HB 1085: An act to expand civil forfeiture laws in South Dakota. We’re asking for more government again?

I just caught this piece of legislation as it’s been assigned a number and sent to the floor for committee assignment. This measure has been introduced to expand civil forfeiture laws from drug felonies to DUI:


Introduced by: Representatives Haggar (Don), Bolin, DiSanto, Hawley, Latterell, May, Novstrup (Al), Rasmussen, Tulson, and Wiik and Senators Haggar (Jenna), Holien, Olson, Omdahl, and Solano

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to provide for the forfeiture of any vehicle used by a person convicted of a third offense for driving under the influence.
Section 1. That chapter 32-23 be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
Any person who is convicted of a third offense violation of § 32-23-1 may forfeit to the state the person’s interest in the vehicle used in the commission of the violation. The state shall process the forfeiture pursuant to the proceedings of § 34-20B-71 to § 34-20B-80, inclusive, and § 34-20B-85 to § 34-20B-88, inclusive. No vehicle may be forfeited pursuant to this section if a co-owner of the vehicle is an innocent party and the forfeiture would create undue hardship on the co-owner.

Follow the measure here.

I might be the only one out there complaining about it, but I can’t help but groan. A bill has been introduced to expand the power of government….. again? This bill represents a tremendous and overly broad expansion of the power of the state when it comes to civil forfeiture.

As it has been used traditionally when it comes to the drug trade, civil forfeiture is used as a tool to thwart criminal organizations involved in the illegal drug trade, with $12 billion annual profits since it allows authorities to seize cash and other assets resulting from narcotics trafficking. In other words, when it comes to drug use, it is done to remove the element of profitability from the drug trade, since it takes a person’s stuff on the basis as having being purchased with the proceeds of illegal activity.

There’s the problem with this measure. This bill, it doesn’t have anything to do with depriving a felon of the profits of illegal activity. It’s an act to just take a person’s stuff in further punishment. They might have well said they shall take their dog too, because neither are derived from illegal profits.

And what happens to the lien-holders on these confiscated vehicles? I can’t imagine they’d be excited about a measure like this.

Maybe it’s just me, but why are we giving government more power to take our stuff? That doesn’t seem as something in line with Republican principles of limited government. That sounds like it’s in line with a tremendous amount of authority being handed over to government. That kind of authority borders on trying to create a police state.

And interestingly, after complaints from the public, civil forfeiture as exercised by states and the federal government is actually in the process of being limited after it’s excessive use in many cases.  So, why are we trying to go the other way?

I don’t want drunks on the road any more than the next person.  But, as a Republican who believes in limited government, I certainly don’t want to live in a police state, either.

“That government is best which governs least.”
– Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience.

Looking for some more Draft Legislation. Is Avera going into the dentistry business?

Alright my faithful SDWC readers and spies….  I’m trying to hunt down another piece of legislation I heard may be floating out there, or at least you can provide an assist with some confirmation.

I’ve gotten word that there may be some legislation coming to help facilitate the expansion of the Avera Health system into the field of dentistry clinics.

Anyone catching wind of this?

State Senator Phil Jensen reginites war of words with Gov. Daugaard as primary election season kicks off

At yesterday’s Crackerbarrell in Rapid City, State Senator Phil Jensen made a point to go out of his way to reignite a war of harsh words with Governor Dennis Daugaard that had seemingly died down over the past year or so.

On a question about revenue, Senator Jensen said the governor has finally come out of December 2010 002the closet as a tax-and-spend liberal. Jensen said we had $9 million in tax and fee increases last year, and more would hurt everyone in South Dakota.

Read that here.

Senator Jensen was making a point of calling out the Governor, who, after turning in a series of extremely austere state budgets over the past few years had promoted fee and tax increases for infrastructure maintenance for highways last year, and is now supporting a measure to increase teacher pay from last in the nation. The Governor is also trying to put together a package for a cost-neutral expansion of Medicaid with the Federal government.

Jensen’s comments seem to be a re-ignition of what had been a long cooled war of words starting in 2012 when Jensen expressed his displeasure with the Governor supporting his opponent in the legislative primary in 2012:

Republican state Rep. Phil Jensen of Rapid City is accusing Gov. Dennis Daugaard of “declaring war on conservatives” by picking favorites in some GOP legislative primary races.


“What’s happened is the governor has declared war on conservative Republicans,” Jensen said Thursday. “He wants people in Pierre that will support and represent his agenda, not legislators that will represent the folks in their district.”

Read that here.

Moving past that, Jensen’s relationship with the second floor of the Capital weren’t warmed any at the time of his infamous comments in 2014, which earned Jensen national scorn. In order to inoculate the GOP at large from Jensen’s comments, the Governor made a direct point to distance himself and the party from Jensens’s comments which earned universal condemnation on a national basis:

Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard on Wednesday distanced himself from Jensen in a statement released to the media.

“I found his comments to be completely out of line with South Dakota values,” he said. “I don’t agree with him and I haven’t talked to anyone who does.”

Governor Dennis Daugaard at the 2014 South Dakota State Fair.
Governor Dennis Daugaard at the 2014 South Dakota State Fair.

The governor’s comments followed the story in Sunday’s Journal in which Jensen, 61, who runs a cookware sales business, explained why he supported the bill that would have allowed businesses to deny service to customers based on sexual orientation and not fear a lawsuit.

While the bill was killed, Jensen defended it to the Journal as legislation that would ensure businesses have the freedom to choose their clientele. He also said that businesses should also have the right to choose based on race and religion – whether that’s right or wrong, he said, can be fairly addressed by the free market, not the government.

“If someone was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and they were running a little bakery for instance, the majority of us would find it detestable that they refuse to serve blacks and guess what? In a matter of weeks or so that business would shut down because no one is going to patronize them,” he said in remarks published Sunday.

Read that here.

Jensen won that primary by the skin of his teeth, and went on to win that general election. Which doesn’t really explain why Jensen felt the need to throw gasoline on the smouldering fire and attack the Governor in anticipation of the upcoming election.

The word in the field is that Jensen will likely have a primary with one, if not possibly two people looking at taking him on for the State Senate seat.  With that as the case, why would he be going after the Governor in such an aggressive manner?  Is he seeking to run against a MacGuffin versus running on what he’s accomplished?

While it might give Jensen something to run against other than his primary opponent(s), distracting everyone from his legislative record, the downside might be it could give the Governor a reason to personally become involved in his race.

Never a dull moment in politics.

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Keeping Environmental Bureaucrats out of Your Tackle Box

thuneheadernew John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressKeeping Environmental Bureaucrats out of Your Tackle Box  
By Sen. John Thune

I’ve been a vocal opponent of the Obama Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) over-intrusion into the American people’s lives. Perhaps the most egregious example came in the form of the agency’s Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule that turns nearly every body of water – no matter how large or small – into Washington’s jurisdiction. Imagine a farmer or rancher in South Dakota with a small ditch or creek that runs through his or her farmland or a small puddle that’s created by a summer storm. Under WOTUS, that farmer or rancher might need the EPA’s permission to complete certain day-to-day tasks or build necessary structures like pole barns or fences.

As crazy as that sounds, if the liberal wing of the president’s party and EPA bureaucrats had their way, they’d even regulate the tackle South Dakotans use to reel in walleyes from the Missouri River and ban the lead ammunition they use to bag ringnecks in the prairie. These Washington environmental bureaucrats are already reaching into South Dakotans’ backyards through WOTUS, which we’re fighting hard to rein in, and there’s absolutely no reason why they should reach into their tackle boxes and hunting vests as well.

I’ve fought for years to block potential bans that could have a big impact on outdoor recreation in our state and around the country. Alternative kinds of tackle can cost as much as 20 times more than traditional tackle, which is a huge expense for everyone from the recreational angler to the most seasoned sportsman. We should be doing all we can to encourage more young people to participate in outdoor activities like hunting and fishing, not price them out of these sports or provide a disincentive to join.

I fully support sensible regulation that protects the outdoors for future generations, but some of the things the EPA has suggested just go too far. Thankfully, last year Congress passed and the president signed legislation that included my provision to permanently block the EPA from an outright ban on lead ammunition used in the field. That’s a good first step, but solves only half of the problem. I’m glad my provision that would extend this regulatory prohibition to fishing tackle recently cleared an important hurdle in the Senate and is one step closer to enactment. I’ll be working hard this year to make sure we get this common-sense proposal to the president’s desk.

While it might be an uphill fight, taking on the EPA one out-of-touch regulation at a time is worth it. The concrete jungle that is Washington, D.C., and the bureaucrats that inhabit it need a little South Dakota straight talk from time to time, which will help reinforce the message that we don’t need the EPA pushing into every facet of our lives.


Congresswoman Kristi Noem’s Weekly Column: Coach Meyer

noem press header kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Coach Meyer
By Rep. Kristi Noem

Some of the most influential people in my kids’ lives have been their coaches, and I think that’s true for a lot of folks.  All three of our kids have been blessed to be on teams led by incredible coaches who taught them lessons they could use on and off the court.  It’s what a good coach does.

In 2014, we lost one of South Dakota’s greatest coaches, Don Meyer.  Coach Meyer served as head basketball coach at Northern State University in Aberdeen for 11 seasons.  In 2009, he became college basketball’s winningest coach, and by the time he retired, he clocked in more than 900 victories.  Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to participate in a ribbon cutting for the Don and Carmen Meyer Center of Excellence at the Avera Cancer Institute in Aberdeen.  It was an incredible honor to be there and recognize a coach that each of us could learn something from – whether we play basketball or not.

For those who may be unfamiliar with his story, Coach Meyer got in a terrible car accident in 2008 with injuries so significant that his lower left leg had to be amputated below the knee.  During that surgery, they found cancer.

One of my favorite things he left behind was his “2nd Ten Commandments.”  His words offer incredible perspective for anyone battling a serious illness.  Like so many of his lessons as a coach, however, these commandments could apply to each of our lives.  I won’t go through all of them in this column, but I did want to share a couple of highlights.

He started out his list with these two commandments: “Thou shall not worry, for worry is the most unproductive of all human activities.  Thou shall not be fearful, for those things we fear never come to pass.”  We live in an ugly world and it’s hard to not jump to worry and fear.  Whether you or a family member is battling cancer, facing a job loss, or trying to change Washington, we ought to keep our focus on action, not fear.  Our attention should be on what we have control over and the steps that can be taken to make a positive change.

Coach Meyer goes on to write in his fourth commandment:  “Thou shall face each problem as it comes; you can only handle one at a time anyway.”  Advice each of us could use from time to time.

His seventh commandment: “Thou shall not try to relive yesterday for good or ill. It is forever gone; concentrate on what is happening in your life and be happy now.”  So many people today struggle with living in the now.  We’re constantly on our phones or social media.  It takes us out of the moment.  Put it all aside – if even for a few hours a day – and live in the now.

Coach Meyer’s tenth commandment is my favorite:  “Thou shall count thy blessings; never overlooking the small ones, for a lot of small blessings adds up to a big one.”

Coach Meyer was a blessing to South Dakota and the basketball community.  As I stood up to recognize him at the recent ribbon cutting, I couldn’t help think about the legacy he has left for us.  It is my hope that those facing serious illnesses – whether at the Don and Carmen Meyer Center of Excellence or any of South Dakota’s excellent medical facilities – can find inspiration and even comfort from his story of resilience and faith.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Strengthening The South Dakota Retirement System

daugaardheader DaugaardStrengthening The South Dakota Retirement System
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

Over the last several years, various states have been considering pension reform to address funding shortfalls. Some have looked at increasing employee contributions. Others have considered raising their retirement age or lowering benefits. Pennsylvania is now attempting to deal with $50 billion in unfunded pension obligations and a funded status of only 60 percent. Their plan is to make cuts that will affect current workers’ retirement benefits.

According to the Milliman Public Pension Funding Study, which evaluates the largest 100 pension funds in the nation, some plans are faring even worse than Pennsylvania’s – Indiana Teachers at 50 percent funded, Chicago Municipal Employees Pension at 42 percent, Connecticut State Employees at 41 percent, Illinois State Employees at 37 percent and, worst of all, the Kentucky Employees Retirement Fund at 25 percent.

South Dakota is among the states considering pension reform this year, but unlike other governments, we aren’t experiencing a crisis. In fact, South Dakota’s Retirement System is consistently among the best-funded retirement systems in the nation. We measure our funded status at the end of each fiscal year. As of June 30, the South Dakota Retirement System was 104 percent funded.

Virtually all government employees in South Dakota fall under the South Dakota Retirement System. This includes all public school teachers in our state, all public university professors and employees, all state employees, and many county and city employees – all under the S.D. Retirement System. Third grade teachers in Canton, snowplow drivers in Mobridge, social workers in Winner, university professors in Madison, police officers and firefighters in Rapid City – all in the one plan.

At its December board meeting, the SDRS Board of Trustees unanimously approved a new retirement design for new public employees who begin work after June 30, 2017. The new design accommodates longer life expectancies, adds variable hybrid benefits and eliminates inequitable subsidies. Those who fall under the new design will not be subsidizing members of the current design. Both designs will be self-sustaining.

Unlike reforms in other states, this change will not affect current employees – not now, and not when current employees retire. It will not impact those who are already retired. And this change will not require additional contributions from employees or employers. The Board’s recommendation is under consideration by the Legislature this session.

I am proud of how we have responsibly managed the South Dakota Retirement System. Thanks to the conservative management of the Retirement System Board of Trustees, the outstanding performance of the SD Investment Council, and the cooperation and support of all stakeholders, our pension plan is sound.

I am equally proud that we are considering reforms now, when we are in a position of strength. South Dakota is not waiting for a crisis to tackle this issue. We’re taking this on now so the benefits of our future teachers, social workers and firefighters remain secure. South Dakotans act with responsibility and with foresight. As some would say, “It’s how we roll.”


A new collectible for my wall on the way. Pierre has won for Permanent Capital.

I’ve collected political items for quite a few years, and have managed to assemble a somewhat respectable grouping of them. But as I get older, and have less and less room for quantity, I’ve tried to keep my interests narrower than I used to. I tend not to get excited over presidential pins, preferring South Dakota items.

When it comes to South Dakota items, the ones I really get excited over are the really early political items, and in that category, ribbons and pins from the State Capitol fight are a high interest level for me.  This morning, I was excited to get the winning bid on one in that category that I’d never come across before:

Pierre_souvenir1 Pierre_souvenir2

This “Badge Pin” was issued in 1904 in commemoration of Pierre winning the final fight for the location of the State Capitol between Pierre and Mitchell.  I’ve never seen it before, but it’s going to make a great display with a few other State Capital fight items I have hanging in my office.

Sponsors reconsidering support of HB 1067 at crackerbarrell

Out west this week, the heat was turned up on House Bill 1067 with a local doctor tackling the first controversial issue this session in the media:

Dr. Stephen Eckrich says that Sanford Health, one of the state’s largest healthcare providers, is behind this year’s bill, and the additions would completely undermine the voter’s will.


“They have, I believe, hoodwinked some of our local legislators to thinking this is some minor tweek that needs to be made to a bill, when in fact it’s going to completely gut what 62% of the voters in South Dakota voted for.”

Several West River lawmakers sponsored the bill including Representatives Kristen Conzet, Dan Dryden, Jeffery Partridge, and Senators Terri Haverly and Alan Solano.

Read it here at KOTA-TV.

As a result of how this measure is being perceived in the public, some of the Rapid City area sponsors were publicly reconsidering their support at this weekend’s crackerbarrell.

A doctor asked about HB 1067 regarding Initiated Measure 17 passed last year. He asked whether it was right for legislators to vote to overturn a measure approved by a majority of the people. Senator Haverly said it was not sold to her as “gutting IM 17”, and she is taking another look at HB 1067. Rep. Conzet said she voted for IM 17, and that HB 1067 was not sold to her the way it is being perceived. She said she is reconsidering the bill, and though she is one of the sponsors, she will be voting against it.

Read that here.

This bill doesn’t appear likely to go down without a fight, but with at least two sponsors reconsidering before it hits committee, it looks like it might be a bumpy ride for this legislation.

Dems not impressed with Tornberg’s leadership, or lack thereof.

It is a weekly ritual at this point where the site authors for Sioux Falls Drinking Liberally make their weekly post on what’s going on behind closed doors at the Democrat party, and then I’m doing a post based off of what they’ve written. 

It’s great stuff, and should be on your reading list.

This week’s post is regarding the Governor’s Education plan, and how the Democrats made a cocked up mess of their response:

 The Democrats proposed using the additional money to increase teacher salaries a bit more than the Governor proposed and to remove the sales tax on food, making the state sales tax a little less regressive. This is a noble proposal.

One would think that the Democrats would have lined up their primary constituent and the primary beneficiary of the sales tax increase, the South Dakota Teachers Association (SDEA), behind their proposal if it was to have a ghost of chance of passing and if they meant it as a serious proposal. It turns out the SDEA announced its preference for the Governor’s plan, not the Democratic plan, even before the Democrats revealed their proposal. 

One would think the Democrats would have checked with the SDEA before they announced their proposal. After all, Ann Tornberg, before assuming her election as Chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party and mother hen of the few remaining Democratic Legislator’s in Pierre, was President of SDEA’s organization in Sioux Falls, the largest school district in the State. Apparently such message coordination didn’t occur. 

Is it any wonder that no one is taking the Democrat’s plan seriously.

Read it here.

Ouch. I felt that burn all the way up here in Brookings.

Former Union Boss Ann Tornberg didn’t even bother to check with ‘her peeps’ on where they stood with the Governor’s plan before her party offered an alternative? Wow.  

At this point, we’re left wondering if Ann Tornberg could screw up her political party any more if she tried?

South Dakota Dems are dependent on their national party to keep them financially afloat. They’ve abandoned all hopes of running a good candidate for US Senate, and at last look were shopping for another sacrificial lamb, such as they have running for Congress against Kristi Noem. So far, their roster of announced state legislative candidates for seats they don’t already hold can be counted on your fingers. 

And now we’re hearing they didn’t bother seeking the support of SDEA, a long time partner with close ties to the Dem party, as well as personally for the chairman, before they rolled out their education plan?

We haven’t seen leadership like this since the skipper and Gilligan set out on a three hour tour. 

Nanny state pee-testing Bill introduced. Did anyone mention it’s unconstitutional?

If you recall the measure I derided earlier as being contrary to principles of compassionate conservatism, as well as a unprecedented expansion of government oversight into our lives, it has now been assigned a bill number, and has been introduced as House Bill 1076.


Introduced by: Representatives DiSanto, Brunner, Campbell, Craig, Greenfield (Lana), Latterell, Marty, May,Qualm, Rasmussen, Schrempp, Verchio, Werner, and Wiik and Senators Olson, Ewing, Greenfield (Brock), Jensen (Phil), Omdahl, Rampelberg, and Shorma

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to provide for drug testing for certain assistance applicants.  BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF SOUTH DAKOTA:

Section 1. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Upon application for temporary assistance for needy families or for the supplemental nutrition assistance program, the Department of Social Services shall test each adult applicant under sixty-five years of age for the illegal use of controlled substances if the applicant is otherwise eligible for benefits. If the applicant tests positive for the use of a controlled substance that was not prescribed for the applicant by a licensed health care provider, the applicant is ineligible to receive benefits for a period of one year. The applicant shall pay the cost of the drug test.

Section 2. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

An applicant aggrieved by this Act is entitled to an administrative hearing to determine the validity of the test and to contest the decision to deny benefits.

Has my opinion of this measure changed since I penned my objection to it a couple of days ago?

Not one iota.

If as a state, we’re going to have a program of this nature to provide temporary help, you don’t need to kick them in the face before you lift them up.  Having to go to the state for assistance is bad enough.

I was surprised to read on the Internet that the prime sponsor of this measure, Rep. DiSanto, was trying to justify it by saying she’d been on public assistance at one time herself.  According to the Daily Signal:

DiSanto, who herself received welfare assistance when she was a young single mother, argues that welfare recipients should not use taxpayer dollars to finance drug habits. She posted to her Facebook page Jan. 15:

I was a 20-year-old, single mom when my first son was born. I received welfare including food stamps, WIC and child care assistance. I worked full time and attended night classes during this time. I have all the respect for people who are utilizing these government safeguards to better themselves and become independent and self-supporting. However, if you can afford drugs you can afford food. The taxpayers do not need to subsidize your drug habit.

Read that here.

Wait, what?

Someone explain to me how we make the leap in logic from “I have all the respect for people who are utilizing these government safeguards” to “if you can afford drugs you can afford food.?”  Because if DiSanto actually had any respect for them as she claims, why would she assume they ALL need to be tested for drug use?

By saying that we need to test them all, as I noted before, the measure embodies the ultimate expression of the intrusive nanny state in its most malevolent form as it creates more government, and a dangerous overreach of the authority of the state to intrude into our lives.  We will literally be adding more bureaucracy for the purposes of government drug testing citizens of the state.

And it introduces a very, very dangerous concept that interactions with government should be prequalified based upon successfully passing a very fallible drug test.  If there was any compassion or conservatism – as opposed to meanness and big government – in the interest of barring drug users we might consider principles that seem to be cast by the wayside in this instance.

You know, those principles handed down by our country’s forefathers, contained in the US Constitution and amendments known as The Bill of Rights. And I’m not the only one who thinks this way (From December of 2014).

A federal appeals court on Wednesday said a Florida law requiring applicants for welfare benefits to undergo mandatory drug testing is unconstitutional, a decision that could affect efforts to enforce similar laws in other states.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Florida did not show a “substantial special need” to test all applicants to its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program without any suspicion of drug use. The federally subsidized program was intended to help people pay for food, shelter and other necessities.

“By virtue of poverty, TANF applicants are not stripped of their legitimate expectations of privacy,” Circuit Judge Stanley Marcus wrote for a three-judge panel. “If we are to give meaning to the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on blanket government searches, we must – and we do – hold that (the law) crosses the constitutional line.”

Read that here.  And if we look to the Congressional Research Service from March of this past year….

Based on the case law analyzed above, state or federal laws that require drug tests as a condition of receiving governmental benefits without regard to an individualized suspicion of illicit drug use may be subject to constitutional challenge. Drug tests historically have been considered searches for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment. For searches to be reasonable, they generally must be based on individualized suspicion unless the government can show a special need warranting a deviation from the norm. However, governmental benefit programs like TANF, SNAP, unemployment compensation, and housing assistance do not naturally evoke the special needs that the Supreme Court has recognized in the past.

Read the Congressional Service Report here.

If we’re to keep with true conservative principles, including those principles in the US Constitution, it’s easy to see that the bill as proposed should not just be killed, but withdrawn entirely out of embarrassment.

If we’re to hold true to the ideal that people are innocent until proven guilty, the only way to properly trigger the limiting of benefits upon drug use is to consider legislation that affects recipients if they’re convicted of a drug crime. It’s a far better path than expanding the nanny state into unheard of authority.

I had mentioned before that utilizing an adjudication of a drug crime is how Montana limits TANF benefits for drug users, so there is strong precedent for it that isn’t going to run afoul of the constitution.  Believe me, I hate drug users as much as, if not more than a lot of people. But executing everyone because you can’t find the guilty party is how they do it in dictatorships. You’re not guilty until proven innocent here. Not in South Dakota, and not in America.

House Bill 1076 needs to be withdrawn, or barring a sense of dignity or conscience, killed immediately. Because that’s not how we’re supposed to do it in this country.  Period.