SD Ag Summit 2015 Part 5: Trade opportunities for SD Ag

I am finally getting back to doing posts about the SD Governor’s Agricultural Summit 2015 held in Deadwood on July 9th and 10th. This post will focus on Session 2 of the summit, which was titled “Trade Opportunities For South Dakota Agriculture”.

There were three panelists that participated in this session:

The presentation can be viewed in the following YouTube video. Session 2 begins at 2:18:00 and ends at 3:25:00.

In this post I will report on some areas I found interesting. Then I might add my opinions here and there.

Dr Dermot Hayes speaking at the SD Ag Summit in Lead. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15
Dr Dermot Hayes speaking at the SD Ag Summit in Lead. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15

Dr Dermot Hayes presentation:

Hayes noted that North America is unusual in the world because percentage-wise it has a vast majority of the good crop land without a lot of people.  He noted that Asia in particular has the opposite. In Asia there is very little good crop land available in proportion to how big the population is. This problem in Asia will continue to get worse as the population grows and as cities continue to grow. The areas that make good cropland also happen to be where the large cities exist and are expanding.

Hayes noted that the land needed to feed those in Asia is available here in the US. He seemed to convey that the ideal situation for trade would be to find a solution to allow Asia, especially China, to access our markets and for our producers to sell in Asian markets without trade policies getting in the way. Hayes did lose me a bit when talking about this topic because he almost made it seem that people in China were entitled to access from land in North America. I do believe the free market is the best way to allow people in China to access goods produced in the US, especially in Ag. Yet it makes me nervous when economists start talking as if some sort of intervention is needed for the markets to connect.

Hayes did say that over the last twelve years China has started to import certain land-intensive crops such as soybeans. There are still barriers to importing other crops such as corn. China has also become a huge importer of beef and pork. That of course is of great interest to ag producers in the Midwest.

Going forward Hayes says there is change coming in China. New leadership in China is open to free market principles and implementing pro-market reforms. Of course he notes there are still political and military barriers to these reforms. I hope Hayes is right, but I don’t feel China or the US will give up many of its protectionist trade policies that go against free market principles.

Greg Ibach, Director of Nebraska Dept of Ag, speaking in Deadwood. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15.
Greg Ibach, Director of Nebraska Dept of Ag, speaking in Deadwood. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15.

Greg Ibach presentation:

Ibach said that Nebraska is marketing itself overseas to help grow their agricultural sector. The state is working hard to make Nebraska a brand that other countries want for ag products.

When talking about eliminating trade barriers, Ibach noted that tariffs need to be eliminated. When a country adds tariffs to the products we export to them it can often raise the price of that product to a rate that can’t compete. Eliminating tariffs is one part of free trade agreements I actually agree with (too bad free trade agreements tend to have other forms of protectionism in them).

Going on Ibach noted that sanitary and phytosanitary restrictions can create barriers. He said that sanitary restrictions are not generally the problem, because they protect herds and plant life. But phytosanitary restrictions allow countries to create standards that go against scientific standards, especially when it comes to technologies used in ag. I wish he had expanded on this part of this presentation to talk about GMO’s.

Ibach the spoke briefly about trade agreements. He said the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has “become the model for future agreements”. Personally I hope he is wrong. I have blogged about TPP quite a bit and I hope Ibach is wrong. From my standpoint the US should not be expanding secret trade deals that can’t even be read by the American people. But I’ll stop there and leave that as a topic for a follow-up post.

Going on about TPP, Ibach believes it will open Asian markets. Further he said it sends a message to China that their markets will have to open up. Of course I would note this is already happening  without TPP…

Ibach also spoke about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). He noted this agreement will be harder to get passed because of the number of protectionist barriers that exist to keep products out of Europe. Over time Ibach notes that Europe has gone from being a competitor in the market to a net importer. He also briefly mentioned Europe needs to be more open to bio-technologies (I really wanted him to expand on that!).

Looking at the future Ibach believes the US needs to work to get more trade agreements. In his conclusion he noted that the ag industry in the US has to find its place within the global market. He believes the US can compete both in low-cost and high value markets.

Senator John Thune speaking at the SD Ag Summit in Deadwood. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15.
Senator John Thune speaking at the SD Ag Summit in Deadwood. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15.

Senator John Thune presentation:

Thune noted that things in DC are “warming” and that a few things are actually getting done. He said committees are working again and that bills and amendments are being taken up on the Senate floor. One of those items was Trade Promotion Authority (TPA). Thune says that without TPA it would be hard to get any trade agreements passed. TPA, according to Thune, provides a direction for trade negotiators and expedites the negotiations. In particular he highlighted the need for TPA in regards to TPP and TTIP.

Thune believes both TPP and TTIP are important to open up trade in the ag industry and that neither would pass without TPA. He noted that going back to the 1930’s that only one trade agreement had been passed without some sort of expedited authority like TPA. While talking about TPA Thune noted that he was not doing this to support Obama. Thune said Obama is only going to be around for another 18 months, and that TPA will be there for 6 years. So, Thune wanted to make sure that whoever replaces Obama will also be able to handle trade agreements. He went on to say that in order to be at the table for trade agreements that TPA is necessary. I disagree, but that again is a post for a different day.

Thune hoped TPP could be done soon (I am very late in doing this post, TPP is now finalized and waiting for a vote). He had some concerns about TPP, such as tariffs on dairy in Canada. I wish Thune had  gone into that talking point deeper. He really didn’t say what he thought would happen with that.

Thune than talked about the importance of TPA being that it will allow and up/down vote without having to amend. Personally I think that is the problem with TPA. It is a method that says either agree to the whole agreement, or don’t. Basically TPA allows trade negotiators to set policy that cannot be changed by Congress. I would think a conservative Senator would worry about that aspect.

It is the economic impact of exports that Thune states as his  reason for supporting these trade agreements. He noted that record exports occurred in the ag industry last year. The tariffs in the countries we are exporting to are holding back exports from being what they should be. By entering these trade agreements Thune believes some of these tariffs will be overcome.

Thune ended his talk about TPA by saying it was important for national security. He believes that economic dependence prevents attacks. Since everyone around the world wants products made in the USA they would not want to attack us and risk losing that trade. Personally I think Thune was grasping for any sort of war hawk talking point he could bring to the trade debate….

SD Ag Summit trade panelists Sen John Thune, Greg Ibach, and Dr Dermot Hayes. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15.
SD Ag Summit trade panelists Sen John Thune, Greg Ibach, and Dr Dermot Hayes. Photo by Ken Santema 07/10/15.


There was one Q&A question for Thune  before he had to leave. He was asked about the EPA and what he thought about the Chesapeake Bay victory for the EPA.  Thune said the regulator overreach of the EPA is holding back the economy and keeping jobs down. He doesn’t think there will be any relief from regulations as long as Obama is President. Instead of through Congress, Thune said the courts can be used to slow down the EPA enough until the current White House administration is replaced. I noticed that Thune didn’t talk about Chesapeake Bay at all. Too bad, I thought it was a good question and would have like to hear Thune actually get specific about Chesapeake Bay.

That was really the only QA question I had any interest in.


Overall I was not a fan of this portion of the Ag Summit. At times it felt like it had been setup specifically to promote trade agreements. If trade agreements were simply about removing barriers I would find that great. But trade agreements such as TPP and TTIP go well beyond opening barriers and act as a back door to creating new regulations and rules that must be followed in the US. Further, these new rules and regulations cannot be modified by Congress.

SD SOS website has removed parties not officially recognized by the State from its website reporting

Recently the South Dakota Secretary of State (SOS) website has removed parties not officially recognized by the State from its website reporting. There were a few Libertarian Party and Constitution Party members within the state that noticed this change and contacted me to find out what happened; and more importantly find out if their registration had been changed. Some members also noticed that when signing into the Voter Information Portal (VIP) that their political party had changed to other.

I contacted Secretary Krebs about the change. Here is part of what Secretary Krebs said during our email exchange:

Any individual registered to vote with the political party of Libertarian, Constitution or any other political party that is not currently a recognized party will show up as “Other”, but their political party name they listed on their voter registration card is still in the statewide voter file.

Once a political party becomes recognized, we can automatically pull those voters from “Other” and they will show up with that newly recognized political party affiliation.  We will also list the voter registration numbers for that newly recognized political party on our website.

Secretary Krebs confirmed what I suspected was going on. No party registrations were purged or changed. Rather the SOS reporting was changed to fit within the guidelines that South Dakota uses to classify party affiliation. Getting their data to show again should provide extra motivation to the parties in question to regain ballot access as soon as possible.

Reporting active voters by the SOS falls under four main categories. Here is a screenshot of the report shown when entering the SOS elections website. It can clearly be seen that AME, CON, and LIB no longer have reported voters. I expect those categories will also be removed by the SOS in the future to clean up this report. Below the screenshot is a summary of what each item means.

Screen capture from SD SOS Website
Screen capture from SD SOS Website
  • NPA – No Party Affiliation. This includes anyone that didn’t put a party affiliation on their voter registration card or made it other wise known that no party was chosen.
  • IND – Independent. This is the fastest growing bloc of voters in SD. Technically there is no independent party in South Dakota, but anyone that puts Independent or an I on their voter registration card will fall under this category.
  • Parties
    • AE – Americans Elect. This party was created for the 2012 election to allow an Independent candidate to easily run for President. The AE ballot access created throughout the US was never actually used for that purpose in 2012. In 2014 the party lost ballot access because it did not run a candidate for Governor (technically the party no longer existed, it had been disbanded and replaced by the new project Level the Playing Field).
    • CON – Constitution Party. CON lost ballot access in 2014 when their gubernatorial candidate failed get enough signatures for ballot access. The South Dakota Constitution Party is currently working to regain ballot access for 2016.
    • DEM – Democratic Party. DEM is recognized as a party in SD.
    • LIB – Libertarian Party. LIB lost ballot access in 2014 when they failed to run a candidate for governor. The Libertarian Party of SD is currently working to regain ballot access for 2016.
    • REP – Republican Party. REP is recognized as a party in SD.
  • Other – Other includes any political party registration in SD that is not currently recognized by the state. This would include anyone registered Libertarian Party or  Constitution Party.


Been a while since I’ve done a gun post

I just had someone ask me why I haven’t done a post about gun rights or gun control legislation for a long time. For the most part I find the topic to have become irrelevant, even if people don’t realize it. The reason the gun control debate has become irrelevant is because of 3D printing technologies.

As I explained two years ago technology has changed everything:

Schematics for a 3D printed gun.
Schematics for a 3D printed gun.

Technology is making many of the steps taken by the anti-gun movement irrelevant. Specifically 3D printers will allow consumers to manufacture parts for their own goods; this includes gun parts! Anyone owning a 3D printer can create plastic parts from a CAD drawing. The ability to create these parts changes the whole gun control debate.

Over the last couple of years 3D printing has advanced rapidly. I have had the opportunity to see 3D guns printed out and also was able to test fire a couple of them. The process was fairly cheap and easy to do. The laws gun control advocates want to pass has become basically irrelevant thanks to technology making it possible to manufacture guns completely outside of the regulated market. If more gun control laws are passed I would expect the manufacture of 3D printed guns to continue its rise in popularity.

On a side-note I keep running into gun control activists that use reactions from tragedies to state that “everyone” wants common sense gun control laws. First off, I highly doubt there is any subject where most people agree. And at the same time I think the survey results from Pew shown below show this is a topic that has the nation divided.  In fact since the rise of the Tea Party it appears many people have gone from worried about gun control to being more worried about the right of Americans to own guns.



A conversation with Dist 1 State Senator Jason Frerichs

SD SOS Shantel Krebs and District 1 SD State Senator Jason Frerichs at the Brown County Fair.
SD SOS Shantel Krebs and District 1 SD State Senator Jason Frerichs at the Brown County Fair.

This year during the Brown County Fair I took some time to speak with a number of legislators. Today’s post will focus on the conversation I had with Democrat District 1 State Senator Jason Frerichs. Yes, I am way behind on these posts, this conversation took place on August 12, 2015. Like most of these posts from the Brown County Fair this is just a brief chat I had with Frerichs. It was not meant to be a true interview or in-depth report. Most of the conversation revolved around water management and this post will reflect that. Also, since this is a post to pass information on to voters I will keep editorializing to a minimum.

To begin with I asked how Frerichs thought the 2015 legislative session went. He called this session non-typical because so much of the session was focused around the transportation bill (SB 1 – SoDakLiberty Posts). The rest of the summer studies from 2014 he felt was pushed off until the end of session; instead of at the beginning of session as is with most studies.

In particular Frerichs felt the work done by the 2014 Watershed Task Force flew under the radar until the end of the 2015 session. Frerichs was a member of that task force. One of the bills they passed was SB 2 (SoDakLiberty Posts), which established the framework for river basin natural resource districts. SB2 became law on July 1. So at this point Frerichs said the River Basin Natural Resource District Oversight Advisory Task Force (which he is a member of) is focused on how to create sub-districts for some of the very large water districts. Over in Frerichs area there will be a pilot program setup in the Red and Minnesota River Districts. Frerichs said the short-term goal is to get the districts setup and the framework laid out so local government entities can see how the districts will operate and look like. Going forward Frerichs noted that watershed districts are how things will look and will have continuous legislative oversight.

I asked Frerichs what his actual goal is with the water resource districts. At its core, Frerichs says he hopes the districts can accomplish coordinating efforts between various stakeholders. He noted the districts are not setup in accordance with any political boundaries. Instead they are being setup in a way that local governments, communities, and neighbors can come together and mange water resources. At the same time the districts will allow resource management to be looked at from a statewide aspect. Frerichs also wanted to convey  that he doesn’t see this as a growth in government, which many people such as myself have called it. Instead he sees this as an opportunity to trim back and remove “excess layers that already exist.” Frerichs believes the new districts will allow better coordination between the various stakeholders directly.

Additionally he noted that within a district there are ways that will allow districts to manage water to better utilize the water resources available. While water quality is an issue, he doesn’t think it is comparable to what the EPA does. Instead he gave an example of the Big Sioux District. Perhaps if there is too much water being held at the north end of the river it can be utilized for irrigation further down the river. The districts would allow for such coordination. Frerichs sees the district as a way for landowners and other stakeholders to come together and find better ways to utilize the water resources, and also make sure quality is upheld to allow for recreational use.

I did ask Frerichs about the whole series of issues that have come up with meandered and non-meandered waters; and if these districts would somehow tie into that (after all the court cases are  done I expect that to be a huge issue in the legislature.) Frerichs doesn’t think the fights about the meandered and non-meandered will be directly impacted by the water districts. He noted that these fights have garnered heightened emotions between those fighting for properties rights and those fighting for water access rights. Frerichs does think the water districts could help alleviate some of the issues with non-meandered waters because some of the excess water can be managed. There are some of the solutions he says are obvious such as drainage and irrigation. But he also noted there may be some recreational opportunities that could be managed such as creating new reservoirs or fishing areas.

Since speaking with Frerichs the River Basin Natural Resource District Oversight Advisory Task Force has had a meeting (and likely sub-committee meetings). The documents from that first meeting can be viewed here. I expect water management issues will continue to be a focus for Senator Jason Frerichs and I plan to follow the progress of the water districts on this blog.

Update on SoDakLiberty

Hello everyone. Yes, it has been a month since I last posted here. No, SoDak Liberty is not going away. Actually just the opposite. In order to  move this site forward some personal projects had to be completed (finished a book, and started the process for a new one).

Over the next month I will get caught up doing posts relating to events I had attended this summer. This includes some posts about Keystone XL, posts about the Blue  Ribbon Task Force, and of course chats I had with politicians at various fairs. As always I will also try to keep up with any legislative committee meetings that occur.

Please bear with me as I get back into the swing of things (and attempt writing with a broken thumb).

Rep Lana Greenfield at the Brown County Fair

Rep Lana Greenfield on the SD House Floor. Photo by Ken Santema 02/25/15.
Rep Lana Greenfield on the SD House Floor. Photo by Ken Santema 02/25/15.

As I continue my posts about short chats with SD state legislators at the Brown County Fair I’ll now focus on Rep Lana Greenfield  (R, Dist 2). Rep Greenfield is a freshmen legislator, who won the seat previously held by her son Brock Greenfield (Brock switched over to the state Senate). Like all posts in this series it will be short; these posts are more of a mid-term chat with the legislators I meet and not truly an interview.

Going into her freshman year, Rep Greenfield said the experience was quite enlightening. She felt at times that the whole process was setup in a way to push what the Governors office wanted. I’ve heard this from quite a few legislators actually, and it is an issue I wish would come to the forefront. At times it seems there is no true balance of power between the legislative and executive branches in Pierre.

Rep Greenfield was one of those that called for a special session of the legislature for education funding. Greenfield believes Rep Elizabeth May (R, Dist 27) is someone who is fiscally conservative enough that she would not call a special session unless there was a reason. Rep Greenfield feels it was prudent to support Rep May and for the legislature to meet and hear her proposal. In particular Greenfield felt the $21 million dollar surplus could have been immediately given to education in order to help the teacher shortage. Without the special session that will not happen. When talking about the special session, Rep Greenfield was very disappointed that so many legislators would not even open the certified letter.

When talking about the good of the 2015 legislative session, Rep Greenfield is glad the legislature didn’t wait another five or so years to start funding infrastructure maintenance and repair (SB 1, SoDakLiberty Posts).

Going into 2016 Rep Greenfield believes elderly abuse should be a priority for the legislature. She feels that elderly people are being taken advantage of. During this previous session there was a task-force created to look into the issue (SB 168, SoDakLiberty Posts).

Jail population is an other issue Rep Greenfield believes needs to be looked into. She understands that many people are against building bigger jails, but she says many of the smaller towns are having problems because the bigger towns cannot always hold prisoners for smaller towns. Personally I think the legislature should look at way to reduce the amount of prisoners by getting rid of victim-less crimes…

Finally, Rep Greenfield believes the shortage of teachers will be a huge topic in the 2016 session. She says there is a national shortage, and hopes the conversation doesn’t ignore that fact. Going into the session she hopes this topic doesn’t become an “over-sized out of proportion political agenda on the part of a few”. Personally I feel that will happen. Additionally she would like to make sure teachers are treated with the respect such a caring profession deserves.

That was about all I spoke with Rep Lana Greenfield about. Like I said these posts were not meant to be in-depth interviews. They were just a chance to catch up with some elected representatives.

A few words with Rep Steven McCleerey at the Brown County Fair

Rep Steven McCleerey at the Brown County Fair. Photo by Ken Santema 08/12/15
Rep Steven McCleerey at the Brown County Fair. Photo by Ken Santema 08/12/15

Over the next few weeks I will be posting short interviews with local state-level elected officials I ran into at the Brown County Fair. None of these were in-depth, they were just a chance to catch up with some elected representatives. Actually I started this series last week with my post about Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) in regards to the County Government Interim Committee .

Today’s post will focus on freshman legislator Rep Steven McCleerey (D, Dist 1). McCleerey was elected to the spot previously held by Susan Wismer; which she gave up to run as the Democrat candidate for Governor in 2014.

When talking about his first year, McCleerey said there was some frustration being in the super-minority party. But he said most bills were not partisan and everyone basically worked towards the same goals regardless of party. Most of his partisan frustrations came from healthcare related legislation he felt was stopped for partisan reasons. McCleerey was not happy the tanning bed prohibition for minors (HB 1166, SoDakLiberty Posts) did not pass. It was a bill he worked on and from his time spent on a Hospital board he felt it should have been passed. He doesn’t think comparing the needs of small business to cancer was appropriate. (for the record, I personally am glad the bill failed, it was an unnecessary intrusion into the market).

Continuing on about healthcare McCleerey said: “We really need, as a civilization in the United State, we really need to take care of ourselves”. For that reasons McCleerey is for Medicaid expansion in South Dakota. He had just visited a nursing home and came to the realization that the baby boomer generation is going to need taking care of and new facilities will be needed. He believes Medicaid expansion is one necessary step towards taking care of the elderly.

Changing to the conversation about Keystone XL, McCleerey believes the project is a mistake. He has problems with the oil going through a pipeline all the way to Texas so it can be shipped to a foreign country. In addition, McCleerey has questions about how safe the aquifer will be that the pipeline goes over. He did note that Alaska has much more leaks than the average person realizes. And for that reason he questioned the pipeline planned to go near Brookings. Additionally he noted much of the farmland is tiled now, which could potentially hide the existence of an oil leak for longer. That was interesting because I hadn’t quite heard that reasoning against the pipelines before.

That was really all I spoke with Steven McCleerey about for this conversation. These posts are not meant to be an in-depth interview or report, they are just a way to catch up with legislators and speak about an issue or two.

SDHSAA Interim Committee meeting today in Pierre

TransGender Symbol from WikiMedia Commons.
TransGender Symbol from Wikimedia Commons.

Today the legislative South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) Interim Committee will meet in Pierre at 10:00 am. This interim committee came about because of the SDHSAA choosing to implement a transgender policy last year, and the legislature trying multiple attempts of overturning that policy during the 2015 legislative session.

In this post I will look at some of what has been done up to this point, and then briefly look at the agenda for this new meeting.

Here is my previous summary of the attempts to override the SDHSAA transgender policy through legislation:

The South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) has gotten a lot of attention this year. The history, authority, make-up, and oversight of the SDHSAA is the topic of a summer study approved by the Executive Board.  Of course the true reason so much attention is being placed on the SDHSAA is the transgender policy that was adopted by the organization.  HB 1195(SoDakLiberty Posts) passed the House to try removing the policy, but failed to pass Senate Ed; and then also failed a smokeout. A companion bill HB 1161 (SoDakLiberty Posts) to limit the authority of the SDHSAA also passed the House, but failed in Senate Ed. At the end of session there was then a hoghouse done on SB 140 (SoDakLiberty Posts) to resurrect HB 1195, but that also failed.

This committee already had a meeting on June 26. The minutes from that meeting can be read here. Much of the meeting was spent looking at statutes and legal cases showing where the SDHSAA gets its power.

Also in that meeting the questions put forth in the scope of the committee were discussed:

  • How is the SDHSAA accountable to the legislative and/or the executive branch (DOE)?
  • Does the SDHSAA exceed rule making authority and do they provide adequate public notice?
  • Are there other associations with similar issues?
  • Should schools be required to pay dues to this organization?
  • What is their relationship and responsibility to the National Federation of High School Activities?
  • What is their status under South Dakota law?
  • Are they subject to open meeting laws?
  • Is the one school/one vote policy of the organization valid?

Personally I think those questions raised by the scope are perfectly valid. About two years ago I was able to speak with a group of athletic directors from around the state that believed the SDHSAA had gotten too powerful, and was trying to dictate to schools instead of working with them. Sadly I don’t think that will be the focus of this interim committee though, it will be overwhelmed with attention on the transgender policy.

Sen Bill Van Gerpen (R, Dist 19) asked about where the authority to make policies lie; is it with the legislature, SDHSAA, or the schools. That was an interesting question because the legislature has passed bills into law that the SDHSAA must follow, specifically pertaining to drug use and high school activities. The answer was that the SDHSAA has the authority to set policy, but must follow any legislation passed as well.

Rep Tona Rozum (R, Dist 20) asked what precipitated the need for a transgender policy. Apparently this came about because one student had made an inquiry, and then a year worth of research and public meetings was done. Also, trying to comply with the  Office of Civil Rights (OCR) requirements was a driving factor, so the SDHSAA would not be sued.I don’t see it in the minutes, but this is probably because the OCR has said Title IX protects transgendered students civil rights.

Rep Kris Langer (R, Dist 25) asked how many students would be impacted by this transgender policy. The answer in the minutes was “less than 1/10th of one percent and fewer that will ever choose to participate in school activities. ” I find it odd such a specific policy was needed for such a small cross-section of students. Especially when there are already policies in place to allow students to participate in activities of the opposite sex.

The agenda for today’s (August 20) meeting can be viewed here. Most of the morning appears to be centered around the transgender policies. Here is part of what the press release about the meeting has to say:

The second meeting will include a presentation on the legal precedent currently surrounding transgender protections around the country, and presentations by the SDHSAA on their own transgender policy and site selection policy

Going forward I don’t think anything will come out of this interim committee that has a chance of passing the 2016 legislative session. But I do think the information coming out of these meetings will be used by opponents of the transgender policy to create legislation to curtail the power of the SDHSAA going forward. Specifically I would bet Sen Brock Greenfield  (R, Dist 2) is going to work on some legislation, he isn’t really a fan of the transgender policy. I’m not sure that such legislation will pass, but it should make for an interesting side-show in the 2016 legislative session.

A few words with Rep Dennis Feickert about the County Government Interim Committee meeting today and tomorrow

Rep Dennis Feickert speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 02/25/15
Rep Dennis Feickert speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 02/25/15

Today (Aug 19) and tomorrow (Aug 20) the County Government Interim Committee is meeting in Pierre. With the Blue Ribbon Task Force looking into education this committee will probably get little attention. But, I find it odd funding about education can be discussed without talking about county government funding. County governments are funded around property taxes, which have to compete with money that goes to education funding.

Last week I took a few minutes to talk with Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) about the County Government Interim Committee, which he is a member of. Feickert is also a former Brown County Commissioner, giving him a good handle of both county and state level issues. Actually the conversation about the County Government came about after speaking with him about the transportation bill SB 1 (SoDakLiberty Posts) being passed this year. Feickert was mostly happy something was passed to fund transportation, but he noted the bill did very little to help out local governments.

When I asked about property taxes I asked Feickert what he would like changed. Specifically I asked if education funding should be removed from property taxes (something I’ve heard some commissioners around the state say they would like). He doesn’t advocate getting education funding out of property taxes. Instead he would like to limit the amount of money that goes to education from property taxes. Currently he said the formula does limit education funding from property taxes to a certain extend through the mil levy set by the legislature. But he says “it robs the local governments of a good funding source”. He thinks a good solid funding mechanism for education should be found so local governments aren’t competing for the same funding source. Feickert believes a small corporate income tax won’t push any businesses out of the state.

Talking specifically about the County Government Interim Committee Feickert hopes something good will come out of the study, but he isn’t going to hold his breath. He noted there are a variety of counties within the state that have different needs and issues. Some county governments need to fix issues with law enforcement and jails, while others such as Brown County are focused on infrastructure issues. As a former county commissioner Feickert hopes to continue being an advocate for county government in Pierre.

I don’t agree with Feickert about a corporate income tax. But after following both state and county politics for the last few years I agree that county level governments are getting screwed by the state on many levels. The state has consistently been pushing more of its duties off on the counties and municipalities in the name of local control (which I agree with); but at the same time the state refuses to allow the counties to raise the revenue needed to meet what is expected and have basically left the counties with a revenue stream that cannot be counted on. Perhaps it is time for the Republican majority in Pierre let go of some of its revenue and let the local governments utilize it. That is fiscally conservative talking point that many Republicans run for office on…

The meeting is going on as I write this post, and will continue into tomorrow. The agenda for the meeting can be found here. Personally I don’t think anything meaningful will come out of this for the 2016 legislative session. Education funding will be the highlight of next years session. And if something is done I would fear it would be the corporate income tax that Feickert and others have been talking about, and that would be bad from my point of view.

Rules Review meeting going on right now

Right now the Legislative Rules Review Committee is holding its regular meeting in Pierre. I’m a bit behind on blogging so this post is coming a bit late. The previous meeting was held on July 20th; my post about that meeting can be found here and the minutes from that meeting are here. All rules from the previous meeting were passed without opposition.

Below are the rules being reviewed in the August 17 meeting.

Whenever possible I’ve included a link to the rule being discussed on the website (make sure you have popups disabled for this site in your browser). Another place to look for more information is to search through the register archive. For this post though I have tried to find things in or through the agency website relating to that rule. I am trying to see how easy the State Government is making it to actually get info.

Department of Agriculture: Division of Ag Development

Adopt rules to establish a Water Drainage Mediation program. link for this rule

This set of rules appears to be in reaction to SB 3 (SoDakLiberty Posts) that was passed into law this year. The Regional Watershed Advisory Task Force was the origin of SB 3. Here is what I had to say about SB 3 before:

This is a HUGE topic… especially here in Brown County, where the County Commissioners act as the drainage board. There have been a lot of incidents where neighbors get into battles (sometimes with fists) over water drainage issues. At first I opposed the bill. But as time went on and I studied the bill more I feel this was actually good legislation. It will allow for drainage disputes to be settled outside of the judicial system. Currently the County Commissioners have no actual power to settle disputes, and it would be unwise to give them that power. This bill allows for a mediation path that should be cheaper for landowners than through the judicial system.

I’ll have to keep an eye on the implementation of this mediation program to ensure it is actually doing what it is supposed to do.

Bald Eagle on display in Reptile Gardens. Photo by Ken Santema 07/08/15
Bald Eagle on display in Reptile Gardens. Photo by Ken Santema 07/08/15

Department of Game, Fish and Parks

Amend Waterfowl Hunting Seasons rules to decrease the daily bag limit for scaup from 3 to 2 contingent upon approval by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; increase the number of hunting days for white-fronted geese from 72 to 86 consecutive days contingent upon approval by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and remove the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephauls) from the list of state threatened birds. link for this rule

The interesting part of this rule is the removal of the bald eagle from the list of state threatened birds. Technically it was on a rule meant for the previous meeting, but not enough time had been allotted for public input. Thus it is now in this meeting that the rule will be looked at.

Department of Transportation

Amend a Speed Limits rule in Campbell County on Highway 10 in Pollock; amend a Speed Limits rule in Jackson County on Highway 44 in Interior and south of the Badlands National Park boundary; and adopt Movement of Oversize or Overweight Vehicles rules to create an extended period emergency declaration permit and an extended period emergency declaration fleet permit link for this rule and link for this rule

DOT changing some speed limits. The second rule here appears to allow trucks to go over the limit to deal with public emergencies that have been declared by the Governor.

Department of Education: Board of Education

Amend a Career and Technical education rule to increase the postsecondary technical institute per student allocation to the level set for fiscal year 2016 by the Legislature; repeal an Application for Certificate rule regarding revoking, suspending, or voiding a certificate; amend Certification rules to clarify the test required to obtain a 7-12 mathematics endorsement and create a 7-12 intermediate mathematics endorsement; amend a Certificate Denial and Discipline Procedures rule to detail the procedures for the denial of an application for a certificate, the duration of an order imposing discipline, the procedures for reinstatement, and the public or private nature of disciplinary records; and repeal the tuition equalization grant program, Robert C. Byrd honors scholarship program, Christa McAuliffe fellowship program, school term length grades 1-3, and teacher compensation program rules. link for this rule

This is a long list of rule changes for the Dept of Ed. The current version of the rule changes with amendments can be read here. Due to lack of time I haven’t really had time to read all of the changes.

Department of Revenue: SD Lottery Commission

Amend a rule to allow a change to the Powerball game matrix and include the 10X multiplier for Power Play in certain defined instances link for this rule

This rule appears to be in regards to a change made by the Multi-State Lottery Association’s Powerball game rules.

Department of Public Safety

Amend rules to increase the amount of time allowed to appeal an administrative driver license action, to repeal unnecessary driver license rules, update commercial driver license language to conform to federal standards and 2015 legislation, update the prorated fees for licenses or identification cards issued to those under 21, and update the adoption of Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance standards. link for this rule

Part of this rule is in response to SB 41 (SoDakLiberty Posts) being passed this year. SB 41 is the type of bill/law I hate. It was a change the legislature had to make to law in order to keep federal highway funds.

South Dakota political blogging from a libertarian-leaning individual

%d bloggers like this: