Guest Column: Together, We Can Save Lives-Join the Fight Against Suicide in South Dakota!

Together, We Can Save Lives-Join the Fight Against Suicide in South Dakota!
by Representative Taylor Rehfeldt (R-District 14), Assistant Majority Leader and Vice-Chair of the House Committee on Health and Human Services

Suicides have a devastating impact on families and communities, especially in South Dakota. Together, we have the power to make a difference, to provide hope, and to save the lives of our children, neighbors, and loved ones.

Children should be full of dreams and possibilities, yet many feel despair and desperation. Recent data shows a 40 percent increase in youth suicide rates during the past decade. Death by suicide is the leading cause of death for ages 4-35. Four South Dakota counties (Oglala, Buffalo, Todd, Corson) have the highest 1 percent of suicide rates in the United States. Today, 21.5 percent of South Dakota high school students considered suicide and 11.9 percent of our high school students have attempted suicide.

As a legislator, I am doing what I can to address the crisis. Earlier this year, the Legislature passed HB 1079, to strengthen suicide prevention efforts across the state, providing the necessary resources and support systems to combat this crisis.

Impactful change to save lives requires all of us to join the fight. Our children need us to be their advocates, their strength, and their unwavering support system. We need to shatter the stigma surrounding mental health so that no child feels alone in their struggles.

Let’s start by educating ourselves about the signs of distress. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs, such as withdrawal from social activities, sudden mood swings, or expressions of hopelessness. Encourage open conversations about mental health, creating a safe space where our children can share their thoughts and fears without judgment.

Support organizations like Lost and Found, the Center for Prevention of Child Maltreatment, the Helpline Center, and South Dakota Suicide Prevention Coalition which work tirelessly to provide resources, education, and outreach to those in need. Most of these organizations rely on donations and grants to do their work. By donating your time, skills, or financial resources, you can help extend a lifeline to those on the edge, guiding them toward hope, recovery, and a brighter future.

Reach out to your local schools, community groups, and churches to promote mental health initiatives and suicide prevention programs.

Join me in making a pledge that every child in South Dakota feels loved, supported, and cherished. We can rewrite the narrative of despair and cultivate a culture of empathy, understanding, and resilience.

Remember, hope is the strongest antidote to despair. Let us be the beacons of hope for our children, youth, and young adults.

Constitutional Amendment does not require honest representation of party on ballot. When everyone is a Republican… then no one will be.

I hadn’t picked this up until I was reading further on the topic today, but did you realize the proposed constitutional measure which proposes to inflict a “jungle primary” on South Dakota does not require candidates to accurately reflect their voter registration on the actual ballot?

I not only had to do a double-take, but I had to read it three times to make sure I wasn’t failing to pick it up.  According to the Attorney General’s final statement on the proposed constitutional amendment..

According to the Attorney General’s explanation “A candidate may list any party next to their name on the ballot regardless of party affiliation or registration.”  And if you go into the actual language of the measure itself, it contains this passage..

Literally, as hinted at by the AG’s statement, the very language of the measure is little more than a thinly veiled attack on all political parties in the state, because it takes away any meaning of the concept of a political party organization.

Libertarians? Forget third party status, because they’ll be gone. Democrats? They’re going to mean less than they do now. It will be great for Republicans, because in red-state South Dakota, literally everyone will run as a Republican. The big question will be how will people affiliate once they are elected, because if this passes, the designation on the ballot may have no relation to the political affiliation they claimed to run under.

I’m not sure why they feel they have to eliminate registering with a party to run as a party’s candidate. It’s not a high bar to affiliate with a political party currently. Just a trip to the courthouse.

I’m probably dating myself, as well as the age of many of my kids when I point out this reference, but I’m reminded of the evil plan of the villain in the Disney movie “The Incredibles.”  The original one, not the sequel. The villain’s evil plot to be foiled by the heroes was, in a nutshell, was to make superheroes widespread by selling his technology to render “real” superheroes common.

As the villain monologued in the movie “Everyone” can be super! And when everyone’s super… no one will be..”

That’s shockingly parallel to the exact thing this ballot measure proposes to do in red-state South Dakota. To make all candidates Republican.

Because when everyone is a Republican… then no one will be. 

Release: Johnson Supply Chain Bills Pass Out of Transportation Committee

Johnson Supply Chain Bills Pass Out of Transportation Committee

 Washington, D.C. – Today, in the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, two bills led by U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.) passed out of the committee.

The Ocean Shipping Reform Implementation Act would strengthen provisions from Johnson’s Ocean Shipping Reform Act that became law in June 2022. The Ocean Shipping Reform Implementation Act prohibits U.S. ports from using Chinese state-sponsored LOGINK software, allows the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to investigate foreign shipping exchanges like the Shanghai Shipping Exchange to preempt improper business practices, and authorizes the FMC to streamline data standards for maritime freight logistics.

The 91,000-lb. Weight Exemption Pilot Program, a provision in Johnson’s SHIP It Act, would establish a voluntary ten-year pilot program for states to increase truck weights on federal interstates up to 91,000 lbs. on six axles.

“My bills strengthen our supply chain, allowing products to reach consumers faster and fighting against China’s unfair trade practices,” said Johnson. “America’s supply chain has room for improvement, and it’s long past time Congress closes these gaps.”

Johnson and Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) introduced the Ocean Shipping Reform Implementation Act in March 2023 to strengthen the FMC’s authority to crack down on unfair shipping practices. The 91,000-lb. Weight Exemption Pilot Program is a provision in the SHIP IT Act, introduced by Johnson and Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) in January 2023 to increase safety and shipping capacity for truckers, ease burdensome regulations, and improve driver recruitment and retention.


Study: Carbon pipelines would boost corn demand, add nearly $6 billion to South Dakota economy

From a release:

Study: Carbon pipelines would boost corn demand, add nearly $6 billion to South Dakota economy

Estimates show 19 cent increase to local corn basis

ONIDA, S.D. (May 22, 2023) – Proposed carbon pipelines would raise the premium on corn for South Dakota farmers and inject nearly $6 billion in gross output for the state over a 10-year period, according to a study released today.

The report, commissioned by the South Dakota Ethanol Producers Association, seeks to quantify the economic impact of the proposed Summit and Navigator pipeline projects, which together would cross 25 counties in eastern South Dakota and connect to 13 of the state’s 16 bioethanol plants.

Findings in the study demonstrate that a 15 percent increase in biofuel production drives economic growth.

  • An average increase to the corn basis of 19 cents per bushel in South Dakota
  • Increased bioethanol production of 217 million gallons annually
  • Increase of 77 million bushels of corn demand
  • Increase in gross output of $5.92 billion for the state of South Dakota over a 10-year period
  • A total of 7,105 jobs from 2024-2034

“When you increase production at a bioethanol plant, it increases corn demand in the area around that plant,” said Walt Wendland, President of the South Dakota Ethanol Producers Association and President/CEO of Ringneck Energy in Onida, S.D. “When you apply that proven effect to these projects in South Dakota, the results for farmers are dramatic.”

The research, conducted by Dakota Institute in Sioux Falls, estimates the economic impact over the 10-year period from 2024-34 under different scenarios for increased bioethanol production. It looks at areas including employment, personal income, gross economic output and state GDP.

“The economic impact of these projects is significant for the entire state during both construction and operation. Our findings show increased economic activity in construction, retail trade, manufacturing and other industries,” said Jared McEntaffer, CEO of Dakota Institute. “On an individual level, the most profound impacts will be felt in areas near bioethanol plants.”

The Navigator and Summit pipeline projects would collect CO2 captured at bioethanol plants and transport it for long-term underground storage. This process, called carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS), lowers the carbon intensity of bioethanol produced at those facilities.

CCUS allows bioethanol to better participate in low-carbon fuel markets and take advantage of national incentives. The research looked at three scenarios – 10, 15 and 20 percent – for increased bioethanol production in South Dakota. The mid-range 15 percent scenario was deemed the most likely scenario by bioethanol producers.

“Agriculture has changed the fuel landscape in the 21st century through bioethanol, and energy remains the best opportunity for growth” Wendland said. “These projects will have an immediate impact on both bioethanol and agriculture and position our industries for an even brighter future.”


Senator Thune reportedly endorsing Sen. Tim Scott for President

From Politico, US Senator John Thune is reportedly endorsing US Senator Tim Scott’s Presidential Campaign:

Sen. John Thune, the Senate’s No. 2 Republican, is endorsing the presidential campaign of Sen. Tim Scott, according to a person familiar with his plans.

The South Dakota senator will appear at Scott’s presidential launch on Monday in South Carolina, the person said. Scott will announce his presidential run on Monday in North Charleston and has already launched an ad blitz.

In backing Scott, the Senate minority whip becomes the highest-ranking congressional Republican to back the South Carolina senator. And he joins his South Dakota colleague Sen. Mike Rounds in backing Scott, who is popular among Senate Republicans. Some members of House leadership have already indicated they support former President Donald Trump’s campaign

Read the entire story here.

Minnehaha County trying to change the rules in middle of game? They need to remember there will always be opponents to progress.

Tomorrow, the Minnehaha County Commission has an ordinance up in front of them as they host a public hearing on pipeline policy brought about and specifically targeted at the CO2 pipelines being brought by the Navigator pipeline people, and more specifically the Summit Carbon pipeline, both of which are transporting carbon dioxide to North Dakota for sequestration in the ground.

Currently, the CO2 is released in the atmosphere on the site of ethanol production. But economic realities are such that purchasers are passing legislation and/or just flat demanding carbon neutrality in what they buy, closing markets to producers who just pump it into the air.  The markets where they are able to sell are starting to dwindle, making South Dakota’s homegrown energy products less and less salable.

This would potentially set up a drastic situation for ag producers, as they would see one of the strongest markets for grain in the state collapse over the next few years, as this market fights for survival.

The producer’s solution was simple.. put it back into the ground, which works for the purposes of their market.  And so based on the laws currently in place, they are constructing a pipeline to do so, following the existing rules, procedures and laws for pipelines.

Yet, as with anything, there are opponents. Opponents of the ethanol market who claim they’re not against ethanol.. but they’re doing everything they can to negatively impact the producer’s ability to sell it.

It’s a tale as old as time itself.

There are, and have always been those opposed to progress.  There were those who were opposed to moving away from steam power to electrification. There are those who were opposed to bringing telephone lines. There are those were opposed to cable TV. There were (and are) those opposed to dropping fiber op cables for world-wide connectivity.

One of the latest we’ve seen in the state – after campaigns for green energy – have been battles over wind towers.

I don’t know that we’ve seen so many in South Dakota, but there are those who are vehemently opposed to solar power..

“Your letter to support the solar farm, when a majority of the citizens of Williamsport oppose it, makes you a disgrace to your position,” Weaver said. “Time to hang it up, buddy.”

Rather than argue, Elliott moved on to the next person who wanted to speak. Weaver sat down. The tension eased.

Read that here.

There are always those who are opposed to progress. They might at times be a vocal minority, but they have and they will always be with us.

Change is scary to a lot of people, and some of the most reactionary among us will do anything they can to try to stop progress.

The important thing for leaders to recognize that we are a nation of laws, and of fair play. And that when someone follows all the rules, dots the i’s and crosses the t’s, they should be allowed to advance down the field.

The City of Sioux Falls recently had an entire election over a group trying to bring ag production to Sioux falls in the form of a packing plant. They dotted the i’s, and crossed the t’s. And yet there were those who fought to stop it… it went so far it came to an initiated vote.

But that vote failed. And it did so on a message that the initiated “ordinance changes the rules in the middle of the game. That’s not right.”  And that “the group behind the Slaughterhouse Ordinance intends to change those rules four years into the process.

If the City of Sioux Falls could recognize that it was wholly unfair that an initiated ordinance could change the rules in the middle of the process, how is it any different that Minnehaha County is proposing to do the same to those who have been following the rules on CO2 pipelines? As the ethanol industry attempts to move forward and survive?

Minnehaha County needs to ignore the shouting opponents to progress and not change the board in the middle of the process. Commissioners need to let the current rules stand.

Former Legislator Dan Ahlers to serve as next Executive Director for South Dakota Democrat Party

In an article in the Dakota Scout, it was announced that former State Representative(2007-8, 2017 -18), State Senator (2009-10), and US Senate Candidate Dan Ahlers will be the next Executive Director for the South Dakota Democrat Party:

A former Dell Rapids lawmaker and U.S. Senate candidate will lead day-to-day operations of South Dakota’s minority party.

The South Dakota Democratic Party (SDDP) has hired Dan Ahlers to be its next executive director, taking over for Berk Ehrmantraut, who left the post this spring.

Read the entire article here (Subscription required).

Well, that’s interesting. And somewhat unexpected from the South Dakota Democrat Party, to pick up someone as their ED who might be one of the most experienced Democrat campaigners, far more than the chair of their Party.  Ahlers could rally enough to win an election when things were more competitive, but he could also do stupid stuff as well, such as when he sponsored an antivaxxer measure while in the legislature.

Considering the SDDP’s last ED had no practical experience with winning legislative campaigns, this means the playing field could be more challenging where we have more competitive districts.  Something to keep in mind.

US Senator John Thune’s Weekly Column: Reining In Out-of-Control Spending

Reining In Out-of-Control Spending
By Sen. John Thune

Federal spending has grown increasingly out of control under the Biden administration. The federal government will spend 40 percent more this year than it did just four years ago, yet the president and Democrats continue to propose more reckless spending and balk at Republicans’ responsible attempts to rein it in. Democrats have added trillions to the debt in the last two years and fueled an inflation crisis with their overspending. And their reluctance to engage in serious negotiations to reduce excess government spending risks precipitating a debt crisis.

At $31.4 trillion, our national debt already exceeds the size of the entire U.S. economy, and it’s projected to rise to over $50 trillion in the next decade. This level of debt is not only unsustainable, it’s unacceptable. Government debt drives up interest rates, crowds out private investment, and weakens America’s economic and national security.

Just paying the interest alone on this much debt is an increasingly serious challenge. Unless common-sense fiscal policy is prioritized, 50 cents out of every dollar the government borrows over the next decade will go toward making interest payments. In a few years, interest payments will exceed what we spend on national defense, with Medicare and Social Security not far behind.

Making tough choices today can help ensure we avoid these dire circumstances in the future. But President Biden doesn’t seem to see it this way. He has consistently proposed budgets that call for more federal spending, which he hopes to pay for, in part, with trillions of dollars in tax hikes. But the truth is that we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem. Taxing the rich may be a convenient political slogan, but it will not bring in enough money to dig us out of the hole we’re in. We have to find a way to responsibly rein in federal spending.

Historically, the debt ceiling has provided an opportunity to do just this. The eight largest deficit reduction laws since 1985 have all been attached to debt limit legislation. The president’s refusal to negotiate for three months and his repeated calls for Congress to raise the debt ceiling without any meaningful spending reforms defies precedent and it indicates a lack of seriousness.

There has never been a more important time to address the problem of reckless government spending. The trajectory it’s on now is not just dangerous in the long-run, it can cause serious problems in the not-too-distant future. It’s time for the president to join Republicans in taking this problem seriously and work toward a solution that puts us on a more sustainable and responsible fiscal path.


Congressman Dusty Johnson: Preserving the Site of the Wounded Knee Massacre

Preserving the Site of the Wounded Knee Massacre
By Rep. Dusty Johnson
May 19, 2023

In the late 1880s, a movement called the Ghost Dance swept across the nation. Indians believed that this dance would give stolen land back to them, bringing about a renewal of Native society. Indians would join together to dance for this renewal at the protest of the federal government.

On December 29th, 1890, a group of Lakota Indians led by Chief Spotted Elk made camp near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. There, U.S. Army 7th Calvary troops were sent to disarm the Lakota. A struggle occurred between the U.S. Army and some of Chief Spotted Elk’s band – a majority of which consisted of women and children. A shot rang out, and the U.S. Army opened fire on the largely unarmed group, tragically massacring an estimated 350-375 Lakota Indians.

The land where this massacre occurred had been held under private ownership for decades until September 2022, when both the Oglala Sioux Tribe and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe jointly purchased the land. One month later, the tribes signed a covenant to ensure the land remains a memorial and sacred site without development.

The Wounded Knee Massacre is a dark stain on our nation’s history. After working with both tribes for the last six months, I introduced the Wounded Knee Massacre Memorial and Sacred Site Act to honor and remember the lives lost. The bill would place the land purchased by the tribes into restricted fee status, similar to a trust, so both tribes can continue to hold ownership, prevent the land from being taxed, and protect it from development for generations to come. Once given restricted fee status, the land would not be able to be sold without consent of both tribes and Congress.

The section of land is forty acres located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. My bill will make sure the tribes have the opportunity to protect the land as sacred and retain the sovereignty to maintain the land. It was and always is an honor to work with the tribes, striving to being a more perfect union.