I would say Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) is pushing hard for the youth minimum wage, but that might exaggerate the forcefulness with which David Novstrup legislates. When David talks about Senate Bill 177, he sounds less like a man speaking from conviction and more like a boy told by his dad Al, "Son, here's a bill to keep our profits up at Thunder Road. Get everyone to vote for it, and I'll raise your allowance."

But neither David nor Al has to work too hard on this child labor law. They have Republicans itching to undo the annoying will of the people, and the youth minimum wage is the perfect angle from which to pee on our populist parade. Senator Novstrup gets to appeal to the disrespect for young people that is all too prevalent among business and legislative leaders. He offers his business pals a chance to save money. And he gets to stick it to people who can't vote or even circulate petitions (see SDCL 12-1-3(9)) to refer the youth minimum wage to a vote, if it becomes law.

But you know, Democrats, if we're looking for a way to engage young voters and soon-to-be voters, maybe we should use Senator Novstrup's attack on young workers' rights as our number-one organizing tool. If we can't stop the Republican supermajorities from passing SB 177, maybe we refer the youth minimum wage to a public vote. We get moms and dads to circulate petitions with their working teenage sons and daughters: Mom and Dad hold the clipboard and sign the oath, but the kids make their case for workplace equality. We promote Young Dems rallies across the state where industrious youth can talk about trying to raise money for college to keep themselves and their parents out of debt. We hand the kids flyers with pictures of fun-park operators Dave and Al and the rest of the Republicans and tell the kids to tell their friends, "If they have R's in front of their name, they voted to cut our paychecks 11%." And when November 2016 comes, we get them to bring all of their voting-age friends to the polls to vote against the youth minimum wage and against everyone who voted for it.

It would be preferable to save all that effort, mobilize a big youth turnout at the Legislature next week, and kill Senate Bill 177 now. But if SB 177 passes, we should refer it. That referendum would show Republicans that we voters really are the boss. A referendum on the youth minimum wage would also help teach young voters and future voters that politics is about vital pocketbook issues that demand their attention.


Four bills aimed at reducing or eliminating the use of the death penalty in South Dakota await our Legislature's attention:

  1. Senate Bill 121 would repeal the death penalty in all future cases.
  2. SB 122 would continge issuance of a death sentence on "a finding that the defendant is too dangerous to be incarcerated and is an ongoing danger to the public and the prison community."
  3. House Bill 1158 would require that evidence that the victim or victim's family opposed the death penalty be presented at the presentence hearing in any capital case.
  4. HB 1159 would create a database of citizens who would declare, "Should I die as a result of a violent crime, it is my wish that no person found guilty of homicide for my killing be subject to a death sentence." Citizens would register themselves in this database on their driver's license applications.

If you're looking for support for those bills, don't look to the six legislators who appeared at Aberdeen's crackerbarrel on Saturday. None committed to support any of those bills. The lone Democrat on the panel, District 1 Senator Jason Frerichs of Wilmot, hinted that he might support SB 122, the added sentencing guideline, since one of the sponsors, rookie Senator Arthur Rusch (R-17/Vermillion), sentenced Donald Moeller to death in 1997, but Sen. Frerichs only said he hopes SB 122 comes to the floor for debate. His comments make clear that even he believes we should kill some criminals.

Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) said he can't find any Biblical reason not to kill criminals. His mom, Rep. Lana Greenfield (R-2/Doland) vaguely referenced Barabbas but said it's o.k. to kill criminals who brag about enjoying prison (no, really, that's the story she told!). Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) said he voted against last year's death penalty repeal but doesn't know how he'll vote this year. His dad, Rep. Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen), misrepresented SB 122 as a ban on the death penalty, then invoked the Charlie Hebdo killings and the Chester Poage murder (for the record, Al, even I, who was outraged at the jihadis who killed the French cartoonists, would rather those killers had been put in prison, not killed) to justify his position "not that I support the death penalty, but I support the opportunity for the death penalty." Preferring clarity and brevity, Rep. Dan Kaiser (R-3/Aberdeen) said he'll vote against these bills.

Here are the full remarks. The speakers, in order, are Sen. Greenfield, Sen. Frerichs, Sen. Novstrup, Rep. Novstrup, Rep. Greenfield, and Rep. Kaiser.

Notice that three of the speakers—the Greenfields and the younger Novstrup—wrung their hands over the difficult, emotional nature of votes on the death penalty. Get a grip, Brock, Lana, and David. This is government, not Dr. Phil. We understand you face all sorts of hard decisions. That's what we pay you the big bucks to do.

Rep. Dan Kaiser is wrong, but I at least respect him for sparing us the emotional showing-off and simply stating his policy position. Similarly, Senator Frerichs is hedging, but he at least focused on a direct discussion of the policy, not his personal emotions.


Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) told his Aberdeen crackerbarrel audience yesterday that the education task force proposed by Governor Dennis Daugaard will be very different from previous legislative summer studies that have dealt with school finance and teacher pay:

Hmmm... how many summer studies has the Legislature done on education?

  1. 2013: The Interim Education Funding Formula Study Committee recommended five bills and two resolutions (HB 1001, HB 1002, HB 1003, HB 1004, HB 1005, HCR 1001, and HCR 1002). The Legislature rejected all five bills in committee. 17 Republicans, including then-Rep. Novstrup, couldn't stomach even the meager resolution acknowledging the existence of a teacher shortage.
  2. Nine legislators oversaw a Department of Education School Finance Study in 2005 and 2006. I didn't notice South Dakota's teacher pay ranking go up.
  3. 2004: Legislators spent the summer conducting an agency review of the Department of Education. They talked about No Child Left Behind but recommended no legislation.
  4. 2003: The Legislature empaneled the School District Educational Equality and Organization Committee. The 2004 Legislature passed two of the four bills (aye: HB 1001 and HB 1003; nay: HB 1002 and HB 1004) proposed by the interim committee, neither of which provided schools with more resources.
  5. 2002: The School Finance Committee heard the widespread perception that state aid to education was too low. Two bills recommended by this committee (HB 1001 and SB 6) to increase state aid to education, along with several other independently submitted proposals, failed in the 2003 Session.
  6. 2002: The Teacher Enhancement Review Committee met to dig deeper into a bill proposed in the 2002 Session by Rep. Matt McCaulley to fund merit pay for "master teachers." The committee proposed a similar bill to give performance bonuses of $1,000 to $6,000; the 2003 bill died in committee.
  7. 2001: The Teacher Credentialing and Compensation Committee heard that there was little if any national evidence to show that performance pay works. The committee recommended a mentor program for teachers (SB 5—passed!), funding for counselors in every school (SB 6—failed), and full tuition reimbursement for teachers who served in critical needs fields in South Dakota for ten years (HB 1004—failed).
  8. I also find summer study committees on education and school finance meeting in 2000, 1999, and 1998.

Ten summer studies in seventeen years, bringing all sorts of education professionals and policymakers to the table have not budged South Dakota's dubious distinction as the state that values teachers least. Senator Novstrup, do you really think that another summer study is going to tell you anything you don't already know or, more importantly, change your attitude and make you vote to spend the money it takes to end South Dakota's denigration of the the teaching profession?

That said, if this eleventh summer study really will distinguish itself, count me in! Put me on the committee to represent parents and teachers. I'll be glad to help you make the difference that ten preceding summer gabfests have not.


Legislators have said at Spearfish crackerbarrels and elsewhere that the 2013 Session has been marked by significantly more comity than the 2012 session. Our elected officials are just trying to get along.

Messrs. Montgomery and Mercer note that whatever comity may have broken out this year hasn't helped the legislators reach a final budget any more smoothly. Our legislators may have to work Saturday to hammer out their differences over how much money they think we're sending them to spend.

Meanwhile, I turn to one small personal story that suggests not everyone in Pierre is playing nicely. A circumspect reader in Pierre says that after what appears to have been a contentious GOP caucus meeting, Rep. David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) came out nipping at Rep. Stace Nelson's (R-19/Fulton) heels. Novstrup followed Nelson to Nelson's seat on the House floor rather forcefully denouncing Nelson's lack of support for the Speaker and the GOP leadership.

Believe it or not, Nelson appears not to have threatened to eat Novstrup alive; Nelson's sternest words to his Republican colleague appear to have been along the lines of "Get the hell away from me." This confrontation ended when another legislator intervened and encouraged Novstrup to back off. It sounds like a couple of fellas are ready to be home.

In related news, Rep. Nelson's dissent on Senate Bill 235 has indeed been printed in today's House Journal. SB 235, the omnibus economic development bill that Nelson and a few colleagues consider unconstitutional, came out of conference committee and passed both chambers with only single-digit nays. The House and Senate will rush through more decisions tomorrow... and possibly Saturday.


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