Tag Archives: Steven McCleerey

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

Lake

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.

Video: Non-meandered waters meeting in Webster, this one was more landowner oriented

Large crowd at the non-meandered waters meeting in Webster.

Last night I attended a non-meandered meeting at The Galley in Webster. The meeting was organized by the Webster Area Chamber of Commerce. The purpose of this meeting was to provide an updated to the public about the current draft legislation and receive input from the public. I attended and recorded the meeting for all to view. This meeting was interesting because it was more property-owner oriented; as opposed to the previous meeting I recorded in Watertown, which was more sportsman oriented. This meeting accepted questions and comments directly from the public.

Here is the list of speakers at the event:

  • Marcia Lefman – Marcia opened the meeting as a representative of the Webster Chamber of Commerce. My hats off to her and others for organizing this event on very short notice!
  • Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1) – Frerichs is a member of the Summer Study trying to come up with a solution to some of the non-meandered waters issues.
  • Rep Steven McCleerey (D, Dist 1) – McCleerey is also on the non-meandered waters summer study.
  • Mark Ermer – Ermer works for GFP in Webster as the Regional Program Manager- Fisheries at South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks.
  • Mike Klosowski – Klosowski is out of the Watertown GFP office and is the NE SD Regional Conservation Officer Supervisor.

In the audience Paul Dennert was in attendance; who happens to be one of the GFP Commissioners. Also in attendance from the state level was Rep Drew Dennert (R, Dist 3).

This was a huge crowd. I would estimate there were over two-hundred in attendance, probably closer to two hundred and fifty.

Below is the video of this event. It is just under one hour and forty-five minutes long. The video can alternatively be viewed directly on YouTube.

Tomorrow is the next and possibly final meeting of the Summer Study. I plan to be in attendance to see first-hand what occurs.

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.

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.

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.