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Second political forum on Pine Ridge Reservation will be held on Oct 1

During the Primary election there was a political forum held at the Oglala Lakota College campus in Kyle, SD (see links below for my coverage of that event). I’ve been to a good number political forums and debates this year, and so far I think the first OLC forum was probably one of the best to actually get information from candidates. I thought the moderator, Tom Casey of KILI Radio, did a great job of picking questions that other forums seemed to avoid. Hopefully he will be able to do the same in the second OLC political forum.

Here is the info I have on this political forum so far:

Date: October 1, 2014

Time: 1:00 pm

Location: Woksape Tipi Library, Piya Wiconi Campus (Kyle, SD)

Moderator: Mr Tom Casey, KILI Radio

Confirmed Attendees: Susan Wismer (D), Mike Myers (I), Rick Weiland (D), and Larry Pressler (I).

Attendees which have not confirmed (candidates were contacted in August): Mike Rounds (R), Gordon Howie (I), Kristi Noem (R), Corinna Robinson (D), Dennis Daugaard (R)

I hope to attend this political forum and would urge anyone living on the Pine Ridge Reservation to attend as well!

My posts coming out of the first OLC forum be read as follows:

Here is the flier for this event released by the library staff:

2014-09-15_14-03-03

 

 

Brown County Democrats Dollar-a-Month Club Meeting on Sept 12

Louie Liebig & Dennis Feickert at the Brown County Fair. Photo by Ken Santema.

Louie Liebig & Dennis Feickert at the Brown County Fair. Photo by Ken Santema.

Since I tend to bring attention to Brown County Republican events I thought it would be only fair that I bring attention to Brown County Democrat events as well.

Tomorrow, September 12, the Brown County Democrats will be hosting their Dollar-a-Month Club Meeting at the Pizza Ranch in Aberdeen. This luncheon will start earlier than normal, candidates will begin speaking at 11:15, so if you are attending I would plan on being there at 11:00. The special guests at this event are three Democrats running for Brown County Commissioner: incumbent Tom Fischbach, incumbent-like Paul Dennert, and newcomer Louie Liebig. This is a race to watch on the county level. Dennerts entry into the race makes it very competitive for the Democrats.

I would urge Aberdeen area voters that support Democrat candidates to attend this event. Actually I would imagine they would welcome anyone willing to listen to their candidates. The political process works best when more voters are actually engaged!

A chat with PUC Gary Hanson at the SD State Fair

PUC Gary Hanson & State Treasurer Rich Sattgast taking Ice Bucket Challenge at SD State Fair. Photo by Ken Santema.

PUC Gary Hanson & State Treasurer Rich Sattgast taking Ice Bucket Challenge at SD State Fair. Photo by Ken Santema.

While covering the Gubernatorial and Senatorial debates at the SD State Fair I took an opportunity to speak with Republican Public Utilities Commissioner (PUC) Gary Hanson. Hanson is running for re-election in another six-year term. This spot of is one of three total PUC’s for South Dakota. One odd fact about the PUC position is that it isn’t subject to the two-term limit that other Constitutional offices must follow. Hanson first won his PUC seat in 2002, and was re-elected in 2008. If Hanson is re-elected again this year he will begin serving his 3rd term in 2015. His opposition in this race is Wayne Schmidt for the Constitution Party and David Allen for the Democrat Party. The Libertarian Party had a candidate with Ryan Gaddy, but he was not allowed on the ballot.

I first asked Hanson what his top priority would be if he is to be re-elected again. He had an answer similar to that of District 3 State Senator Al Novstrup by saying it would be hard to choose one top priority. He said as PUC there are “so many balls in the air at the same time”. But if pressed he would say the function of a PUC should be to push for “safe, affordable, and reliable electricity”. He feels as PUC he has worked well to keep electricity prices among the lowest in the US. He noted some states have fifty to seventy percent higher electric bills than what South Dakota currently has.

For a while we talked about renewable energies. Hanson is quite excited about the possibilities that come with renewable energies. He also said how proud he had been to represent all of the nations utility commissioners on the steering committee for the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (NWCC). Hanson explained the NWCC is a non-partisan group with about thirty-five to forty members representing various organizations. He says in this group they examine all issues surrounding wind. From looking at the NWCC website I see it isn’t just about power generation, but there is also a focus on protecting the environment and especially on wildlife issues.

I asked Hanson why SD doesn’t seem to have a big focus on more wind power in SD (I hear this talking point from people all the time). Hanson said there is a challenge with wind in South Dakota that comes down to basic math. He said at peak times SD consumes about 2,200 MW of power. Currently the state has 3,800 MW of power capacity to provide from all power generation sources. If any new power generation stations were to be created in SD a new market must be found for that power. It would be possible to sell some of that power to other states. But transmission lines going to and through other states is very costly. The cost of bringing that power to other states would make it hard for South Dakota power generators to compete in other markets.  I know many would like to shut down the current coal-fired plants and replace them with wind, but that route doesn’t seem to be economically feasible for the companies that own the plants at this point. I forgot to ask Hanson about doing that, maybe I’ll catch up with him this fall and get his thoughts on replacing coal with wind.

The conversation then went back to his commitment to finding solutions involving renewables in general. Hanson said he is excited about renewables because “fossil fuels are finite”. He noted that once finite resources are consumed, they are gone forever. At the same time Hanson believes we should be good stewards of the land. Going on, Hanson said it “makes sense to responsibly transition to renewable energy”. He understands economically it would not be feasible to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energies overnight. But he wants to make sure a transition is happening now so his great-grandchildren’s generation won’t have to deal with dwindling fossil fuels providing energy. Hanson went through some statistics about how much coal, natural gas, and petroleum the US goes through each year. The numbers were staggering (so much so that I spilled coffee on my notes, and cannot read those staggering figures).

I wish more politicians from both parties would take Hanson’s approach to dealing with fossil fuels and renewables. He is not waging a war on fossil fuels (as many on the left would prefer). He seems to understand fossil fuels are currently necessary. But at the same time he does not seem to be beholden to fossil fuels (like many on the right appear to be). Instead Hanson sees the future of power in the US is renewable energy and has a goal to help get SD that direction. By taking this middle-of-the-road approach it allows Hanson to actually work towards the end goal of renewable energy without negatively impacting current energy production.

Sometime this fall I hope to speak with the other two PUC candidates on the ballot. In particular I will try to discover their thoughts on renewable energies and see how they stack up against Hanson. At this time thought, it is hard to see either challenger putting up much of a race against Hanson.

PS. While looking through my SD State Fair photos I found this video of the SD Republican candidates taking the Ice Bucket challenge. I completely forgot I had recorded this video. It was just something I did because I was there. The GOP recorded and posted it elsewhere, but I don’t think it will hurt to have two videos of the challenge out there.

Brief thoughts on the televised US Senate debate missing Rounds

The secret to live-tweeting political debates. Photo by Ken Santema.

The secret to live-tweeting political debates. Photo by Ken Santema.

Tonight KSFY and CSPAN televised a SD Senate Debate. I won’t do a complete rundown of this debate, instead I will try to keep this post short and focused on just a couple of thoughts. The whole debate can be viewed on the CSPAN website and has a duration of one hour. The candidates were kept on track pretty well and I thought a lot of topics were covered.

A recurring theme from the candidates, especially from Democrat Rick Weiland, was the fact Rounds was missing from this debate. I don’t blame them for continuing to remind viewers that Rounds was missing. This is a debate that was not only televised to South Dakota, but to the nation. Independent candidate Larry Pressler, Independent candidate Gordon Howie, and Democrat candidate Rick Weiland showed respect for constituents by actually showing up and answering questions in front of the whole state (and nation). Yet Rounds appears to believe other commitments were more important. It is very difficult to imagine any commitment that would be more important to a candidate than answering questions in front of the very voters that candidate will supposedly pledge to serve. I know incumbent politicians (or incumbent-like in Rounds case) generally try to contain the amount of debates they participate in; because debates have the ability to backfire and allow the opposition to get too much press. But is that wise to concede a televised debate with such strategy? Isn’t there a greater risk of backfire from South Dakota voters who are disgusted by a politician that doesn’t bother to show up at one of the very few televised debates?

But now to the good news. Without Rounds in attendance I believe the debate went quite well. Rounds missing did allow for a couple more questions to be asked. So maybe Rounds in a roundabout way helped the other three candidates by allowing them to get more individual time in front of constituents conveying their talking points. I won’t give a win to any of the three candidates. I believe all three got their talking points out there, and probably made their supporters super-proud. I don’t know that any undecideds would be swayed by this debate. At most undecideds would maybe be pushed away from Rounds.

Overall I think this was a good debate for the people of SD to watch. I believe all three candidates represented their views well. This debate should be considered a valuable introduction to the US Senate candidates by the average (non-blog-reading) South Dakota voter.

 

A chat with District 3 State Senator Al Novstrup

SD District 3 State Senator Al Novstrup at the Brown County Fair. Photo by Ken Santema.

SD District 3 State Senator Al Novstrup at the Brown County Fair. Photo by Ken Santema.

On August 25th I had a cup of coffee with District 3 State Senator Al Novstrup at the Red Rooster Coffee House in downtown Aberdeen. Novstrup is running for District 3 House alongside incumbent Republican Representative Dan Kaiser and challenging Democrats  Pate Hale and Burt Elliot. The other incumbent, State Representative David Novstrup, is term-limited in the House and is running for State Senate this year. The District 3 race became very interesting when Burt Elliot decided to run for a House seat. At this point it is hard to predict who between Novstrup/Kaiser/Elliot will fail to receive enough votes for the two House seats.

Usually in these chats I ask candidates what their top priorities are if they become elected. Novstrup came ready for me to ask about his top priority and said his approach to legislating simply doesn’t allow for a top priority. Instead Novstrup noted that as a legislator he has to vote anywhere from five hundred to a thousand times per session (counting committee votes). Because of that he has to keep a balanced approach and realize that choosing a single top priority would prevent him from keeping an open mind. In the past I’ve called out such talk from politicians as them trying to hide their stances, so they can’t be attacked. With Novstrup I don’t get that feeling. I’ve spoken with Novstrup enough times to realize that he has taken stances on issues, but those stances don’t seem to interfere with his ability to legislate in a balanced fashion.

I asked Novstrup about money for public education. He said the only way to get money for education is to take money from elsewhere. Novstrup asked what other areas would lose money in order for education to receive more funding. Novstrup noted that not only does the legislature have to find money for education, they have to determine how much will be available for K-12, Technical Schools, and Colleges.

Talking with Novstrup it is quite obvious he has spent the last few years working on the Senate Appropriations Committee. Novstrup brought up many other areas that are in dire need of funds, such as transportation. He noted that everyone believes in having good roads. But at the same time he noted most people believe in letting taxpayers keep most of their own money. In such an environment it means increased spending in one area must be taken from another area. That is another ongoing theme when I’ve spoken to Novstrup over the last year. Multiple times I’ve heard him talk about people being in support of a particular issue, but then not thinking about where to get the money to fund it. Perhaps Novstrup has a point there.

Continuing on infrastructure, Novstrup said that civilized societies rely upon basic services such as roads. Further, he stated road maintenance will pay for itself by requiring less rebuilding. When I asked him about new taxes to go towards infrastructure Novstrup said he is not opposed to the possibility. Novstrup made sure to say he is not a big government type, but that gas and wheel taxes are good directions to look at because they are essentially user fees. If the legislature approves any tax increases (or user fee increases) for infrastructure I don’t think there will be too much push-back from constituents. That is provided all of the money goes towards road maintenance and keeping South Dakota’s infrastructure in top condition. There will likely be some people (such as myself) that would prefer the legislature take money from other areas of the state budget, but overall I don’t think committing new tax dollars to infrastructure will hurt conservative politicians such as Novstrup.

There are a few other topics I spoke with Novstrup at length about. I will be using those parts of our chat for future planned posts. First Novstrup did mention that if he could appropriate more money for a cause it would be for ASPIRE. Al and David Novstrup have mentioned this program many times. After November 4 I will do a post about ASPIRE, it actually seems to be a good program. Another matter I spoke with Novstrup about was agricultural land and property taxes. This is an issue I’ve been speaking with a number of legislators about and hope to do a post on soon. Finally I plan to do a post about the Indian Supreme Court outside of Ft Pierre. Novstrup gave me some back-story I had not heard before. It contradicts what I’ve heard from some tribal leaders. There have also been contradictory media stories about the issue. I plan to look more into this and see if I can get some blog posts out about it.

Overall I would say I had a good chat with Al Novstrup. It will be interesting to see who the voters of District 3 choose this fall for the two State Representative position. Rep Kaiser is the only true incumbent in the race; but at the same time both Al Novstrup and Burt Elliot have an incumbent-like status due to their local name recognition. It should be a fun night to watch this race Nov 4!

Don’t miss watching the televised US Senate debate on September 10th

US Senate candidates Larry Pressler (I), Rick Weiland (D), and Gordon Howie (I) walking up to the stage at the Dakotafest debate. Photo by Ken Santema.

US Senate candidates Larry Pressler (I), Rick Weiland (D), and Gordon Howie (I) walking up to the stage at the Dakotafest debate. Photo by Ken Santema.

Tomorrow, September 10th, at 7:00 pm CT, KSFY will be hosting the first televised debate between the US Senate Candidates on the South Dakota ballot this fall. It also worth noting that CSPAN will be airing the debate on CSPAN2. I think it is pretty cool that South Dakota is going to get our US Senate debate televised nationally. This is a great chance for all four candidates to show why they would make a good US Senator before the constituents of South Dakota and the nation as a whole. The only problem is one of the candidates has decided not to attend the debate.

Rick Weiland (D), Larry Pressler (I), and Gordon Howie (I) have all confirmed they will participate in the debate. Republican candidate Mike Rounds declined to attend due to scheduling conflicts. It is hard to imagine what kind of scheduling conflict would be more important than a televised US Senate debate broadcast not just locally, but nation-wide as well. This wasn’t a surprise, the Rounds campaign announced back in July they would limit debates to only four. Moves like this will make it hard for the Rounds campaign to defend itself from claims that Rounds cares more about his big donors than he does about constituents.

Even with Rounds missing I look forward to watching the debate. Hopefully the debate will include some topics that weren’t covered in the Dakotafest and State Fair debates. Part of me is curious to see if Rounds absence from this debate will have any impact on his polling numbers…

A chat with District 11 State Representative Jim Stalzer at Dakotafest

Representative Stalzer speaking at a Common Core event.

Representative Stalzer speaking at a Common Core event.

While attending the agricultural trade how Dakotafest in Mitchell I took an opportunity to chat with District 11 State Representative Jim Stalzer. Representative Stalzer and fellow Republican Mark Wildasen are both seeking re-election. Rep Wiladsen is actually an appointee by the Governor after Christine Erickson won a Sioux Falls City Council seat and had to step down from being a State Legislature. The two Democrats in this race are Darrell Solberg and James Larson.

Over the last couple of years Rep Stalzer has been on the front lines fighting against Common Core. I’ve spoken with Stalzer previous on this topic and blogged about the Lake Norden Common Core event from last year in which he was a panelist. Since it has been well established that Stalzer is opposed to and will continue to fight against Common Core, I asked him about his other priorities if he were to be re-elected by District 11. Stalzer did reiterate that fighting against Common Core is a top priority of his though.

A big priority for Stalzer is an Article V Constitutional Convention. Stalzer believes an Article V convention is the only way to reign in the federal government. I disagree with Stalzer on this issue, and have blogged about why in this post. He wants to get either get a bill passed with a specific amendment, or a resolution passed calling for an Article V Constitutional Convention. During the 2014 session there were three attempts to get something passed. HR 1136 would have limited the authority of delegates in an Article V Convention, and failed on the House floor by one vote. HJR 1004 would have called for an Article V convention for the purpose of passing a federal balanced budget amendment; it failed on the House floor 28-42. Finally, HJR 1005 called for an Article V convention and was killed in the State Affairs Committee.

Stalzer mentions that 24 states have already called for an Article V convention focused on a balanced budget amendment. He also said there is a group working to write rules that would be adopted during the convention. I believe that move is being done because of people such as myself that are afraid of a runaway convention. Stalzer strongly believes an Article V convention will work to regin in the federal government. He doesn’t see any way that Congress will reign itself in on its own.

Last year Stalzer mentioned he was in attendance at the Mount Vernon meeting last December to discuss an Article V convention with state legislators from across the country. This June he was in attendance with the same group in Indiana (Most notably at that meeting it was resolved that “The Mount Verson Assembly” be renamed to “The Assembly of State Legislators”). Stalzer was there with Rep Latterell and Sen Lederman in an official capacity. Also in attendance were Rep Jenna Haggar and Rep Blain “Chip” Campbell in an unofficial capacity. I may disagree with these elected officials on this stance, but I salute them doing what they think is right.

Stalzer is also workin on oil and gas exploration legislation. He has been working with the School and Public Lands on oil exploration and believes it is an area the State should be focused on. During the 2014 session Stalzer was the prime sponsor for HB 1154, which had the stated purpose of “authorize the commissioner of school and public lands to grant certain surface and subsurface easements to provide access to oil, gas, minerals, and geothermal resources.” If he gets re-elected this fall I plan to have a conversation with Stalzer and the newly elected Commissioner of School and Public Lands on oil and gas exploration. I have a feeling this is a topic that will only become more important to SD.

I asked Stalzer about the Keystone XL Pipeline. He said the KXL needs to be going now. Stalzer mentioned that three tanker rail cars a minute are being loaded. By finishing the KXL, Stalzer says the pipeline will reduce the amount of oil traveling by train; thus allowing more grain to travel by rail. Personally I’m not sure how a pipeline coming out of Canada is going to help the ND oil fields rail congestion, but perhaps some of the rumored promises I’ve heard out there that ND will hook into KXL are correct.

Overall I had a pretty good chat with Rep Stalzer. He did talk a lot about free market solutions and actually seems to believe what he is saying. I think that’s great. I believe a good conservative legislator should be looking at free market solutions first, then look at State solutions when no other choice is currently possible.

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