Some words about Veterans day from one of my sons

veteransdayOn Veterans Day I attended the short assembly held at OM Tiffany, where my two youngest boys attend elementary school. I was proud to stand up alongside a few dozen other veterans. During the ceremony a series of short essays written by students were read to the crowd My middle child Lawson asked if I would post his words about Veterans Day on my blog. Here is his short essay (he’s in fourth grade) about Veterans Day:

We thank veterans for our freedom. Freedom is very important because if we didn’t have freedom wouldn’t be free. I also thank veterans and everyone else that keeps us safe. Thank-you Dad.

Thank-you Lawson!

Congress will likely vote on Keystone XL in the next week

Keystone XL is coming into the spotlight again, and will likely receive a vote within the next week on the Senate floor. Recent moves by Senator Landrieu have increased the likelihood that the Senate will vote about whether to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. The House is expected to pass a bill today that will approve the pipeline. No matter what, I would not be surprised to see Keystone XL approved within the next half-year. To me the bigger question is whether it will be now, or during the first few months of the 2015 legislative session.

On Wednesday it was reported by National Journal that Democrat Senator Landrieu stood on the Senate floor and asked for a vote on Keystone XL approval. Since she is in a very tight election runoff for in a state that supports Keystone XL, she has been forced to go against her party and push for a vote on the bill. As the National Journal notes, this vote would be a win for Landrieu whether it passes or not. It will allow her to show that she has fought to approve Keystone XL, while at the same time it would allow most other Democrats to vote no and keep their voting record clean. Personally I think it will pass, there simply is too much support for KXL for the Senate to deny its approval.

If the Senate does not pass the Keystone XL approval, then it will pass with no problems in the 2015 session when Republicans have the majority. Since the bill will pass no matter what, it would probably make sense for the Democrats to pass it now and amend it to include provisions that the Democrats wish. Senator Landrieu’s bill, S 24554, does have a provision I like. It has a clause that ensures the passage of this bill does not give extra eminent domain usage for the construction of the Pipeline that doesn’t already exist in law. The eminent domain abuse involved with KXL in South Dakota is one of the main reasons I have been opposed to the project. This added clause won’t necessarily stop eminent domain abuse, but it prevents one potential legal reasons for any eminent domain abuses that will occur.

To make this even more interesting, Sen Landrieu’s election runoff opponent, Rep Bill Cassidy, is the sponsor of HR 5682. HR 5682 is the House version of the same bill that Landrieu is likely to pass in the Senate. Cassidy’s bill has almost the same exact language as that sponsored by Landrieu. If the House passes this same bill it could cancel out Landrieu’s attempt to gain votes by supporting KXL. Who would have thought a runoff election would make both houses of Congress focus so hard on KXL approval.

Today President Obama said his position on KXL has not changed. Obama has hinted many times recently that he would veto KXL if a bill approving the project made it to his desk. It might be for nothing if he does veto the bill though. The Senate currently has enough Democrat supporters of KXL to potentially override a veto from Obama. And even if the veto override doesn’t happen, there will almost surely be enough votes to override a veto at the beginning of the 2015 session. Either way the KXL is likely to be approved by Congress, and it doesn’t appear there is much Obama can do to stop it.

As I said above, I oppose KXL mostly for eminent domain abuses involved with the project. But I am in a minority when it comes to the national level. A recent Pew Research Center survey shows that roughly 2/3 of respondents support KXL:

Public Continues to Favor Keystone XL Pipeline; Support Declines among Democrats, Independents
Chart source Pew Research Center. Click to visit their site and view the results.

 

Overall support from Democrats and Independents have definitely dropped. But a majority of the country supports KXL. If Democrats are thinking 2016 (which they have to be), then it might be unwise for them to put up too much of a fight against something the public supports.

It will be interesting to see what happens over the next week. Either KXL will be approved soon or we will wait a few months. Either way it looks like KXL will unlikely be held up by the federal government going into next spring. Whether that is a good or a bad thing remains to be seen.

Both supporting and opposing Net Neutrality

router-symbolNet Neutrality is a topic that has been on my radar for quite some time. Due to focus on elections I have failed to blog about it; but that changes today. I’ll start with this small post and likely focus on the issue more going forward on this blog.

President Obama’s remarks have caused the issue to gain even more traction. I fully support many of the concepts brought up by the President. These concepts include no blocking of traffic, no throttling certain types of traffic, increased transparency, and no paid prioritization. These are all basic principles of net neutrality. But asking the FCC to reclassify Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) as Title II is not the answer. That would potentially lead to the opposite of a free and open internet.

What is net neutrality? Net neutrality is more of an idea or belief than anything. It is the belief that the internet should be free from manipulation or favoritism by any group. These groups include individuals, ISP’s, governments, or any other type of group. The basic idea is that all internet users will have the same exact access to all information available on the internet. This is the concept I support, and I believe the concept most advocates of net neutrality support.

There is another usage of net neutrality that is often intermixed with the definition as I would use it. This second usage of net neutrality is more focused on the marketing term used by certain groups to allow the FCC to regulate internet access. This second use of net neutrality is not something I support. To me the risks associated with allowing the FCC to regulate internet access far outweigh the perceived benefits.

As I said above the President touted FCC regulation of the internet access as a way to ensure no blocking of traffic, no throttling certain types of traffic, increased transparency, and no paid prioritization. The problem is reclassifying internet access as Title II would suddenly place hundreds of rules and regulations that were setup for the telecommunications industry of the 20th century. Many of those rules can be said to have actually held back progress in certain media fields. These rules also tended to make it hard for new entries in the market. In reality the large telco monopolies coming out of the 20th century are a result of regulatory intervention, and not as a result of free market (there is no true free market in the telco industry).

In order to prevent these outdated rules from negatively impacting the internet it would be up to the FCC to use ‘forbearance’. Forbearance is the term used by the FCC to not follow rules that don’t make sense for a particular area of regulation. Theoretically if the FCC properly uses forbearance it would limit its own power and thus cause minimal unintended consequences to the internet. In order for forbearance to work it would mean the FCC and members of Congress resist any regulations asked for by the big ISP’s to stifle competition. Anyone that follows how DC works should understand that it is almost near impossible to keep special interest groups out of regulation. To ask for internet access to be reclassified as Title II is the same asking for special interest groups in DC to regulate the internet? I can’t see any possible outcome where that would support my original meaning of net neutrality.

Going forward I plan to do more posts about different aspects of net neutrality. In this post I just basically wanted to say that I support the idea of net neutrality, but at the same time I oppose the regulatory use of net neutrality by the FCC. I believe the FCC’s involvement will make internet fairness actually un-achievable. The few cases we have of ISP’s (such as Comcast) doing things against the idea of net neutrality will be basically be protected by FCC regulations in the future through loopholes that will exist at the behest of special interest groups.

PS. To learn more about net neutrality I would check out the EFF. I have supported EFF for years and will continue to do so. The EFF has supported the FCC reclassification of internet access to Title II. But they do it with a lot of reservations and have a lot of good articles explaining different aspects of net neutrality. If the FCC does reclassification (which it likely will) I believe the EFF will be the best watchdog internet users have over the FCC.

Thune continues battle against EPA expansion

Back in May of this year Seanator Thune starting bringing attention to the Environmental Protection Agencies (EPA) attempt to regulate more water than it currently does. The expansion of the EPA’s powers is being done in partnership with the Army Corp of Engineers by redefining what is counted as Waters of the United States (WOTUS) in the Clean Water ACT (CWA). This is a potentially troubling expansion of power by the EPA, especially for farm and ranch states such as South Dakota.

Back in June I attended the SD AG Summit in Deadwood. One of the guest speakers during the Environmental and Regulatory Issues session was Michael Formica, Chief Environmental Counsel at National Pork Producers Council. During that session Formica spoke at length about what the EPA was attempting to do. Here is part of what I wrote from that session:

The goal of the EPA and Clean Water Act (CWA) activists, according to Formica, is to make sure “all water is fishable and swimmable”. Originally the CWA only gave power to regulate ‘navigable waters’. Yet over the years the EPA has gone beyond these limitations, and has won court cases to allow wetlands regulations on waters which aren’t navigable. Formica showed how the EPA was able to do this in the Chesapeake Bay TMDL. The move has allowed the EPA to regulate six states in the DC area because of connected waters. The means used by the EPA should be familiar to anyone that follows how the federal government works: if a state isn’t complying with the EPA’s water permit process they will withhold federal dollars from that state.

……

Any wetland that can even remotely said to be connected with the Mississippi would fall under EPA control if they are allowed to regulate the Mississippi River Basin in the same fashion that has been done with Chesapeake Bay. And connected does not appear to be what most would think it means. It would include water that is adjacent, neighboring, or connected via a floodpain (whether or not there is water there or not).

Being a part of the Mississippi River Basin basically means virtually all (if not exactly all) water in SD will fall under the domain of the EPA. *** An interesting side-thought: How would this impact the current fight between sportsmen and land owners in the battle of water being in the public trust for the people of SD? This move by the EPA would theoretically work against both groups and take the water away from the public trust of South Dakota.

Today Thune has released an interactive map on his website showing just how each state would be impacted by the proposed EPA expansion. The map is well worth looking at for anyone that owns land, especially farm for ranch land. I’ve already shown it to a couple of farmers in NE SD today, and they were quite concerned to see their land would potentially be impacted.

Here is a screen shot of the whole state of SD. The red ares are the WOTUS areas the EPA would regulate if the change were to happen:

Screen shot of the potential expansion of EPA WOTUS control in SD. Screenshot taken at Senator Thunes website.
Screen shot of the potential expansion of EPA WOTUS control in SD. Screenshot taken at Senator Thunes website.

Basically the only areas not impacted are those that are barren of water. As I said above, this move by the EPA will theoretically impact all farmers and ranchers in SD.

What is most troubling about this move is that the EPA is doing it despite the wishes of Congress. On a legal level there is a huge battle going on to determine if the EPA can do this under the current language included in the CWA. I don’t think the courts should be deciding this. Instead it is up to Congress to properly utilize their oversight authority and do something to keep the EPA in line with what Congress has asked. Remember, it is not the job of the EPA to decide what it should do; rather it is the job of the EPA to enforce laws it has been empowered to enforce.

A good move by Congress would be to pass Senate Bill 2496 (S. 2496), the Protecting Water and Property Rights Act of 2014. Senator Thune is one of 38 cosponsors (all Republican) of this bill. The bill is actually pretty simple. It would forbid the EPA from enforcing the rule if they should pass it. This bill doesn’t actually change the CWA, rather it prevents the EPA from expanding their interpretation of the CWA without congressional approval. Senator Reid has not allowed this bill to come out of committee. So in January the Senate will likely have to re-introduce this bill. Hopefully with the Republicans in charge of both houses some headway can be made to reign back the EPA.

I would urge those with land in South Dakota to view the interactive map and find out if water connected to said land is about to be under EPA regulation. To many people this is not about clean water, but rather it is about a federal bureaucracy self expanding itself and giving itself power that it never should have had. Everyone wants clean water, but not everyone believes he EPA is the best method to protect natural resources such as SD water.

To end this post I will pass on part of what I wrote about during a recent political event with SD AG Marty Jackley. There are many (most?) areas I disagree with our AG on, but this is an area I believe he is well worth listening to. Here is the relevant part of my blog post about Jackley’s ramarks:

Another area of the AG’s office that Jackley talked about was government power. He said it is part of the AG’s office responsibility to stop the government when it has gone too far. Jackley called out the EPA for expanding its power without Congressional authority. And after the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) rules against the EPA they just do a “end-round” and find another way to do what they were never actually given authority to do. He says he is part of a groups of AG’s from both parties around the country that are trying to fight against the acts of the EPA. Jackley said environmental protection can best be handled at the local level by zoning authorities. He said the State DENRalso works to protect South Dakota’s resources. The closest EPA agent is in Denver according to Jackley. He says the SD DENR and the AG understand South Dakota and can better enforce environmental protections in South Dakota than the EPA can.

Hopefully Thune as a US Senator and Jackley as the SD AG can keep the battle going against the EPA.

A few taxpayer dollar misdirects from Senator Coburn’s 2014 Wastebook

Cover of Senator Coburn's 2014 Wastebook.
Cover of Senator Coburn’s 2014 Wastebook.

Senator Coburn’s office released its 2014 Wastebook. Last year I looked at a few highlight (lowlights) from the 2013 Wastebook. This book includes one hundred outrageous wastes of taxpayer dollars. In a day when even some big-government type politicians are starting to worry about the national debt and deficit (not so low as touted) it is worth finding programs such as this to trim. There are over $25 billion worth of government waste in this years edition. That is slightly down from the $30 billion in last years edition; but it worth noting that many of the programs from last years edition are still going…

Often when talking about government waste I will hear something similar to “well, these government agencies are doing good and are very thrifty with the taxpayers dollars”. Even supposing most government agencies are doing good work for the public (which I doubt with most agencies), it still doesn’t mean these agencies are being thrifty with the taxpayer dollars. Here are some examples from the 2014 Wastebook highlighting how various government agencies are misdirecting taxpayer dollars in a way that is clearly out of alignment with what their mission is.

#15 – US Coast Guard protects the parties of the rich

Faced with budget cuts, the U.S. Coast Guard reduced drug and migrant interdictions while continuing to provide free patrols in the waters along “some of the country’s most exclusive real estate” to stop uninvited guests from crashing private parties.

 

While taxpayers appreciate the crucial role the Coast Guard serves protecting our nation’s waterways and rescuing nearly 5,000 people a year,255 most are probably unaware its crewmen also serve as bouncers to keep the general public and other uninvited guests out of private events on and along yachts, beaches, and estates.

The Wastebook goes on to tell examples of the Coast Guard being used as basically private security for the rich, all put on the bill of the taxpayers. It is estimated that such protection for rich boaters has cost US Taxpayers over $100,000. Of course since the Coast Guard doesn’t document all of this security work it is hard to tell for sure. And don’t be mistaken, the security work being done is not against terrorists or anyone that wishes to cause harm. Rather the coast guard is making sure that rich boaters are not disturbed by common folk. That doesn’t sound like a good use of Coast Guard resources to me.

#39 – SBA backs Polynesian Resort loan guarantees for Disney

One of the biggest companies in the world, the Walt Disney Company ranked 61st in the Fortune 100 rankings for 2014 – and may not seem like an obvious candidate to benefit from small business assistance.538 It operates nine of the world’s ten most popular amusement parks, which together bring in more than $2 billion in annual profit.539

The Small Business Administration provided a total of $1.4 million in surety bond guarantees to two firms hired by Disney, meaning if they fail to perform the taxpayer will step into make sure Disney is made whole.

I believe most taxpayers would be hard pressed to believe Disney would qualify as a small business. Since the SBA supposedly is there to help small businesses it seems odd they would put $1.5 billion dollars of taxpayer dollars on the line in order to help one of the largest corporations in the world. Of course I personally believe the SBA should be done away with. Recent research shows that the SBA may actually be reducing economic growth within the US. But that is a different debate. Whether the outcomes of the SBA are good or bad, it is hard to discern why the SBA would be so blatantly providing a corporate-welfare type safety-net to one of the world largest corporations.

#75 – Federal dollars spent to promote tax increases in Austin

An extensive, and expensive, rail project for the City of Austin, Texas, is getting some fiscal assistance from Washington. Project Connect, the program management group spearheading transit for the Central Corridor Advisory Group in central Texas, has spent $157,000 on an ad campaign to prop up public support to approve floating a billion dollar bond to help pay for the rail line.9

The catch? Approximately 80% of the ad campaign is being financed with federal grant money, essentially using taxpayer money to encourage taxpayers to pay more taxes. Critics have voiced concerns over the media campaign’s funding sources and questioned want to know how it can be considered appropriate when “Taxpayers are paying money to the federal government, which is then turning around and lobbying Austinites to support more taxpayer spending.” The advertisements ended just before being subjected to provisions on election laws regarding ballot measures

Talk about taxpayer dollars being used against them. In this case federal dollars were used to create a media campaign to raise local taxes for a special interest group. I actually spoke with a friend of mine that lives in Austin. He said the fliers he received during this campaign from Project Connect were outright misleading. Sadly it is typical for political propaganda fliers to be misleading (I’m sure plenty of people received many misleading fliers during the 2014 election); what is troubling though is that taxpayer dollars were used to for a special interest group so they could use the peoples own money to lobby against them.

#88 – The Navy’s green initiative utilizes massive amounts of paper to propagandize itself

Yet for all its efforts to showcase itself as the “Great Green Fleet,”1011 the Navy still mails out 9,500 hard copies of the magazine every quarter, including 535 to each member of Congress, at a cost of an additional $72,000 a year over the $260,000 it takes the staff of four contractors and federal employees to develop the content

This publication, Currents, is little more than a magazine used to promote the Green efforts by the US Navy. Going green is good. What the Navy is doing actually counteracts many of the good green steps they’ve already taken, especially since all issues of Currents are available digital. If the Navy were truly serious about going green they would get rid of this wasteful propaganda program.

It is worth reading the whole 2014 Wastebook to see where taxpayer dollars are going. I believe these few examples I highlighted show some areas that government agencies have used taxpayer dollars in direct conflict to their actual mission. Until such wasteful spending is reduced it is hard to believe that any “revenue enhancements” are ever needed at the federal level.

A brief look at the SD 2014 race results

The 2014 election season is over. I'm exhausted!
The 2014 election season is over. I’m exhausted!

The 2014 election is over! People can once again watch TV, listen to radio, get their mail, and browse the Internet again without fear of seeing or hearing constant political ads. Personally I’m ready to move on and blog about issues again, instead of elections. But I figure a brief post looking at the statewide races would be worthwhile; if for no other reason than to give closure to this election season. On the statewide races there weren’t any surprises, South Dakota will remain Red going forward.

Here are the results of each statewide race and some brief comments about them.

United States Senator

Candidate Votes Percent
Mike Rounds (R) 140722 50.38%
Rick Weiland (D) 82408 29.50%
Larry Pressler (I) 47728 17.09%
Gordon Howie (I) 8469 3.03%
TOTALS 279327 100.00%

Rounds winning really wasn’t a surprise. I was only surprised that he was able to get a majority (if only by a fraction of a percent). Over the last couple of months I’ve heard Democrats say “A vote for Pressler is a vote for Rounds”. Well, Rounds beat both Weiland and Pressler put together; and it is doubtful that the 3% of hardcore conservatives that voted for Howie would ever vote for Weiland. Plus it is doubtful all forty-seven thousand that voted for Pressler would have chosen Weiland in a two-way race. If I were the Democrat Party I would take that as a sign of an overly-progressive candidate being bad news in South Dakota. Yes, Rick was great at exciting parts of the Democrat base, but the Democrat base in South Dakota is not enough to carry a candidate. More is needed. Or actually, perhaps less is needed. The Democrat Party in SD needs to find a moderate candidate that can campaign and get a message out there that the people of SD care about.

United States Representative 

Candidate Votes Percent
Kristi Noem (R) 183797 66.54%
Corinna Robinson (D) 92438 33.46%
TOTALS 276235 100.00%

This was a race I didn’t vote in. I didn’t feel either candidate deserved a vote. What this race showed is how much support there is for a Democrat candidate with no campaign. A third of all votes is not going to get any wins for a Democrat in statewide races. So for the next two years we have Rep Noem. She has been showing improvements over the last term. Maybe she will continue to make improvements over the next two years. I doubt it, but its a nice thought…

SD Governor 

Candidate Votes Percent
Dennis Daugaard (R) 195374 70.47%
Susan Wismer (D) 70508 25.43%
Mike Myers (I) 11367 4.10%
TOTALS 277249 100.00%

The only thing that surprised me about this race is that Daugaard didn’t top 75%. Most people in SD have no reason to feel he has been doing a bad job. And Wismer was a bad candidate all around. She did not have the fire to truly take a fight to Daugaard. Her lack of campaign experience left her unprepared for a tough statewide race. The fact she couldn’t even get one third of the votes showed South Dakota did not have faith in her as a leader. As to Myers, he had some great ideas here and there. But his message was so scattered and he acted quite oddly during debates and public appearances. Myers was already at a handicap as an Independent, but he made it worse by having a disorganized and sometimes overly dramatic campaign. The big question now: is Daugaard going to expand Medicaid and raise taxes now that he is no longer seeking re-election?

SD Secretary of State

Candidate Votes Percent
Shantel Krebs (R) 155627 60.24%
Angelia Schultz (D) 84132 32.57%
Lori Stacey (C) 10253 3.97%
Emmett Reistroffer (L) 8320 3.22%
TOTALS 258332 100.00%

Those who vote anti-Republican shouldn’t feel too bad about Krebs winning this race. I think she will try over the next four years to restore respectability to the SOS office. I think Schultz was a good candidate, but not yet for statewide office. Had she won her District 3 Democrat State Senate primary against Remily I believe she would have had a good chance of being a legislator. With four years experience as a legislator I believe Schultz would have been a huge contender for statewide office (such as the SOS office) in 2018. But as it is she was not ready and didn’t have the support to put up enough of a fight. Stacey and Reistroffer simply didn’t have the resources or message to get more than a few percentage points.

Attorney General 

Candidate Votes Percent
Marty Jackley (R) 208810 82.00%
Chad Haber (L) 45826 18.00%
TOTALS 254636 100.00%

The only surprise here is that Jackley didn’t break 90%. Personally I have a lot of policy disagreements with Jackley, but he is the only one of the two candidate that were actually qualified be the AG. Haber not only isn’t a lawyer, but most of his social media memes used to create buzz for his campaign had nothing to do with the office. All Haber did in this race was give Jackley a chance to fund-raise and get ahead for a possible 2018 run at Governor.

State Auditor

Candidate Votes Percent
Steve Barnett (R) 191720 79.95%
Kurt Evans (L) 48076 20.05%
TOTALS 239796 100.00%

Evans did better in this race than I thought he would. Perhaps being on the ballot before in the US Senate race helped him. I think the real missed opportunity in this race came from the Democrat Party. This is where Susan Wismer should have been running. Even if she lost, this race would have allowed Wismer to gain some statewide campaign experience and statewide name recognition for higher office in the future. If the Dems want to have wins they need to start planning long-term.

State Treasurer 

Candidate Votes Percent
Rich Sattgast (R) 155737 61.19%
Denny Pierson (D) 85153 33.46%
Ken Santema (L) 13609 5.35%
TOTALS 254499 100.00%

I think this is a race the Democrats could have done better at if they had run it harder and put some resources into it. Instead, only the one-third that can be expected to vote Democrat gave their support to Pierson. On a personal note I would like to thank everyone that voted for me (Santema) in this race. I am very pleased with 5% running as a third-party in a three-way race. That is also three percent higher than most political junkies had given me. (this election has also taught me the value of a party in such races).

Commissioner of School and Public Lands

Candidate Votes Percent
Ryan Brunner (R) 174782 76.46%
John English (L) 53807 23.54%
TOTALS 228589 100.00%

English should be commended for getting almost one quarter of the vote. If all things were equal (money and party) I believe this would have been an interesting race. Both candidates are qualified for the office and are young enough to have the ambition that is needed in the executive branch of Pierre. That being said, I look forward to continuing working with Brunner on issues in the future. He has been very helpful as a Deputy Commissioner, and hopefully will grow into an even more helpful Commissioner.

Public Utilities Commissioner 

Candidate Votes Percent
Gary Hanson (R) 167700 65.74%
David Allen (D) 74780 29.31%
Wayne Schmidt (C) 12634 4.95%
TOTALS 255114 100.00%

I really don’t have any comments on this race. I didn’t give it much attention. Gary Hanson has been in Pierre for a long time and I think he could run for just about anything and win.

Constitutional Amendment Q – Allow the legislature to expand gambling in Deadwood

Y or N Votes Percent
Yes 152220 56.69%
No 116299 43.31%
TOTALS 268519 100.00%

This was the only ballot question I voted yes on, and it was the only one I thought might not pass. It’s passage will make this next legislative session interesting. I am looking forward to the debates on the legislative floor about whether gambling will be expanded in Deadwood.

Initiated Measure 17 – Any Willing Provider

Y or N Votes Percent
Yes 166353 61.81%
No 102769 38.19%
TOTALS 269122 100.00%

I actually expected this one to win with about 65% of the vote. I voted against the IM because I don’t believe it will do what was intended. So it is just another mandate causing more confusion and taking the healthcare system even further from anything resembling a free market.

Initiated Measure 18 – Minimum Wage increase indefinitely

Y or N Votes Percent
Yes 150760 55.04%
No 123151 44.96%
TOTALS 273911 100.00%

This ballot question finished just about where I thought it would at 55%. I voted against it because of my belief that it will continue to decline the purchasing power for poor people. But in the end there are bigger issues (such Fed Reserve policies) that are driving purchasing power down even further. It will be interesting to see what the minimum wage increase being on auto-pilot will do.

Other notable races

Yes, I’m tired of the election. So I’m only going to make a few brief comments on some local races in SD:

  • Chuck Welke losing his District 2 Senate seat to Brock Greenfield was a nail-biter. I actually thought Welke would squeak through (possibly in recount range). Greenfield has to be feeling good today!
  • Also in District 2, I thought Natasha Noethlich would win. She was ahead for a while, but in the end Burt Tunson’s incumbency allowed him to pull off the win. I may disagree with Noethlich on many (most?) issues, but I must admit she was probably one of the hardest working candidates in NE SD this election season.
  • District 3 had an even bigger nail-biter with Dan Kaiser defending his State House seat against Burt Elliot. Elliot was ahead until the last two voting centers were counted. In this race I liked all four candidates on a personal level; but I am glad Elliot did not win. I really think the legislature would have refused to seat him in January and Daugaard would have had a legislative appointment right away.
  • The Brown County Commission race also had a surprise. Many of us expected former legislator Paul Dennert to unseat either Mike Wiese or Nancy Hansen. But instead it was newcomer Doug Fjeldheim that unseated Mike Wiese. The race was within recount range, but I don’t expect for one to be called for.

That’s a wrap on this election season!

Some election day music

I thought I would create a small playlist for Election Day. These five songs seem somehow appropriate today.

First up a song from Don McLean poking a little fun at totalitarian politicians (of which there are plenty).

Up next is a great tune from Cream! A song about the true intentions of many status quo politicians. Lets not vote for politicians that won’t practice what they preach!

Indi artist Jordan Page is up next with a song that I believe many can relate to. It is about the many of us stuck in a place that doesn’t align well with either major party.

Going on the theme from the last song, we have the classic song from Ten Years After. I think many people are confused come time to vote, and this song encapsulates that feeling well!

And finally, we come to a more recent song from Kid Rock. I often listen to this song before blogging, reminding me of what I think is important. On election day in particular I think this song has even more meaning……..

Happy Election Day Everyone!

Thank-you to all of the voters trying to make informed decisions!

I-Voted-2014110356Today is election day! For me personally this has been one heck of an election season that began last year. Over the last year I have been traveling to events and speaking with just about every statewide candidate in South Dakota, and many of the State Legislative candidates as well. It has been fun… and tiring! But now that election day is here I am happy with how many people I see researching the candidates online (including with my blog posts). I think it is great that a large number of voters are taking the time to do some basic research on candidates. Seeing that makes it feel like my time spent traveling to political events (most of which are boring) and writing blog posts (which is very time-consuming) has been worth it! Thank-you to every voter out there that is trying to make informed decisions when going to the ballot.

For those that have not yet voted I do have two link pages that can help research the candidates in South Dakota

  • SD 2014 Ballot – This page includes all of the statewide races and ballot questions. It includes links to research each candidate or ballot question.
  • SD 2014 Legislative Races – This pages includes all State Legislative candidates in all 35 Districts in South Dakota. I tried to gather enough links so smart voting decisions can be made for each.

Below is a Voter Info Tool that can be used to find out where you can vote. For those in Brown County I created a specific post about the voting centers.

[voterinfotool]

Thank-you to everyone that chooses to be an informed voter!

Where to vote in Brown County

gramzon_Ballot_boxI’ve talked with quite a few people over the last few days that are confused about the new Voting Centers that Brown County implemented this year. Brown County first used them for the Primary election in June, and will continue to utilize them. A brochure from the County Auditors office can be read here. Below are a few questions that have come my way over the last few days. I’ll pass on the answers I have. Hopefully this will alleviate some of the confusion.

  • Where do I have to vote at.
    • Brown County residents can go to any of the eleven Voting Centers distributed around the county. Three of the Voting Centers are in Aberdeen at the Brown County Courthouse, Ramada Convention Center, and the Best Western Ramkota Hotel. The remaining eight are located in Columbia, Westport, Warner, Stratford, Groton, Claremont, Hecla, and Fredrick. See the Brown County Auditors pamphlet for addresses.
  • What if I go to the place I’ve been voting at for years in Aberdeen? (I’ve heard this question a lot)
    • All of the polling places in Aberdeen have been reduced down to the three mentioned in the previous question. Some of the old polling places in Aberdeen, such as the Senior Center or Washington State Gym, will no longer have voting booths.
  • Is this electronic voting? (I’ve gotten this question a lot as well)
    • No, this is not electronic voting. As the Auditors pamphlet notes the only part electronic is checking in voters and verifying their name on the voter roll. The voter is then handed a paper ballot that must be filled out the traditional way with a pencil. In addition the votes from each ballot are counted in the same manner as before the Voting Center change.
  • Do I have to show an ID?
    • Yes. If a voter does not have an ID they can sign a personal identification affidavit. No voter should be turned away from the polls for not having an ID. See the Secretary of State website for more details.
  • What if I am turned away from a polling place?
    • My advice to anyone turned away for a reason they feel is incorrect should contact the County Auditor immediately. If the Brown County Auditor doesn’t help, or can’t be reached, I would contact the Secretary of State office. In the event the Secretary of State cannot be reached I would contact the local media (such as the Aberdeen American News) or even contact me on this blog. The media and bloggers cannot fix the situation, but we can bring attention to it at least.
  • What if I am turned away from the polling place due to “electioneering” or something that I am wearing?
    • I heard about this happening a few times during the primary election. Electioneering law in South Dakota (SCL § 12-18-3) is intended to keep political advertising more than 100 feet from the polling place. Basically candidates can’t do things like put signs out front of the building that is used to vote or hassle voters going into the building. The cases I’ve heard about people being turned away has to do with stickers or t-shirts that voters are wearing going into the polling place. Personally I would just put a jacket over the t-shirt while going into vote. But most of the complaints I heard about this issue weren’t just in reaction to being turned back due to a t-shirt. The people who talked to me about this were treated rudely by Voting Center staff and made to feel like a child because they didn’t understand South Dakota electioneering law. If that happens I would follow the steps from my previous question to bring attention to it. The volunteers working in a Voting Center should act in a professional manner.

Any other election-related questions can likely be answered at the Secretary of State website. Hopefully I won’t hear reports of confusion and voters being treated in a disrespectful manner during this election.

SD AG Marty Jackley speaking at the Brown County Republican Reagan Lunch

Marty Jackley speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 10/23/14
Marty Jackley speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 10/23/14

On October 23rd South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley was the guest speaker for the Brown County Republicans at their monthly Reagan Lunch. Jackley is currently seeking re-election for his second term as Attorney General. There are quite a few things I disagree with Jackley on, but I will say he actually spoke about a lot more topics than the usual politician at these type of events. He also received a good number of questions. If nothing else he has given me a lot of info to blog about!

Jackley’s Remarks

Jackley spoke about the job of the AG. He said a big part of the AG’s office is to handle violent crime in South Dakota.  He said he always believes in leading by example and has taken some of the more violent and death penalty cases himself. In particular he mentioned a murder trial that had finished this summer that ended with Matthew Tornquist being sentenced to life in jail with no opportunity of parole. Additionaly he said the AG’s office has moved forward on the Berget Case and asked for an execution in May 2015. Personally I think South Dakota needs to get rid of the death penalty. It should never be the domain of the state to murder anyone. And that is exactly what the death penalty is: murder. But his involvement in these types of cases do back up his assertion that he is a hands-on AG.

Then Jackley moved on to talk about working with local law enforcement agencies around the state in preventative efforts. As part of prevention his office is seeing meth cases “skyrocketing”. He is working with local law enforcement and the legislature to slow down the rise of meth use. In particular he thanked Rep David Novstrup and Sen Al Novstrup for their support in trying to stop the production of meth. I believe he was referring to SB 24, which makes it even more of an inconvenience when people go buy cold medicines at the drug store. Jackley said the new tracking has already “blocked several hundred inappropriate sales of methamphetamine”. Further, he noted no actual prosecutions come from these blocked sales. It is just keeping people from buying the product that can be used for meth production. He also noted the AG’s office is speaking to a large pharmaceutical manufacture about “smart drugs”. These smart drugs cannot be compounded, meaning they would be useless for meth production. Jackley noted that issue may come up in the 2015 legislative session. Personally I think South Dakota, and the AG’s office, are on the wrong track by continuing the failed War on Drugs. That doesn’t mean I think drugs are good, but prohibition has done nothing but create criminals in situations where there are no actual victims. South Dakota’s continued support of the War on Drugs has also brought South Dakota to having the 16th highest incarceration rate in the world. I’m not sure that is something the AG’s office should be proud of.

Another area of the AG’s office that Jackley talked about was government power. He said it is part of the AG’s office responsibility to stop the government when it has gone too far. Jackley called out the EPA for expanding its power without Congressional authority. And after the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) rules against the EPA they just do a “end-round” and find another way to do what they were never actually given authority to do. He says he is part of a groups of AG’s from both parties around the country that are trying to fight against the acts of the EPA. Jackley said environmental protection can best be handled at the local level by zoning authorities. He said the State DENR also works to protect South Dakota’s resources. The closest EPA agent is in Denver according to Jackley. He says the SD DENR and the AG understand South Dakota and can better enforce environmental protections in South Dakota than the EPA can. Here is an issue I am fully supportive of Jackley on! I do think he has been fighting against federal overreach fairly consistently. There are a few times I think his office didn’t step forward when it should have, but overall I’m glad to see he is supporting Federalism in the State/Federal government relationship.

The last part his opening remarks was to talk about his campaign. He said he is taking the campaign serious and is “out on the trail”. All I will say on this is that there are enough things about how Jackley runs the office that I won’t be voting for him; but at the same time I won’t be voting for his opponent. I don’t feel either candidate is worthy of a vote from anyone liberty oriented.

Question about ISIS

Jackley received a question about ISIS. He didn’t have much to say on it because State Attorney General’s don’t receive a lot information about such issue. He noted that US Attorneys actually receive briefings on this type of issue and would be more informed. I found that interesting because I had assumed AG’s got the same info as US Attorneys. Jackley did note that ISIS is “serious and the President needed to act sooner”. I think most people of the US would agree with him. Personally I think our current interventionist foreign policy is doing more to expand terrorist threats and there are be better ways to curtail terrorism. But sadly neither ruling party really cares to look at other means of handling foreign policy.

Public Safety Improvement Act

In 2013 the South Dakota Legislature passed SB 70, which was marketed as the Public Safety Improvement Act. Jackley was asked about how the progress from this reform was progressing. Jackley said the AG’s office is “moving forward cautiously” on this “prison reform act”. At its core, Jackley said this act looked at how things were being done in prisons and that the spike of prison inmates were from drug-related offenses. Before SB70 all of these offenses were a ten-year felony. After the act there were three tiers based upon use, distribution, and production. Drug users are now eligible for drug courts. He said because of growing meth use it is hard to determine if the program is working better. Jackley also noted this system does shift some costs to the local level, so in the future the Legislature may need to provide more resources to Counties. Finally he said he is concerned with the Federal government doing the same thing the State of South Dakota has done. He said Eric Holder hasn’t been straight forward with people about it. Use of controlled substances are a misdemeanor under Federal Law, so only those distributing or producing controlled substances are felonies on the Federal level. Jackley says Holder talking about releasing felons at the Federal level for drug use is inconsistent with how Federal law actually works because it isn’t drug users that are federal felons. Jackley contends the Federal drug felons are the violent criminals. I’ll just reiterate that I believe South Dakota and US are wrong in continuing the failed War on Drugs. There are other ways to tackle social issues such as drug use without using the criminal system.

Governor Jackley?

Jackley was asked if he would be running for Governor in the future. He said he always works on things one step at a time. He noted he has moved his family to Pierre and will stay in State Government as long as the residents of SD want him to serve. Jackley didn’t’ say he would run for Governor in the future, but he also definitely didn’t say he wouldn’t.

Ballot Questions

Jackley was asked about the ballot questions on the SD 2014 ballot. All he really did was reiterate what the AG’s office had already released as part of their requirement to explain ballot questions. Here are the three AG explanations created for this election: IM 17, IM 18, Const Amend Q.

Marriage Amendment

Jackley was asked about the Marriage Amendment in South Dakota. He noted there was statute that existed in South Dakota defining marriage between a man and a woman. In 2006 the people then voted upon it and passed it as a SD Constitutional Amendment. Jackley noted that is currently the law in South Dakota. He noted there are a number of AG’s that went to SCOTUS and asked for a clear legal decision, but SCOTUS wouldn’t answer. Jackley did say this is a tough issue and that the “people of South Dakota should define what marriage is” and that it shouldn’t be up to judges or AG’s to determine what defines marriage. He wouldn’t say whether he agrees with the current law, only that it is his job as AG to uphold the current law. In the future Jackley expects more lawsuits to keep coming forward due to the non-action from SCOUTS. He said even if SCOTUS rules against the states it would at least provide clear guidance.

EB-5

Yes, there was an EB-5 question for Jackley. Democrats have turned this into a partisan issue recently, but I’ve heard just as many Republicans (if not more) in the Aberdeen area worried about EB-5 than I have heard from Democrats. The morning of this event Aberdeen News had the front page story saying the FBI was investigating SDRC and EB-5. The question was about law enforcement coming in shortly before an election and announcing something like this. Jackley said as AG he had waited until after the Primary election to deal with two cases that had come to him (including his opponents wife Annette Bosworth) so as not to sway the election one way or the other. Jackley noted the Federal authorities have been looking into this long before the AG’s office was involved. Last year GOAC received a federal grand jury subpoena that was then passed on by the Governor to the AG’s office. He says the AG’s office then investigated and reported what he believes was some wrongdoing. Jackley was sure to point out his investigation was done in October of 2013 when he authorized a felony arrest warrant. He was careful to say the warrant was for what he believes was wrongdoing, he worded that carefully because there was not a subsequent trial or grand jury to determine if there truly was felony activity. Jackley asked what the federal authorities have been doing in the year since last October. He noted the FBI’s current subpoena was done in a way to make it a public record. He said as AG he has been trying to be as transparent and open as possible when allowed. He also reiterated that the evidence the AG’s office found had no connections with Mike Rounds at all.

I won’t go into the whole EB-5 situation in this post. But I will back Jackley on part. I believe he acted right in refraining from going after Bosworth until after the Primary election. If the FBI had released its subpoena in a way to create publicity that close to an election it does look suspicious and like the possible use of federal resources to electioneer. Additionally, I would add that I believe it is unlikely Rounds will ever be found to have done anything illegal. But at the same time I do think there were a lot of unethical things done in regards to EB-5 in South Dakota, and Rounds may or may not have been involved with breach of ethics.

Checks and Balances

Jackley went on to a conversation about Checks and Balances after talking about EB-5. He said the federal level does not have the checks and balances that exist in South Dakota. He noted the AG and SD Legislature are both elected and actually create some checks and balances. If the AG’s office acts in a way the Legislature doesn’t like, they can act through GOAC or defund his department. He says the current AG of the US enforces whatever laws he wants. Examples Jackley gave include: drug laws, immigration laws, marriage laws. Jackley noted that State AG’s also typically work quite well with the US Ag, regardless of party; but that has simply not happened with Holder in office. It is odd seeing a state AG speaking against the US AG. Remember, these are all lawyers and they typically stick together. With a quick Google search it can be seen that many AG’s from around the US and both parties have been consistently speaking against Holder. Perhaps it is good Holder announced his resignation.

Residence

There are some local residents concerned about whether Burt Elliot should be in the District 3 House race because he allegedly lives in District 2 and only rents an Apartment in District 3 to run for office (meaning he doesn’t actually sleep in District 3, only rents a place to keep an address). The question to Jackley was specifically about perjury. Jackley said perjury cases are always difficult to prove, even for the AG’s office. He also noted it is up to the Secretary of State to determine whether ballot access requirements have been met. Going back to what he said earlier, even if Jackley would somehow become involved in this situation, nothing would happen until after the election. That would also likely involve a US Attorney if this became a criminal issue.

But for ballot access issues he said that is not really an AG issue. Later when talking individually with people he was asked about the AG’s office getting involved if the SD Legislature refuses to seat Elliot. Due to prescience from  the SD Judicial system he says the Executive branch (including the AG’s office) likely could not legally get involved. I think the big lesson to take out of this as that no matter what happens with Elliot, it is unlikely the AG’s office will be involved.

My Conclusion

Jackley covered a heck of a lot of issues for what is usually a meet and greet type of meeting. As I said before, I won’t vote for him. But he is willing to at least speak on a number of topics when he knows there are people there that disagree with him. I also wish he had covered some of his work on consumer fraud protection in this meeting. Maybe I’ll catch up with him some time after the election to see what he will focus on for consumer fraud protection in the next four years.