Tag Archives: Dennis Feickert

Recap of the South Dakota legislative races without a general eleciton

SD State Capital Building. Photo by Ken Santema 1/27/16.
SD State Capital Building. Photo by Ken Santema 1/27/16.

Updated 8/16/16. Added two more legislative races without a general election due to placeholder candidates not having a replacement. These are Neal Tapio (R) for District 5 State Senate and Craig Kennedy (D) for District 18 State Senate. The possibility of District 23 State House having a candidate from the Constitution Party of SD was stopped in the court; so that race remains uncontested. With the changes there are a total of 29 candidates in 23 races that have already won the general election.

Currently there are a total of 27 candidates in 21 races that have already won the general election for the South Dakota legislature. Over the last month I have done a post about each of these won seats and will recap the list in this post. These previous posts were meant to take a look at some of the legislative priorities for candidates that have already won their general election. This is probably the last time I will blog about any of these candidates this year, unless they do something interesting on an interim committee or I run into one of them at a fair.

It should be noted I said “currently” in the first paragraph of this post. Candidates still have a few weeks to withdraw their names from the ballot. If a candidate withdraws and the local party does not find a replacement in time it could lead to the possibility of more uncontested general election races. Currently there are three Democrats showing as “withdrawn” on the Secretary of State website which have not been replaced by the local Democrat party yet. Two of these could leave a race uncontested: Ardon Wek is withdrawn from the District 19 State House race and no other Democrat is on the ballot and Chuck Groth is withdrawn from the District 22 State Senate race. It is also possible other placeholder candidates will withdraw their names as the deadline to withdraw looms closer.

Another possibility is that one of the uncontested races may in fact become contested. The Constitution Party of South Dakota recently nominated Wayne Schmidt to be a candidate for District 23 State Representative. It is now up to the court whether this will be allowed; see Ballot Access News for more information on this.

As of July 22, 2016, here is the list of South Dakota general election legislative races that have already been won.

District 1 State Senator

Democrat Sen Jason Frerichs won reelection with no Primary or General election. My post about the District 1 candidates can be read here.

District 1 State Representative

Democrats Rep Steven McCleerey and Susan Wismer won this election with no Primary or General election. Wismer is going back to Pierre by taking the place of term-limited Democrat Rep Dennis Feickert. My post about the District 1 candidates can be read here.

District 2 State Senator

Republican Sen Brock Greenfield won reelection with no Primary or General election. My post about the District 2 State Senate seat can be read here.

District 5 State Senator

Incumbent Sen Ried Holien did not seek reelection. There was a primary on the Republican side where Rep Roger Solum (R, Dist 5) was defeated by Neal Tapio. My post about the District 5 State Senate Republican Primary seat can be read here. The Democrats had a placeholder candidate David Johnson; but the party was unable to find a replacement for Johnson after he withdrew. My post about Tapio winning the District 5 State Senate Seat can be read here.

District 15 State Senator

This seat had been vacated by Democrat Sen Angie Buhl O’DonnellReynold Nesiba won the seat in the Democrat Primary against Rep Patrick Kirschman; who was term-limited in the House. My post about the District 15 State Senate seat can be read here.

District 18 State Senator

Incumbent Democrat Sen Bernie Hunhoff did not seek reelection. Instead fellow Democrat Craig Kennedy filed a petition at the last minute; Hunhoff did not announce he was retiring until then. Republican Matt Stone entered the race as an Independent after it was found out Hunhoff was not seeking reelection; Stone later had to withdraw from the race, leaving no General Election. My post about Kennedy winning the District 18 State Senate seat can be read here.

District 20 State Representative

Republicans Lance Carson and Rep Tona Rozum won this election with no Primary or General election. Carson is going back to Pierre by taking the place of fellow Republican Rep Joshua Klumb. Klumb is seeking the State Senate seat. My post about the District 20 State House candidates can be read here.

District 21 State Senator

Democrat Sen Billie Sutton won reelection with no Primary or General election. My post about the District 21 State Senate race can be read here.

District 23 State Senator

Republican Rep Justin Cronin won this election with no Primary or General election. The incumbent Sen Corey Brown is term limited. My post about the District 23 candidates can be read here.

District 23 State Representative

Neither incumbent sought reelection for this seat; Rep Justin Cronin entered into the State Senate race and Rep Michele Harrison did not run for a second term. Republicans Spencer Gosch and John Lake won the Republican Primary. They defeated former legislator Charlie Hoffman and current legislator for District 22 Rep Dick Werner. My post about the District 23 candidates can be read here.

District 24 State Senator

Republican Sen Jeff Monroe won reelection with no Primary or General election. My post about the District 24 candidates can be read here.

District 24 State Representative

Republicans Rep Mary Duvall and Rep Tim Rounds won reelection with no Primary or General election. My post about the District 24 candidates can be read here.

District 26 State Senator

Democrat Sen Troy Heinert won reelection with no Primary or General election. My post about the District 26 candidates can be read here.

District 26A State Representative

Democrat Rep Shawn Bordeaux won reelection with no Primary or General election. My post about the District 26 candidates can be read here.

District 26B State Representative

Republican Rep James Schaefer won reelection with no Primary or General election. My post about the District 26 candidates can be read here.

District 27 State Senator

Incumbent Democrat Sen Jim Bradford is term-limited in the Senate and running for State House. Fellow Democrat Rep Kevin Killer was term-limited in the House and won this seat without a Primary or General election. My post about the District 27 State Senate race can be read here.

District 28 State Senator

Incumbent Republican Sen Betty Olson is not seeking reelection. Fellow Republican and former legislator Ryan Maher  won this seat in the Republican Primary against Steven Ritch and now faces no General election opposition. My post about the District 28 candidates can be read here.

District 28A State Representative

Incumbent Democrat Rep Dean Schrempp is term-limited. Fellow Democrat Oren Lesmeister won this seat without a Primary or General election. My post about the District 28 candidates can be read here.

District 28B State Representative

Incumbent Republican Rep Sam Marty defeated Karen Wagner in the Republican Primary and faces no General election opposition. My post about the District 28 candidates can be read here.

District 29 State Representative

Republicans Rep Thomas Brunner and Larry Rhoden won this seat without a Primary or General election. Former legislator Rhoden is returning to Pierre and taking the place of term-limited Rep Dean Wink. My post about the District 29 State Representative candidates can be read here.

District 31 State Senator

Republican Sen Bob Ewing won reelection with no Primary or General election. My post about the District 31 candidates can be read here.

District 31 State Representative

Republicans Rep Timothy Johns and former legislator Charles Turbiville won the Republican Primary. Rep Fred Romkema was term-limited. Johns and Turbiville defeated Michael Weyrich in the Republican Primary. There is no General election opposition. My post about the District 31 candidates can be read here.

District 35 State Senator

Republican Sen Terri Haverly defeated Tina Mulally in the Republican Primary and faces no General election opposition. My post about the District 35 State Senate race can be read here.

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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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.

Brown County Democrats Front Porch Conversation with District 1 legislators

On Thursday, February 11, the Brown County Democrats held another Front Porch Conversation in Aberdeen. This forum highlighted the three Democrat legislators representing District 1:  Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1), Rep Steven McCleerey (D, Dist 1), and Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1). Sharon Stroschein was the moderator for this event.

Here is the video I recorded at the event. Due to the pure number of blog posts I’ve been doing I don’t have time to add commentary. But I think it is important for the voters of District 1 to find out what their elected legislators have to say. Actually it might be worth it for all voters in SD to check out because District 1 is one of the few districts in the state with only Democrats elected to the legislature.

County Government Interim Committee meeting on Oct 28, previous meetings recap

1892 map of South Dakota Counties provided by LRC Audit presentation.
1892 map of South Dakota Counties provided by LRC Audit presentation.

On October 28 the County Government Interim Committee will meet in Pierre. This committee has had two two-day meetings previously. I spoke with committee member  Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) just before the first meeting. At that time I felt it unlikely anything meaningful will come out of the meeting; mostly because focus in the 2016 session will be on education funding. I still feel that way, and find it ironic because county funding and education funding are almost symbiotic at this point.

The meetings documents from these meetings can read at the links below:

8/19/15 – 8/20/15 docs

9/16/15 – 9/17/15 docs

Before looking at the agenda meeting for Oct 28 it might be worth looking at a few highlights from the previous meetings. There was a LOT going on at these meetings, so this only calls out a very small fraction of the meetings.

8/19/15 – 8/20/15 Meeting 

This first meeting was meant to be information gathering. There is a good presentation from Legislative Audit explaining county revenues and expenditures. But I think a slide towards the end of the presentation summed up the biggest issue this committee will run into when trying to pass legislation:

Most counties have budget issues; however, each county’s budget issues are unique and influenced by many factors.

A one-size-fits-all solution will not work, and will likely not get enough votes to pass.

Over the last few years I have heard many county officials around the state complain about the State pushing more costs to the counties. That was reflected multiple times in this meeting:

From Ms. Cindy Heiberger, Minnehaha County Commissioner:

Ms. Heiberger said changes in the state statutes affect law enforcement at the local level and when law enforcement is mandated to take care of things, the county needs additional revenue. The county is looking at building a new jail and the county will probably fund it with property taxes. Ms. Muller said next year they may be looking at renting jail beds. Public safety, including law enforcement, is 53% of the Minnehaha County budget.

From Ms. Janet Sayler, Pennington County Treasurer

Ms. Sayler listed the duties according to statute of the county treasurer’s office (Document #8). She said the legislature is always quick to add more responsibilities, but it never allows for the county to get paid for all of the extra work they are forced to do for everyone else. She said when laws are changed; the county is forced to update its computer systems to implement the law, usually at a significant expense to the county.

Ms. Cathy Powell, Clay County Treasurer

Ms. Powell thinks HB 1228 will adversely affect the treasurer’s office. She asked how people can do business if they can’t license their vehicles. She said county treasurers are tax collectors; if a resident doesn’t pay their taxes; the county takes property away; a time-consuming process; in Clay County they deal with 10 to 12 tax deeds per year.

HB 1228 (SoDakLiberty Posts) is also mentioned by Ms. Janet Sayler, Pennington County Treasurer, earlier in the meeting. It does not appear to be popular with the counties. HB 1228 is the new debt collection agency created by the SD Legislature in 2015. It has the Orwellian name Obligation Recovery Center, and I still can’t find anyone outside of the Republicans in the legislature that think it was a good idea.

There are many more examples from the meeting. But I think the above portions show that counties believe the state is pushing more responsibilities on them. Personally I do feel most government should be closer to the people. Yet in this case it appears mandates from the state are being substituted for local control. In particular I noticed rising costs of county jails, which is a direct result of legislative measures taken in the last few years.

Along those lines. This from Ms. Staci Ackerman, Executive Director of the SD Sheriffs Association:

Changes in statutes have resulted in more arrests and increased court cases; there are more sex crime investigations, new crimes on the internet. More and more fingerprinting is required by legislation, this is the responsibility of sheriffs. Court and parole services increasingly requests sheriffs to check on clients or to provide urinalysis. When presentence investigations are ordered, the client remains in jail until completed, a cost to the county.

A number of Sheriff’s testified to give specific examples. One example came from Sheriff Ray Clements, Jackson County:

Sheriff Clements said he didn’t realize the impact of SB 70 until he saw the increase in the jail budget and the state reimbursements were not covering it. He said he has currently $76,000 in jail bills, with an annual budget of $56,000. He says the number of calls for services have gone up. Sheriff Clements said now, people are being sentenced to the penitentiary, suspended, and given 180 days county jail time. This is at county expense.

The bill referred to was SB 70, the  Public Safety Improvement Act (PSIA) passed for Governor Daugaard by the legislature in 2013. Daugaard and Attorney General Marty Jackley have been quite proud of this legislation. SB 70 was mentioned by a lot of the law enforcement representatives in attendance. Personally I think the results from the program are mixed at best; and have caused more problems than it was meant to solve. Perhaps looking at reducing victim-less crimes will actually create fewer criminals, and thus put less stress on the counties…

9/16/15 – 9/17/15 Meeting

In the second meeting there was a presentation answering questions from the first meeting.  This tidbit from Mr. Russ Olson, Local Government Audit Manager, Legislative Audit, is interesting:

The charts found in the document show that roughly 89% of the counties’ all government funds are for statutory functions

That seems to back the counties feeling they are being piled on by the state.

In this meeting there were a lot of mentions from counties to get additional revenue from a new sales tax or increasing liquor taxes.

The LRC issued a series of draft legislation for the upcoming session. But more interesting was the draft legislation submitted by Sen Mike Vehle (R, Dist 20). Vehle was the architect of the massive tax and fee increases in 2015 via SB 1 (SoDakLiberty Posts). It appears this time Vehle is offering legislation to “impose a county sales and use tax that would apply to sales that do not occur within a municipality thus not being subject to city sales and use tax.”

The Attorney General, Marty Jackley, had a presentation. He acknowledges costs that goes to the county. An example:

Mr. Jackley went through the growing number of criminal cases that are heard each year. The bulk of these cases are prosecuted by the county prosecutors, with the Attorney General’s (AG) office stepping in for various reasons. With very few exceptions, the costs for these cases are paid by the counties, even if the AG’s office prosecutes the case. One exception is if the crime takes place in the state prison, then the state is responsible for the cost because of where the crime occurred.

Rep Elizabeth May (R, Dist 27)brought up 2013’s SB 70 as a question for Jackley:

Representative May asked about the increased costs to the counties due to the passage of SB70. Mr. Jackley explained that the county is responsible for any costs attributed to anyone detained in the jail and the state is responsible for anyone held in the state penitentiary. SB70 established more probation presumptions and probation is a county expense, and that is the main reason SB70 has increased county expenses. When an offender is given probation, all costs, including drug and alcohol treatment, is the responsibility of the county

During committee discussion it was said by a few legislators that looking at reallocating current taxes would be better than a new tax. Rep May brought up a trend I think the committee should focus on:

Representative May pointed out that the common denominator is that the state makes the laws and the counties have to figure out how to pay for all the mandates. Perhaps the committee should take a look at what the statutes require of the counties and see if the state could fund some of those programs

10/28/15 Meeting

The meeting on Oct 28 actually has a pretty short agenda:

  • 9:00 a.m. Call to Order, Determination of Quorum, Approval of Minutes – September 16-17 meeting, Chair’s Remarks
  • 9:15 a.m. Draft Legislation (Review and Discussion)
  • 10:15 a.m. Public Testimony
  • 11:30 a.m. Draft Legislation (Action)
  • 3:00 p.m. Adjourn

It appears that for better or worse the outcome of this interim committee will be known on October 28.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ag Land Assessment Task Force meeting on Monday, July 20

Land in west river SD. Photo by Ken Santema 07/12/15
Land in west river SD. Photo by Ken Santema 07/12/15

On Monday, July 20, the Agricultural Land Assessment Implementation and Oversight Advisory Task Force will have its first meeting in Pierre. The agenda for the meeting can be found here.

Ag Land Assessment has been a huge issue each year in Pierre, and will likely continue to be. In the 2015 session there was an attempt to “Make an appropriation for research concerning the administrative and financial impact of actual use on agricultural land assessments and to declare an emergency”. That was SB 4 (SoDakLiberty Posts), and it was barely defeated on the Senate floor by a vote of 16-18.

Back in March Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) spoke about SB4 during the Brown County Democrats meeting. Here is what I reported at that time:

Feickert also felt it was bad that the bill asking for a study on taxing agricultural land by its actual use was not passed (SB 4). He felt the study would have been able to show what the impact would be if a production-based property tax was implemented. Many opponents of the bill said it would negatively impact school funding. Feickert said the study should have been approved so it could be determined if that was true.

Additionally I spoke with a good number of people at the recent Governors Ag Summit in Deadwood. It was quite noticeable to many attendees that the topic of taxing agricultural land was absent. I have a feeling that going into 2016 there may be more pressure on the Department of Ag to include this as a topic of the Ag Summit.

Below is the agenda for this Ag Land Assessment meeting. Notice how there is a review of the School District General Fund Formula included in the agenda.

Room 413 State Capitol Building
Monday, July 20, 2015

10:30 a.m. Call to Order
Determination of Quorum

10:35 a.m. Election of Officers

10:45 a.m. Review of the School District General Fund Formula
Tami Darnall, Chief Financial Officer, Department of Education

11:30 a.m. Report on Professional Range Management Class
Task Force Members who attended

11:35 a.m. Overview of Property Assessment Legislative
Fred Baatz, Principal Research Analyst, Legislative Research Council

11:45 a.m. Lunch

1:00 p.m. Overview of Property Assessment Legislative (cont.)
Fred Baatz, Principal Research Analyst, Legislative Research Council

1:30 p.m. Ag Land Assessment – Report on the 2016 Assessment Information
Michael Houdyshell, Director, Division of Property and Special Taxes,
Department of Revenue

2:30 p.m. Task Force Discussion

3:00 p.m. Public Testimony

3:30 p.m. Staff Directives; Next Meeting Date

3:45 p.m. Adjourn

Frerichs, McCleerey and Feickert at the Brown County Democrat March meeting

On March 26, 2015, the Brown County Democrats held their monthly meeting at the Eagles club in Aberdeen. Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1), Rep Steven McCleerey (D, Dist 1), and Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) were all guest speakers to give their perspective about how the SD 2015 legislative session went. In this post I’ll pull out some of the highlights of what they each had to say (and keep my editorial comments to a minimum)

Sen Frerichs speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 03/26/15.
Sen Frerichs speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 03/26/15.

Frerichs was the first legislator to speak. He opened up by noting that the Senate Democrat caucus actually gained one member in 2015. Along those lines he noted it would have been nice to keep Chuck Welke in the Senate, but he was defeated last fall by Sen Brock Greenfield  (R, Dist 2). He noted that each additional person in the Senate gives the Democrat caucus a little more power, but they need to work on getting at least a third of the Senate to make any real headway. I would agree, in 2016 the Democrats should work hard on getting twelve seats in the Senate if they truly want to have any impact in Pierre.

When talking about this session, Frerichs noted a big theme of this session was that big issues were being avoided. The issues he brought up that were ignored this year include Medicaid Expansion, teacher pay, and teacher recruitment. He believes those issues were “brought up, and placed on top, and placed to the side. And that is unfortunate.”

When talking about the roads bill SB 1 Frerichs noted that the Governor wanted the roads bill and “wants it bad”. He noted the first time going through the Senate he voted no to SB1 quite easily because it really didn’t do much for local governments. Frerichs noted that the conference committee for the bill was one of the worst he has ever seen in Pierre (and I would agree). He noted the bill kept getting delayed during the conference committee process and that the House was holding it up. From his perspective it wasn’t even a Republican vs Democrat issue. It was purely the House trying to control the bill. On the Senate side he noted the Democrats were being lobbied hard to vote for SB1, because they were a couple of votes short in the Republican caucus. Frerichs said that was a good opportunity for the Democrats to push for more local money. The final bill he felt was more “leveled out” so he voted for it the second time. (My summary of what is in SB 1 can be read here).

Frerichs then went on to talk about the water management bills SB 2 and SB 3. Both of these are bills he worked hard on to get passed and will continue to work with going forward. SB 2 creates nine river basin natural resource districts. He also mentioned it creates a pilot project in his area of the state and has a legislative oversight taskforce. He believes there will be a lot of work implementing SB2. He noted that the districts will be a work in progress. When talking about the districts he doesn’t think they will solve all of the water problems; but he does think the program will get the state down the right path of managing the water in the river basins. He said “we shouldn’t just sit back and let mother nature rule us.” That was an interesting segway into his next point. He noted the legislature also passed legislation providing funding for the pine beetle situation west river (SB 152). He noted that west river is fighting to save their property and their economy from a mother nature problem. Further, he finished that thought by saying “This is our pine beetle problem of the east”.

Rep McCleerey speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 03/26/15.
Rep McCleerey speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 03/26/15.

McCleerey said if he had to sum up the session in one word it would be “frustrating”. He believes there is a lack of leadership “coming from the other side” and coming from the Governor’s office. He believes that is an unfortunate situation for the people of South Dakota. When talking about the youth minimum wage bill (SB 177) he felt the Governor should have used a veto. That seemed to tie into the lack of leadership points he made.

Briefly McCleerey mentioned something I have noted and plan to a post about in the future. He felt the time being put in while at Pierre is not sufficient. It was frustrating for him that session ended so early every day, and then on Friday they would be out of there at 1:30 pm.

McCleerey also took a few minutes to talk about the highway bill. He noted that when campaigning transportation funding was one of his top issues. But he was hesitant to vote for the bill because it was a such a “poor bill from the start”. The addition of the interstate top speed of 80 mph made the bill even worse for him. He did vote yes to the bill in the end.

Looking to the future McCleerey stated he believes the 2016 legislative session will be about Medicaid expansion and education funding. After that he believes the next two session will be about the Governors race. He doesn’t believe anything substantial will be done in 2017 and 2018 from his perspective. (I agree with him on these points, I would say the run for Governor in 2018 has already started, but that is a topic for a different post).

Talking about bills before the Health & Human Service’s committee, McCleerey mentioned HB 1080. HB 1080 allows investigational treatments to be used by patients under certain conditions. He was happy to the bill passed so it could help people out.

McCleerey was disappointed to see the tanning bed prohibition for minors (HB 1166) was not passed. He says cancer is increasing at an extreme rate. He says the bill was stopped by “small business libertarian types”. He felt it was almost embarrassing that the bill could not be passed, even though it had been amended many times to work out the differences. He felt it was wrong to choose between cancer and small businesses. Going further, he noted that a bill was passed to allow the use of a chemo therapy pill to treat cancer (SB 101) but the legislature couldn’t pass a bill to prevent cancer.

At the end of his time McCleerey noted the Republicans “are a split party”. He hopes the Democrats can capitalize on the split that is evident in the SD Republican party.

Rep Feickert speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 03/26/15.
Rep Feickert speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 03/26/15.

Feickert began by saying it was a disappointing how few bills the transportation committee actually took up this year. He noted that many of the bills that went before Transportation dealt more with updating the dates referenced in law. He was truly disappointed in SB 1 because there was discussion about where the road funding bill should go. Due to politics, he said that there was a push to get the transportation funding bill taken out of Transportation and put into State Affairs. The committee actually voted to keep the bill in Transportation. Then the next day it voted on the House floor to force the bill out of Transportation and into State Affairs. He said from that point on the massive transportation bill really didn’t have any involvement from the Transportation committee. (This is another issue that deserves a separate post, Feickert has a good point about the politics of this bill).

When going into specifics about SB 1, Feickert noted he was not happy with the tiered property tax portion of the bill. He said this new method of funding roads is “worse than an opt-out”. He believes the tiers are going to hurt big population counties. When it comes to property tax funding he felt the Governor’s original proposal was much better, but that was changed on the Senate floor.

Feickert also felt it was bad that the bill asking for a study on taxing agricultural land by its actual use was not passed (SB 4). He felt the study would have been able to show what the impact would be if a production-based property tax was implemented. Many opponents of the bill said it would negatively impact school funding. Feickert said the study should have been approved so it could be determined if that was true. Along the same lines he mention the bill that would have created a new leased residential property classification (SB 100). SB 100 was vetoed by the Governor. He feels the same arguments for SB 100 should have been used for SB 4. But at the same time he questioned whether landords would actually have passed savings on to renters if SB 100 had been implemented and a new lower tax levy was created for it.

Overall I would say all three legislators tried to make the case that it is hard to serve in a party that is in a super-minority. But all three noted that division within the Republican party does allow for them to have power at certain times. If they can get more numbers in the 2016 election it might open a new door for Democrats. (That is a BIG IF at this point).

SD 2014: District 1 is blue, no general election for legislative races

South Dakota Legislative District 1
South Dakota Legislative District 1

This will be the first in a series of thirty-five posts looking at the SD legislative races going into Election Day 2014. To start the series I will look at District 1. This district is a very blue district, no Republicans were even found to run for a legislative seat. The district includes Day, Marshall, and Roberts counties; plus a weird N-NW portion of Brown County. Actually if you know where Dennis Feickert lives you will notice how the 2010 redistricting happened to put him in District 1, where he used to be in District 3. Some have said the odd shape of District 1 in Brown county has more to do with putting him in that blue district as part of the redistricting game.

Back in May I looked at the Primary election in District 1. Since all legislative candidates in District 1 were Democrat, there will be no general election for the legislative races. Here is the current status of District 1 going into the 2015 Legislative Session:

District 1 State Senator: Jason Frerichs

Jason Frerichs is the current Democrat Minority Leader in the State Senate. He sailed through the Primary Election and now the General Election with no opposition. During the 2014 legislative session he seemed to do a pretty good job keeping focused on some standard Democrat stances such as Medicaid expansion. If I were a Democrat (which I’m not), I would say he is doing a pretty good job in Pierre.

This previous legislative session he was State Senate prime-sponsor for House Concurrent Resolution 1017 (HCR 1017). If passed, HCR 1017 would have urged Congress and various federal agencies to “recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity”. I’ve spoken with many farmers around the NE portion of the state that would love the option to include industrial hemp in their options of crops to produce. Hopefully Frerichs will try again in 2015, his being a farmer helps to reinforce that the agricultural industry would benefit from allowing the production of industrial hemp.

Really the only thing that outright annoys me about Frerichs is the fact he had no Primary or General Election opposition in 2014. And that isn’t his fault, there just wasn’t anyone in District 1 stepping up to oppose him.

District 1 State Representatives: Dennis Feickert & Steven McCleerey

The House seat did have a Primary Election. Feickert won his re-election easily with 1,638 votes. Sisseton area farmer Steven McCleerey easily won the second seat with 1,350 votes. The third person in the race, Dustina Gill, did a lot of work traveling the district trying to get votes. But from the feedback I’ve heard in the district,  she just wasn’t that good at actually engaging people. If Gill runs again she might want to re-evaluate how she interacts with potential voters. A lot of interactions can backfire if not done properly.

One thing worth noting about District 1 is that all three legislators fall in the farm/ranch category. I don’t think the average farmer in District 1 can say they aren’t well represented in Pierre!

Not much of a race in SD legislative District 1

South Dakota Legislative District 1
South Dakota Legislative District 1

Yesterday I took a brief look at South Dakota legislative District 3, which I think will be pretty competitive this election season. Now it is time to look at legislative district 1; which will NOT be competitive at all. This district has no Republicans running, and no primary in the Senate race. There is a primary in the state House race because Rep Wismer threw her hat into the governors race.

Here is a list of the candidates running for office in District 3 and some brief comments I have on each of the candidates (if I even have any):

District 1 State Senator (1 Seat)

Jason Frerichs – Democrat – Frerichs is the incumbent Senator. He is also the only person running for state Senate in District 1. Watching him in Pierre this last session I can attest that has done his best try advancing Democrat Party causes. Hopefully that is what District 1 wants in their State senator, because that is what they are getting.

District 1 State Representative (2 Seats)

Dennis Feickert – Democrat – Feickert is the incumbent in the house race for district 1. Feickert has served three terms in Pierre already. The beginning of his tenure in Pierre was actually in district 3, before redistricting “moved” him to district 1. In 2012 he and Wismer ran with no primary or general election opposition. But, I think its pretty safe to assume that his incumbency advantage combined with his time as a brown county commissioner will help him keep his seat.

Steven McCleerey – Democrat – I really can’t say anything about this candidate. Candidates need to work harder to at least make sure they have a campaign Facebook page that can easily be found. About all I have found notable about McCleerey is that he was (is?) the Community Service Team Director for the Roberts County Thrivent Chapter.

Dustina Gill – Democrat – At least her I can find info on and know people that have met her. She is the legislative aide for the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate. Actually this excerpt from a Native News online article makes her sound like a good candidate to me:

Gill said if elected she plans to focus on the various issues of agriculture, health care and roads funding, but also to ensure educational funding remains a top priority. She further explained, although these are state-wide issues, they do a disservice when applied in the one size fits all approach to each area of the state. Each area is unique in its needs and resources and should be considered accordingly.

I love it when a candidate (of any party) realizes that one size fits all solutions do not work. She also has gone about this race in a smart way. For the last eight years she has been working towards a house race.

Looking at her Facebook campaign site (hers was easy to find) it appears she has been traveling the district and working hard to earn the vote. I see a few stances I would disagree with on her page, but definitely admire her commitment to actually serving District 1.

Gill may be one to watch out for in this race, and in Pierre if she makes it there.

Early Thoughts – Right now I give the biggest advantage to Gill. She seems to be working hard at getting elected in District 1 and will be tough to beat. The other seat should easily go to Feickert. He has the incumbency advantage. At this time I simply don’t know enough about McCleerey to know if he is even a factor in this race.