The House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee includes House Bill 1056 on its agenda Tuesday morning. HB 1056 includes a whole lot of housekeeping, tedious changes like replacing agriculture with agricultural in references to the ag mediation program. Someone must really want an adjective....

Dig through the style and form, and you'll find some interesting changes. For one, serving as state ag secretary is about to become cheaper. Right now, the person chosen by the Governor to lead the state Department of Agriculture is required by law to put up a bond of at least $10,000. The secretary's appointed executive assistants have to put bonds of at least $5,000. Sections 3 and 4 of HB 1056 say, "Nah, we trust you," and strike those bond requirements.

For what it's worth, numerous other public officials have to put up bonds to serve. SDCL 3-5-3 requires security deposits from all sorts of renters of public offices:

  • State Auditor: $10K
  • Secretary of State: $5,000
  • Commissioner of School and Public Lands: $20,000
  • Attorney General: $3,000
  • county commissioners: $1,000
  • county auditor: minimum $2,000
  • county treasurer: minimum $4,000, unless the county collects less than $2,000 in taxes, in which case the bond is a minimum of $1,000
  • county constable: minimum $200

The highest state officeholder bonds I've found so far are $100,000 required of the director of the Division of Insurance and $50,000 for that division's actuary and attorney (see SDCL 58-2-12).

Sections 9 and 10 offer a small but useful clarification of conservation district powers. Current law allows counties to contribute money to conservation districts to protect "soil and water resources" that protect the county's tax base. Section 9 replaces "soil and water" with "natural." This change would appear to allow counties to disburse funds for, say, wildlife habitat projects carried out by conservation districts. Section 10 on conservation district powers replaces a number of instances of "soil" with "natural resources". These changes appear to clarify that conservation districts may conduct water conservation projects that aren't directly tied to agriculture.

Sections 7 and 22 suggest the state ag secretary wants less to do with trees. Section 7 removes the state's shelterbelt program from the State Conservation Commission's portfolio, thus working with HB 1055 to abolish the shelterbelt program. Section 22 removes the requirement that the state forester cooperate with the U.S. Department of Agriculture in providing assistance to landowners "for protecting farm buildings, crops, and fields from erosion; and for furnishing forest cover beneficial for water conservation and for wildlife habitat."

HB 1056 is up for discussion before House Agriculture and Natural Resources tomorrow, Tuesday morning, at 7:45 a.m. Get ready for minutiae and amendments!


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.


Governor Dennis Daugaard addressed several important topics in his State of the State Address to open the 2015 Session of the South Dakota Legislature this afternoon. He made up for a glaring omission from his December budget address by focusing the first half of his speech on roads and bridges. The Governor needed to do that to jump out in front of Senate Bill 1, a massive proposal from the Interim Highway Needs and Financing Committee. Governor Daugaard made clear that he "appreciates" the committee's efforts, but by gum, if taxes are going to get raised and roads get fixed, it's going to be done the way he says so. The Governor says he will be submitting his own bill on road repairs.

To justify the coming tax increases—and among the highlights, Governor Daugaard proposes outdoing Senate Bill 1 by raising the motor fuel tax two cents every year, starting now—the Governor emphasized that our economy and "our entire well-being" depend on good roads, and "our roads are underfunded. Governor Daugaard said nothing about how our economy and statewide well-being depend on K-12 education, and he said nothing about how our K-12 system is underfunded.

The Governor took time to promote his juvenile justice reform plan, which is apparently supported by everybody and requires little salesmanship. He took no time to mention how improvements in K-12 education would keep kids from ever falling into the juvenile justice system in the first place.

The Governor discussed his workforce development plans address the shortage of workers in certain technical fields and in health care. The Governor said nothing about the widely recognized K-12 teacher shortage.

The Governor talked up his rural agricultural development programs. He said the state has won an award for its innovative site-analysis program designed to help counties determine where they can put CAFOs and other big ag businesses. The Governor did not mention that good teacher pay is crucial to sustaining rural communities where the public schools are often the largest employers.

The Governor praised the state's investment in parks and pheasant habitat. The Governor said we need to spend money to preserve grasslands so pheasants have places to live and sustain our hunting our industry. The Governor said nothing about the need to make South Dakota friendly habitat for teachers.

The Governor led a rousing ovation for the South Dakota National Guard, which for the first time in ten years has not one soldier deployed overseas. The Governor did not call for any such ovation for the teachers, firefighters, construction crews, ranchers, stay-at-home moms, or other groups who serve the Republic.

The Governor's only acknowledgement of K-12 education came in praising high school vo-tech classes (which Governor Daugaard's own budget austerity has cut) and dual-credit courses (which are a really good idea, helping kids get a jump on college and save money and helping South Dakota universities recruit South Dakota students).

The bad news from the State of the State Address is that Governor Daugaard does not appear to have any plans to do anything for South Dakota's public school teachers. The good news may be that he doesn't plan to do much to us, either. (Whew—maybe that means we can focus on fixing that really bad House Bill 1044, the Teacher Inquisition bill.)


John Tsitrian writes the most interesting Republican blog in South Dakota. Instead of recycling the handouts from party uppity-ups, Tsitrian provides original content, the kind of home-grown research and analysis that makes the South Dakota Blogosphere worth reading and discussing. Consider Tsitrian's this-week œuvre:

Monday Tsitrian follows up on my look at vo-tech in-state placement rates, synthesizes it with the latest Dakota Poll data from his neighbor Sam Hurst, and concludes that South Dakota doesn't have a worker shortage; it has a wage shortage:

More concerning to me is the way I've seen so many outstanding young people take off as soon as they finish high school or college. Anecdotal as it may be, I think there's some confirmation about it being a common aspect of growing up South Dakotan. Certainly the fact that a quarter of last year's Vo-Tech grads left the state is a telling example. A Dakota Poll that came out yesterday gives some confirmation about young people and their attitudes toward remaining in South Dakota. Dakota Poll board member Sam Hurst said in a KOTA television interview that the economy could force those with higher education to leave the state. Hurst notes that "having economic security, that's their greatest fear. That they can't get that in South Dakota."

We'll see if Governor Daugaard's "workforce summits" will address this situation head on. Leading up to the election they could be more show than tell, but at some point the low wage issue has to be addressed. It's either that or continue to complain about what should be labelled a wage--not a labor--shortage [John Tsitrian, "25% Of South Dakota's Vo-Tech Grads Leave The State. I Wonder Why. The Latest Dakota Poll Gives A Clue," The Constant Commoner, 2014.03.24].

On Wednesday, Tsitrian puts his businessman's beanie over his Republican hat and asks why on earth his party won't accept the ACA Medicaid expansion:

From my Republican perspective this leaves much to be desired in the way of ideological purity, but from my businessman's point of view, it's how the world is. I'm much more the pragmatist than the ideologue when it comes to matters of public money. And on that basis I think turning down the Medicaid expansion deal is just plain bad business.

...Given that the Daugaard administration has an acute fixation on economic development, it seems odd--strange, maybe--that the governor isn't enthusiastically endorsing this opportunity. We're talking about a $2 billion windfall, which I have no doubt will rollover a few times and create much more than that over the next several years. I really think our elected leadership is doing a disservice to South Dakota by turning down this kind of money. [John Tsitrian, "Medicaid, Shmedicaid. I'm Looking At The Bucks Involved--And We're Nuts Not To Take This Expansion Deal From The Feds," The Constant Commoner, 2014.03.26].

On Friday, hotelier Tsitrian, still smarting from Congresswoman Kristi Noem's punishing kamikaze politics on the budget last fall when she shut down the federal government and Mount Rushmore, takes Rep. Noem to task for voting against the public interest, his own tourism business interest, and her own ideological interest in opposing environmental regulations by voting to restrict the creation of National Monuments:

...That she still hasn't grasped the connection between parks and their economic value was made quite evident in her vote a few days ago for a bill titled "Ensuring Public Involvement In The Creation Of National Monuments Act," which passed the House on pretty much party line voting. Basically the act limits the president to creating one national monument per state during each four year term and requires environmental reviews for each proposed monument over 5,000 acres in size.

...Thankfully for those of us who make a living from and enjoy the wonders of South Dakota's national parks, nothing like this law was in place when Mt. Rushmore was created or the Badlands were turned into one of the great, protected geological wonders on the planet. Could you imagine an environmental review process being imposed on Mt. Rushmore? Might just as well assume it would never have come into being. Given that the state she represents is virtually identified by Mt. Rushmore, why Congresswoman Noem would put barriers against future generations enjoying yet-to-be-designated monuments and parks is mystifying [John Tsitrian, "The Antiquities Act Of 1906 Has Been A Bonanza For South Dakota. Congresswoman Noem's Attitude: So, What?" The Constant Commoner, 2014.03.28].

Sure, I'm biased in my assessment of the quality of Tsitrian's blog by the fact that he's a Republican agreeing with my Democratic view on South Dakota's need for higher wages, expanded Medicaid, and federal protection of public lands and other treasures. My Republican neighbors may find Tsitrian's statements more unprincipled or appalling than interesting.

But I find interest in Tsitrian's works specifically because they challenge partisan assumptions. He is no raving liberal. He takes issues that you'll hear sloganized by the Daugaard, Rounds, and Noem and reframes them in bread-and-butter South Dakota terms. He shows smart Democrats practical issues around which they can wrap the Democratic brand and win centrist South Dakotan votes. That's good reason for Republicans and Democrats to read Tsitrian's blog.


Gun sales have boomed over the past few years due to right-wing paranoia and the failure of fearful people to recognize that guns produce less practical, daily return on investment and produce more risk than groceries, clothing, appliances, power tools, or just about any other household item.

But there is an upside to all this gun nuttery: America's Gooney McBuckshots are helping to fund conservation. The Pittman Robertson Wildlife Restoration Act levies a 10% tax on handguns and an 11% tax on rifles, shotguns, muzzleloaders, ammunition, and archery equipment. The Pittman Robertson tax generated $760.9 million for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to distribute to states this fiscal year for conservation projects. That's up 42%, not counting another $20 million carried over and restored from the sequester.

South Dakota will get $12.4 million for wildlife funds and $1.4 million for hunter education. States like Minnesota and Washington use some of that money to buy land for conservation areas, the kind of sensible conservation action that drives gun-loving Republicans like Sen. Dan Lederman to conniptive falsehoods.

Guns helping the government acquire land for public use and conservation—that makes me feel much better.

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It should have been a quiet morning in Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources. One confirmation, three resolutions, no big whoop.


The committee had little problem recommending that the Senate honor Oelrichs rodeo stars Chad Ferley and Lisa Lockhart, aside from the Senator Rhoden's newly kindled passion for distinguishing resolutions and commemorations. But when they turned to HCR 1025, Rep. Troy Heinert's pretty simple resolution declaring that groundwater is good and that we should be careful not to ruin it, everybody got cranky.

Rep. Heinert had tried do something practical about protecting water in the Black Hills with House Bill 1193. That bill went nowhere, so he thought he'd at least get the Legislature to say something nice about water. Rep. Heinert had back-up from his District 27 House-mate Rep. Kevin Killer, District 21 Senator Billie Sutton, Jay Gilbertson of East Dakota Water Development District, Sabrina King of Dakota Rural Action, and Paul Lepisto of the Izaak Walton League. They all said what Rep. Heinert summarized in one Lakota phrase: mni wiconi—water is life.

Then the opponents spoke. Larry Mann, usually a lobbyist of speaking for himself today, said HCR 1025's "reaffirmation" of South Dakota's commitment to clean water differs significantly from current policy. Odd: the three Whereas clauses of HCR 1025 addressing public policy come verbatim from SDCL 34A-2-1, which gives the general declaration of the state's water pollution control policies. You cannot differ less from current policy than to state current policy.

Hot Springs uranium mining promoter Mark Hollenbeck complained that HCR 1025 omits the word "mining." But again, the clause in question, "it is the public policy of this state to conserve the waters of the state and to protect, maintain, and improve the quality thereof for water supplies; for the propagation of wildlife, fish, and aquatic life; and for domestic, agricultural, industrial, recreational, and other legitimate uses..." comes directly from SDCL 34A-2-1.

Angela Ehlers of the South Dakota Association of Conservation Districts complained that HCR 1025 adds the word "legitimate" while "beneficial" is the statutory term that has guided South Dakota water policy for over 40 years. One more time, read the statute that HCR 1025 reaffirms: SDCL 34A-2-1 uses the word "legitimate" three times. "Beneficial" appears twice, next to "legitimate" both times.

Senator Ernie Otten of Tea moaned about the resolution not following the rules, even though the Legislature's Joint Rule 6A-1(2) says a concurrent resolution "shall express opinions and principles of the Legislature not having the force of law." HCR 1025 fits that rule just fine.

But remember, this is just a resolution. Up or down, when the vote is done, water is no cleaner or dirtier.

HCR 1025 went down 2–5. Time to confirm Scott Vance to the Brand Board and get some lunch, right?

Heck no. Eager to give conservationists a 1-2 punch, Senator Larry Rhoden decide to hoghouse HCR 1025 into a soapbox for Senator Dan Lederman's falsehood-based crusade against the Niobrara-Ponca Conservation plan.

I've worked hard to explain in previous posts that the National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will do the prairie some real good with the Niobrara-Ponca plan. Folks who know more about Niobrara-Ponca than I might have enjoyed the chance to offer an even better explanation to the committee. But Senators Rhoden and Lederman used the surprise hoghouse to deny Niobrara-Ponca supporters that opportunity. Senator Lederman presented his grandstanding propaganda unchecked.

Note that committee chair Shantel Krebs broke committee protocol by allowing Senator Lederman, who is not a member of the committee, to take the floor and present on his substitute resolution long after she had closed HCR 1025 to further comment from non-committee members. Note that Joint Rule 7-1.5 requires a two-thirds majority of committee members to bring up any issue not posted on the committee agenda, and Niobrara-Ponca was not anywhere on that agenda.

Rep. Heinert called Senator Lederman's hoghouse "the biggest slap in the face I've ever had since I've been up here." Senator Rhoden tried to assure Rep. Heinert that he intended no disrespect. Everyone else on the committee voted to table the whole HCR 1025 mess and move on.

Meanwhile, our water is still at risk from intense ag-industrial development in East River and proposals to mine uranium and silica sand in West River. We can't get our Legislature to even say that, let alone do anything about it.


I keep hearing from Pat Powers how important pheasant hunting is to our Governor.

If that were the case, maybe he wouldn't invite a bunch of slob-hunter cronies out to waste a bunch of good pheasant meat:

Imagine a dumpster full of pheasant carcasses with just the breasts cut out. That’s what my friend found after the governor’s hunt back in October, behind the processing place in Fort Pierre that handles the birds.

My friend is loathe to waste anything on a fine-tasting game bird like a pheasant. So he was upset about that. Still is. He thinks it was a terrible waste that didn’t reflect well on the state’s high-profile ringneck hunt or the state Game, Fish & Parks Department’s involvement in it [Kevin Woster, "Wanton Waste on the Governor's Hunt? Well...," Outdoors in KELOLand, 2013.12.30].

I have no problem with events that bring visitors to enjoy the natural wonders of our fair state. I don't even mind if the Governor uses such events to entertain rich folks and make business connections. But if you shooters have time to schmooze and booze with the well-connected, you have time to pluck and gut and eat what you shoot. That's simple conservation and respect for the land that makes the hunt possible and sustainable.


An eager reader makes a fascinating connection between power use and ALEC. As I noted yesterday from Barbara Sogn-Frank's excellent column, the American Legislative Exchange Council is working on behalf of Big Oil, Big Coal, and other members of the Koch Kartel to prevent citizens from adopting small-scale renewable energy. This push to keep citizens dependent on corporate energy sources comes as household energy usage is dropping:

According to the Energy Information Administration, power usage is on track to decline this year for the third year in a row. And there are a couple of reasons for that. For one thing, as energy prices rose in the early 2000s, more states adopted or toughened building codes, making builders seal homes better.

Bigger appliances like refrigerators and air conditions have become more efficient, thanks to federal energy standards that get stricter every year. According to manufacturers, a typical room air conditioner uses 20 percent less electricity than it did in 2001. Some TVs use 80 percent less power than similar units in the past. And incandescent light bulbs are being replaced with fluorescent bulbs and LEDs that use 70 to 80 percent less power.

And then there's the switch from computers to laptops, tablets and smart phones. The Electric Power Research Institute says it costs more than $28 to power a desktop for a year -- as opposed to $1.36 to power an iPad ["Home Electricity Use in U.S. Falling to 2001 Levels," AP via, 2013.12.30].

Hmmm... maybe I need to ditch my balky Toshiba laptop and get a keyboard for my Galaxy tablet....

A combination of smart regulation, smart consumers, and smart technology are helping us conserve energy. Burning less oil and coal now means our supplies of those resources last longer. The only thing wrong with that plan is that the ALEC-Koch crowd doesn't make as much money.

But rather than acting like good capitalists and offering new and improved goods and services to a changing marketplace, the Koch brothers want to use government to prevent consumers from making choices that hurt Big Oil and Big Coal's profits. Hence, ALEC co-opts South Dakota legislators to attack renewables and conservation.

It spins the mind that an organization dedicated to "free-market enterprise, limited government, and federalism" really wants government intervention on its behalf. But such black-is-white rhetoric and tactics are the classic tools of corporate fascists and totalitarians dedicated not to truth or principle but to the preservation of their own power.


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