The Mitchell school district and the Wagner economic development corporation are heading opposite directions with the workforce development grants they recently won from the state.

The Mitchell school district has gotten a number of area school districts—Ethan, Hanson, Mount Vernon, Parkston, Plankinton, and Tripp—to the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy for vo-tech classes instead of trying to fund their own teachers and programs. Mitchell and its partner schools in this endeavor will use state money to cover the cost of busing high school students to Mitchell for classes. Four routes covering a total of 240 miles each day for 88 school days will run $38,444.

Preferring to bring the mountain to Mohamed, Wagner Area Growth will use $44,478 (costs split between state grant and local effort) to bring two instructors to town from Mitchell Technical Institute to conduct three five-day welding courses and two three-day CDL/truck-driving courses. These courses will target  If these pilot programs work, WAG says it will expand the program to meet other local workforce needs.

Note that in both cases, we could save participants (students headed to Mitchel, instructors headed to Wagner) a lot of time by delivering these courses online. But when we're talking welding and driving, there's only so much a webcam and a chat box can get across.


Just a month ago the State Conservation Commission awarded 29 grants to 20 conservation districts to spend more than $350,000 to plant more shelterbelts. Heck of an idea, right?

House Bill 1055 kills that program. The Department of Agriculture is asking the Legislature to strike the chapter of state law that authorizes the Department and its State Conservation Commission to certify, inspect, and pay landowners for keeping trees and bushes on their land to prevent soil erosion and keep South Dakota agriculture viable.

I don't know if the Department has a better idea or if they are just giving up on shelterbelts. But we'll from the Department tomorrow, Tuesday morning, before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee at 7:45 a.m.


I'm scratching my head over a comment reported by Ken Santema from Saturday's crackerbarrel in Aberdeen. Evidently a citizen asked the legislators about a proposal to increase funding for K-12 education through a 1% tourism tax. From Santema's phrasing, it appears the questioner opposed this use of a tourism tax because tourism and education are not connected. Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) mentioned his agreement that there is no link between tourism and education in the context of declaring a tourism tax for education a plan unlikely to pass.


  1. Isn't everything connected to education? Don't visitors benefit from an educated workforce who can count their change, give them directions, and have job opportunities that keep them from burgling RVs?
  2. Imagine you're a tourist enjoying a stay in South Dakota and we give you a choice on how you want your tourism tax dollar spent. Either you can send your dollar to the state to support K-12 education, or you can send your dollar to Pierre to pay for more tourism advertisements. Which would you pick?
  3. Just how "connected" does a thing or activity or industry have to be for us to justify taxing that thing or activity or industry to support some specific public good or service?
  4. If a thing/activity/industry we tax has to be connected in some direct way to the public good/service it pays for, should we end the use of dollars from the sales tax on food for anything other than funding the SDSU College of Agriculture?
  5. Similarly, just what public good or service is property connected to?
  6. Federally, what is income connected to?
  7. What connection does video lottery have to non-playing property owners whose taxes those video gamblers reduce?
  8. Is Senator Greenfield saying he will go to Pierre and demand a budget that funnels every tax dollar from sales, contractors, gambling, etc. into strict budget lines connected exclusively to "connected" public goods and services? Or did he just need an excuse to shoot down a reasonable plan that would raise revenue for K-12 education and give us a chance to prove his dear old mom wrong?
  9. Does this thinking turn every government function to a fee-for-service model?

Crackerbarrels do raise some good questions. They also provoke Republicans to raise some odd objections to raising revenues to help our schools.


Senate Bill 69, the big bill in the petition reform package that moves petition circulation up a month to run from December 1 to the last Tuesday in February, was deferred again Friday in Senate State Affairs. Recall that on Wednesday, Chairman Tim Rave (R-25/Baltic) and the committee deferred the bill to Friday upon hearing concerns from ACLU South Dakota policy director Libby Skarin and ballot access watchdog Richard Winger that the February deadline violates case law requiring that newly organizing political parties be given until later in the spring to submit petitions for official recognition by the state. Skarin told the committee that the ACLU could prepare language for an amendment to SB 69 to protect new parties by the end of the day.

Friday at 10 a.m., Senate State Affairs convened. The first action was to defer SB 69 until Monday. Senator Corey Brown (R-23/Gettysburg) complained that the ACLU had just delivered the amendment to the committee members. Senator Brown indicated that, out of courtesy, he'd like to see amendments delivered ahead of time. (Now Senator Brown nows how folks feel when they show up to testify and haven't been given heads up of amendments that totally change the bill and the dynamics of the debate. How about posting those amendments online ahead of time, Senator Brown?)

Senator Rave echoed Senator Brown's complaint, saying that while the Session is starting more slowly this year, "things are going to pile up" and he'd like to keep things moving.

I'd be grousing, too. The ACLU said it could submit wording by end of business Wednesday; why'd it take until Friday?

The wording isn't that hard. To satisfy the ACLU's concerns, one need simply move to amend Section 10 by inserting the following language at the end of its existing amendment of SDCL 12-5-1:

If a new political party seeks to participate in the general election but not the primary election, the deadline for that party to submit its petition to the Secretary of State shall be the last Tuesday in June. 

It's that simple. If the ACLU wants to add a provision for a late-coming party to nominate folks for Governor, U.S. House, or U.S. Senate, we'll have to get tricky and make allowances for Independents as well. If that's what the ACLU is after in this amendment, then they are probably barking up too complicated a tree and should get someone to sponsor a whole separate bill (and I'm very open to that action!).

But we need to get things moving. The petition reform package has two other moving parts. The Senate has sent SB 68 to the House;  Senate Bill 67 is waiting. These bills shouldn't be going anywhere until we see the final form SB 69 takes.

Senate State Affairs takes up SB 69 tomorrow, Monday, January 26, at 10 a.m., along with five other bills. Chairman Rave didn't like spending 50 minutes on the bill Wednesday, and from the tone of Friday's deferral, I'm betting this is the last time Senate State Affairs gives SB 69 its attention.


Tuesday's debate in the House Health and Human Service Committee over House Bill 1058 suggests that some South Dakota lawmakers spend more time listening to the uninformed paranoia of constituent e-mails than (a) reading what the bills before them actually say or (b) trying to apply their purported ideological principles consistently

House Bill 1058 is the South Dakota Department of Health's effort to update South Dakota's statutes on managing and preventing disease outbreaks. Much of the bill clears out 1950s/1960s-era language focusing on tuberculosis and makes clear that the Department's epidemic-fighting authority applies to communicable diseases like Ebola and virulent agents weaponized for bioterrorism.

Deputy Secretary of Health Tom Martinec did a good job of explaining in committee Tuesday (listen to his testimony beginning just after timestamp 16:08) what HB 1058 does and what it does not do. Among the does-not-dos:

  • HB 1058 does not make it a crime to have a communicable disease.
  • HB 1058 does not make it a crime to expose others to a communicable disease; current statute already does that. Section 4 of HB 1058 preserves that language.
  • HB 1058 does not give the state the authority to force vaccinations; SDCL 34-22-6 outlaws forced vaccination. Section 15 of HB 1058 requires folks suspected of carrying Category I diseases or diseases declared a public health emergency to get diagnosis and treatment. Section 15 does not order preventive measures like vaccines.
  • HB 1058 does not force South Dakotans to submit to a specific government mandated treatment; Section 16 preserves language on the books since 1963 protecting individuals' right to seek diagnosis and treatment from their own doctors.

From my own reading of HB 1058, I add the following observations of things HB 1058 does not do:

  • HB 1058 does not give the Department of Health new quarantine powers. SDCL 34-22-1 already empowers the Department of Health to essentially close the state's borders to stop any communicable disease and detain any person carrying a disease threat across our borders. SDCL 34-22-9 already authorizes the Department of Health to "Prescribe methods and procedures for the control of communicable disease patients and carriers," which clause is not qualified with any restriction on quarantine. Sections 2 and 7 of HB 1058 simply clarify existing quarantine power.
  • HB 1058 does not preserve three 1963 statutes (SDCL 34-22-7, -37, and -40) that required the state to pay for tuberculosis treatments. I understand the policy distinction here: in 1963, the state was declaring war on tuberculosis, committing to eradicating the chronic public health threat, while HB 1058 makes clear the authority of the Department of Health to confront new and evolving public health threats. But I do find it a bit odd that HB 1058 does not make explicit our willingness as a community to bear the cost of implementing our own epidemic control procedures... especially when this same state government refuses expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act to help tens of thousands more South Dakotans be able to afford the kind of diagnosis and treatment the state might mandate.
  • Perhaps most importantly, HB 1058 does not appear to reduce any due process rights available under current law. Section 33 makes explicit the procedure the Department of Health can already follow to obtain a court order to enforce quarantines and other public health interventions. As Deputy Secretary Martinec explained in committee, a public health intervention order states that individuals have a statutory right to contest the order in court.

Contrary to the clear text of HB 1058 and the clear explanation from Deputy Secretary Martinec, a clump of conservative Republican legislators lobbed a jumble of unfounded fears and ill-formed anti-government rhetoric at this public health measure. Newly elected Rep. Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) asserted that the bill seems to expedite the due process of individuals, despite the absence of any language in the bill changing whatever due process surrounds court orders on quarantines or other measures. Rep. Haugaard fretted over the prospect that HB 1058 could expand to include flu (even though he himself acknowledged flu is a not a Category I disease subject to the bill text before the committee), but then fretted that flu is killing more people in South Dakota than the Ebola that motivated HB 1058.

Rep. Haugaard and Rep. Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) both complained that HB 1058 was like the overreach of authority that government committed following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, yet neither legislator proposed an amendment to repeal the public health emergency law passed overwhelmingly by the South Dakota Legislature in 2002 that gives the Department of Health some of the "overreach" power it can use with or without HB 1058.

Rep. Haugaard offered as his legislating principle a sort of arch-conservative shadow-of-a-doubt standard: he said that if anything about a bill gives legislators pause—and he noted that even the supporters of HB 1058 expressed concern about protecting individual liberties—then we should vote the bill down. Rep. Haugaard evidently wasn't paying attention in 2012, when one of the main Republican arguments defending the education reform bill that raised numerous doubts about was that we couldn't just do nothing, that we had to try some sort of change and see if it worked.

Rep. Haugaard even asserts that the Ebola epidemic in Africa was overblown. The only reason the concern may look overblown now is that African countries took steps at least as drastic as the provision of South Dakota law clarified by HB 1059 to stop Ebola in its tracks.

Rep. Lana Greenfield (R-2/Doland) said that making people take their temperature twice a day and putting them in a holding tank seems extreme to her. She said she'd rather be stoned in the town square. Baffled as to how to respond to that nuttiness, Deputy Secretary Martinec thanks Rep. Greenfield for her comment, said he "would respectfully disagree," and characterized HB 1058 as a reasonable and judicious effort to balance individual freedom with protection of the public.

Of all people, committee chair Rep. Scott Munsterman (R-7/Brookings) closed the discussion of HB 1058 with one of the most sensible comments on rights: "Think about the masses who also have the liberty to be disease free and not be exposed."

Rep. Munsterman's sentiment, a Republican embrace of the general welfare over extreme individual liberties, won the day, leading an 8–5 vote to send HB 1058 to the House floor. The bill has been deferred, as the Department of Health, far from plotting an authoritarian takeover, is working on clarifications to address the concerns it has heard.

Frankly, the only amendment it appears we need is a provision to quarantine radical conservatives from infecting the Legislature and threatening public health with their ideological nuttiness and blindness to the text on the page.


How I wish I could be in Aberdeen to join Ken Santema at the Legislative crackerbarrels! My Libertarian blogospheric colleague is providing excellent coverage of Legislative issues. Yesterday he got hold of a useful handout from Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) comparing the costs of the competing road-tax-and-fix bills proposed by Governor Dennis Daugaard and by the interim Highway Needs and Financing Committee:

Comparison of Daugaard and Interim Committee Road Tax Proposals, distributed by Sen. Al Novstrup, published by Kan Santema, SoDakLIberty, 2015.01.24

Click to embiggen—Comparison of Daugaard and Interim Committee Road Tax Proposals, distributed by Sen. Al Novstrup, published by Kan Santema, SoDakLIberty, 2015.01.24

The immediate bottom line shows the Governor's proposal imposes half the tax burden of the committee's plan, $51 million versus $101 million, largely by leaving out the 3% wholesale fuel tax.

But remember, that's just in the first year. The above comparison does not note the increasing revenue that will come on the motor fuel tax line from Daugaard's proposed ongoing annual two-cent increase, which far outpaces the increase proposed by the interim committee. The 3% wholesale tax in the committee proposal may provide more revenue, if gasoline prices do what we'd expect and rise over time. But remember: after the 1986 oil price crash, gasoline prices remained remarkably flat through the 1990s. The wholesale tax doesn't guarantee more revenue; Daugaard's plan does.

Of course, as of this weekend, we still don't have the Governor's exact plan. The interim committee's plan was the first bill filed for the Senate; the Governor's plan has not yet been filed as a formal bill.


While the Department of Energy Inspector General was investigating School of Mines president Heather Wilson's involvement in illegal lobbying activities for the Sandia National Laboratories, Wilson was serving on a sequester-delayed advisory panel charged by Congress with reviewing and making recommendations for improving the National Nuclear Security Administration's oversight of the nuclear weapons design and production done at Sandia and elsewhere.

What do you think former Republican Congresswoman Wilson, chafing under snoopy regulators, and her colleagues on the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise recommended?

Instead of calling for stricter contract supervision — an idea long urged by the Energy Department’s office of inspector general — the study recommended the Energy Department reduce regulation, cut the number of DOE field office personnel who supervise the contractors and abolish the current system of tying part of the contractors’ pay to their performance.

The advisory panel, created by Congress as part of the Defense Department funding bill in 2013, said in its final report released in December that the management contractors were burdened with “onerous oversight,” muddled accountability and a “dysfunctional” management culture at DOE [Douglas Birch, "Advisory Panel Tells Congress the Nuclear Weapons Complex Is Too Big and Too Old," Center for Public Integrity, 2014.12.17].

Nuclear Watch sees in this report cover for cronyism that undermines American security interests:

The Panel’s self-interested premise that the Nuclear Security Enterprise needs a new foundation is wrong. First, call it what it is, not some kind of innocuous sounding “enterprise,” but rather a massive research and production complex that is pushing an unaffordable trillion dollar modernization program for nuclear warheads, missiles, subs and bombers. This will divert taxpayers’ dollars from meeting the real national security threats of nuclear weapons proliferation and climate change. The Panel failed by not arguing for prudent maintenance of the stockpile, instead supporting a perpetual work program of risky life extension programs for existing nuclear weapons that will enrich contractors [Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch director, "NNSA Governance Advisory Panel Condones Diminishing Federal Oversight Of Failing Contractors," Nuclear Watch New Mexico, 2014.12.12].

Wilson and her colleagues apparently believe making life easier for her consulting and contracting pals is more important than accountability and American security.


What was that I said—wait, that the City of Pierre said—about workers recruited from out of state not sticking around? That's not Huron's experience.

Where Pierre's workforce development project is all about cultivating workforce among existing residents, Huron going big on recruiting and retaining workers from the other side of the planet. Since 2007, 2,500 Karen refugees have come from Burma to live in Huron. The Karen came at first to work Huron's big turkey plant; they now hold jobs in 30 Huron area businesses, and Huron wants more. The big ticket item on Huron's workforce development grant application (which the state approved for the full $125,000 requested) is "Diversity Engagement," which includes more direct recruitment of Karen refugees in surrounding states, more English classes, more job fairs targeted at workers who aren't fluent English speakers yet, and more big Karen cultural events like soccer, volleyball, and cane ball tournaments and Karen New Year celebrations (January 5—welcome to 2754!).

Huron also plans to use its state grant to sponsor more management training classes. It's one thing to learn enough English to get a job at the turkey plant; it's another to learn enough English to run a production shift and budget meetings. Huron needs more of its Karen residents, who now hold one out of nine jobs in Beadle County, to be able to move up the ladder and fill the white-collar jobs from which baby boomers are retiring.

By the way, Huron's application states that in a survey of Karen residents, it found that "100% of participants felt welcomed in the community and had experienced no racism since arriving." That cultural acceptance is a key part of getting folks recruited from elsewhere to stick around. Huron and the state appear willing to invest heavily in pening their doors even wider to convince these newcomers to stay.


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