to run in District 11 Senate for 4th Time. None successfully.

From Drinking Liberally Sioux Falls from this past weekend:

..a shout out for persistence to Tom Cool who announced at the Minnehaha Democratic County meeting Wednesday that he would run for the Senate seat in District 11 for the fourth consecutive time. Tom lost to his Republican opponent by 19% in 2010, by 14% in 2012 with Obama heading the ticket, and by 19% again in 2014. None of the results beg for optimism but you have to admire the man’s fortitude.

Read that here.

We’re still counting Democrat candidates on one hand. And none of them running for US Senate yet.

Tri-State Delegations Request Additional Extension of Public Comment Period for Reconfiguration of Black Hills Health Care System

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressTri-State Delegations Request Additional Extension of Public Comment Period for Reconfiguration of Black Hills Health Care System

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and members of the South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska congressional delegations wrote to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald to request an extension until April 5, 2016, of the public comment period for the VA’s Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed reconfiguration of the Black Hills Health Care System. The delegations submitted their request on behalf of stakeholders who don’t believe the current comment period provides for adequate time to review such an extensive EIS and provide feedback.

“An inclusive and accessible comment period for the draft EIS is essential for ensuring thoughtful participation by all consulting parties and stakeholders,” wrote the delegations. “Unfortunately, the VA’s postponement of the Hot Springs [National Environmental Policy Act] historic properties consultation and delays in the [National Historic Preservation Act] process may limit constructive contributions. For these reasons, we respectfully request an additional 30-day comment period extension.”

In November 2015, the VA granted the delegations’ first request to extend the comment period.

Joining Thune on the letter were U.S. Sens. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Mike Enzi (R-Wy.), John Barrasso (R-Wy.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), and U.S. Reps. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wy.), and Adrian Smith (R-Neb.).

Full text of the letter can be found below:

The Honorable Robert McDonald
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20420

Dear Secretary McDonald:

We write to request an additional extension to the comment period for the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Draft Environmental Impact Study (EIS) concerning the proposed reconfiguration of the Black Hills Health Care System (BHHCS).  While we appreciate the VA granting a 30-day extension after the VA BHHCS National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) historic properties consultation for Hot Springs was rescheduled from December 1, 2015, to January 21, 2016, we believe that a 60-day comment period extension would better allow for thoughtful review and comment in response to this final consultation meeting.

Extending the comment period will also provide additional time to address the requirements of Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).  Ideally, both the NHPA and NEPA processes would proceed in concert in order to provide detailed analysis and consideration of the draft EIS.  However, we understand that the NHPA process is far behind its NEPA counterpart.  The consultation process may be further delayed because Labat Environmental, Inc. has switched working with SWCA as the consultant leading the Section 106 consultation process and is instead proceeding with R. Christopher Goodwin and Associates, Inc.

Additionally, Section 106 requires that the VA provide the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP) “a reasonable opportunity to comment.”  The ACHP is awaiting a response from the VA to a series of questions posed to the agency in a letter dated December 21, 2015.  This letter was precipitated by requests from the South Dakota State Historic Preservation Office and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for a Section 213 report to be completed by the National Parks Service (NPS), which will provide detailed recommendations on avoiding, minimizing, and mitigating adverse effects to the historic integrity of the Hot Springs VA.  If the ACHP agrees to request a Section 213 report from the NPS, they will need adequate time to prepare it.

An inclusive and accessible comment period for the draft EIS is essential for ensuring thoughtful participation by all consulting parties and stakeholders.  Unfortunately, the VA’s postponement of the Hot Springs NEPA historic properties consultation and delays in the NHPA process may limit constructive contributions.  For these reasons, we respectfully request an additional 30-day comment period extension.

Thank you for your consideration.  We look forward to your response.




Light blogging yesterday, as I spent most of the day adding to the family…

ruby1I spent most of yesterday on something I’ve been working on for the better part of a month – adding a new member to the Powers family.

No, my wife is not expecting. I’ve been after another dog for the past month or so.  Our Corgi does better socially with a friend, and for our daughter on the Autism spectrum, I wanted the friendliest dog possible.

Having had one a long time ago, I knew that a Golden Retriever would fill the bill. When you get it in your mind that you’d like a Golden Retriever or a Golden retriever/yellow lab mix, you can find them out there on the Internet fairly easily. Sort of.

My attempt had me looking at what South Dakota breeders had, and unfortunately, I kept striking out ruby2in either the reasonable price range, or I’d missed their recent litters.  I did find one breeder who had pups in the $17,000 price range, but I took a pass on those.

I did finally luck out on facebook, via the friend of a classmate, and I managed to get the second pick of the females of the litter at a price far cheaper than I’d been able to find even on the pups I’d missed.

So, instead of blogging yesterday, I spent the entire day driving over from Brookings to Pierre with three of my children, who insisted on coming with my for bragging rights, and “exclusive puppy time,” as we added “Ruby” to the family.

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Accountability Matters

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressAccountability Matters  
By Sen. John Thune

My goal as an elected member of Congress is to deliver to you the most efficient, effective, and accountable federal government possible. Accountability is a hallmark of our democracy, and without it, the American people would rightfully lose faith in their elected representatives and our system of government. I have an extremely high standard when it comes to accountability, which is why I take seriously my responsibility of holding the executive branch and its agencies and employees accountable for their actions. While it’s often the bad decisions or overreaching regulations that make the headlines, sometimes it’s the lack of action or turning a blind eye that can have the most devastating result.

By now, you may have read the shocking reports of conditions at Indian Health Service (IHS) facilities throughout the Great Plains area. Dirty and unsanitary equipment, patients being prematurely discharged from the hospital, and babies being born on bathroom floors. Each of these would be shocking enough on its own, but taken together, along with the litany of previously known failures at IHS facilities, they paint a pretty bleak picture of the care our tribal citizens are receiving and the astonishing lack of commitment by IHS officials to delivering the care these citizens deserve.

While systemic failures at IHS aren’t new, the cases described in these recently released reports are unacceptable. As far back as 2010, the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs uncovered similar instances of negligence and a breach of trust between IHS leaders and the patients they were supposed to serve. These failures, which were well documented, required attention that IHS bureaucrats unfortunately denied for years.

Last December, when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified me of the new allegations, I immediately took action and demanded answers from IHS and HHS. At the time, we were informed that a majority of these issues had been addressed and resolved, but the rosy explanation didn’t match reality. Hours later, we were told that because of the severe problems at the Rosebud Hospital, its emergency department was no longer allowed to accept patients, forcing them to be diverted to nearby facilities.

I recently participated in an important oversight hearing on Capitol Hill that examined these systemic failures. One thing became abundantly clear: a pervasive lack of accountability has seeped into nearly every facet of IHS, and it is past time for us to take meaningful action to correct the root cause of these problems. That doesn’t mean we should throw more federal money at the issue or play musical chairs with IHS employees. We need a committed, willing partner at IHS who takes these issues as seriously as I do. One way or another, on behalf of the tribal citizens who depend on IHS, I intend to get to the bottom of this.


Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Update: Indian Affairs Hearing a Call to Action

Rounds Logo 2016MikeRounds official SenateIndian Affairs Hearing a Call to Action
By Senator Mike Rounds

Lack of adequate and timely health care in Indian Country has been an ongoing issue for many years. The Indian Health Service (IHS) of the Great Plains region, which is responsible for providing health care to all nine tribes in South Dakota, is failing to live up to the federal government’s responsibility to deliver

quality health care to Native Americans.

Troubling reports from a number of IHS facilities—including Rosebud and Pine Ridge – have found gross mismanagement, dirty medical equipment, broken sanitizers and blatant corruption. This has led to inexcusable suffering by patients and – in some cases –even death. In one outrageous case, a woman gave birth to hear baby on a bathroom floor with no nurses or doctors around to help her.

When the Rosebud IHS facility diverted its emergency room services last year—without notifying the Rosebud tribal leaders ahead of time – patients had nowhere to go for emergency care. My staff was made aware of a patient who had been transported to Winner due to the diversion and was treated there. However, upon release, the patient had no transportation back home to Rosebud and had to spend the night in the Winner jail just to stay warm. This kind of treatment is inexcusable.

These and other stories were highlighted during a recent Senate Indian Affairs Committee haring entitled, “Re-examining the Substandard Quality of Indian Health Care in the Great Plains.” Earlier this year, I led my colleagues in a letter requesting this hearing to understand firsthand the problems within IHS so we can begin to address them. Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wy.) also provided me the opportunity to participate in the hearing along with Senator John Thune. During the hearing, we heard more concerning stories of medical neglect and substandard patient care. Chairman Barrasso, a physician himself, called these problems “malpractice.”

Even more troubling, Indian Health Service has known about these problems for years. In 2010, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee issued a report citing chronic mismanagement, lack of employee accountability and financial integrity at IHS facilities. The report identified five IHS hospitals in the Great Plains area at risk of losing their accreditation or certification from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Six years later, IHS facilities continue to fail at reaching basic benchmarks for providing proper health care.

Providing health care to members of the Native American community is a trust responsibility of the federal government. Clearly, IHS is failing to uphold this responsibility. The hearing was a step in the right direction toward finding a solution to the problems at IHS, but until we help to facilitate a plan of action to remedy the situation and to properly execute the plan, we won’t get the results we want and the results the community should expect.

No South Dakota citizen, whether they are a member of a tribe or not, should be denied access to quality health care from qualified medical professionals because of the incompetence of a federal agency. I think all South Dakotans can agree that this situation must be resolved.


Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Raising Standards, Saving Lives

noem press header kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Raising Standards, Saving Lives
By Rep. Kristi Noem

It’s hard to believe that today there are medical facilities in South Dakota where staff are washing surgical instruments by hand because the sterilization machine has been broken for six months – where no infection control measures were taken for a patient with a history of an untreated, highly infectious disease – where a pregnant young woman was left to give birth unattended on the floor of the hospital bathroom.  But these situations have occurred.  They’ve occurred within the last year at an Indian Health Service unit in South Dakota.

The federal government is responsible by treaty for providing health care to tribal members and it does so through the Indian Health Service – or IHS.  Sadly, there are deep-rooted problems within IHS that have gone unresolved for a decade or more, leaving tribal health care in the state of emergency we find it in today.

Over the last four years, funding for IHS has increased by more than a half-billion dollars and yet the system as a whole stands in a state of disrepair. What is needed more than anything is reform.

First, IHS priorities must be realigned.  Too much money is being spent on administration and anecdotal evidence of waste is extensive.  This question of where the money is going is something I’ve been aggressively working to uncover. I issued a formal request on this to IHS in December and I’m hopeful a response will arrive in the coming weeks.

I would like to see less of a financial emphasis on administration and more on mental health.  I was glad IHS shifted another $1.8 million toward suicide prevention efforts recently, but still, questions remain about how they intend to use that money.  Currently, much of it is expected to go toward an intensive behavioral program in Rapid City, hundreds of miles from the people it is designed to help. Is this the best way to leverage these dollars?  We’re still working through the answer to that question.

Second, we need to improve the physical condition of IHS hospitals.  The broken equipment and crumbling infrastructure has a significant impact on care. Knowing this, we adjusted the budget breakdown for 2016 to reflect a 12 percent funding increase for maintenance and repairs.  More will likely need to be done, but this is a necessary start.

Finally, patients deserve a dedicated and fully trained medical staff.  In a 2010 Senate Indian Affairs Committee report, Senator Byron Dorgan described instances in which health care providers were under the influence of drugs or alcohol while on the job.  More recent reports have shown physicians practicing with expired licenses and nurse practitioners without the proper certifications. While the problems are known, little has been done to improve the situation. This must change.

I recognize part of the challenge is recruiting the right individuals.  We’re looking at multiple options in this area.  For instance, currently if you work for IHS, the federal government helps pay your student loans.  The employee, however, is then taxed on this benefit, diminishing the incentive.  Perhaps we could lift that burden and make the student loan repayment benefits tax free, as it is for employees at other agencies.

Fixing the situation at IHS is personal.  As many of you reading this know, Bryon and I have three children.  When they’ve gotten sick or hurt, we’ve been able to take them to a hospital that was clean and safe.  The young people I’ve met in Rosebud and Pine Ridge don’t have that option.  There are no excuses for the kind of care being delivered.  The time to resolve this issue is now, and the faster we turn it around, the more lives we will save.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Expanding Outdoor Opportunities In Spearfish Canyon

daugaardheaderExpanding Outdoor Opportunities In Spearfish Canyon
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardOver the last few months, the Spearfish Canyon Foundation has been working with the state Game, Fish and Parks Department to acquire a beautiful property from Homestake Mining Company. Within just a few weeks the Foundation will donate funds to Game, Fish and Parks for the purchase of 73 acres in Spearfish Canyon, including Spearfish Falls. That land, along with two other adjacent state-owned parcels including Roughlock Falls, is the genesis of an opportunity for our state.

My hope is to establish Spearfish Canyon State Park in the northern Black Hills. The proposed state park would contain iconic natural features in the canyon including Roughlock Falls, Spearfish Falls, Spearfish Creek, Little Spearfish Creek and fishing ponds. Game, Fish and Parks would improve existing camping, hiking, fishing and sightseeing opportunities and upgrade facilities and roads.

Spearfish Falls and the hiking trail that leads to it is currently owned by Homestake and closed to the public. One benefit of creating a state park in Spearfish Canyon is the opportunity to reopen the trail and make improvements at Spearfish Falls similar to those that have been made at Roughlock Falls. I believe it is imperative that the public has the opportunity to enjoy the unspoiled beauty found in Spearfish Canyon. A modest user fee would allow the state to maintain these facilities in Little Spearfish Canyon and insure that they are available for future generations. At the same time, my plan does not include a park entrance fee of any type to drive the scenic byway through Spearfish Canyon.

Spearfish Canyon is a special place. Our family has visited many times. Whether on a snowmobile ride in the winter, a hiking trip in the summer, or a day enjoying the beautiful colors of the fall foliage, many people from across the state and nation have fond memories of Spearfish Canyon. The famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright, said this after his visit in 1935:

“But how is it that I’ve heard so little of this miracle and we, toward the Atlantic, have heard so much of the Grand Canyon when this is even more miraculous? My hat is off to South Dakota Treasures.”

I am very excited about making Spearfish Canyon more accessible as our newest state park; but we have many steps to go before this vision becomes a reality. Sen. Thune is leading an effort by our congressional delegation to authorize a federal-state land exchange. This isn’t a certainty, but we’re working on it, and I’m hopeful. The state has been instrumental in improving Spearfish Canyon in the past and I believe this plan will carry on that tradition to preserve this jewel for future generations.


There is no object so large but that at a great distance from the eye it does not appear smaller than a smaller object near. (Leonardo da Vinci)

The GOP race is deadlocked nationally between Trump, Rubio & Cruz but things may change significantly after New Hampshire and when the field narrows.  And, because we sometimes look only at the “present” as reality, we lose track of the “future” realities.  Because there are high expectations the field will narrow to three candidates after New Hampshire (maybe four if Kasich, Bush or Christie exceed expectations), I thought I’d give some analysis of what it might look like when the field is smaller.

Most of the information below came from the most recent PPD poll. The reason I’m using the PPD poll is it provides information heretofore not available (second choice by candidate). I know it is a firm principally used by Democrats. However, when I tested this analysis against some other polls, the results were reinforced.

Horse Race: Trump (25%), Rubio (21%), Cruz (21%), Carson (11%) and everyone else is 5% or lower.

Computation Methodology:  Basically, I added to candidate’s support totals specific second choice votes as a candidate “dropped out.”  For instance, of the 5% of voters who support Bush, 15% of them picked Carson as their second choice.  Thus, I added .75% more to Carson from Bush.  This is referred to below as the “first allocation.”

Then, when Carson dropped out, of the 11% of voters who support Carson (plus the 2% he picked up as second choice which is referred to below as the “second allocation”) was allocated ultimately to a remaining candidate in the proportion that his supporters had other candidates as second choice.  For instance, 25% of Carson’s supporters had Cruz as a second choice so I added 3.25% to Cruz with the dropping out of Carson (FYI:  Cruz picks up support mostly from Carson supporters which maybe explains why the Cruz campaign floated the rumor Carson was dropping out).

Presuming this is a three person race (Trump, Rubio, Cruz), the race looks this way after the first allocation of the second choice votes: Rubio (26.21%), and Cruz (25.67%), Trump (25.31%).

Then, after the second allocation of second place votes (which is really making an assumption of 3rd choice votes), the race looks like this: Rubio (31.42%), Cruz (31.25%), Trump (28.56) with undecided at 8.77%

However, when the voters were asked the question direct in the poll, it is Rubio (34%), Trump (33%), and Cruz (25%) with 8% undecided.  Conclusion: While Rubio is the second choice of 22%, Cruz 20% and Trump only 7%, what you see is that 13% go to Rubio (vs. 10% in my computation), 8% to Trump (vs. 3.56%) and 4% to Cruz (vs. 10.25%).  What this tells us is Cruz is the third choice of very few voters.

Doing the same methodology, in a two person race between Trump and Cruz translates as follows: Cruz (33.23%) and Trump (28.41%) before the second allocation. Because Cruz mathematically picks up votes 4:1 to Trump, the race is Cruz (54.55%) beats Trump (33.87%) with 11.5% undecided.

However, when voters are asked this question, Cruz (47%) is ahead of Trump (41%), 14% go to Cruz (vs. 21% in my computation) and 13% (vs. 5%) to Trump. What this tells us is that while Trump is the 2nd choice of very few voters, he is the third choice vs Cruz of most of the voters when Rubio and the others are gone. Again, Cruz is showing little appeal beyond those who already support him.

As above, Rubio vs. Trump translates very close to Cruz/Trump: Rubio (32.51%) and Trump (29.67%. Because Rubio picks up votes at less than a 3:1 ratio, the race is Rubio (52.4%) and Trump (37.89%) with 11.71% undecided.

While my computation captures the movement to Rubio when voter’s are asked the head-to-head question, Rubio (52%) leads Trump (40%) a bit less. From the current large field when it drops down to a two person race, Rubio picks up 31% vs. 15% for Trump. What this tells us is Cruz’ supporters go almost 3:1 to Rubio vs. Trump. Like Cruz is showing us, Trump too has a ceiling but not as low as that of Cruz. And, Trump is showing himself to be a third choice at a higher level than he is a second choice.

And finally, the race between Rubio and Cruz: Cruz (32.92%) and Rubio (29.71%) before the second allocation. After that allocation, it is Cruz (46.07%), Rubio 39.91% with 14.02% undecided.

However, when the voters are asked this question the results are virtually switched with Rubio (46%) leading Cruz (40%). This again confirms that Cruz has his 21%, is second choice 20% of the remaining 79% but is the third choice of very few not matter what.  What is surprising about this is that while he has a good Favorable/Unfavorable ratio, it doesn’t translate into secondary and tertiary support.  It might be a combination of his fealty to the “very conservative lane” and a personality problem that doesn’t connect with people who don’t agree with him on everything.  I just know that by the end of his 33 minute “Iowa victory speech” I was having trouble listening to the specifics of his words because his nasally voice came across as a long whine.

So, why did I do the math when I just had to look at the poll?

  1. Better discern where the heads of the 33% of the party currently not supporting the top three. They prefer Rubio over both Cruz and Trump by a large margin. And, they prefer Cruz over Trump by a significant margin. But that is today. There is still a lot of campaign for things to change.
  2. Assuming the campaigns are seeing the same thing, I wanted insight in what to expect strategically going forward. Rubio and Cruz gain more by driving the other out vs. concentrating on Trump while Trump needs Rubio and Cruz to eat each other but not so much one drops out. I expect the gunfight to be between Rubio and Cruz and Trump becomes an observer (hard for him to do, I’m sure).
  3. And, #2 also helps Trumps biggest problem: He does worst in head-to-heads with either Democrat. He has no chance to be President unless his Favorable/Unfavorable ratio changes and he becomes more acceptable to Independents and Democrats.

A couple of comments:

  1. This is math. Voters don’t move this way and the margin of error increases as we go down the line in allocations. The direct question asked in the poll is more reliable with regard to where people are today but my math (by missing the answer in the direct question) gives a lot of insight in what might happen when the field narrows and the why.
  2. This is as of now and it is just one poll.
  3. 50% of the respondents said they were open to changing their mind.
  4. It appears that Trump’s core supporters are the highest, Cruz’ second and Rubio’s third.


  1. Unless Cruz starts to expand his base, he needs EVERYONE to stay in the race to get the nomination.  Cruz’ campaign strategy has been centered on two basic principles:  He needs to win the “conservative lane” and either attract some of Trump’s “anti-establishment lane” or knock Trump out.  What this might be telling us is by focusing on a “lane” Cruz has created a hard ceiling for himself as the field narrows.
  2. Trump is best served by a three person race.  This makes sense as Trump’s strategy appears to very “populist” in tone which transcends strict policy ideologies (very conservative, conservative or moderate) in the party.  But it too has a ceiling.
  3. Rubio is best served by a two person race.  I guess that conforms to conventional wisdom that except for Cruz and Trump, all of the other candidates (except for Libertarian Rand Paul) were perceived as not that very different with regard to tone or policy- traditional conservative Republicans.  I never really bought into the conventional wisdom but maybe should have.  I originally thought the race was going to come down to a two or three person race with someone coming out of the “Governor lane” (Walker, Bush, Kasich, Perry, Christie, Huckabee, Jindal), “Senator lane” (Rubio, Cruz, Paul, Santorum, Graham) and “Outsider lane” (Trump, Fiorina, Carson).

P.S.  I do have a draft of a post on New Hampshire predictions but I’m waiting to see the last polls and developments.  While reserving the right to change my mind, I am predicting NH will finish in this order:  Trump, Rubio, Cruz and someone in distant fourth (maybe a surprise).