Republican candidate for U.S. Senate Mike Rounds is telling the press that federal stimulus dollars made South Dakota highways better. Rounds is emphasizing that South Dakota needs big government because it depends on nearly $300 million dollars every year to maintain its roads. And the Republican is saying he wants more big government help for South Dakota in the form of replenishing the Highway Trust Fund... because when he was governor, he knew darn well that depletion of the Highway Trust Fund would mean South Dakota would have to spend more of its own money, and Rounds never supported that kind of self-reliance.

Alas, Rounds says, Congress is struggling to pass that vital legislation because "nobody" trusts President Obama:

You can't give 'em more money until you know how they're going to spend it, and I think that's the biggest problem we've got in D.C. is, is nobody trusts that the Administration will spend the money the way they say that they will [Marion Michael Rounds, audio interview, "Rounds Supports Highway Funding Bill," KJAM Radio, 2014.07.24].

Hold on, Mike—I think you're projecting. You don't trust President Obama. You took stimulus dollars that President Obama and Congress intended for education and then spent those dollars on other budget items.

But hey, suppose Rounds is right. Suppose the problem with highway funding is that Senators don't trust President Obama.

Since President Obama isn't on the 2014 ballot, there's one obvious solution: elect Senators who trust President Obama. Elect Rick Weiland.

Thanks for the advice, Mike!

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I don't always reprint press releases, but when I do, it's because they're useful.

South Dakota Democratic Party exec Zach Crago offers—with more evidence and hyperlinks than we ever get from the dreary stream of GOP dreckfive good reasons to vote for Initiated Measure 18, South Dakota's minimum-wage increase:

It’s been 5 years since the last increase in the federal minimum wage - but now South Dakotans have a choice on Initiated Measure 18 to raise the minimum wage on November 4th.

In recognition of this anniversary, here are 5 reasons to vote Yes on 18:

1) States that raised the minimum wage saw faster job growth. According to state by state hiring data released by the Department of Labor, states that raised the minimum wage at the beginning of this year actually saw faster job growth than states that didn’t raise the minimum wage – contrary to the scare tactics of special interest critics.

Everyday South Dakotans get it: Put money in the pockets of hard working people, and they’ll send it on the things their families need everyday. That boosts consumer demand at small businesses and grows the economy.

2) Small business owners support raising the minimum wage. According to a recent scientific telephone survey, 61% of small business owners support raising the minimum wage. Why? The report says,

“Small business owners believe that a higher minimum wage would benefit business in important ways: 58% say raising the minimum wage would increase consumer purchasing power. 56% say raising the minimum wage would help the economy. In addition, 53% agree that with a higher minimum wage, businesses would benefit from lower employee turnover and increased productivity and customer satisfaction.”

Small businesses get it too: Workers are customers. When workers earn more, they spend more at small businesses and boost the economy.

3) Prices for everyday goods continue to rise, but the minimum wage has stayed the same. That means a South Dakotan’s hard earned dollar actually buys less and less for her family. Since the last increase in the minimum wage:

  • The price of milk has increased 21.2%
  • The price of eggs has increased 30.3%
  • The price of cheddar cheese has increased 21.9%
  • The price of gas has increased 44.6%
  • The price of electricity has increased 9.2%
  • The minimum wage has increased 0%. 

Too often, South Dakotans are working harder and harder just to make ends meet. Raising the minimum wage will help working moms and dads support their families in the face of higher and higher prices at the pump and in the supermarket.

4) 62,000 South Dakotans will earn more if Initiated Measure 18 passes. According to preliminary data from Economic Policy Institute, raising the minimum wage will give 62,000 South Dakotans a raise. Who are they?

  • 78% are older than 20. These aren’t high school students like special interests will tell you.
  • 55% are women – many of whom are supporting families.

5) Raising the minimum wage lifts people out of poverty – and off of government assistance. A full time worker earning the minimum wage makes $14,500 a year, which qualifies many working families for government assistance. Raising the minimum wage will lift many working families out of poverty and reduce the demand for government assistance. It’s a win win for working families and the taxpayers: working families make ends meet, and the public cost of low wages decreases for taxpayers [South Dakota Democratic Party, press release, 2014.07.24].

Susan WismerPaula Hawks, Robin Page, Mark Remily, all you Democratic candidates, if you're looking for stump speech material, this is it. Every speech you make from now until November should borrow at least some of Crago's text. Telling people why they should vote for the minimum-wage increase also tells them how we Democrats support South Dakota's best interests better than Republicans. Vote for Dems, and vote for 18!

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Leading the fight against abuses of South Dakota's foster care system is the American Civil Liberties Union, which is helping the Oglala and Rosebud Sioux tribes fight state officials who have been removing children from American Indian homes without sufficient due process and in violation of the federal Indian Child Welfare Act.

The ACLU had to fight South Dakota judges to gain access to transcripts from initial custody hearings involving Oglala and Rosebud parents and children. ACLU attorney Stephen Pevar says the 120 transcripts they've been able to review so far show regular disregard for parental and child rights under ICWA:

Nearly 100 percent of the time, Indian children were removed from their homes in those hearings. The average length of time those hearings took was less than 4 minutes. Within that time, of the six different judges that oversaw the hearings, not one judge ever told one Indian parent that they have a right to contest the state's petition for temporary custody of their children in the hearing on the petition.

During those hearings, the parents were not told the reasons for the removal, not provided with an attorney, not allowed to submit any evidence, and not allowed to cross-examine the Social Services worker who had submitted an affidavit against them. In most cases, the parents were not even allowed to see the affidavit [Stephen Pevar, "Why Are These Indian Children Being Torn Away From Their Homes?" ACLU: Blog of Rights, 2014.07.23].

Department of Social Services data show that South Dakota Indian children are eleven times more likely to be taken from their parents and placed in foster care than non-Indian children.

In a motion for summary judgment filed July 11, the ACLU and plaintiffs contend that the defendants (Department of Social Services Secretary Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Department of Social Services employee LuAnn Van Hunnik, Pennington County State's Attorney Mark Vargo and 7th Judicial Circuit Court Presiding Judge Jeff Davis) have failed to dispute any material facts in the case, including the clear obligation imposed on the state by this clause in the Indian Child Welfare Act:

Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to prevent the emergency removal of an Indian child who is a resident of or is domiciled on a reservation, but temporarily located off the reservation, from his parent or Indian custodian or the emergency placement of such child in a foster home or institution, under applicable State law, in order to prevent imminent physical damage or harm to the child. The State authority, official or agency involved shall insure that the emergency removal or placement terminates immediately when such removal or placement is no longer necessary to prevent imminent physical damage or harm to the child and shall expeditiously initiate a child custody proceeding subject to the provisions of this subchapter, transfer the child to the jurisdiction of the appropriate Indian tribe, or restore the child to the parent or Indian custodian, as may be appropriate [ICWA, Section 1922, emphasis added in plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment, Oglala et al. v. Hunnik et al., 2014.07.11].

Pevar offers these examples from the 48-hour hearing transcripts of the state failing to terminate emergency removal or placement of Indian children when the threat of imminent harm has passed:

  • A mother abused by her boyfriend lost custody of her child even though the abuser was not being allowed to return to the home. Before the judge's decision, the mother pleaded with the judge not to punish her for what the abuser had done.
  • A father going through divorce was denied custody of his children solely because his estranged wife got into trouble with the police, even though no evidence was introduced suggesting that the children would be at risk staying with the father.
  • A mother lost custody of her daughter merely because the daughter's babysitter had become intoxicated, without any showing that the mother knew that such a thing might occur.
  • A father who tried to discuss the merits of his case was interrupted by the judge and told that the details of child custody removals were not to be discussed in 48-hour hearings, and then the judge signed an order removing the child from the father's custody [Pevar, 2014.07.23].

The plaintiffs had to get federal Judge Jeffrey Viken to order the release of the transcripts that support their case. Defendant Judge Davis had released some of those transcripts of his own accord but now is apparently trying to withhold additional information. In a motion to unseal filed Monday, the plaintiffs allege that Judge Davis is "concealing information prejudicial to his case" by asserting that a motion for sanctions filed by the plaintiffs should remain sealed because "it subjects the Defendant Judge Davis to unnecessary and unjustified embarrassment and public scandal." The plaintiffs find that justification for sealing a public document wanting:

The ground asserted by Judge Davis in support of keeping the Motion sealed is invalid in this context. Specifically, if subjecting a party to “unnecessary and unjustified embarrassment and public scandal” could justify the sealing of pleadings in federal litigation in the manner asserted here, every defendant in every civil case would have the power to seal each plaintiff’s complaint and other court filings.

...The sole ground tendered by Judge Davis for keeping Plaintiffs’ Motion for Sanctions sealed is invalid. This is a case of major public importance, involving the fundamental liberty interests and federal statutory rights of every Indian family with children in Pennington County, South Dakota. Judge Davis may not control the public’s access to documents filed in federal court merely to protect his sensibilities or his reputation [Plaintiff's Motion to Unseal, Oglala et al. v Hunnik et al., 2014.07.21].

This is a case of major public importance. A victory in this lawsuit would be a firm step toward addressing the systemic abuses of Indian family rights in South Dakota's foster care system revealed by NPR's Laura Sullivan and Amy Walters in 2011. That victory requires the persistence of the tribes and the continued conscientious service of the ACLU.

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Hey, aspiring teachers! Don't run away! The state Department of Education just announced that your evals won't be counted in your school performance index!

Now if we could just pay you enough to get you to apply.

Superintendents testified to the growing teacher shortage before the Legislature's Planning Committee Monday. Mr. Kallis summarized the supes' struggles as tweeted by the ASBSD:

  • Rapid City superintendent Tim Mitchell, whom the state superintendents just named their superintendent of the year, said one of his elementary schools has had five teachers turn down job offers due to salary.
  • Baltic Superintendent Bob Sittig calls the teacher shortage a crisis.
  • Hamlin and Alcester-Hudson have struggled to hire Spanish teachers. (Alcester-Hudson is still looking; ¡soliciten ahora!)
  • Brookings superintendent Roger DeGroot says he's "never had to work so hard" to recruit applicants. He's having to "convince" applicants to take offers. In Brookings, a beautiful university town, one of the most appealing places I can think of for a young teacher to settle down, raise a family, and pursue further education.

Alcester-Hudson superintendent Tim Rhead understands a big part of the problem is pay:

Rhead believes it all comes down to money. Though teachers in his district may start at $31,000, South Dakota's average starting salary is $29,851. That is a more than $6,000 drop from the national average of $36,141. These statistics come from the Collective Bargaining/Member Advocacy's Teacher Salary Database, which is posted on the National Education Association's website. The numbers are from the 2012-2013 school year. According to this list, Minnesota and Iowa both pay teachers more [Brady Mallory, "Superintendents Fear Teacher Shortage in SD," KELOLand.com, 2014.07.24].

An Alcester-Hudson special ed teacher agrees:

"There are a lot of people (teachers) who commute to Iowa. I don't know what the answer is, besides increasing pay," Hannah Swanson, special education teacher, said [Mallory, 2014.07.24].

Mr. Larson reminds us that the superintendents laid mostly identical testimony and evidence before our Legislature last winter but that our legislators took no concrete action to address the teacher shortage. Some Republicans couldn't stomach a resolution merely acknowledging the problem.

I've offered a plan to raise teacher pay. Have your legislators? And if they haven't, are you voting for someone else?

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Further demonstrating what passes for a Congresswoman in South Dakota, Rep. Kristi Noem tells Fox News that she supports Texas Governor Rick Perry's plan to send National Guard troops to the U.S.–Mexico border to... hmm... to do what, again?

See we need more than a thousand border troops down there, plus they're limited to what they can do on federal lands, so we have some proposals going into house that would give us more access to that. Get more troops, and more border patrol agents down there that would really help the situation [Rep. Kristi Noem, quoted in "Noem Supports Guardsmen at Border," KBHB Radio News, 2014.07.23].

Wait: the National Guard is limited in what it can do—i.e., it cannot make arrests (and conservatives should not want the military running around he country making arrests)—so Rep. Noem wants to send even more troops to stand around and watch children swimming the Rio Grande and staggering through the scrub to escape crime and violence in their homelands?

Noem says while actions of the Texas national guard may be limited, it does send a message.

"These countries have realized that if they send their children to the United States, we'll interview them, take care of them, feed them. We'll even deploy them all across the country and re-establish them with families across the United States. 72% of these children never leave our country. They get a free pass into the United States of America, and they're doing it illegally, so these parents in Central America recognize here if they can get them here and get them through this process. They have to recognize that we have rules, and we want people to do this legally" [Noem via KBHB, 2014.07.23].

Yeah, mobilize soldiers with guns to send scared, hungry children a message. That'll fix 'em.

Actually, the National Guard mobilization Rep. Noem wants to expand won't fix anything, say local Texas officials.

The National Guard will not be making arrests and will instead observe the border and notify law enforcement of any undocumented immigrants, which doesn't make sense to many officials at the border.

“I don’t know what good they can do,” Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio told the Dallas Morning News, referring to the National Guard. “You just can’t come out here and be a police officer.”

Lucio said that hiring additional police officers at the border would make more sense.

"The National Guard is trained in warfare. They're not trained in law enforcement. This is not a war. This is people asking for help," Lucio told the Houston Chronicle [Caitlin MacNeal, "All the Border Authorities Who Think Perry's Plan Doesn't Make Sense," Talking Points Memo, 2014.07.22].

Presidents Bush and Obama have sent Guards to the border before, to no apparent avail:

Starr County Judge Eloy Vera told the Chronicle that sending the National Guard to the border didn't help in 2006 and 2010, so it won't do any good now. Vera suggested that the surge of police presence at the border isn't even helping that much.

"Those DPS people that are down here," he said. "There's one every mile, or every half a mile. And then every once in a while you'll see a cluster or three or four of them chatting. They are doing absolutely nothing" [MacNeal, 2014.07.22].

Even President Bush's National Guard chief can't figure out what good a border-troop surge will do:

“Until mission requirements are clearly defined, it can’t be determined whether this is an appropriate use of the Guard in this particular case,” H. Steven Blum, who was the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from 2003 to 2009 and has been a career military man for decades, told me. “There may be many other organizations that might more appropriately be called upon. If you’re talking about search and rescue, maintaining the rule of law or restoring conditions back to normal after a natural disaster or a catastrophe, the Guard is superbly suited to that. I’m not so sure that what we’re dealing with in scope and causation right now would make it the ideal choice” [Greg Sargent, "Sending in the National Guard Isn't the Answer," Washington Post: Plum Line, 2014.07.15].

So we have a Republican Texas Governor seeking redemption and a Republican South Dakota Congresswoman seeking more Fox News time eager to spend more money on a plan that local officials dealing directly with the immigration problem and a former Guard chief say won't do any good. Soldiers are a response rooted in fear, not compassion. Governor Perry and Congresswoman Noem favor a policy that does little but play to "un-biblical and inhumane" impulses among their constituents.

With their common commitment to posturing over problem-solving, Perry and Noem might make the perfect GOP running mates for 2016, representing everything—ineffective, inhumane, but good-looking—that the GOP wants to be.

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While Mike Rounds fantasizes that the Albertan tar sands oil that Keystone XL would ship to the Gulf of Mexico for export to China somehow secures American energy independence, and while pols and hustlers insist that maybe South Dakota can stick a straw in West River and suck some Bakken oil our way, the Union of Concerned Scientists notes that South Dakota has the resources to cash in on a real, renewable domestic source of energy growing and plopping right in our backyards... or the back forty.

UCS-Top 10 States for Crop Residue Manure Bioenergy 2030

According to a new UCS analysis, by 2030, South Dakota can sustainably produce the ninth-most biomass—crop residues and manure—for renewable energy production. (Add Mike Rounds's speeches on coal and oil, and we boost our rank to seventh.) We're not talking about turning more food into fuel; we can squeeze energy from all that stuff we and the cows leave in the fields without burning one more bean or kernel of corn.

UCS crop residue manure by county 2030

(click to enlarge!)

Why would we want to convert cornstalks and cowpies into energy?

Clean, renewable energy resources for transportation and electricity are an im- portant part of the solution to the climate, economic, environmental, and security challenges posed by our fossil fuel use. Bioenergy—the use of biomass, including plant materials and manure, to produce renewable fuels for transportation and to generate electricity—can provide a sustainable, low-carbon alternative to fossil fuels while enabling communities to benefit from local resources. Bioenergy is one of several elements of a comprehensive climate strategy that can cut projected U.S. oil use in half by 2030, and help put the nation on track to phase out the use of coal in producing electricity [Union of Concerned Scientists, "Turning Agricultural Residues and Manure into Bioenergy," July 2014].

Oh, those darned scientists, trying to get us to use less of a polluting fuel source that will run out. Don't they know that all this talk of conservation and renewability messes up the business model for Mike Rounds's favorite industries?

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Never mind that RNC robocall; Team Rounds thinks they have the Senate race in the bag. Why else would they leak numbers to Roll Call showing that Pressler is sapping Weiland's Democratic support?

According to a Rounds campaign memo obtained by Roll Call, a mid-June internal poll of 500 likely voters found Pressler’s supporters were more than twice as likely to be Democrats as Republicans, 48 percent to 22 percent. Also in the survey, a hypothetical head-to-head race showed Rounds with 49 percent, Weiland with 24 percent and Pressler with 15 percent [Colin Diersing, "Quirky Ex-Senator Dashes Democrats' Hopes in South Dakota," Roll Call: At the Races, 2014.07.24].

Those campaign memos don't just leap off desks all by themselves.

Dick Wadhams, newly ensconced at SDGOP HQ instead of Rounds HQ, underscores the GOP's hopeful narrative:

Pressler “is a respected former senator … who’s trying to run on issues the Democratic candidate is running on,” said Dick Wadhams, a senior adviser to South Dakota Republicans, in an interview with CQ Roll Call [Diersing, 2014.07.24].

For maximum ridiculing effect, Wadhams should have gotten Diersing to write that Weiland is dashing Pressler's hopes.

Diersing lists Pressler's endorsements of Barack Obama and his positions on the Affordable Care Act, gay marriage, estate taxes, and immigration as part of Pressler's Democratic appeal. Add his play for Indian votes, and you have a reasonable case for Pressler appealing more to voters who would otherwise pick Democrat Weiland over conservative Rounds and worse conservative Gordon Howie. But just last March, another Roll Call writer (also calling Pressler "quirky") said Pressler could wield just as much wonder for conservative voters.

So let's dip that stick in the blogospheric oilpan to see if we can find some data to align with what Mike Rounds wants us to believe. I know you readers aren't all Democrats, but I know we have a larger than normal concentration of progressive/liberal/socialist thinkers here. Who's your pick for South Dakota's Senate seat this year? Is Weiland singing your love song? Is Pressler setting your quirky heartstrings a-quiver? Do you prefer Rounds's reedy paeans to big business and French women? Or is God calling you to hasten the apocalypse and send Gordon Howie to Washington? Vote now in the poll in the near-right sidebar, and let's see how Pressler's doing!

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Corinna Robinson is working to reverse that downward Q2 fundraising trend. The Democratic candidate for House is speaking at a fundraiser tomorrow (Friday) evening at the Rapid City home of Dr. Nancy Babbitt and Steve Babbitt. Team Robinson staffer Valerie Parker tells me all interested parties are invited. The campaign tweets the where and when:

  • When: Friday, July 25, 5:00 – 7:00 p.m.
  • Where: 1121 Settlers Creek Place, Rapid City, SD 57701

Dr. Babbitt and Team Robinson would like a heads-up on how many people are coming, so please RSVP to campaign staffer Adam Schantz at aschantz@corinnaforsd.com.

offers this statement from Dr. Babbitt explaining her support for Robinson:

“I’ve become a big believer in who represents us in Washington has a major impact on how physicians get to deliver healthcare," Dr. Babbitt said. "And as someone who is frequently called upon to give input on healthcare reform issues, healthcare legislation, and questions of how we provide quality, affordable healthcare for South Dakota seniors, children, veterans etc., I've found Corinna Robinson to be an open- minded, common-sense voice on this issue. We're excited about the event and we're honored to host it" [Robinson campaign, press release, 2014.07.23].

Dr. Babbitt has publicly challenged Senate candidate Mike Rounds's false scare tactics and Governor Dennis Daugaard's detachment from reality on the Affordable Care Act. Now let's see if she can help Robinson set Kristi Noem's bad record on health care reform straight.

 

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