Thune Discusses STB Reform Implementation With Chairman Dan Elliott


Thune Discusses STB Reform Implementation With Chairman Dan Elliott

“Chairman Elliott demonstrated a commitment to executing the provisions in my STB Reauthorization Act and assured me that the first major reforms to the STB in 20 years will be implemented in a timely fashion.”


STB Chairman Dan Elliott (left) and Sen. Thune (right)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, recently met with Surface Transportation Board (STB) Chairman Dan Elliott about the implementation of S. 808, the STB Reauthorization Act, of which Thune was the lead Senate sponsor.

“I appreciated Chairman Elliott taking the time to discuss the next steps as it relates to the implementation of these important reforms to the STB,” said Thune. “Chairman Elliott demonstrated a commitment to executing the provisions in my STB Reauthorization Act and assured me that the first major reforms to the STB in 20 years will be implemented in a timely fashion. I look forward to continuing to work with him and the entire board throughout this process as we work toward improving the responsiveness and efficiency of the STB for South Dakota farmers, ranchers, and other businesses who deal with this federal agency.”

Highlights of S. 808:

  • Improves the STB’s current dispute resolution process by setting timelines for rate reviews and expanding voluntary arbitration procedures to address both rate and service disputes;
  • Ensures the STB has the authority to proactively resolve problems before they escalate into larger disputes by providing the STB with the ability to initiate investigations on matters other than rate cases; and
  • Improves the STB’s structure and decision making processes by expanding the board membership from three to five, and with proper disclosure, allows board members to talk with one another.

The Senate Commerce Committee approved S. 808 by voice vote on March 25, 2015, and it cleared the Senate by unanimous consent on June 18, 2015. President Obama signed the bill into law on December 18, 2015.


Release: Rounds Applauds Senate Passage of Legislation to Enhance Sanctions Against North Korea

Rounds Logo 2016

Rounds Applauds Senate Passage of Legislation to Enhance Sanctions Against North Korea

WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today voted to pass the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016. This legislation imposes new sanctions against North Korean officials involved in its nuclear program and proliferation activities. It also improves enforcement of multilateral sanctions, provides an overall strategy to combat North Korean cyber activities and addresses North Korea’s history of human rights violations.

“In light of last weekend’s satellite launch and last month’s alleged hydrogen bomb test, it is clear that North Korea is moving forward with its nuclear program—a blatant defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions,” said Rounds. “As North Korea grows more aggressive, it is important the Senate take action to protect our national security interests by imposing stronger, more enforceable sanctions against the regime. These acts of aggression cannot be ignored.”

Rounds is a cosponsor of the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act in the Senate, which would:

  • explicitly state that it is the policy of the United States to pursue sanctions against the North Korean government in order to peacefully disarm the North Korean regime;
  • require the administration to submit a strategy to counter North Korean cyber-related attacks and impose sanctions on cyber criminals;
  • Codify two executive orders released in 2015 authorizing sanctions against entities undermining U.S. and national economic security in cyberspace; and
  • Require a report by the State Department identifying human rights abusers in North Korea and a report on their political prison camps.

This bill now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.


Release: Rounds Stands Up For South Dakota Businesses on Senate Floor

Rounds Logo 2016

Rounds Stands Up For South Dakota Businesses on Senate Floor
Opposes Customs Conference Report due to Inclusion of the Internet Tax Freedom Act

WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today spoke on the Senate floor in opposition to the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act, commonly called the Customs Conference Report, because it includes Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) language without the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA) attached.

ITFA would put in place a moratorium to permanently prevent state and local entities from imposing existing sales and use taxes on internet services. Because ITFA takes away important revenue for state and local governments in South Dakota, Rounds only supports it if it is paired with MFA, which would allow states to recoup their losses by allowing states and local governments to collect sales and use taxes from online retailers. The fear is that passing ITFA without MFA attached to it leaves the MFA without strong enough support to pass the House of Representatives, reducing the chance of successfully implementing it.

“Conventional wisdom – in this body and elsewhere – has always been that ITFA, which would stop the taxing the cost of internet services, would be paired with MFA because MFA lets state and local governments recover the losses from ITFA,” said Rounds. “MFA would make certain that main street businesses aren’t at a competitive disadvantage to companies who have no physical presence, employees or investment in states like South Dakota. Brick and mortar stores are the businesses that provide good-paying jobs to South Dakotans, pay local property taxes, sponsor community baseball leagues, send their kids and grandkids to South Dakota schools and invest in the future of our state. We have an opportunity to level the playing field for them – rather than picking winners and losers – so they can continue to be successful and enrich the lives of South Dakotans.”

“If the President signs the Customs Conference Report into law – in its current form with ITFA attached to it – municipalities in my home state of South Dakota will lose $4.3 million dollars of revenue annually. That is revenue they rely upon to fund essential services such as training for firefighters and police officers, maintenance for parks, upkeep of community centers and libraries, and repairs to critical roads and bridges. Without any way of recouping that loss – local leaders will be forced to make the tough decision: to cut those important services communities depend upon, or raise other taxes.”



Sen. Rampelberg to be challenged in District 30 Senate Primary by State Rep. Lance Russell

In South Dakota State Legislative District 30, it’s game on!

Long-time State Representative Lance Russell is a man on a mission. And that mission in June of 2016 will be to challenge sitting State Senator Bruce Rampelberg for the seat he currently holds.

While he hasn’t issued a press release on it yet, Russell confirmed with me this afternoon that he is in fact going to be a candidate for the office.

As for the reasons why he’s running, Lance noted to the SDWC today that Rambelberg “has enticed him into the race with less than conservative votes and positions he’s taken such as on medical marijuana, tax increases, and bills such as Rampelberg’s sponsorship of Democrat Bernie Hunhoff’s corporate income tax measure.”

Long known as one of the legislature’s staunchest conservatives, Russell pointed out that “he and Rampelberg haven’t been on the same side on a number of issues for quite some time.”

Russell is completing his 8th year in the State House this session, and is no longer eligible to run again for the same office due to term limits.

House Bill 1182 just moved to top of Legislative Calendar today.

Right after Paula Hawks took personal privilege to welcome Planned Parernhood and NARAL to the State Legislature today, Rep. Brian Gosch made a motion to place House Bill 1182 at the top of today’s Legislative Calendar.

And one legislator tells me that over 100 School Districts are represented in the Gallery at the moment.

Here we go!

….  and that was quick. HB 1182 was just deferred to next Tuesday.

Are Short Term lending opponents trying to clear the road for Obama Loans & a government-backed windfall?

Do you believe in coincidences?   On scanning my google news feeds in recent days, there was an item that caught my eye. And it was one of those things that kept sticking in my head.

We all know how Obama Campaign manager Steve Hildebrand is pushing hard to go after short term lenders in South Dakota, and has similarly minded Democrats and liberals following in his wake.  There has always been rumbling that there was national backing for his effort, and a recent campaign finance report notes that a special interest group, Center for Responsible Lending, has been backing the measure with support.


Remember the name of that organization – as the Center for Responsible Lending is very noteworthy, as are the founders of the group.

Center for Responsible Lending founders Herbert and Marion Sandler have ties to the subprime banking crisis, which you can read about as detailed by CBS’s 60 minutes in 2013.

In fact, Herb and Marion Sandler were legendary. In 1963, they started Golden West Financial and grew to 285 branches under the name World Savings. The Sandlers’ were known for careful, conservative lending. They’ve given away millions of dollars to charity and started an advocacy group for low income borrowers called the Center for Responsible Lending.

In 2006, just before the housing crash, the Sandlers sold their bank to Wachovia and pocketed $2.3 billion.


Wachovia was so badly wounded, it was acquired by Wells Fargo with the help of a taxpayer bailout.

Read it here.

So, after cashing out prior to the subprime crash, they started this organization… an advocacy group for low income borrowers called the Center for Responsible Lending.   Here’s where it just drips with irony, and it gets better when you start looking at what this “advocacy group”  has been up to besides assisting the Hildebrand effort.

According to Politico just this past November:

The Center for Responsible Lending spent hours consulting with senior Obama administration officials, giving input on how to implement the rule that would restrict the vast majority of short-term loans.


At the same time, the group’s financial services business, Self Help Credit Union, was pushing CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) to support its own small-dollar loan product with a much lower interest rate as an alternative to payday loans.


The emails between CRL and CFPB staffers document regular meetings and close collaboration. In November 2013, as it was researching regulations, CFPB requested data from the nonprofit on payday lenders “to help focus these efforts.” The next month, a staffer for the Center for Responsible Lending requested a copy of the agency’s overdraft analysis “so that CRL could make sure ours was as parallel as possible.”

That spring, David Silberman, associate director for research, markets and regulations at the CFPB, requested an outline on payday lending from CRL President Mike Calhoun. Calhoun replied, “Feel free to improve it!”

Read it here.

Wait, what?  So, as they’re backing Hildy in an effort to kill short term lending, they’re pushing for government support of their own backed product?  It gets better.  As related yesterday from NASDAQ:

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, preparing to roll out rules​ aimed at reining in high- interest payday loans, is jawboning banks and credit unions to provide better alternatives for borrowers in need of small, short-term loans.


The Treasury Department is also pushing an alternative to payday lending. Its budget for fiscal 2017, unveiled Tuesday, includes funds to help community development financial institutions extend small-dollar loans. The budget sets aside at least $10 million to provide technical assistance and to cover potential loan losses incurred by these lenders, which fund development projects in financially struggling communities.


The payday lending rule, expected to be formally proposed within the next few months, represents the federal government’s first comprehensive attempt to curb payday lending, which can carry annual interest rates exceeding 400%. While millions of Americans lack access to bank accounts, payday customers—who pledge repayments through automatic withdrawals on their paychecks—do have regular bank accounts.

Read that all here.

So, let’s summarize the chain of events:   After making 2.3 Billion off of selling a bank, which took the buyer under and required a government bailout,  the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) was founded by the bank sellers as “an advocacy group for low income borrowers.”

At the same time the Center for Responsible Lending started backing a push to create a ballot initiative in South Dakota to crush the private short-term lending industry, they “spent hours consulting with senior Obama administration officials, giving input on how to implement the rule that would restrict the vast majority of short-term loans.”  And simultaneously, they were “pushing CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) to support its own small-dollar loan product with a much lower interest rate as an alternative to payday loans.”

And just yesterday, the very government agency they were documented as working directly with announces they’re introducing payday loan regulations, while another agency announces they’re pushing an alternative for payday loans, backed by the government to cover potential losses incurred for banks and credit unions. Credit Unions such as the “Self Help Credit Union” operating under Center for Responsible Lending’s umbrella.

If I was going to make the description a little conspiratorial, it might be “kill the private short term lending industry, set up government guarantees for alternative programs, and clean up in the marketplace while assuming no risk.”

If we were going to accept that, that would make the Hildebrand backed effort not just more social engineering & public assistance from the Democrats to create an “Obama Loan” system, just like “Obama Care” and “Obama Cars” (aka Cash for Clunkers), it would be part of an effort where someone is going to make money. A lot of money.

Of course, this is probably just speculation.

If you believe in coincidences.

In the long run, men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high. (Henry David Thoreau)

A lot gets decided in New Hampshire. Trump, Cruz, and Rubio punched a ticket to go on in Iowa. It is said two tickets are available in New Hampshire.  Tickets will go to those who aimed high and then hit it.  Some are going to miss their target.

The following are my thoughts on Saturday night’s debate.

Trump: Winner because he did exactly what a poll leader needs to do- do no harm.

Cruz:   Winner because he had his best debate of the year and seemed the least rehearsed/reliant on stump speech talking points. His only “downer” was not stopping with an apology to Carson and going on to defend the indefensible.

Rubio: Loser not because of the dust-up with Christie and not because he snatched Cruz’ body and sounded rehearsed/reliant on stump speech talking points. I think Rubio lost because Kasich and Bush did so well and he failed to deliver a knock-out punch.

Kasich: Winner because he hit on all notes and basically asked the people of New Hampshire to keep him alive. They tend to pick someone to propel to the next series of primaries and he might be who they pick.

Bush: Winner as it was by far his best debate performance and did so in a way to reinvigorate his supporters and keep his donors on board.

Christie: Loser because anything he draws from Rubio will go to Trump, Cruz, Kasich or Bush.

Carson: Loser because he was missed at the debate. The RNC/Fox digitally making a hologram of Carson to accept the Cruz apology was a nice gesture but who votes for a hologram?

Fiorina: Winner because I think there will be a certain group of voters who think she should have been on stage and will vote for her as a sign of support.

I think we have three questions that will be answered tonight:

Question #1: Will Trump win New Hampshire? While he will underperform his current poll support because of a lack of a strong organization/ground game, he will lodge a strong victory (more than 12%).

Question #2: Will Kasich or Bush get 2nd place and punch a ticket out of New Hampshire? Biggest question of the night.     If anyone does, I think it will be Kasich because he has the best ground game (like Cruz had in Iowa). However, I think a 3rd or 4th place finish by Bush will be enough to keep him in the race.

Question #3: Who will finish higher between Cruz and Rubio? I think it will be Rubio because he has a better ground game and New Hampshire has a tradition of not rewarding the Iowa winner. In fact, if Cruz beats Rubio, it might be terminal.

EXPECTATION THRESHOLDS: (__%) following each candidate is the current poll average at  Making predictions is much harder than Iowa because not only are 50% of the voters still considering their final decision, 65% of the Independents aren’t even sure whether they will vote in the Democratic or Republican Primary.  Thus, the measure is who lives up to expectations and who does not.

If Rubio, Kasich, Bush or Cruz exceed my “high” threshold, they will be declared THE winner by the media. If they don’t hit my “low” threshold, they will be declared the big losers. Note: Although these do reflect to large degree my expectations, these are less “predictions” than they are thresholds by which to measure success or failure AND to grasp insight into the future.

  1. Trump (31.2%): I assume an adequate ground game. Because he has none that is evident, I discount his performance against the polls. Threshold: 28%-31%
  2. Kasich (13.5%): Getting 2nd is critical to Kasich. It doesn’t matter how much he loses to the 2nd place finisher, 3rd place will not be enough for him to go onto South Carolina. Threshold: 15%-18%
  3. Rubio (14%): The dust-up with Christie negates his momentum in Iowa. Most importantly it is likely to prevent him from stopping someone from punching a ticket. Threshold: 14%-16%
  4. Bush (11.5%): I have the least confidence in this prediction. One moment I think his support will go to Kasich, the next moment to Rubio, and the next he will take support from Kasich. His New Hampshire organization is a close 2nd to Kasich. I think it as likely he finishes above or below this threshold than inside it. Threshold: 12%-15%
  5. Cruz (11.8%): New Hampshire is not Iowa, polls don’t show him voter’s 2nd or 3rd choice of those not named Trump or Rubio, and I think winning Iowa is a slight detriment in New Hampshire. Only if he finishes in single digits will New Hampshire affect him going into South Carolina. Threshold: 11%-13%
  6. Fiorina (4.8%): My gut tells me she will get a bump because she was left off the debate stage. In the end, I think she will narrowly beat Christie and compete in South Carolina. Threshold: 5%-7%.
  7. Christie (5.8%): He is the weakest of the Governors still in the race and voters will choose to boost Kasich or Bush vs. him.   Besides my Bush prediction, I feel least confident as he could beat this threshold.   Threshold: 4%-6%
  8. Carson (3%): Holograms don’t win primaries. Threshold: 2%-4%

BONUS PREDICTION: Sanders beats Clinton by more than 15% (currently up by 13%).


  1. There has been talk about “lanes.” I’ve never bought the discussion because I don’t think there is ideologically that much difference between the candidates. I think the “lanes” that might come into play are:
    1. Outsider: Combined, Trump, Fiorina, & Carson have 39% support.  Outsiders are attractive to those who want to disrupt the status quo beyond normal.  New faces.
    2. Governor: Combined, Kasich, Bush, & Christie have 27% support.  Governors are attractive to what i call “governance conservatives” who want things to get done vs. gridlock.
    3. Senator: Combined, Rubio & Cruz have 26% support.  Senators are attractive to those who have agenda priorities and want to hear the read meat and “that vision thing.”

If there is a very strong performance by one of the Governors, we could see the race come down to an Outsider, Senator and a Governor vs. the current expectations of an Outsider and two Senators. I can see a scenario where a very strong performance by either (especially both) Kasich or Bush potentially being most damaging to Cruz/Rubio. Surprisingly to me, both pick up the most 2nd place votes from the other. They might need one to drop out to be viable if they get 4th and 5th place.

  1. Rubio is the most nervous candidate in the field while Cruz is the least nervous. A 4th place finish hurts Rubio worse than a 5th place finish for Cruz. If Cruz gets 5th, he can just say “On to South Carolina.”  If Cruz finishes 4th or better, he can claim victory ala Rubio in Iowa. But, if Rubio finishes 5th (and maybe 4th), he will have lost the expectation game, lost his momentum, and created one or two competitors he should have knocked out tonight.
  2. Bush has the most upside. If he finishes 2nd, he is a major player (and may knock-down Rubio) going forward. If he finishes 3rd (especially to Kasich), he can claim victory. If he finishes 4th (currently in 5th), he goes onto South Carolina. Anything worse, he is finished.
  3. Trump has to start developing a traditional organization going forward or he will consistently under-perform poll support. One of his strengths is the band-wagon effect. He can’t afford to get dinged too many times like he did in Iowa.
  4. Endorsements will matter going into South Carolina.   If they drop out, Kasich, Bush and Christie will endorse a fellow Governor (whoever finishes as “Top Governor” in New Hampshire) but Fiorina and Carson will have more impact than their vote support indicates. I think they could even pull soft supporters away from candidates above them.
  5. In 2008, only the top two leaders in the polls exceeded their final poll numbers.   This hints maybe Trump and Kasich will get an unforeseen bump.
  6. In 2012, only the top three poll leaders exceeded their final poll numbers. This hints maybe Rubio will get an unforeseen bump.
  7. Iowa winners dropped both years. Not a good trend for Cruz.

Senator Rampelberg might be thinking you have to pass his pot legalization bill, so he can find out what’s in it.

Sometimes, I wonder where legislators’ heads are at.

State Senator Bruce Rampelberg is already a sponsor this year of a measure to create a corporate income tax.  And now, he’s all in on starting South Dakota down the road to legalizing pot, as a sponsor of Senate Bill 167, and his latest measure, Senate Bill 171.

Although, he has to admit, he hasn’t bothered to read 171.

The Senate Health and Human Services Committee voted 7-0 in favor of registering Senate Bill 171 on Friday. The bill would allow the state to “permit and regulate the compassionate use of cannabis (marijuana) and provide penalties therefor.”

On Friday, the bill had its first reading in the Senate and was referred back to the same committee where it originated for a hearing next week.

Committee chairman Sen. Bruce Rampelberg, R-Rapid City, sees the bill as a way to start a conversation about how cannabis could be used as medicine. He said he became intrigued about the possibility of marijuana as a medicine after receiving several emails this year, and in years past, from people who say they have found relief from serious medical issues by using marijuana.


Rampelberg admits he has not read the entirety of Senate Bill 171, but said it will likely need to be amended if it has a chance at passage.

Read it here.

A corporate income tax and 2 measures regarding pot legalization.

With Republicans like this, who needs Democrats?

From my mailbox – my latest acquisition.

As I probably spend more time than I should doing so, I was hunting for South Dakota political items on-line recently, when I stumbled across this really cool enamel vintage license plate add-on. It’s not South Dakota, but I had to have this for my wall.


It came from an antique shop in Alabama, where it would appear to pre-date some similar 1960’s era “booster” licences plates noting “Governor’s Staff – Stand up for Alabama” for Wallace supporters.

Regardless, it’s a fun piece you don’t see every day, which will find it’s way to my office.

Join the war against daylight savings time. Kazakhstan, and drive-in theaters will thank you.

House Bill 1233 was introduced this past week, and represents the second measure to come from this years’ legislative session to attack the decades old implementation of daylight savings time.  Am I just oblivious to this, or did daylight savings time somehow become an important issue worthy of devoting time, attention and money on defeating it?

I did some research on the topic, and apparently, there are good reasons why this has become such a driving issue.

Apparently, The government of Kazakhstan cited health complications due to clock shifts as a reason for abolishing Daylight Savings Time in 2005. And, everyone knows, as goes Kazakhstan, goes South Dakota.

And according to Wikipedia, “Daylight Savings Time also hurts prime-time television broadcast ratings, drive-ins and other theaters.”  Truly, this is an effort at South Dakotans taking a stand to save it’s drive-in theater industry. All three of them.

Well…. that’s as good a reason as any for the legislature to focus on this important issue!

So, call your legislators today, and urge them to join the war against daylight savings time. Kazakhstan, and drive-in theaters will thank you.