Tag Archives: Larry Rhoden

A look at the final draft of the non-meandered legislation going into the special session


Last week the non-meandered waters committee met in Pierre for its fourth and final meeting. This leads up to the special session of the legislature convening on June 12. Since I took a look at the draft legislation going into the meeting, I thought it would make sense to also look at the legislation coming out of that meeting.

In this particular post I will copy the text of each section and add any additional information about the section I find relevant. Much of the additional information comes from my notes taken during the meeting; or copied from my previous post if there is no new information. I will also add my personal opinions.

For full disclose I am opposed to this legislation. I have to admit that even though I am a sportsman, I take private property rights very serious and have to focus on those property rights. But as always I will try to write about this topic as fairly as I can, and make sure any opinions I give are clearly stated as my opinion (and not as fact). And, as always if someone wishes to do a guest post to get another viewpoint out I will always consider publishing it here.

I would also like to note this is NOT legislation drafted by the summer study committee. The committee did amend the legislation during the meeting. But overall it appears the legislation was written by Sioux Falls lawyer and lobbyist Matt McCaulley, who also represents the two landowner families that brought the lawsuit against the state. The Governors office and GFP also seem to have had major input into the drafting of the bill.

Fair warning: This is once again a very long post! Actually I just removed almost a thousand words to keep it under 5,000 words.

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to provide for public recreational use of certain waters overlying public and private property and to declare an emergency.

Section 1: Legislative findings

Text of Section 1:

Section 1. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The Legislature finds:

(1) The South Dakota Supreme Court, in Parks v. Cooper, 2004 SD 27 and Duerre v. Hepler, 2017 SD 8, held that the Legislature has the obligation to determine the extent of public use of water overlying private property for recreational purposes; and

(2) Because the state holds the waters in trust for the benefit of the public, the Legislature must balance the interests of recreational users and the rights of private property owners to provide a constitutionally sound and manageable basis for establishing public recreational use of water overlying private property in accordance with this Act

Notes about Section 1:

The  Duerre v. Hepler decision can be read here.

Section 2: Definitions

Text of Section 2:

Section 2. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Terms used in this Act mean:

(1) “Commission,” the Game, Fish and Parks Commission;

(2) “Department,” the Department of Game, Fish and Parks;

(3) “Meandered lake,” any natural water body, except a river or stream, for which a meander line survey was included as part of the official survey conducted by the United States surveyor general for the land on which the lake is situated and the meander lines are shown on plats made by the United States General Land Office;

(4) “Nonmeandered lake,” any natural lake that is not a meandered lake;

(5) “Recreational use,” except as otherwise provided bylaw, use for outdoor sporting and leisure activities, including, but not limited to, hunting, fishing, swimming, floating, boating, and trapping.

Notes about Section 2:

Many people, including myself, have had a lot of uneasiness because “lake” is not defined. During testimony it was mentioned that lakes are defined in an Administrative Rule, specifically 74:51:01:01. Here is the definition of lake from that rule:

“Lake,” a pond, reservoir, or other body of water, created by either natural or artificial means, but not a pond or appurtenance that is used for the treatment and disposal of wastes and that is permitted for such uses

I don’t think this definition really reduces the qualms many have. There is no size or age restrictions. As I read this, a one acre slough could be called a lake.

Section 3: GFP able to create agreements with landowners

Text of Section 3:

Section 3. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The department, on behalf of and in the name of the state, may negotiate with each landowner to acquire, by gift, grant, devise, purchase, lease, or license, recreational use of all or any portion of any nonmeandered lake overlying private property. Any agreement reached pursuant to this section, or any failure to reach an agreement, is not an appealable final action of the department

Notes about Section 3:

This is where the GFP is able to create agreements with landowners to provide access to nonmeandered lakes for recreation. The last sentence is to make sure the agreement doesn’t lead to court action according to testimony.  The committee never really spent a lot of time on this seemingly important section. As long as this means the GFP has to work with willing landowners I see no problem with this section. Many landowners I’ve spoken with have no issues with recreaters, as long as certain restrictions are in place to protect their property. This may be different from lake to lake, so GFP probably will have to create different agreements for each body of water.

Section 4: Permission from landowner to recreate

Text of Section 4:

Section 4. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Any person is entitled to recreational use of the portion of a nonmeandered lake that overlies private property if the person has permission from the owner of the private property.

Notes about Section 4:

This is simple. It basically means the landowners are able to allow people to recreate on water which sits atop their land.

Section 5: Default access by public unless marked

Text of Section 5:

Section 5. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Any nonmeandered lake overlying private property is open to recreational use without permission of any owner of the private property underlying the nonmeandered lake unless the owner of the private property installs conspicuous markers, which may consist of signs or buoys, to identify the area of the nonmeandered lake that is not open to public recreational use without permission or agreement as provided under this Act.

Notes about Section 5:

This has been touted many times as the most essential portion of the bill. By granting default access to sportsmen unless the property has been marked, the bill may get enough support in the legislature to get 2/3 majority. Of course at the same time there is the potential this particular section could prevent a 2/3 majority. Many landowners and sportsmen are unhappy with this particular compromise.

On the sportsman side there are many unhappy that landowners can close off waters basically at will. From their point of view the water belongs to the public, so it should always be accessible. Some sportsmen have also been worried the cost of marking bodies of water off-limits will be taken from their licensing fees to the GFP.

On the other side the landowners do not like the default being that people can go over their land without permission. In most cases we are talking about flooded land which the farmer hopes to make productive again after the water recedes. Actually there are a lot of reasons landowners may not want people to recreate on the water over their land. Remember this is not just big lakes with fish that are being talked about. From the definition of lake the committee has decided to let stand, it would appear any slough, pond, or large mud puddle is open to the public if there is access from a right-of-way.

Hugh Bartels tried to amend this section to specify that all expenses used to close waters be at the landowners expense. This was to help with sportsmen worried license fees would be redirected towards landowner signage.

Section 6: Landowner can’t make money if access blocked

Text of Section 6:

Section 6. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

No owner of private property may receive financial compensation in exchange for granting permission to fish on a portion of a nonmeandered lake overlying the owner’s private property that is marked pursuant to section 5 of this Act. A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Notes about Section 6:

This section was added by an amendment from Sen Brock Greenfield  (R, Dist 2). He brought this forth to clarify that landowners cannot commercialize waters that landowners have shut down to the public. Greenfield had heard concerns from constituents that this was an issue (I also have heard the same concerns as I’ve traveled).

Sen Craig Kennedy (D, Dist 18) asked how this would be enforced, as the original amendment had no penalty. It was amended to add the Class 1 misdemeanor.

Rep Spencer Gosch (R, Dist 23) mentioned he had reservations about this section because it doesn’t seem right the GFP can make money off the resources but the landowners are restricted. I believe it should be noted the landowner can make money providing access, as long as they are not blocking access to the general public to their portion of the non-meandered water.

Rep Steven McCleerey (D, Dist 1) also mentioned he has problems with this section. He made the point that fishing is being treated differently from hunting. Rep Spencer Hawley (D, Dist 7) did note there are differences between how hunting and fishing are funded and that water is a pubic resource.

Personally I don’t think this will impact much, mostly because I don’t foresee many landowners trying to commercialize marked off land. But it does give the sportsmen a concession as there may be landowners looking to capitalize on fishing as many landowners have on hunting.

Section 7: Certain non-meandered lakes to be treated differently

Text of Section 7:

Section 7. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Notwithstanding the provisions of this Act, any nonmeandered lake listed in section 8 of this Act is declared open for recreational use, based on the following conditions occurring before January 1, 2017:

(1) The open, obvious, and continuous recreational use by the public for a significant period; and

(2) The expenditure of public funds for the construction of one or more boat ramps.

Notes about Section 7:

Basically this section will force the GFP to reopen most of the lakes closed after the court case. The actual lakes to be reopened are listed in Section 8.

This is a section which may cause legal problems down the road. The two conditions listed in this section are being used to justify the lake forcing certain non-meandered waters open to the public. This would mean the landowners with property under the lakes in question are being treated differently from other landowners.

Rep Burt Tulson (R, Dist 2) tried to amend this section to change the “and” to a “or” for the two conditions. The reason for that is some of the non-meandered lakes in Section 8 do not have a boat ramp, even though public funds have been spent there. The Highway 81 lakes were the ones in question.

This is where there was a conversation about words being very important. The amendment didn’t pass. If the amendment had passed there may have been a lot more lakes that could be added to Section 8.

Section 8: List of non-meandered lakes to be treated differently

Text of Section 8:

Section 8. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The waters of the following nonmeandered lakes are declared open for recreational use pursuant to section 7 of this Act:

(1) Casey’s Slough, Cottonwood GPA, Dry #1, Dry #2, Round, and Swan in Clark 17 County;

(2) Deep and Goose in Codington County;

(3) East Krause, Lynn, and Middle Lynn, in Day County;

(4) North Scatterwood in Edmunds County;

(5) Three Buck in Hamlin County;

(6) Bullhead, Cattail-Kettle, and Opitz in Marshall County;

(7) Island South in McCook County;

(8) Keisz in McPherson County;

(9) Grass, Loss, Scott, and Twin in Minnehaha County;

(10) Twin in Sanborn County;

(11) Cottonwood and Mud in Spink County;

(12) Cottonwood in Sully County; and

(13) Dog Ear in Tripp County, South Dakota

Notes about Section 8:

These are the actual list the legislature wants the GFP to reopen public access to.

This bill was amended to remove the following lakes from this list:

  • Highway 81 East in Brookings County. Testimony noted there is a place to back boats in, though it is not an actual ramp. GFP Secretary Kelly Hepler noted there is already legal access here because of its connection to a meandered water.
  • Highway 81 West in Kingsbury County. Testimony noted there is no good public access to this lake from public land. This lake also lacks a ramp. Testimony from a landowner noted that GFP not enforcing current laws is why the public is currently fishing this lake. Actually the whole testimony from the landowner is worth listening to in order to get an idea of why landowners are so frustrated. It also includes him discussing his interaction with GFP and attempts in the past to work out agreements.
  • Reetz in Day County. GFP is working with the landowner to reopen this lake. Actually Reetz is an example of why much of this bill may be unnecessary. Landowners if given a chance to work out details specific to their situation will likely open their flooded lands to the public.

Section 9: Landowners ability to petition marking of non-meandered lake being treated differently

Text of Section 9:

Section 9. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The commission shall promulgate rules, pursuant to chapter 1-26, to establish a process whereby an owner of private property underlying any nonmeandered lake listed in section 8 of this Act may petition the commission to allow the owner of private property to restrict recreational use of the water overlying the owner’s private property. The commission shall determine whether to grant, deny, or modify the petition. The commission shall consider privacy, safety, and substantially affected financial interests of the owner of the private property underlying the water, as well as history of use, water quality, water quantity, and the public’s interest in recreational use of the water.

Notes about Section 9:

Now we get up to where a landowner who owns land under one of the lakes listed in Section 8 can go before the GFP commission to get an exception that would allow them to close part of the water off to the public for recreational use. This section really gives me heartburn. A landowner has to go before an un-elected commission, which answers to nobody, to get permission to restrict access over their land. I believe most of the landowners on these lakes will be unlikely to block access to their part of the lake, But if they do have a reason it just seems odd to have a non-elected body make the determination; especially since that non-elected body is in charge of a state department which many landowners feel are on the side of sportsmen.

This was touted as a way for the landowners and commission to communicate directly and come up with agreements that may keep the lake open.

Rep Spencer Hawley (D, Dist 7) did try to amend the bill to allow the pubic to petition the GFP Commission to reopen a body which has been closed by a landowner. Hawley felt it was important for both landowners and sportsmen to have a petition process. Rep Herman Otten (R, Dist 6) also had an amendment to provide an appeal process that could be used in the future. He instead backed Hawley’s amendment, which did not pass. This issue likely has not gone away. Personally I think Hawley’s amendment would have caused problems and undue hardship on landowners (I believe Rep Mary Duvall (R, Dist 24) made that point, but I don’t feel like going back through the testimony to make sure at this moment)…

Section 10: Preventing perpetual leases with GFP

Text of Section 10:

Section 10. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

No lease or license entered into pursuant to section 3 of this Act may be for a term exceeding ten years.

Notes about Section 10:

This section I agree with. It prevents land from being locked up in perpetuity as some federal conservation programs do.

Section 11: Limiting liability of landowners

Text of Section 11:

Section 11. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The liability of any owner of private property underlying a meandered or nonmeandered lake is limited as provided in §§ 20-9-12 to 20-9-18, inclusive. However, contact between recreational equipment and private property underlying any nonmeandered lake incidental to a lawful recreational use is not a criminal trespass.

Notes about Section 11:

This is probably one of the biggest wins for the landowner side. This section ensures the private landowner is not held liable for anything that happens involving someone in the public recreating on their part of a nonmeandered lake.

Section 12: Marking standards to be created by GFP

Text of Section 12:

Section 12. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The commission shall promulgate rules, pursuant to chapter 1-26, to specify standards for the markers described in section 5 of this Act after weighing the cost and burden of compliance by the owner of private property against the visibility of the markers to the public.

Notes about Section 12:

This section allows the GFP Commission to make rules setting the standards for markers used by landowners to restrict access. It was noted during testimony that the burden of posting notice is placed on the landowner. It was also said during testimony that the GFP would be willing to provide the signs, at the landowners cost, so uniform signs could be used around the state. I’m not sure how landowners are going to take the cost being shifted to them to enforce their property rights.

Section 13: Notification of marked areas

Text of Section 13:

Section 13. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The owner of private property shall notify the department, within a reasonable time frame, of any area of a nonmeandered lake marked by the owner of private property pursuant to section 5 of this Act. The department shall, within a reasonable time frame, identify the marked area and applicable restrictions in any map, guide, mobile application, or website maintained by the state to assist the public in identifying each public hunting or fishing area.

Notes about Section 13:

Here I think something needs to be added (assuming the overall bill passes). If the GFP creates agreements with landowners there are likely to be terms of that agreement. These agreements can include anything like no hunting during calving season or no use of motorized boats. It might be necessary for the GFP to post a sign of some type letting the public know what restrictions, if any, apply to that body of water.

Section 14: Means of access

Text of Section 14:

Section 14. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Access to any nonmeandered lake for recreational use may only be by public roadway, public right-of-way, or other lawful means. Nothing in this Act creates a right of ingress or egress on private property to access a nonmeandered lake.

Notes about Section 14:

This is the section which states people recreating on the nonmeandered water must have legal access to that water without trespassing on private property.

Section 15: Bed and frozen surface usage

Text of Section 15:

Section 15. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

No person may walk, wade, stand, or operate a motor vehicle on the bed of a nonmeandered lake, or trap or hunt on the frozen surface above private land, without permission from the landowner or any other person legally in possession of the privately owned property underlying the waters of that portion of the nonmeandered lake.

Notes about Section 15:

I can see some recreational users not liking the restriction on walking, wading, or standing on the bottom of the nonmeandered lake. That really restricts the amount of swimming which can be done by families. Although technically swimming is already highly restricted because the private land next to nonmeandered lakes are already off-limits.

The restriction for hunting on ice will definitely make some of these landowners happy. People hunting from these nonmeandered lakes and shooting things over private land is a concern for many landowners I don’t see a problem with hunters having to get permission.  But, I’m not sure how the hunters will take this section, I’m guessing not well.

This section was not amended in the final committee meeting as I expected. .

Rep Hugh Bartels (R, Dist 5) tried to amend this section to specify that public lands under non-meandered waters could be walked, waded, or stood in.

Section 16: Transportation lane

Text of Section 16:

Section 16. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The commission shall promulgate rules, pursuant to chapter 1-26, to establish a process whereby a person may petition the commission to open a portion of the waters or ice of a nonmeandered lake marked pursuant to section 5 of this Act for the limited purpose of transportation to a portion of the nonmeandered lake that is open for recreational use under the following conditions:

(1) The marked portion of the nonmeandered lake is directly between a point of legal public access and a portion of the nonmeandered lake open for recreational use; and

(2) There is no alternative legal public access or improved legal public access to the portion of the nonmeandered lake open for recreational use.

Notes about Section 16:

This section basically allows recreational users to have a process to open a portion of a nonmeandered lake marked as off-limits by a landowner because there is more nonmeandered water on the other side of the restricted area. This section may cause some heartburn for certain landowners.

Section 17: Transportation lane standards

Text of Section 17:

Section 17. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The commission shall set the size and location of the area of the marked portion of a nonmeandered lake opened for transportation pursuant to section 16 of this Act and set reasonable speed, wake, and other limitations to protect the privacy, safety, and substantially affected financial interests of the owner of private property underlying the marked portion of the nonmeandered lake

Notes about Section 17:

Basically this goes along with Section 16 to allow the GFP Commission to make rules about transportation lanes opened up in a restricted area.

Section 18: Penalties for criminal trespass

Text of Section 18:

Section 18. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Any person who enters or remains upon private property or waters overlying private property in violation of this Act is guilty of a criminal trespass in accordance with the applicable provisions of chapters 41-9 and 22-35, except for unarmed retrieval of lawfully taken small game as authorized in § 41-9-8 and subject to any affirmative defense set forth in § 22-35-7. However, any contact between recreational equipment and private property underlying any nonmeandered lake incidental to a lawful recreational use is not a criminal trespass.

Notes about Section 18:

This section provides penalties for trespassing on private property which have been marked as off-limits. There is an exemption for hunters.

This bill was amended a couple of meetings ago to ensure incidental contact is exempt from trespassing. For instance if a fishing lure touched the ground below the water it would not count as trespassing.

Section 19: GFP regulatory authority over non-meandered lakes

Text of Section 19:

Section 19. That subdivision (5) of § 41-2-18 be amended to read:

(5) The management, use, and improvement of all meandered and nonmeandered lakes, sloughs, marshes, and streams extending to and over dry or partially dry meandered lakes, sloughs, marshes, and streams, including all lands to which the state has acquired any right, title or interest for the purpose of water conservation or recreation;

Notes about Section 19:

It should be noted this section will amend an already existing statute; that being § 41-2-18.  This section of law deals with “Rules for implementation of game, fish and conservation laws”.

This section was greatly reduced. Originally the whole statute was included and had a style and form change added. Greenfield’s amendment removed everything except for the section of the statute which was intended to be changed. The inclusion of all the other language has caused a lot of confusion with people trying to read the bill.

The change in this section, which can be seen above with the underline, adds the ability for GFP to regulate “The management, use, and improvement of all … nonmeandered lakes … for the purpose of water conservation or recreation”. This is a section which is being touted as essential for the compromise to work. It is also a section which appears to give the GFP a lot of regulatory power over private land which has been flooded.

I really think this section will be the culprit if the bill fails to pass in the special session. Notice, this section doesn’t say the GFP has the right to regulate the management, use, and improvement of non-meandered lakes where there is public access. No it actually seems to apply to all non-meandered lakes. Which if you look at the definition of lake from above, is basically any flooded land. Giving GFP regulatory authority over all of the non-meandered lakes simply makes no sense. Even if the current GFP administration has no plans to regulate non-meandered lakes which are land-locked by private property, what is to ensure a future GFP administration won’t want to regulate those waters.

Section 20: Report to the LRC Executive Board in 2019

Text of Section 20:

Section 20. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Before June 2, 2019, but after April 1, 2019, the department shall deliver a report to the Executive Board of the Legislative Research Council which includes the following:

(1) An estimate of the number of acres of nonmeandered lakes open for public recreation and the number of acres of nonmeandered lakes marked pursuant to section 5 of this Act.

(2) For the agreements contemplated pursuant to section 3 this Act, a statistical summary relative to:

(a) Agreements reached with landowners;

(b) Negotiations in progress;

(c) Failed negotiations;

(d) Number of inquiries from landowners to commence negotiations;

(3) An analysis of the agreements pursuant to section 3 of this Act compared to voluntary walk in access programs for landowners;

(4) A listing of transportation lanes set pursuant to section 17 of this Act; and

(5) A summary of complaints, prosecutions, convictions, or other resolution of violations on nonmeandered waters pursuant to sections 6 and 18 of this Act.

Following receipt and public dissemination of the report, the executive board or a designated committee of the executive board shall hold one or more public hearings, which shall occur before September 3, 2019, to discuss the report and solicit input from landowners, recreational users, and the general public.

Notes about Section 20:

Greenfield’s amendment also brought this section into the bill. He believes this will force the issue to stay in front of the legislature.

One of the reasons Greenfield gave for this section is that it would preclude the need for a sunset clause to force the legislature to keep working on the issue. Which brings us to…

Section 21: Sunset clause

Text of Section 21:

Section 21. The provisions of this Act are repealed on July 1, 2021.

Notes about Section 21:

Rep Herman Otten (R, Dist 6) brought the sunset via the amendment process. He noted the report to the LRC Executive Board was a good step, but having a sunset would actually allow people to come and give testimony and force the legislature to relook at the issue. Originally Otten wanted this in 2020. I liked the idea of 2020 because it would have forced legislators to take action during an election year. Otten’s amendment was changed to 2021, which now makes it mid-term. It was Rep Larry Rhoden (R, Dist 29) who asked it to back another year, mostly to give GFP more time after the Executive Board meeting.

Personally I think having a sunset in this bill was essential. If this passes into law there may be many unforeseen consequences. This will force the legislature to deal with those consequences instead of continuing to kick the problem down the road.

Section 22: Emergency clause

Text of Section 22:

Section 22. Whereas, this Act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, and this Act shall be in full force and effect from and after its passage and approval.

Notes about Section 22:

This is necessary for whatever solution the special session passes into law so it can take effect immediately.

Final Thoughts and next post

Since the Governor is choosing to hold the special session on June 12 I would guess this means he believes the votes are there for the bill to get a 2/3 majority. Many have asked me if I think this has a 2/3 majority. I don’t know. I’ve spent more time speaking with landowners and sportsmen than I have with legislators. I do know there are a good number of legislators who don’t like the legislation, but they still may vote yes to it. Actually adding the sunset may have swung a few votes to yes, possibly ensuring it gets passed.

Coming up next I will have a couple of posts explaining a little more about why I don’t like this particular solution.

SD State Legislators list updated with leadership positions

I’ve updated the SD State Legislators list (available in the menu above) with the results from the leadership elections recently held.

I believe these results have already been reported by other political blogs in the state. But, for anyone that wants to know who was elected to legislative leadership positions, here are the results of the caucus meetings:

2017-2018 Senate Majority Leadership

If I understand the President Pro Tempore correctly, this is not actually elected until the full Senate is in session and the Democrats get their votes. It is unlikely to change though.

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.

President Pro Tempore: Sen Brock Greenfield  (R, Dist 2)

Majority Leader: Sen Blake Curd (R, Dist 12)

Assistant Majority Leader: Sen Ryan Maher (R, Dist 28)

Majority Whip: Sen Kris Langer (R, Dist 25)

Majority Whip: Sen Al Novstrup (R, Dist 3)

Majority Whip: Sen Bob Ewing (R, Dist 31)

2017-2018 Senate Minority Leadership

Sen Billie Sutton speaking on the SD Senate floor. Photo by Ken Santema 2/19/16.
Sen Billie Sutton speaking on the SD Senate floor. Photo by Ken Santema 2/19/16.

Minority Leader: Sen Billie Sutton (D, Dist 21)

Assistant Minority Leader: Sen Troy Heinert (D, Dist 26)

Minority Whip: Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1)

2017-2018 House Majority Leadership

If I understand the two Speaker positions correctly, these are not actually elected until the full House is in session and the Democrats get their votes. It is unlikely to change though.

Rep Mark Mickelson at the front the SD House. Photo by Ken Santema 2/17/16.
Rep Mark Mickelson at the front the SD House. Photo by Ken Santema 2/17/16.

Speaker of the House: Rep Mark Mickelson (R, Dist 13)

Speaker Pro Tempore: Rep Don Haggar (R, Dist 10)

Majority Leader: Rep Lee Qualm (R, Dist 21)

Assistant Majority Leader: Rep Kent Peterson (R, Dist 19)

Majority Whip: Rep Arch Beal (R, Dist 12)

Majority Whip: Rep Larry Rhoden (R, Dist 29)

Majority Whip: Rep Leslie Heinemann (R, Dist 8)

Majority Whip: Rep Lynne DiSanto (R, Dist 35)

Majority Whip: Rep Isaac Latterell (R, Dist 6)

2017-2018 House Minority Leadership

Rep Spencer Hawley speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 1/27/16.
Rep Spencer Hawley speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 1/27/16.

Minority Leader: Rep Spencer Hawley (D, Dist 7)

Assistant Minority Leader: Rep Julie Bartling (D, Dist 21)

Minority Whip: Rep Karen Soli (D, Dist 15)

Minority Whip: Rep Susan Wismer (D, Dist 1)

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.

District 29 State House seats won by Brunner & Rhoden

SD Legislative District 29
SD Legislative District 29

District 29 is up next to look at for legislative races without a general election. In this case the State House race has only two candidates, making them both the winners already. District 29 is kind of in the center of western South Dakota. Towns in Dist 29 include Box Elder, Faith, Newell, Nisland, Piedmont, Sturgis, and Summerset. It also includes the unincorporated towns of Blucksberg Mountain and Vale.

There was not a primary election for District 29 State House. One of the incumbents, Rep Dean Wink, is term limited. The other incumbent, Rep Thomas Brunner, put his petition in to serve another term. To replace Wink is fellow Republican and former legislator Larry Rhoden. Rhoden served in the State Senate until 2014, when he tried to run for US Senate. Brunner and Rhoden did not have a primary challenge and have no general election challengers.

Even though these two have already won the general election I will still do a post on them. It is still worth if for the constituents of District 29 to know a thing or two about the legislative priorities of these politicians. In this post I will look at a few pieces of legislation prime sponsored by both of them.

*** It should be noted this is NOT a scorecard. This post only looks at some of the legislative priorities of these candidates. These legislative priorities may or may not have any bearing on how the candidates actually vote on legislation.

District 29 State House

Thomas J. Brunner

Rep Thomas Brunner speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 3/29/16.
Rep Thomas Brunner speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 3/29/16.

Rep Thomas Brunner (R, Dist 29) – Incumbent
Ballotpedia – VoteSmart – OpenStates – SoDakLiberty
LRC: House 2016 2015 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005

Brunner has had a few gun related bills. The one to highlight is this bill from 2015:

HB 1215 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Provide for an optional enhanced permit to carry a concealed pistol.

This enhanced permit to carry a concealed pistol is recognized by many other states for reciprocity. The new enhanced permit does not replace the traditional concealed carry permit. It is more expensive and has training requirements. Many South Dakota residents that travel to other states welcomed this new enhanced permit with greater reciprocity. There were a couple of issues that had to be worked out with the new enhanced permit in 2016. Brunner brought forth HB 1125 (SoDakLiberty Posts) in 2016 to fix a part of the previous years enhanced permit bill that accidentally changed how felons are able to restore their gun rights. Plus Brunner brought forth HB 1138 (SoDakLiberty Posts) in 2016 to clean up some of the code regarding the enhanced permit. Both of his fixer bills to the enhanced permit passed with no problem. It is good to see a legislator not afraid to admit a piece of legislation passed in a previous year may need some fixing.

Up next is a pair of election related bills from 2016:

HB 1087 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Repeal the requirement of a certain public election notice.

HB 1103 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Revise certain provisions regarding the qualification process for municipal office.

HB 1087 basically repealed a notice required to the SOS office for political subdivisions. It was an odd requirement that doesn’t make sense to have in code. HB 1103 will allow sufficient time for municipalities to have new office holders take an oath and get bonded. The new language allows the oath to be taken within 10 days after the first meeting on the month after an election. Both of these bills were simple bills meant to clean up some election code. They may not get the attention of other bills, but these are the type of bills I like.

Finally it is worth looking at another election type bill from 2016:

HB 1119 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Revise the criteria for incorporation of a new municipality.

The purpose of the bill as passed into law is to revise the terms under which a new municipality can be created. This comes about because of the situation in Buffalo Chip; which basically was a campground using people who weren’t really residents to get enough votes to incorporate as a town. This bill will not impact Buffalo Chip, only situations going forward. This law passing should mean a commercial campground wishing to become a town won’t be able to do what Buffalo Chip did.

The key change appears to be this:

A municipality may not be incorporated unless it contains as least one hundred legal residents and at least forty-five registered voters.

Even though Brunner got this bill passed I don’t think the issue of defining legal residents for local elections is done. South Dakota has a lot of RV residents living all over the country…

Larry Rhoden

Larry Rhoden. Picture from Rhoden's Facebook page.
Larry Rhoden. Picture from Rhoden’s Facebook page.

Larry Rhoden (R)
Facebook – Ballotpedia – VoteSmart – OpenStatesSoDakLiberty
LRC: Senate 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 House 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001

First up is a gun bill from 2013:

SB 166 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Revise the number of years that permits to carry a concealed weapon are valid.

This bill made a permit to carry a concealed pistol valid for five years. Previous to this bill being signed into law it was only valid for four years. It may seem like a simple change, but to owners of concealed carry permits this extra year was welcomed.

Next up is an election related bill from 2011:

SB 93 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Authorize an organization to contribute to a political action committee and to set a limit on contributions.

SB 93 allowed organizations to contribute money to PAC’s in South Dakota. Prior to this change in law that was not allowed. It also set the same $10,000 limit as personal contributions to PAC’s. Prior to this corporations, unions, clubs, or other organizations could not contribute to PAC’s. It seemed odd organizations could not contribute to PCA’s, this fixed that. There was some resistance to the bill. But PAC’s have to file campaign finance reports, there is still a trail to follow money.

The last bill I would like to look at is a Joint Resolution from 2009:

SJR 2 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Proposing and submitting to the electors at the next general election an amendment to Article VI of the Constitution of the State of South Dakota, relating to the utilization of English as the official language.

The only reason this bill is being highlighted is because I thought it would be an odd issue to put on a statewide ballot. Does the SD State Constitution really need to state English is the official language? Further does it need to be specified that “Legislature may enact no statute, no state agency may promulgate any rule, and no governmental subdivision may pass any ordinance, which requires the use of any language other than English”. There was a section that specified the change would not apply to tribal governments. It just seemed an odd item to bring to a statewide ballot, one that failed on the Senate floor.

Three bills prefiled by the Ag Land Assessment Task Force

Wheat's grassland © Evgeny Zarzhitsky | Dreamstime.com
Wheat’s grassland © Evgeny Zarzhitsky | Dreamstime.com

I was looking at the bills pre-filed so far for the 2016 South Dakota legislative session and noticed the Ag Land Assessment Task Force has three bills ready to go. I briefly posted about the draft legislation prior to the November 2 Ag Land Assessment Task Force meeting. In this post I will look briefly at the three bills submitted for the 2016 session.

HB 1007 (SoDakLiberty Posts) –Make an appropriation to revise and update the values and methods used to determine the agricultural land production capacity and to declare an emergency.

Here is how this legislation was explained during the December 7 Task Force meeting:

Mr. Baatz stated that the draft proposes a general fund appropriation of $175,000 for the purpose of requesting South Dakota State University’s (SDSU) Department of Economics to conduct research concerning the data and methods used to determine the agricultural land production capacity and update the data used in the soil tables.

There was a lot of support from public testimony for this legislation. Last year this legislation failed on the Senate floor 16-18. That was SB 4 (SoDakLiberty Posts), which asked for $151,000 (although Senate Appropriations reduced it to $1 as they like to do).

SB 3 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Revise the income criteria for determining if property is classified as agricultural land for property tax purposes.

During the November 2 meeting this was said about this legislation:

Senator Larry Tidemann said the goal of the draft bill is to keep ag land in production, and answered questions on the criteria being proposed. Mr. Rhoden said going to a percent of assessed value to satisfy the ag income criteria makes sense and should be further discussed.

During the December 7 meeting Mike Wiese of Aberdeen mentioned concerns about landlord and tenant income in the following test of the proposed legislation:

If there is a crop share arrangement, the gross income of both the landlord and tenant shall be combined and used to meet this criteria.

This legislation I’m not sure about. This legislation didn’t recieve public testimony against it in the task force, but it also didn’t seem to get any public testimony supporting it. I’ll have to listen to the upcoming committee testimony and learn more about the actual changes.

SB 4 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Provide for the assessment of certain agricultural land as noncropland.

The piece of legislation would allow grassland to be treated as noncropland.

The original draft of this legislation included this language to determine the classification the guidelines that must be met:

any agricultural land that has been seeded to grass for at least forty years and is used for animal grazing or left unharvested, or is a native grassland

It was amended in committee to the following:

any agricultural land that has been seeded to perennial vegetation for at least thirty years and is used for animal grazing or left unharvested, or is a native grassland,

Public testimony had shown overall support for the bill, but also possible problems with the forty years and “seeded to grass”. After amendment it seemed to get a lot of support and will now be taken up by the legislature. I’m not so sure about the chances of this bill. It will likely be a hot issue. Personally I am softly opposed to this legislation and will remain so until I hear a real good reason to shift tax burden away from certain farmland and on to other land owners.

Afterthoughts from the South Dakota PB Republican Primary US Senate Debate

Classic Milquetoast Cartoon found on Wikimedia Commons – Or as we found out in this debate: A Mike Rounds Cartoon

The South Dakota Republican Primary US Senate debate just finished airing on SDPB. I don’t believe anyone could call this an overwhelming victory. I believe Stace Nelson won the debate, but even he wasn’t able to shine because the questions were not ones aimed at the target audience. Presumably the target audience for a GOP debate would be Republican voters. Yet somehow most of the questions definitely seemed to come from left-leaning sources. I think the questions would have been OK in a Democrat Primary, or even in a general election debate; but I didn’t think they fit well in a Republican debate.

But having said that I still believe Stace did the best in this debate. Here are some thoughts on each of the candidate in this debate. This is ordered from who I believe lost the debate down to who I think won. These are short because I don’t feel this debate gave the kind of content a Republican Primary is looking for.

Annette Bosworth – She was a train-wreck in this debate. I also find her behavior in the last few months to be morally unsound (and potentially legally unsound). For those reasons I won’t say more about her.

Larry Rhoden – Rhoden actually had some pretty OK answers. The problem is he is so monotone that he is unable to connect with the audience. He did mention free market principles a few times and pointed out Obamacare is an overreach of the federal government. He also rightly mentioned the steps he has taken as a SD legislator to fight against EPA overreach. If there are any more debates I would avoid using Rounds talking points (such as Common Sense); it makes him look like a mini-Rounds. If he could find some fire somewhere he could be a contender. But without fire he appears to be an uninspiring Rounds clone.

Jason Ravnsborg – Actually Jason did pretty good at answering questions. He brought up specific solutions such as the Penny Plan and Save the VA. He also went on the attack more than all of the other candidates combined. His reference to Rounds as Milquetoast is going to be well-used in the blogosphere and twitterverse. But at the same time his inexperience with such events was very clear. There were times I wondered if Jason was going to be able to speak, or remember what he was talking about. Such a forum is nerve-wracking; and it got the better of him. With a better performance I would have moved him up to at least second place.

Mike Rounds – It should be no surprise to any reader of this blog that I don’t like Mike as a candidate. He did have  a couple of good answers. I think his best answer was invoking the REINS Act, which if passed by Congress would require Congress to approve major regulations enacted by the executive branch. But the problem I had with him in this debate was his complete insistence that he had nothing to do with the implementation of Obamacare in SD and has never worked with Daschle on healthcare.  The thing is all of the 50 states had to enact legislation to align state laws with ACA, even South Dakota. It was the Rounds administration that pre-filed the bills for the legislature to enact these Obamacare changes. Instead of lying about this I think Rounds should have owned and it said “Yes, I had to because the federal government strong-armed South Dakota into doing it”. But no, he chooses to pretend it didn’t happen. And maybe Rounds was opposing Daschle on the Health Project they both were on. But by saying he wasn’t on a Health Project with Daschle he is either saying the Bipartisan Policy Center is lying, or he is lying. I guess we can let the voters decide on that one….

Stace Nelson – I thought Stace did pretty good in this debate. The only minor criticism I have is that at times he went into too much biographical data when answering a question. But on the good side he consistently talked about cutting pork. He mentioned it with the farm bill and with military spending. Maybe it’s because of his service, but I felt Stace was the only one on the stage that was not a war hawk. I think by showing he is willing to cut pork in all areas of government, including the Defense Budget, Stace is showing fiscally conservative voters that he will actually work to the reduce the deficit and national debt.

In closing I can only make one prediction from seeing this debate: this debate will not have likely shifted the opinions of any Republican primary voters. Any already supporting a candidate before the debate will likely support that person afterwards. Along that thought-line, undecided voters didn’t have the type of questions that Republican primary voters care about. Really all this debate did was give bloggers something to talk about.

Brown County Republicans Reagan Lunch this Thursday at Minervas

It is that time of month again for the Brown County Republicans Reagan Lunch. This month there will be two guest speakers. Below is the info sent out in the Brown County Republicans newsletter. Anyone planning to attend must take note that this meeting will be at Minervas!

Reagan Lunch

Thursday, May 8, 2014

at Minervas (Noon)

Larry Rhoden and Shantel Krebs

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” Ronald Reagan

Come join us at the Ramkota (MINERVAS) onThursday, May 8th for lunch.  Notice the change in venue.  Larry Rhoden, US Senate Candidate and Shantel Krebs, Candidate for the Secretary of State position will be our guest speakers.  Meet Larry and Shantel and listen to why you should vote for them.  Lunch will be in the restaurant for a cost if you decide to eat.  The lunch is casual and social.  Bring a friend. We hope to see you there!

I would recommend anyone in the area come. One of the great things about South Dakota is the accessibility of politicians and candidates at events such as this. Just remember the lunch this month is at Minervas!

We finally had a US Senate debate in SD with all 5 candidates present

podiumYesterday the South Dakota Newspaper Association hosted a debate for the five Republicans seeking to win the primary in the US Senate race. The replay can be watched on the Argus Leader website. This is actually the first time all five candidates have been together in a debate forum. There were good and bad parts to this debate. Because of some shortcomings in the debate I believe Republican primary voters deserve more of these debates before making their decision on June 3. In this post I will look at how the debate was ran by the SDNA, and then some thoughts on what each candidate said.

How well was the debate run?

First I would like to focus on how the debate was moderated. The SDNA did a great job setting the ground rules and keeping the questions flowing. I hope future debate moderators will look at how this event was run and take notes accordingly. Maybe each question could be allowed a little more time, but not too much more.

The only real problem I had with the debates proceedings were some of the questions. The three asking questions were reporters from within the State of South Dakota. There were a few questions I felt were out-of-place for a Republican primary. In particular one question was staged as a statement disputing the typical Republican response to climate change. If a reporter wants to preach about their favorite political stance of the left they can do that for their newspaper. The audience for the debate was presumably Republican primary voters; who were not tuning in to get a lecture from a high-and-mighty reporter (remember when mainstream media reporters at least pretended to be non-partisan?). Even without that question, I felt there were very few substantive topics being discussed. Hopefully those running future debates will take that into account as well…

Now, on to the candidates! I will go in the order they drew to speak.

Mike Rounds

Many are treating Mike Rounds as the presumed winner of the Senate race this fall; and I believe mistakenly so. Watching him in the debate it is quite obvious why he avoided earlier debates (his supporters claimed the earlier debates were ‘too soon’, this trying to defend a candidate that entered the race 2 years before the election). On the first question he actually said he wouldn’t answer it and spoke on something else. Most of the debate he spent saying his current campaign catchphrase “South Dakota common sense”. He is using the old campaign trick used by politicians to get all statements to fall within that catchphrase; which sounds really good, but says nothing! His campaign staff is probably proud of his performance, but voters should be disappointed in the lack of substance from such a high-profile candidate.

When talking about Obamacare I was disappointed to hear him say that he has always fought against Obamacare. I would have preferred for him to be more honest and admit the legislation he helped implement to align South Dakota law with ACA. He actually could have used that as a point to show how the Federal government is strong-arming states into complying with over-reaching federal laws. Instead he pretended it didn’t happen. Unfortunately all fifty states had to make legislative changes to align with ACA, including SD. Pretending that didn’t happen makes it look like Rounds secretly supports ACA. I don’t really think Rounds supports Obamacare, but he didn’t fight against it or even try to bring attention to what our state was forced to change in our laws to comply with ACA.

EB-5 of course came up. He still fully supports EB-5 as a jobs creator. He also says no South Dakota money was lost in the use of EB-5 funding. That point is debatable.  Rounds continued support of the EB-5 program is disheartening from a fiscal conservative standpoint. I would much rather see Rounds say “Hey, I thought it would work out, it didn’t”. Instead of continuing to support EB-5, Rounds should be fighting to remove the government from choosing winners and losers in the market. Maybe the primary process will bring out some unseen fiscal conservativeness before June 3…

On the good side I was happy to see Rounds mention the War on Coal being waged by the Obama administration. If he does make it to DC I hope he will remember his words and actively fight to protect jobs from over-reaching federal regulations that are killing our economy. He also mentioned the coal we don’t use here simply gets shipped to China and used there; and China does not have the technology in place to burn coal as cleanly as the United States does. If Rounds can stick to talking points like this he might actually sound like a limited-government Republican.

I also hopes he remembers saying the federal Department of Education needs to go away. Perhaps like most people he didn’t understand what Common Core was about when he was Governor and his administration began our state down the path of centralized education. A lack of knowledge of what actually happened while he was Governor is a recurring theme though…….

Stace Nelson

I don’t think it would be a surprise for any reader of this blog to know I support Nelson in this race. His answers were in stark contrast to those of Rounds. EB-5 in particular is an example of how the two are different. Nelson would push for the EB-5 program to be eliminated completely. Nelson listed many ways the EB-5 program is crony capitalistic and a likely place for corruption. This to me is the key as to why I support Nelson in this race: I believe South Dakota would be best served with a US Senator that will fight to remove federal influence from the free market. Currently there are very few portions of our economy that actually has any semblance of free market. We need representation in DC that will actually try to bring some free market principles forth as solutions.

When speaking of Obamacare Nelson mentioned how the Rounds administration, and the legislature at that time, helped to enact laws in South Dakota so the state would align with ACA’s requirements. This is something Nelson has been bringing up this whole campaign. Somehow mentioning these actions is categorized as an ‘attack’ that breaks Reagan’s 11th Commandment. I disagree (I’ve posted on this before). When Nelson says he would fight to repeal Obamcare and implement free market principles in its place I believe him.

To me the area Nelson did best in was when talking about the Ryan budget. Nelson says the Ryan budget is a good start, but doesn’t go far enough. He says his experience working within the military gives him insight into parts of the National Defense budget that could, and should, be cut. This is an area all Republicans should be looking to when balancing the budget. That doesn’t even mean reducing the power of our military. I means finding portions of the military spending that are no longer needed, and are only around so politicians can continue to get special interest money.

The only problem I had with Nelson in this debate is that I thought he went off topic a few more times than he needed to. I agree with him that special interest money’s are bad. But making a variation of the same message each round can make the viewers forget some of the other specifics they viewed during the debate. It might be a good way to get a message out, but its a bad method to use if he wants people to remember more than one takeaway point.

Mike Rounds & Stace Nelson

Before going on I’ll mention Rounds did actually bare his teeth and go on the offensive against Nelson. I was surprised to see him do it. He mentioned Nelson getting kicked out of the Republican Caucus while serving in Pierre. Nelson said that was done by moderates. Stace has been working hard to ensure limited-government concepts are present in Pierre. That at times has had him at odds with leadership in Pierre. I think the fact he was willing to stand up to leadership based upon conservative principles shows Nelson is the type of representative needed in DC!

Rounds also mentioned the press conference that Nelson had held with liberal Senate candidate Rick Weiland. Anyone that actually watched the press conference with Nelson and Weiland could not come away seeing the two as ‘allies’. In fact other than hating special interest money I didn’t hear anything in that news conference that the two agreed upon.

Some will say it was time for Rounds to start attacking back because of the constant attacks from Nelson. The difference though is that Nelson is attacking Rounds record as a SD legislator and executive actions as a SD Governor. Rounds attacks on Nelson had nothing do with actual legislative records or executive actions. But that is how I see it, primary voters may see it differently… It was interesting to see Rounds drop his Mr Nice Guy face though…

Annette Bosworth

Due to the inconsistencies in her nominating petition (which is likely to be fraudulent) and other questionable activities from her campaign, I have previously said I wouldn’t give her campaign much attention. That remains to be true. I think she did horrible and had no substance in this debate anyhow…

Jason Ravnsborg

Jason did a lot better than I thought an inexperienced politician would do. This is his first time running for office, and its a big race at that. Of all the candidates in the attendance he had the most ‘answers’. I disagreed with some of his answers, but I definitely respect that he is offering forth solutions.

When talking about Obamacare Ravnsborg promoted the Patient CARE Act as a replacement to ACA. This is an act brought forth by Sens. Burr, Coburn & Hatch. It includes many of the parts of ACA that people like, without the hundreds of pages of unrealistic regulation. Personally I don’t like the Patient CARE Act, but think it is good for candidates to discuss such alternatives. A big point Ravnsborg was trying to make is that the Republican Party as a whole has been poor at providing alternatives and has become known as the “Party of NO”. I do feel if he is elected Senator he would fight to change that “Party of NO” reputation.

Other areas Ravnsborg had some answers for were the budget by supporting the “penny plan” and supporting Senator Grassley to repeal EB-5. Most of his answers seem to be latching on to solutions already provided by Senators in DC and promoting them. I think that is a fair way for a candidate to proceed. No single person can have the answer to everything and Ravnsborg seems to understand that.

The main negative I have with Ravnsborg is his lack of experience. I think that can be good. But his lack of even a little state legislative experience means there is no record to run on. Maybe if he keeps offering answers to everything like he did in this debate, he can use that as a replacement to an actual record.

Larry Rhoden

Rhoden was typical for him. He made some nice conservative talking points, but he had no fire in him. I actually think many voters that prefer a more moderate conservative would choose Rhoden over Rounds if they could connect with him. Rhoden has to find a way to actually connect with his audience, until that happens a race as the US Senate is out of his reach. Also he wouldn’t answer the EB-5 question because he didn’t have enough facts… That makes him seem somewhat disconnected from issues.

On the good side I really wish he had more time to expand on the strengthening of HSA’s. Part of Obamacare actually reduced the effectiveness of HSA’s, and Rhoden understands that. Here was a taxation part of the medical insurance industry that was actually helping families, and Obamacare has essentially killed it. Other candidates need to latch on to specific parts of ACA like this and show how it is hurting Americans.

Other good areas from Rhoden include using the Indian Reservations as an example of failed federal entitlement systems, opposing the ‘fact’ that climate change as described in the question is correct, and his personal experience as a legislator fighting against the EPA. If he could stick to topics such as these and show some emotion then maybe he can connect with more voters.

So who won?

I don’t think any ‘winner’ can be called for this debate. While I think the format was great, that wasn’t enough to provide an environment for there to be a clear winner. Too many of the questions were setup in a way that made them bad topics for a Republican primary. Personally I think my candidate of choice, Stace Nelson, did quite well. I would also say that Ravnsborg showed a lot more promise than he has in the past. Other than that it wasn’t really a debate anyone could say “X won this debate hands down!”. Maybe in a future debate we can get better questions..