District 15 State Senate seat won by Reynold Nesiba, no general election

SD Legislative District 15.
SD Legislative District 15.

As I continue to look at SD legislative races without a general election it is time to look at District 15 State Senate. District 15 seems to mostly fall within Northern Sioux Falls. Currently Sen Angie Buhl O’Donnell (D, Dist 15) represents District 15. She did not seek reelection and the term-limited Democrat Rep Patrick Kirschman thought he would switch from the House to the Senate. In the meantime another Sioux Falls Democrat, Reynold Nesiba, moved into District 15 and also sought the Senate seat. Nesiba defeated Kirschman  56.67% to 43.33%.

Below is a copy/paste of what I wrote about Nesiba prior to the District 15 State Senate primary election. Since Nesiba has already  won the general election, this will give constituents an idea of where Nesiba stands and some links for District 15 residents to research their new State Senator.

Reynold F. Nesiba

Reynold F. Nesiba (D)
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Reynold Nesiba picture from his campaign Facebook page.
Reynold Nesiba picture from his campaign Facebook page.

Nesiba actually has a pretty active online presense, making it easier to research him. Here is Nesiba’s brief bio from his campaign website:

I currently serve as Professor of Economics at Augustana University, where I have been employed since 1995. I plan to maintain that position. However, if elected, I will reduce my teaching load so that I can meet my responsibilities as a State Senator in Pierre beginning in January of 2017.

Nesbia does have somewhat of an issues page on his campaign site. But I think more can be learned back on his bio page listing his legislative priorities:

My legislative priorities are to protect the use of ballot measures, to continue to rein in predatory lenders, to properly fund education, and to advocate for economic development policies that prioritize workers and local entrepreneurs over out of state corporations. I am also enthusiastic about working with other citizens and legislators to restore the health of our Big Sioux River.

Speaking of ballot measures and payday lenders, Nesiba is the treasurer for South Dakotans for Responsible Lending. This is the group that circulated petitions for Initiated Measure 21 (IM21), which would cap interest rates for payday lenders at 36%. Due to the many dirty tricks already taken by the payday lending industry to fight IM21 I wouldn’t be surprised if the industry didn’t throw some money at Nesiba’s opponent just to retaliate.

One of Nesiba’s campaign blog posts is about the minimum wage, and also ties into ballot measures:

In the classroom, I make strong arguments both for and against the minimum wage. I do, after all, want my students to be able to think critically and to reach and be able to defend their own opinions about matter of public policy. In my own thinking, I have publicly supported a higher minimum wage in the state of South Dakota through collecting ballot petition signatures, speaking out in a variety of different venues, and in this case co-authoring a column in the Argus Leader with a colleague from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

I think it is pretty clear Nesiba is an advocate of direct democracy. I also see he is one of the more active candidates on Facebook, trying to communicate out to potential constituents.

District 2 State Senate already won by Brock Greenfield

SD Legislative District 2
SD Legislative District 2

SD District 2 State Senate is another race with no general election. The current Republican incumbent, Sen Brock Greenfield, did not face a primary and will not have a general election opponent. Just as I am doing with all non-contested races, I will look at a few pieces of legislation from Greenfield so District 2 constituents can get an idea of the legislative priority of their chosen State Senator.

District 2 is an odd shaped district that resides in northeast South Dakota. Towns in District 2 include Aberdeen (in the SW corner of town), Ashton, Bryant, Bradley, Brentford, Castlewood, Claremont, Clark, Columbia, Conde, Crocker, Doland, Estelline, Frankfort, Ferney, Garden City, Groton, Hayti, Hazel, Lake Norden, Lake Poinsett, Mansfield, Mellette, Naples, Northville, Raymond, Redfield, Stratford, Turton, Verdon, Vienna, Warner and Willow Lake.

Brock L. Greenfield

Sen Brock Greenfield  (R, Dist 2) – Incumbent
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Sen Brock Greenfield speaking on the SD Senate floor. Photo by Ken Santema 1/27/16.
Sen Brock Greenfield speaking on the SD Senate floor. Photo by Ken Santema 1/27/16.

Brock Greenfield has served in Pierre for 16 years. After winning a fairly competitive State Senate race against Democrat Chuck Welke in 2014, Greenfield now has a pass for the 2016 election. In this post I will look at three pieces of legislation prime sponsored from Greenfield during the 2016 session.

First up is SB 117 (SoDakLiberty Posts). SB 117 is an Act to “Permit the practice of midwifery by certain persons.” Basically this bill would have allowed people who are licensed to practice midwivery in other states to perform most midwivery duties in South Dakota. This was basically seen as a way to get the midwife field moving forward in South Dakota until a true licensure scheme is created in South Dakota; which was attempted in HB 1162 (SoDakLiberty Posts). This is an issue that conservative groups have been following and pushing for. It was not surprising to see Greenfield sponsoring this bill because he does seem to bring forth a lot of legislation that is geared towards socially conservative issues. SB 117 failed to pass through Senate Health, but it is likely this will be attempted again in 2017. Personally I think the midwivery industry should be enabled in South Dakota; but at the same time I think anyone looking into midwives should do a LOT of research on who they are considering hiring as a midwife. I was able to hear a lot of good and bad stories about certain midwives this previous legislative session.

Another bill to look at from Greenfield is SB 119 (SoDakLiberty Posts). SB 119 was an Act to “require legislative authority for refugee actions under South Dakota law.” This bill of course came about due to the Obama administration announcing last fall that there would be an increase in the amount of refugees from Syria. Many governors around the country tried to take steps to bar these refugees from entering their states. South Dakota Governor Daugaard was not one of those governors. In response legislation such as SB 119 was brought forth in 2016. Basically the bill would have required the Department of Social Services (DSS) to get legislative approval before entering into agreements pursuant to the Refugee Act of 1980. In South Dakota that would be Lutheran Social Services (LSS). One of the problems with this bill is that DSS does not have an agreement with LSS. LSS deals directly with the federal government. Technically and legally the state of SD has no say in whether refugees come to the US and whether they enter SD. This bill died. But it was supported by hardcore conservatives and was another example of Greenfield taking on socially conservative issues.

Finally it is worth looking at a tax bill,  SB 147 (SoDakLiberty Posts). SB 147 was an act to “exempt certain amateur sports coaches from sales and use tax.” Basically this bill would have exempted American Legion and VWF coaches from sales and use tax. Traditionally these coaches were not subject to sales and use tax. However a couple of years ago the Department of Revenue (DOR) reinterpreted state law and decided to go after these coaches. In response Greenfield brought forth SB 159 (SoDakLiberty Posts) in the 2015 session that would exempt American Legion and VFW coaches from sales and use tax. That bill passed both chambers but was subsequently vetoed by the governor. The legislature was unable to overturn that veto. The 2016 version, SB 147, was not able to make it off the Senate floor. This was an interesting bill because it was not presented as a new exemption, but rather as a way to overturn the reinterpretation of law by bureaucrats. Greenfield is one of the few legislators that doesn’t seem afraid to call out bureaucrats on the chamber floor.

Payment Methodologies for Medicaid Providers Study on Mon June 27

On Monday, June 27, the Payment Methodologies for Medicaid Providers Study will meet in Pierre for its first meeting. The meeting begins at 10:00 am. The agenda for this meeting can be viewed hereSDPB will also provide live audio for anyone wishing to listen in on the meeting.

This particular summer study was requested by Rep Jean Hunhoff (R, Dist 18) and Rep Dick Werner (R, Dist 22). This is a topic I am currently researching in able to follow what happens with this summer study. In this post I will look briefly at the documents provided by the committee for this meeting.

Scope of the Study

Earlier this month I reported on the finalized scope and membership of the Payment Methodologies committee. The committee has also provided a document with the title, scope and membership. Here is the actual full title of the summer study:

Assess existing payment methodologies for Medicaid providers to determine adequacy of payments that will provide for long term continuation of services and conclude with recommendations for any changes.

Here is the finalized Scope of the Study:

  • Current provider methodology for payment: hospitals – LTC – Community Based.
  • Actual costs versus cost report data – What is included in cost reports – cost report years used for
  • Projection of provider needs 5/10/20 years.
  • Costs unaccounted for in reports.
  • Other payment methodologies used in other states – Pros/Cons.
  • Recommendations for any change.
  • Funding sources for any changes for recommended increases.
  • Sustainability and future growth.
  • Impact of federal mandates.

Looking at the impact of federal mandates was added to the committees scope by the Executive Board. Personally I think impact of federal and state mandates for all areas of public spending should be looked at.

Medicaid 101

The first real item on the agenda is labeled Medicaid 101. The Department of Social Services (DSS) has provided a Medicaid Overview document that is being presented to the committee.

There often seems to be a lot of confusion about the difference between Medicaid and Medicare as I talk to people about topics such as Medicaid Expansion (another topic I need to blog about). Here is the quick bullet point difference DSS has put into its presentation:

  • Medicaid is for low income and disabled individuals
  • Medicare is for individuals age 65 and older and some
    younger people with specific long-term disabilities

Another topic that comes up often is the Children’s State Health Insurance Program (CHIP). CHIP is authorized by Title XXI of the Social Security Act. It is very similar to Medicaid. Here is a key part from the DSS presentation:

CHIP covers children up to age 19 who have incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid – those up to 209% FPL ($50,787 annually for a family of four)

The next slide I will show in its entirety. In this slide DSS addresses who is eligible for Medicaid in South Dakota:


It is quite apparent above that Medicaid covers South Dakota residents truly in need. DSS notes that almost one in seven South Dakotan’s have health coverage through Medicaid or CHIP; with one in three children being on Medicaid or CHIP.

The full DSS presentation is worth reading. Actually the presentation will also be worth listening in on. I’ll stop blogging about this section and wait to hear what DSS has to say. More to come!

Provider Reimbursement

The other big agenda item is provider reimbursement; which of course is what this actual summer study is about. DSS and the Department of Human Services (DHS) are on the agenda to speak about this topic. DSS has also made a presentation document available explaining the provider rate setting process.   This document I will not go through at this time. Instead it is worth hearing what DSS and DHS have to say and then focus on key areas of the document.

Code Commission meeting on Weds June 22 – Digitization of SD Codified Law

21369614 (1)On Wednesday, June 22, the Code Commission will meet in Sioux Falls. The meeting begins at 2:00 pm and is only scheduled for an hour. The agenda for this meeting can be viewed hereSDPB will also provide live audio for anyone wishing to listen in on the meeting.

On the agenda has an item labeled ” Digitization of the SD Codified Law”. There is a document available on the LRC website explaining this agenda item. The SD State Library is going through the process of digitizing historical volume of the SD Codified Law. So far the Library has been going with volumes prior to 1923. But apparently the volumes from 1923 on are considered under copyright and they are seeking the permission of the LRC and Code Commission to “digitize possibly copyrighted editions of those works, to archive the digital version of the works, and to make the digital works publicly accessible.” I don’t see any reason the LRC and Code Commission wouldn’t do so. It would make certain types of research much easier!!!

The document also mentions the Legislative Manuals (Blue Book) that is archived with other historical documents on http://cdm16384.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/

There are quite a few documents on the site worth viewing. For instance I have been reading about the apportioning of legislative districts in the 1903 Blue Book. At that time most of the counties were apportioned one State Senator, although there were some cases of counties sharing a State Senator. There were also other counties, such as Brown, that had two state Senators. The State House seats were apportioned from one to five seats for each county; although there again some counties were banded together. Brown County had four State Representatives at that time. I’ve heard it said that there are too many people in the SD State Legislature; whether that is true or not I can’t say. But I can say we have a lot fewer elected officials than we used to in South Dakota.

Personally I hope this digitization of State Documents continues!

GOAC meeting on Mon June 20, SDDC operations discussion and tour

On Monday, June 20, the Government Operations and Audit Committee (GOAC) will have its second meeting of the 2016 interim session. This particular meeting will be held at the South Dakota Developmental Center (SDDC) in Redfield. The previous meeting was held on May 17. My post prior to that meeting can be viewed here, and the minutes from that meeting can be viewed here.

The agenda for this meeting can be viewed hereSDPB will also provide live audio for anyone wishing to listen in on the meeting.

ORC update from previous meeting

An update on the Obligation Recovery Center (ORC) was a topic of interest from the previous meeting. Coming out of that meeting I have a post about the ORC update  and a post about the debt collection policy. The implementation of the ORC will continue to be a top issue for this blog.

SDDC tour and discussion of operations

South Dakota Developmental Center in Redfield. Photo by Ken Santema 02/05/16.
South Dakota Developmental Center in Redfield. Photo by Ken Santema 02/05/16.

On the agenda is a tour of the South Dakota Developmental Center (SDDC) and then a discussion with the Department of Human Services (DHS) about SDDC operations.

The SDDC was the subject of a couple of bills in the 2016 legislative session. HB 1208 (SoDakLiberty Posts) was signed into law and would allow the state to sell land currently in the control of the SDDC. This includes possibly selling land that buildings slated to be demolished are located on. The sale of that land will be used for the SDDC.

There was a second bill, HB 1015 (SoDakLiberty Posts), to demolish certain buildings on the SDDC campus. But that bill was killed and paying for the building demolition was included in an amendment to HB 1208.

The SDDC campus is of particular interest to me as I am working on a separate project about some “patients” that resided on this campus during a darker era of South Dakota healthcare.

DHS discussion of LifeScape

The LifeScape program has been under investigation due to possible victimization and preventable deaths.

Here is how the LifeScape website describes the organization:

LifeScape formed in mid-2014 when Children’s Care Hospital & School and South Dakota Achieve joined together. We are an independent, non-profit organization, serving adults and children in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Our center in Rapid City provides therapy and psychological services for children on an outpatient and outreach basis.

This might be worth checking out for anyone that has had any dealings with LifeScape.

Other agenda items

Also on the agenda is the following items:

  • Item 4 – Department of Social Services to discuss the licensing procedures for outside juvenile placement facilities
  • Item 5 – Department of Transportation and the South Dakota State Railroad Board to discuss the operations of the State owned rail line leased to Dakota Southern Railway Company

Both of these items are worthy of further scrutiny.

A look at the draft Debt Collection policy for the states Obligation Recovery Center

Earlier I noted the Bureau of Administration (BOA) had a draft Debt Collection policy to be used with South Dakota’s new Obligation Recovery Center (ORC). The draft policy can be viewed here, or in the embedded pdf below:


In this post I will briefly look at some important sections of this draft policy.

Timelines for collecting debt before going to the ORC

Before sending debt to the ORC each state agency must follow these timelines:

  • Day 1-30: First statement is sent to the debtor. The timeline begins on the day the debt was incurred.
  • Day 31-60: Second statement is sent to debtor. Additional information about the debt is included with this statement.
  • Day 61-90: Third statement is sent to debtor. This is basically the same as the second statement, except additional “principal, penalties, fees and interest due as part of the debt” are included.
  • Day 91-105: Final notice is mailed to debtor. All information from the 2nd and 3rd statements are included. The debtor is notified that after 14 days the debt will be turned over to the ORC and that the ORC will add its additional 20% fee if the ORC receives the debt (more on that later).

Basically the state agency owed a debt has to try collecting that debt for at least 90 days before turning the debt over to the ORC. The agencies also have to try at least three attempts to collect that debt during those 90 days. The agency will then electronically refer the debt to the ORC within twenty-two days of sending the final notice. Each agency will send this debtor information once a month and after referring debt to the ORC the state agency is no longer allowed to attempt collecting debts.

ORC cost recovery fee

The ORC is allowed to add a 20% cost recovery to each debt referred. This 20% is in addition to the debt owed and is calculated using the principal of the debt. For instance, if a person owes the state $1,000, the ORC can add 20% to that and collect $1,200 from the debtor. The extra $200 goes to CGI (the organization in charge of the ORC) as payment for services.

Changes in status of debt

The state agency that has referred debt to the ORC must update the ORC within 10 days of a change in the status of that debt. These changes can include “payment of the debt or liability, invalidation of the liability, bankruptcy or other factors.”

This might be a worthwhile policy for those owing the state to remember. It would appear that if someone pays the debt to the agency, even if debt is currently held by the ORC, the person owing the debt still has the option to pay the state agency directly. That might be a good way to avoid paying the 20% cost recovery fee.

Vehicle Registration, License and Permit Enforcement Actions

23253423This is the most contentious portion of the ORC. It allows the ORC to have state agencies withhold certain licenses if money is owed to the state. Here is a summary of this action from the policy:

SDCL 1-55-12 prohibits state agencies from issuing, renewing, or allowing an individual to maintain any motor vehicle, motorcycle, or boat registration, driver license, hunting license, fishing license, state park permit, or camping permit, after receiving notice from the Center that the applicant, registrant, or licensee has a debt that is being collected by the center, unless the applicant, registrant, or licensee has paid the debt and cost recovery fee in full or the debtor has entered into a payment plan with the center and payment pursuant to the plan is current.

The good news in this is that there is an option to set up a payment plan to keep a license. But there isn’t any policy as to how much that payment plan has to be. It is possible even a payment plan would be too much money for a person in debt to be able to handle. There appears to be a good chance many people will lose the ability to renew licenses; and thereby lose the ability to earn the money needed to get out of debt.

There was an attempt to remove this ability of the ORC during the 2016 session via SB 123 (SoDakLiberty Posts). Sen Troy Heinert (D, Dist 26) brought forth SB 123, which would have removed the ability of the ORC to keep people from registering vehicles, renewing drivers licences, hunting licenses, fishing licenses, or camping spots. Unfortunately Senate Judiciary killed the bill 4-3.

The state agencies that will be asked to withhold licenses and the types of licenses are as follows:

  • Department of Game, Fish and Parks (GPS): hunting license, fishing license, state park permit, or camping permit
  • Department of Revenue, Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV): motor vehicle, motorcycle, or boat
  • Department of Public Safety (DPS): driver license

In order to withhold these licenses the following criteria must be met:

  • The debt must have been held by the ORC for at least 60 days (so it is not instantaneous).
  • The ORC must have made at least 3 attempts to contact the debtor.
  • The ORC does not have a payment plan with the debtor, or the debtor has not followed a payment plan. (so a payment plan can stop this action).
  • For the GPS licenses to be withheld the debt owed must be $50 or greater. For DMV and DPS licenses to withheld the debt owed must be $1,000 or more.

I don’t think may will care about the GPS licenses being withheld. But the DMV and DPS licenses being withheld is likely to impact people very negatively. It is not hard to have $1,000 in debt owed; and that $1,000 can seem insurmountable to many people. The legislature may regret not passing Sen Heinert’s bill to remove this ability from the ORC.

Due Process Hearing

Any debtor who will have their licence withheld due to ORC actions have right to a due process hearing. The ORC may (notice the word may, it is a choice) recommend the state agency temporarily allow a licence until there is a final resolution of the due process hearing. Personally I think this policy should be changed to the ORC must recommend a temporary license until the due process hearing is completed.

The Office of Hearing Examiners (OHE), a part of the BOA, will conduct the hearing. Debtors will be notified of the hearing via USPS or e-mail. This hearing will not be about whether the debt is owed or not. Rather the hearing is to ensure the proper procedures were used to try collecting the debt. After the hearing the OHE make their recommendation to the state agency within 10 days. Then the agency must decide whether to adopt or reverse the OHE recommendation within 10 days. So technically it will be the agency owed the debt that will decide whether the debt collection procedure was followed correctly. That doesn’t seem like true due process.

Debt the ORC cannot collect

If the ORC simply cannot collect the debt, the ORC will have to return that debt to the state agency for final disposition. This policy acknowledges that there is debt the ORC simply will not be able to collect on. This is important because the ORC was pushed by proponents in part due to the large amount of debt that has gone uncollected. If the amount of debt going uncollected going to final uncollected disposition is the same or more than before the ORC was implemented, it would show this program is a failure. In order for the ORC to be a success the amount of uncollected debt has to be decreased dramatically.

Update on the SD’s Obligation Recovery Center from the May GOAC meeting

On May 17, 2016, the Government Operations and Audit Committee (GOAC) met in Pierre for its first meeting of the 2016 interim session. My post prior to that meeting can be viewed here and the minutes from that meeting can be viewed here. The main item of interest for me in that meeting was an update on the Obligation Recovery Center (ORC). The ORC is the new state collection agency created by the legislature in 2015 via HB 1228 (SoDakLiberty Posts) because some legislators feel the private company that had been hired to collect debts for the state wasn’t doing a good enough job.

Jeff Holden, Commissioner of the Bureau of Administration (BOA), was on hand to update GOAC as to how the implementation of the ORC has gone so far. The first part of his presentation focused on awarding CGI Technologies and Solutions Inc (CGI) the contract to implement the ORC. This happened in November of 2015 and I have the following three posts looking at this aspect of the ORC:

In my post looking at the scope of work I included this proposed timeline CGI would use for implementation:


Technically if CGI was keeping their timeline that means the implementation for collecting UJS fines and restitution would have been online by the time of the May GOAC meeting. But that does not appear to be valid anymore. The minutes from the May GOAC meeting includes this:

He stated that CGI has begun working with agencies to gather information specific to each agencies debt collection processes. The ORC manager will soon be finalizing a process that State agencies will follow prior to reverting debt to the ORC and the BOA will develop this process into proposed administrative rules. Commissioner Holden stated that CGI has contracted with Wells Fargo for collections and transferring funds and this process is expected to begin on July 15, 2016.

So that shows the ORC is at least three months behind schedule for implementation. Further, the three agencies that have agreed to move forward with the ORC and will be a part of “phase one” are the South Dakota Unified Judicial System (UJS), Department of Corrections (DOC) and Game, Fish and Parks (GFP).

Commissioner Holden also noted that in December of 2015 there were RFP’s issued to attain three third-party debt collection services. The BOA is currently negotiating contracts with the companies receiving the contracts. These contracts will be for one year initially; with options to extend the contract a year based upon performance.

There was a question to Commissioner Holden about CGI’s contract. Holden specified CGI had not yet been paid anything. CGI will get paid only as debt is collected. At that time CGI will receive 20% of all revenues collected as per the law that implemented the ORC.

Finally Sen David Novstrup (R, Dist 3) asked about the decision for denying license renewals for individuals that owe the state money. Holden noted the details are still being worked out. But this is listed in the minutes:

Commissioner Holden stated that an individual will lose their hunting and fishing licenses if they owe the State a minimum of $50 and have been notified three times of the amount due. He explained that this is similar to motor vehicle registrations and licenses; however the minimum amount of outstanding debt to the State is $1,000.

Holden further agreed to provide a draft of the debt collection policy. That draft can be viewed here. My post looking at this policy draft can be viewed here.

As the implementation of the ORC gets closer I still see no reason the people of South Dakota should not be wary of this new debt collection center. This ORC will have the power to take away people’s ability to renew licenses. A person unable to renew a vehicle license will likely lose the ability to actually pay off the debt owed. $1,000 sounds like a high threshold, unless you are the person that owes that $1,000 and have no means to currently pay off that debt. Giving the ORC the power to withhold licensing just seems like an overreach.

River Basin Natural Resource District Oversight Advisory Task Force meeting on Mon June 20

On Monday, June 20, the River Basin Natural Resource District Oversight Advisory Task Force will hold its first meeting of the 2016 interim session. The River Basin Task Force was created in 2015 via SB 2 (SoDakLiberty Posts). The river basin natural resource districts that are formed by this bill will create water management plans and add a new level of elected positions and non-elected bureaucrats around the state. This meeting will begin at 10:00 in Pierre.  SDPB will also provide live audio for anyone wishing to listen in on the meeting.

The task force held three meetings last year. Prior to the December meeting I did a post looking at the proposed maps of the nine districts. The minutes from that meeting show some minor changes to the boundaries, but no updated map has been published yet.

Looking at the agenda for the June 20 meeting there are three main items of focus:

Nebraska’s Experience with Natural Resource Districts

Nebraska has natural resource districts similar to what is being planned in South Dakota. Dean Edson, Executive  Director of Nebraska Association of Resource Districts, will be on hand to share the experience Nebraska has had with natural resource districts and to answer any questions the committee may have. Below is a map of the Natural Resource Districts (NRD) that exist within Nebraska currently:

Nebraska NRDs. Screenshot from www.nrdnet.org on 6/18/16.
Nebraska NRDs. Screenshot from www.nrdnet.org on 6/18/16.

This might be worth paying attention to for anyone worried about how such districts would function.

Election of Council Members – Legislation Needed

The final meeting of the River Basin Task Force in 2015 included draft legislation to allow for the election of natural resource district council members. The draft can be viewed here. This legislation never did get submitted, and thus did not pass. Part of this meeting appears to be a meeting with Secretary of State Shantel Krebs to look at how to proceed with such legislation.

Review of District and Subdistrict Boundaries

Here is the draft map of South Dakota’s proposed districts (minus the changes agreed to at the last task force meeting) posted on the LRC website last December:

Draft of the SD River Basin Natural Resource Districts. Image from LRC website.
Draft of the SD River Basin Natural Resource Districts. Image from LRC website.

Hopefully there will be an updated map to show the proposed boundaries after the changes from the last meeting. These boundaries will be very important for the landowners contained within the districts.

This is a meeting landowners may want to pay particular attention to!

No general election for SD Legislative District 1; a look at Frerichs, McCleerey and Wismer

SD Legislative District 1.
SD Legislative District 1.

Before I begin looking at the legislative races for the general election this fall in South Dakota I thought it would be worthwhile focusing on the districts which have no challengers. These races are technically already “won”. Even though there technically isn’t a race I still feel it is worthy doing a post about each of these non-contested legislative spots so constituents can learn a thing or two about who is representing them. First up with will be District 1.

South Dakota legislative District 1 does not have a general election race on either the Senate or House side. District 1 is the northeast corner of South Dakota (with a bit of creative legislative districting  in Brown County). Towns in District 1 include Andover, Bristol, Britton, Butler, Claire City, Corona, Eden, Frederick, Grenville, Hecla, Lake City, Langford, Lily, New Effington, Ortley, Peever, Pierpont, Rosholt, Roslyn, Sisseton, Summit, Veblen, Waubay, Webster, Westport, White Rock, and Wilmot.

District 1 has been a Democrat stronghold for a long time. With no general election that will be true for at least two more years. There was not even a primary election this time. In this post I will look at a few pieces of prior legislation from all three individuals so constituents can get an idea of their legislative priorities.

State Senate

Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1) – Incumbent
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SDPB Video: 2014

Sen Frerichs will be entering his fourth term as State Senator for District 1. An interesting bill from Frerichs in 2016 was SB 145 (SoDakLiberty Posts). SB 145 was an Act to “require certain provisions to be met before allowing public utilities or carriers to exercise eminent domain procedures.” This was an interesting bill because it would have required a utility or carrier to wait until a projects permits are approved before allowing that entity to go forth with eminent domain. The bill also would have ensured no utility or carrier could use eminent domain until at least eighty percent of the landowners voluntarily allow an easement for the project. It seemed odd to me the Republican majority on the Senate Judiciary committee voted to kill this extra layer of protection against eminent domain abuse. This seems to me the type of bill legislators would want to back in order to protect property rights.

A bill worth looking at from 2015 is SB 2 (SoDakLiberty Posts). SB 2 was passed into law and creates river basin natural resource districts. This is a bill I thought would not pass. The river basin natural resource districts that are formed by this bill will create water management plan and add a new level of elected positions and non-elected bureaucrats around the state. It is commendable what the new districts are being created for, to manage and protect the natural water resources within the state. But there are many, including myself, who feel this new layer of government will be used against landowners. Frerichs himself has said this is not the case and has been a large advocate of these new districts; hopefully he is correct. There is a meeting of the River Basin Natural Resource District Oversight Advisory Task Force on June 20. That might be worth listening in on and learning more about the implementation of SB 2.

Jason Frerichs attempting to introduce new legislation on Veto Day. Photo by Ken Santema 3/29/16.
Jason Frerichs attempting to introduce new legislation on Veto Day. Photo by Ken Santema 3/29/16.

Normally in these posts I look at legislation prime sponsored by the elected official in question. But in Frerichs case I thought it might be worth looking at a something he did at the end of the 2016 legislative session. Pay raises for teachers was the big issue for the 2016 legislative session. The policy side of the teacher pay raise,  SB 131 (SoDakLiberty Posts), was amended in the House by Rep Jacqueline Sly (R, Dist 33) to remove two-year averaging from the definition of fall enrollment. That change basically removed the safety-net for schools with falling enrollment and would hurt small school districts with declining enrollment. On veto day Frerichs tried to suspend the rules and introduce a new bill to undo the Sly amendment. Frerichs attempt failed. But this does appear to be a good example of Frerichs actually trying to do something to fix problems in legislation. It was also interesting from a political geek perspective as it was a procedural move that is not often tried.

State Representative

Steven McCleerey

Rep Steven McCleerey (D, Dist 1) – Incumbent
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Rep Steven McCleerey speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 3/29/16.
Rep Steven McCleerey speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 3/29/16.

Rep McCleerey has served one term in the House. For the last two years McCleerey has prime sponsored legislation to try limiting perpetual conservation easements to 100 years. In 2015 he tried it through HB 1152 (SoDakLiberty Posts) and in 2016 through HB 1180 (SoDakLiberty Posts). Both of these attempts failed to make it through the House. These perpetual conservation easements often don’t work how the landowners think they will, and the federal government often changes the terms of these easements. Many find it unwise to allow the federal government to have such long easements within the state of SD, where future landowners will be locked into an agreement that may not be in the best interest of their land at that time. Perhaps McCleerey will try this again in 2017.

Another pair of bills to look at from McCleerey both come from 2016: HB 1192 (SoDakLiberty Posts) and HB 1193 (SoDakLiberty Posts). Both of these are “ban the box” bills aimed at preventing employers from asking job applicants about criminal convictions during the initial phases of screening. HB 1192 would have prevented government agencies from asking about convictions. HB 1193 would have prevented private companies from asking about convictions. Personally I think  HB 1192 was a good idea and would have been a good change for a state that loves to make money off criminal convictions. HB 1193 however would have been yet another mandate on private businesses. Personally I think businesses should refrain from worrying about convictions during the initial employment screening anyhow. But that is their choice, and it shouldn’t need a government mandate. Both of McCleerey’s bills were killed by House Judiciary.

Finally it is worth looking at a couple more bills from 2015 and 2016, yet they were not prime sponsored by McCleerey. 2016’s HB 1124 (SoDakLiberty Posts) and 2015’s HB 1166 (SoDakLiberty Posts) were both bills aimed at tanning beds. 2015’s bill originally would have prevented all minors from using tanning beds. It was amended to allow minors to use tanning devices with parental permission, and was then defeated on the House floor. 2016’s version was once again a ban on minors being allowed to use tanning devices. Both bill were seen as an unwarranted intrusion on the private sector and I’ve even heard them referred to as nanny state bills. These bills are mentioned in the section about McCleerey because he has been a very vocal supporter of both bills. Almost every time I’ve seen him speak at public events in the Aberdeen area he mentions the importance of tanning bed legislation.

Susan Wismer

Susan Wismer (D, Dist 1) –  Wismer looks to regain her House seat. In 2014 she was the Democrat candidate for Governor.
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Susan Wismer speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 11/05/16.
Susan Wismer speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 11/05/16.

Wismer formerly served three terms as State Representative for District 1. In 2014 she did not seek reelection for State House, and instead ran for Governor. In that race she beat fellow Democrat Joe Lowe in the party’s primary. Wismer was then soundly defeated by incumbent Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard. A main theme of her campaign was to prove a different voice in Pierre. Personally I think Wismer should be tapped for State Treasurer or State Auditor in 2018 when there won’t be an incumbent to run against. Her experience running a statewide race in 2014 could be translated into a possible win in 2018 if the party is willing to back her with some money and there is a strong gubernatorial candidate for her travel the state with.

In her return to the legislature Wismer will be taking the spot currently filled by Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1). Feickert is term-limited, making Wismer’s return to District 1 politics as easy as submitting her nominating petition.

Looking at legislation to look at from Wismer is 2014’s HB 1173 (SoDakLiberty Posts). HB 1173 was to allow counties to create a special purpose districts for county roads. This came about because of opt-outs continuously failing in Brown County, where rural residents need to fix their roads but Aberdeen residents don’t want to pay for it. This bill would have allowed the county create a county road improvement special purpose tax district. The bill did not pass the House, which is not surprising considering in 2014 there would be a summer study looking at infrastructure revenues. Additionally the counties were backing other solutions. The bill does show that Wismer was trying to do something before the legislature acted with the massive infrastructure tax and fee hike in 2015.

Another bill to look at Wismer comes from 2013: HB 1193 (SoDakLiberty Posts). HB 1193 would have raised the state sales and use tax from 4% to 5%. Wismer presented this bill by saying the State of South Dakota simply does not bring in enough revenue. Her testimony on the bill said there are many areas of state government that need a greater amount of funding. That makes it hard on Appropriations (of which she was a member) to try funding state government properly. It is almost surprising Wismer would propose such a large tax increase just a year before running for Governor. The bill unsurprisingly did not make it out of committee. Wismer did admit during the committee meeting that she would prefer instituting an income tax.

Legislative Planning meeting on Mon June 20, more Performance Management Review Process

19842465On Monday, June 20, the Legislative Planning Committee will meet in Pierre for its second meeting of the 2016 interim session. The meeting will begin at 10:00 am. This meetings agenda can be read here.  SDPB will also provide live audio for anyone wishing to listen in on the meeting.

As I noted before the previous meeting was focused on the states new  Performance Management Review Process. The minutes from that meeting can be viewed here. In that meeting there were updates from the Department of Transportation, Department of Tourism, and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. These three Departments are in Group A; meaning they will be among the state departments going through a Performance Management Review Process in 2016.

The June 20 meeting will have updates from three more departments that will go through the Performance Management Review Process in the 2016. Those three departments will be the Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the Department of Education. Personally I will be watching to see if Dr Melody Schopp, Secretary of the Department of Education, will talk about Common Core and how that will align with the departments  Performance Management Review Process.