Press Release: AFP South Dakota Launches Patch-Through Call Campaign Against Sales Tax

AFP South Dakota Launches Patch-Through Call Campaign Against Sales Tax

Calls Inform South Dakotans of Penny Sales Tax Measure, Offer To Connect Citizens Directly To Legislator’s Office

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Today, Americans for Prosperity South Dakota launched the latest installment in its campaign against the Penny Sales Tax proposal being considered by the State House Affairs Committee. AFP SD will be launching robocalls aimed at members of the State House Affairs Committee. The calls will inform South Dakota families of the Penny Sales Tax proposal and offer to connect them directly to their legislator’s office in order to urge a “no” vote on the sales tax measure, Senate Bill 135.

Fighting the Penny Sales Tax has been among AFP SD’s highest legislative priorities. Earlier, AFP SD had taken to talk radio to discuss the legislation, and engaged its network of statewide activists, asking its members to send a letter to their legislator in order to stop the sales tax increase.

“With all the talk about the gas tax, no one seems to be talking about the Penny Sales Tax, but make no mistake, this bill has serious consequences. A one-penny sales tax sounds small, but could add up to over $150 million in new taxes if every city implements it.”

“Study after study has shown that sales taxes hurt middle-class families the most. At a time when many South Dakota families are still struggling to make ends meet, a new sales tax just isn’t fair,” said Americans for Prosperity South Dakota State Director Ben Lee.

The phone call script is below:

Hi!  This is Ben Lee from Americans for Prosperity, with an urgent tax increase alert. Tomorrow, the legislature will vote on a bill that will open the door for a massive sales tax increase. Press ONE to be connected to your legislator to tell them: South Dakota can’t afford higher sales taxes! Again press ONE to be connected to your legislator to stop the sales tax increase, Bill 135.  Americans for Prosperity can be reached at 866-730-0150.

Press Release: Thune, Noem sponsored Bipartisan, Bicameral Federal Impact Aid Bill to Streamline and Improve Program

Bipartisan, Bicameral Federal Impact Aid Bill Introduced to Streamline and Improve Program

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Reps. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) and Rick Larsen (D-Wa.) introduced their bipartisan, bicameral legislation to modernize and streamline the federal Impact Aid program, which provides payments from the federal government to local school districts to make up for local taxes lost on account of federal land within their school districts, such as military bases and federal land like Indian Reservations or federal grasslands.

This bill will improve the federal Impact Aid program’s efficiency in a variety of ways, including permanently simplifying payment calculation for federal property, resulting in the ability for school districts to receive timelier payments. In recent years, districts have experienced a delay in receiving timely payments due to delays in the process for calculating land valuation, which puts additional financial burdens on already cash-strapped school districts. The Local Taxpayer Relief Act would also improve the Impact Aid program to ensure schools that have consolidated that were previously eligible continue to be eligible for Impact Aid.

“School districts need certainty from the federal government about what to budget for annual Impact Aid revenues,” said Thune. “The bipartisan, common-sense changes included in our bill make the Impact Aid program run more efficiently and ensure that school districts with federal lands will receive timelier payments. While I was pleased that Congress acted at the end of last year to extend the simplified payment calculation formulas to accelerate Impact Aid payments, we need to make these improvements permanent by passing our legislation to reauthorize the entire Impact Aid program.”

“Hawaii educates over 13,000 students whose parents serve in our military,” said Hirono. “Federal Impact Aid provides Hawaii’s communities with resources to help serve our students, and the bill my colleagues and I are introducing today will help the Hawaii Department of Education get those resources more quickly and efficiently. As a proud graduate of Hawaii’s public school system, I am committed to ensuring that all Hawaii students receive a quality education.”

“In the past, bureaucratic red tape has delayed critical Impact Aid payments to South Dakota schools, making it difficult to meet needs of South Dakota’s young people,” said Noem.  “The concepts in this bipartisan legislation will help cut through that red tape and continue to deliver critical education dollars to our schools more quickly and efficiently – now and long into the future.”

“Impact Aid provides critical support to schools in my district to make sure students have the best opportunities to succeed today and in the future. This bipartisan bill ensures permanent, on-time payments for school districts where federal activity like military bases limits funding available to public schools through property taxes,” Larsen said.

Created in 1950, the Impact Aid program is the oldest federal education program and represents a commitment to reimbursing districts that host non-taxable federal property activities. This bill improves this program for the 1,300 impacted school districts that educate more than 11 million children across the country without increasing government spending,

In 2012, Congress included a provision in the FY 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to end the highly subjective “highest and best” formula. The “highest and best” formula attempted to determine the “real value” of federal property, which created a highly inefficient payment formula that was subject to local interpretation by assessors on the value of taxable property adjacent to eligible federal property.

In December of 2014, Congress included a provision in the FY 2015 NDAA to extend the simplified payment calculation process for federally impacted schools for three years, resulting in timelier payments to school districts.

The Local Taxpayer Relief Act would reauthorize the Impact Aid program and make permanent the NDAA provision simplifying the payment calculation process.


If you see site weirdness, hang on…

Hang on if the site isn’t loading for you, or other weirdness. I’m doing some housecleaning, back end upgrades, etc.

I had a couple of errors that were generating some HUGE error logs. and getting rid of 2 gigabyte error files helped pep things up considerably. While I’m at it, I’m doing some more housecleaning, installing a few things I was having trouble with, and starting work on updating to a more dynamic header.

Sometimes, these guys can get it right. House State Affairs passes an amended SB 190.

IMG_1307_revisedAfter getting back from down South, I’ve been spending a bit of my time lately working on Senate Bill 190, specifically with mind to amending the measure which was written by insurance companies. We had phenomenal coverage in the Argus Leader this morning, with an above the fold, top of the page story.

The bill had huge problems, because as the measure was written by insurers, only 2 people in the entire state could provide reimbursable services to the over 850 estimated kids with Autism, and it capped those services at levels lower than what was recommended by the legislature’s own study.  (The bill also has other problems, but sometimes you need to pick your battles).

There was good testimony from parents, including my better half. And testimony from insurers which ranged from some that I thought as productive and good to utterly contemptible.

But in the end, legislators cut to the quick, and recognized that limiting services to 2 people in the state was not very productive, and they went for the limits recommended by the study. They asked good questions, and generally had a genuine concern for the bill doing as it should – helping disabled kids.

In other words, sometimes these guys representing us in Pierre can get it right.

And House State Affairs did a commendable job this morning, as they passed an amended Senate Bill 190 on a near unanimous basis, and sent it to the House floor.

Noem to Introduce Legislation Offering More Flexibility for Local School Meal Programs

Noem to Introduce Legislation Offering More Flexibility for Local School Meal Programs

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014Washington, D.C. – Rep. Kristi Noem today announced plans for legislation that reduces federal mandates on school meal standards, including the more stringent whole grain requirements that went into effect in July 2014 and the Target 2 sodium requirements set to be implemented in the coming years.

“Current school lunch standards create a one-size-fits-all model that doesn’t work for our kids and places costly and senseless burdens on school districts – especially smaller school districts,” said Noem.  “We all want our kids to be healthier, but we need to give our schools flexibility at the local level to ensure the standards work for the students it’s intended to serve.  As a mom, I want to make sure the school meal program my kids participate in is rooted in science-based nutrition plans and includes food that they’re actually going to eat.  After all, my kids don’t get the nutrients if it’s left on the plate.”

Rep. Noem introduced her initial Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act in December 2013.  This updated version of the bill includes new provisions to address concerns with the Target 2 sodium levels and whole grain requirements.

“It’s essential that kids get nutritious and filling meals while at school, but new standards have taken a step too far, resulting in many students choosing unhealthy alternatives outside the school lunch program,” said Sandi Kramer, Child Nutrition Director of the Yankton School District in South Dakota. “We are proud to support Rep. Noem’s Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act.  As a mother whose kids go to school in a very small school district, she understands the challenges schools will face in serving healthy and appetizing options to students under these new requirements.  With her bill, nutrition remains a priority, but it’s done in a way that’s going to work in the real world.”

The Reducing Federal Mandates on School Lunch Act will be introduced in the coming weeks.  The legislation would:

  • Allow schools to maintain the previous whole grain requirements.  Without this change, 100 percent of the grains that schools would be required to serve students would be whole-grain rich, pushing items like tortillas and pasta largely off the menu.  Rep. Noem’s bill would restore the requirement back to 50 percent, meaning half of the grains served would be required to be whole-grain rich.
  • Maintain Target 1 sodium requirements.  Absent a change, schools would have a difficult time serving healthy foods that include milk, cheese, meat and other foods with naturally occurring sodium.
  • Give administrators flexibility on some of the rules that have increased costs for school districts, including the school breakfast program, a la carte options, and school lunch price increases.
  • Make the USDA’s easing of the meat and grain requirements permanent through law, rather than regulations.  This would give certainty to schools that they’ll be allowed more flexibility in serving meats and grains while still staying within calorie maximums.


Press Release: Rounds Statement on Netanyahu Address

Rounds Statement on Netanyahu Address

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) today made the following statement following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress:

“I thank Prime Minister Netanyahu for taking the time to address us today on our shared goal of stopping Iran from its nuclear ambitions. Our relationship with Israel transcends both time and political theater, and we must continue to work together to defeat our enemies which seek to destroy us. A nuclear Iran threatens the entire world and cannot be allowed to get nuclear weapons. I encourage the President to carefully consider the Prime Minister’s remarks today as he moves forward with his Iranian policy.”


Busy.. Working on legislation to help kids with Autism, and other stuff.

Yes, I’ve been somewhat quiet on original writing over the last couple of weeks as I’ve held down the homefront while my wife dealt with her Dad’s passing, and we both traveled for the funeral in Arkansas this last week.  But in case you’re wondering, yes, that’s me in an article at today.

No, I’m not in the accident reports, court reports, Argus 911, scolding political silliness or Democrats. I’m actually working with a great group of parents who are trying to ensure that a measure in the legislature being promoted as helping children with Autism actually does that, and doesn’t put families in a worse position than there were in before:

Parents of children afflicted with autism hope a bill moving through the legislature can be amended to help parents get insurance coverage for the most effective treatment plan.


In 2014, insurers in the state began to deny the intensive and expensive treatment protocols used in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), which involve hours of therapy each week and can cost between $50,000 and $120,000 a year. A bill to require all plans to cover ABA died last year in Pierre and was replaced with a bill that called for a study group. Senate Bill 190 was offered by insurance providers in response to the study.


Stanley and other parents, including Pat and Michelle Powers of Brookings, say the bill would put those whose children were grandfathered into coverage in a more difficult position than they are now.

Michelle Powers told KSOO radio’s Rick Knobe on Monday that recognizing ABA coverage as effective and worthy while cutting coverage for the hourslong workaday therapy involved leaves previously-covered parents with less than they have now.

Without amendments, Pat Powers said, the bill recognizes ABA but ignores the tiered delivery system that makes it possible.

“It also places stricter limitations on coverage levels than those recommended by the legislative report in 2014,” he wrote in an email.

Read it here.

If you care about kids with disabilities getting services to help them live up to their potential, and give them a chance to become productive taxpaying citizens, as opposed to wards of the state, it’s an important bill to watch. And with a couple of minor tweaks, it can be a good bill, as opposed to a bad one that hurts families.

(And while we’re at it, I’m also helping with publicity for the Brookings Area Special Olympics Polar 5k run taking place on March 27th. The Polar 5k is one of the fastest growing 5k events in the state, and rivals the Hobo Day 5k in size. Sign up today.)