Thune Announces Launch of New Senate Website

thuneheadernewthuneThune Announces Launch of New Senate Website
New Look, Same Commitment to Serving South Dakotans

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) today announced his Senate office has launched a new website that will make it easier for South Dakotans who need assistance navigating the federal government and its agencies to access important information and contact his office. The new site, which has a responsive design and is more user- and mobile-friendly, can be located at its previous domain name:

“As chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, I understand how quickly the Internet is changing and how important it is to embrace that change,” said Thune. “I’m excited to launch this updated website that will simplify the process for constituents to contact my office and see what I’ve been working on in the Senate. We work hard to ensure that our physical Senate offices are welcoming, easy to locate, and provide the information our constituents want and need. The same should be done for our Senate website, and I’m glad we’ve achieved that goal.”

Thune’s website gives constituents an opportunity to email the senator, request help with a federal agency, request tours of the U.S. Capitol, White House, and certain other federal buildings in Washington, D.C., and request flags that have been flown atop the U.S. Capitol. Users who view the website can also read about legislation that Thune has proposed, view his Senate voting record, and connect with him on multiple social media platforms.


Senator Thune on Obama’s Legacy – Already Collapsing

South Dakota’s US Senator John Thune had a column on the National Review website yesterday which pinned down a major problem with what President Obama’s legacy will be. That he really doesn’t have one, because almost none of it was written into law:

John_Thune,_official_portrait,_111th_CongressLast week, President Obama delivered his final State of the Union address. In the lead-up to the speech, there was a lot of discussion about the nature of the president’s legacy. Less discussed, however, was that most of the president’s so-called legacy may not outlast his presidency, since most of his supposed achievements have never been enacted into law.

Early on in his presidency, it became clear that the president didn’t have much interest in working with Congress in a bipartisan manner, and after losing large majorities in the House and Senate, he made it clear that he did not want to listen to the American people, who had overwhelmingly rejected his far-left agenda. His determination to circumvent Congress and ignore the American people has not only been an affront to the democratic process and an attack on the balance of power our Founding Fathers envisioned, it has also failed as a strategy for securing long-lasting achievements.

As a result of his contempt for Congress and his unwillingness to engage with the legislative process, the vast majority of the items that make up the president’s “legacy” — including the national energy tax, executive amnesty, and the flawed Iran deal — are not actual laws. Instead, the president’s legacy is largely made up of regulations, executive actions, and executive agreements, most of which can be easily overturned by the next administration.

Read the entire article here at National Review!

Now, I have to disagree with Senator Thune a little. (Yes, mark that on your calendar). I think President Obama did manage to secure a somewhat positive legacy for himself.

Why? Because President Obama has managed to improve the historical view of the presidency of Jimmy Carter as the worst president in modern history by bumping Carter up one place from that bottom spot, and inserting himself as the new title holder of the worst president.

You should always look on the bright side.

Rounds Accepting Summer Internship Applications

RoundsPressHeader MikeRounds official SenateRounds Accepting Summer Internship Applications

WASHINGTON– U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today announced that he is currently accepting internship applications for summer 2016. The deadline to apply for internships in his Washington, D.C., Pierre, Rapid City and Sioux Falls offices is February 15, 2016. Summer internships will run from June to mid-August. College credit is available.

Duties in the Washington, D.C., office may include tracking legislation, researching bills, attending committee hearings and briefings, leading tours of the U.S. Capitol, handling constituent phone calls, sorting mail and providing legislative support. Duties in the South Dakota offices include researching constituent inquiries and requests, participation in outreach activities, assisting staff on special projects, handling phone calls and constituent requests and sorting mail. In all offices, students will work closely with constituents and staff, polish their research and writing skills and gain an in-depth understanding of a Senate office.

Interested college students should complete the online internship application and submit a resume no later than February 15, 2016.  Resumes should be submitted to Erin Budmayr, intern coordinator, at [email protected]. Information about the internship program, along with the application, can be found online at

Additional questions can be directed to Erin Budmayr at (605) 224-1450.

Postscript to the Redfield School Bond Election Flyer Story

If you recall the Redfield school bond election flyer story that you read about here at Dakotawarcollege…

I’m hearing that Redfield residents were treated to a flyer in their mailboxes recently which cajoled them to support the construction of a new school in their community. And while you have the normal divisions that come up in those types of elections, apparently the source of the this recent mailing has some people up in arms.


Take note of the return address printed on the back of the flyer. And yes, you can confirm at the City of Redfield’s web site, that is the actual address of the City’s office of Parks and Recreation.

If you go to it, one thing you might notice about the city web site is that it notes the name of the City’s director of Parks & Rec as Heidi Appel. Why is this important? Because if you go to the web site of the group “Citizens for the Future of Education” a group promoting the construction of a new school in Redfield, it also appears to have the involvement of a Heidi Appel of Redfield.

Read the entire story here at

Heidi personally sent me a note yesterday, and wanted to provide her side of the story, which we’re happy to reprint:

I first want to tell you that I often read your blog as I love the inside scoop and learning from every angle.  However, I have never been on this side of one of your blog posts and I am not entirely sure how to handle it.  So I will do the only thing I know how to do, be honest.

I fully acknowledge the proofreading mistake that I made. However, I can show you the label proof, the invoice and the credit card slip associated with this mailing.  I have not attached them to this email but I am willing to do so if you are truly wanting to inform the public.  This was an honest, I am in a hurry and involved in too many things mistake.  I took this task on as a favor to the group.  I had done many mailings before, and believe it or not, I used to work at QQP.  I have done mailings from the other side.  I surely knew to clarify, clarify, and clarify all details again.

I have apologized to the group in which I was representing.  I will be looking into whether I have broken any south Dakota campaign law.  Just because it was not my intent does not mean that I will not hold myself personally responsible for this error.

A notation of the error was also made on the facebook page of the organization.

Now if the Hartford City Council could be so forthcoming….

Argus using legislator’s words out of context? Senator Deb Soholt sets the record straight on her support for Blue Ribbon plan.

Recall yesterday’s Argus Leader article claiming that Senator Soholt was prevaricating on the Blue Ribbon Education plan?

Sen. Deb Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, told reporter Dana Ferguson last week that it was too “premature” to predict her support for a tax increase that would be pivotal to the recommended overhaul of South Dakota’s 20-year-old funding model.


So, when we’re talking about those other school funding what-ifs, what if one of the key authors of Daugaard’s plan is already prevaricating like a politician?

Read that here.

It was noticeable enough that it was worth a mention here yesterday at

But a short time later, I had a note from someone up at the legislature saw that I’d noted the article, but cautioned me that I might want to dig a bit deeper, as they were hearing that what Soholt was quoted as saying was not as it was said, or at least intended. It was out of context, and as portrayed by the media, completely incorrect.  So, I contacted the Senator to get the bottom of the issue.

Q:  I’m hearing through the grapevine that today’s Argus article misquoted you on the ½ cent sales tax statement. Is that correct?

Sen Soholt:  Yes – totally correct as one sentence of an entire conversation that supported solving SOHOLT_DEB_2015this problem.  The first question I was asked was “will you support a tax increase” and I did say that it was premature (a bill has not even been filed) – BUT went on to say, because…we need to be very careful with taxpayer $ and make sure that we could not fund the extra $75 million that we need with existing funds.  Also that we have a very serious problem in South Dakota that we need to solve and that it requires ongoing (not just one time)  additional funding at that level to assure that we have great teachers in the classroom.  Said more but the above is the summary of it.

The Blue Ribbon Task Force clearly identified the problem in South Dakota – that we are at a minimum, $8 – 10,000 out of market with respect to our neighbors in average teacher salary.  I’ve spent countless hours this past year providing leadership to this issue and now committed to a real solution.  In hundreds of conversations that have had with SD citizens, the theme is to get something done for education and support our teachers.  If all other options have been exhausted to secure this funding from what we now have, then I would support a tax increase.

The time is now to be bold.

And I think there are a couple of points to be taken from this. Yes, when you ask legislators on whether they’re going to support a bill that hasn’t been created or filed yet, there’s a chance they might not be direct without knowing what’s in it. But, considering her position on the task force, the idea that Soholt would be undecided is something that a reporter should really question!

So, there you have it.


Bombshell polling memo on massive support for 1/2 cent sales tax for education proposal.

Ask and ye shall receive. Not thirty minutes ago, I was noting that if people had tips or hot information, they could pass it my way. And get a load of this executive summary for a poll that a friend in Pierre just passed my way.

The bottom line? I don’t know if I’d want to stand in front of the 1/2 cent of sales tax for education. Because that train might just run you over.


As noted – Public Opinion Strategies conducted a statewide survey of 500 likely voters in South Dakota. The survey was conducted by landline and cell phone, using live interviewers, December 3-6, 2015. Thirty percent (30%) of interviews were conducted with cell phone respondents. The margin of error for this survey is +4.38% in 95 out of 100 cases.

South Dakota voters overwhelmingly believe teachers in the state deserve a pay raise, and a solid majority favor increasing the state sales tax, with the money going to increase teacher salaries.

A whopping 86% of voters say teachers in South Dakota deserve a pay raise, while just 11% say they do not.

Nearly three-in-four voters (71%) say they favor an increase of a half cent in the state sales tax to increase teacher salaries, including 54% who strongly favor such a proposal. Just 26% oppose it. Among key subgroups:

  • Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Republicans, 72% of Independents, and 76% of Democrats favor the proposal.
  • Strong majorities back the proposal in both East River (72%) and West River (70%).
  • Voters of all ideological stripes back the proposal, including 66% of conservatives, 74% of moderates, and 87% of liberals.
The Bottom Line

South Dakota voters overwhelmingly say teachers in the state deserve a pay raise. And, despite the conservative tilt of the Mount Rushmore State, there is one tax increase that a large majority of voters can support: a half cent sales tax increase to go toward increasing the pay of South Dakota’s teachers.

Bipartisan majorities and voters across the ideological spectrum back the proposal, as do voters across the state.

People can complain about raising taxes all they want, but if this poll from Public Opinion Strategies, one of the top polling firms in the nation, is to be believed, the Governor’s proposal has more than significant public sentiment behind it. It has near universal support across the state.

Read the executive memo for the poll yourself and let us know what you think. As I said, I’m not sure I’d want to be in the way on this one.

Governor Appoints Duenwald Chief Hearing Examiner (Congrats Katie!)

daugaardheader DaugaardGovernor Appoints Duenwald Chief Hearing Examiner

 PIERRE, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard announced today that he will appoint Catherine Duenwald chief hearing examiner.

Duenwald is currently general counsel for the Bureau of Administration. “Catherine has served the bureau well and will continue to do so in her new role as the chief hearing examiner,” said BOA Commissioner Jeff Holden.

Duenwald has served the state of South Dakota for over 15 years.

“The office has a long history of impartiality and fairness,” said Duenwald. “I look forward to protecting the high integrity of the Office of Hearing Examiners.”

Duenwald will replace Hillary Brady who passed away earlier this year following a long battle with cancer.


And just a little extra Congratulations for Katie Duenwald, (whom I remember as a lowly Legislative Intern way back when.)  You deserve it!

Here’s the draft legislation to amend “Any Willing Provider” choice laws put in place under Initiated Measure 17.

I’d written a couple of time this past week on an upcoming legislative battle between the people who opposed Initiated Measure 17 this past election, and the impending battle did not go unnoticed by the state’s largest newspaper:

Businesses and consumers would have the ability to purchase health insurance plans that exclude some health providers under a bill that lawmakers will consider.

If passed, the bill would authorize so-called narrow network insurance plans, which have a small universe of health providers. The plans can be less expensive because the doctors and other health providers agree to charge lower amounts in exchange for the guaranteed volume generated by those covered in the plan.

But the bill could prove controversial because it amends an initiative that voters approved in 2014 requiring health insurance plans to be open to all providers who are willing to accept an insurance network’s terms and conditions. Initiated Measure 17 – which proponents dubbed as a “patient choice” measure – passed with a solid 62 percent majority.

It also opens another front in the long war between doctor-owned hospitals and the nonprofit hospital systems.

Read that here.

And with legislators back in Pierre today, a draft of the proposed legislation dated this past week found itself to me, titled “An Act to allow health care providers to offer plans that contain less than all of the health care providers on a panel of providers.

Draft House Bill – IM17

And that title indicates the sort of problems that this legislation faces in the 2016 legislative session. As noted in the Attorney General’s explanation of the 2014 Ballot measure:

Some health insurers offer health benefit plans in which the insurer maintains a list of health care providers. Plan members must use listed providers in order to obtain the maximum plan coverage, or to have coverage at all. “Health care providers” include doctors and other licensed health care professionals, clinics and hospitals.

The initiated measure establishes who is entitled to be on the insurer’s list of providers. The measure requires that these insurers list all health care providers who are willing, qualified and meet the conditions for participation established by the insurer.

The law that was voted in by the 2014 election notes that everyone who is a “willing and qualified health care provider” be included “on their provider lists.” The bill (or at least this draft) expressly gives permission “to allow health care providers to offer plans that contain less than all of the health care providers on a panel of providers.”

Now, take it as you will, and interpret it as you will, but it’s difficult to see how the 2014 Ballot initiative supported by 62% of the electorate and this bill draft being circulated by it’s proponents can exist side by side without voiding the “any willing provider” provisions in state law as they apply to medical insurance.

Hawks puffs herself up, while slamming Matt Varilek, Corinna Robinson to try to raise money.

Paula Hawks had a fundraising piece hit mailboxes recently. And….. yeah, I was almost starting to feel sorry for her at this point. At least until she started to roll her predecessors under the bus.

Not only is the fundraising letter awful, but Hawks decided is was a good opportunity to rub Matt Varilek & Corinna Robinson’s noses in their loss in a weak attempt to make her campaign appear better:

With a strong female Democratic candidate running for this seat for the first time in five years …… Democrats have an historic opportunity in South Dakota this year.


Although the state leans Republican, Paula can win by improving turnout in the Democratic areas of the state and by appealing to socially moderate Republican women, a constituency she has successfully won in previous elections.

In what is shaping up to be the “year of the woman” (with a female presidential nominee likely heading the Democratic ticket), Paula’s message will reinforce those at the top of the ticket. As importantly, Paula’s campaign will be well situated to work closely with and support other progressive groups active in the state.

Read it all below…

Hawks Campaign fundraising letter 2016

To begin with, I’m not sure what this letter is supposed to accomplish by slamming those who went before her.   “With a strong female Democratic candidate running for this seat for the first time in five years” comes off as a backhanded slap at the prior two Democrat offerings.

First off, when she says “strong female Democratic candidate,” She’s got 2/3rds of it right. But you need to redact “strong,” as she’s the worst offering the Democrats have sent up against Noem to date.

Aside from that, looking at how Dems have performed since Noem’s big win in 2010 – In 2012, Matt Varilek performed the best among the Democrats running for statewide office that year (42.5%). So Did Corinna Robinson in 2014 (33.4%).

Now granted, they were handily beaten by Congresswoman Kristi Noem. But at the same time, I don’t recall them going out and slapping at their predecessor in a fundraising letter in a weak effort to try to raise money.

And getting back to it, this was a fundraising letter? It’s not personalized.  It sets no suggested amount of donation. It absolutely does nothing to show the need for the money, or what the campaign will do with the money. It’s basically a lazy, blasé effort at raising money.

It might be an effective slam on the previous Democrat Candidates, but as an effort to raise money? Not so much.