In gun news, while deferring action on House Bill 1206, the controversial concealed-weapons-on-campus bill, the South Dakota House rejected House Bill 1183, which would have allowed concealed weapons in the State Capitol.

During floor debate on HB 1183, Rep. Lana Greenfield (R-2/Doland) told a startling story that she said crystallized her feelings on guns and this bill. She said that, back in the 1970s, when she had taken a new teaching job, a student told her that, during a family visit to the Capitol one summer Sunday, he and his family had been taken captive by a man with a knife. She said a former Capitol employee later told her he remembered that incident.

It appears Rep. Greenfield was referring to this 1975 incident:

On October 26, 1975, the Glenn Arneson family of Hayti, South Dakota, visited the State Capitol at Pierre. While touring the Capitol Building, Mr. and Mrs. Arneson and their youngest child were confronted in an open hallway on the fourth floor by petitioner [Romeo Tony Eaglehorse] and another man, Robert Stein. After asking the Arnesons if there were any other people in the building, petitioner pulled a knife and demanded money from them. Mr. Arneson complied, giving him $20.00. Petitioner then demanded that the Arnesons gather the rest of their family, including two other children who had run ahead, and forced them at knife point to a secluded room on fourth floor, blocking the only exit from that room. Petitioner again demanded money, ordering the Arnesons to place all their money on a table. Petitioner then proceeded to torment the members of the family, starting with the youngest child, an eight-year-old girl. He picked her up by the hair, held the knife to her throat, and demanded that she give him her money. After demanding photos of the family, petitioner threatened to kill them if they ever informed the authorities of what had happened. Petitioner continued to torment the family by holding the knife to Mr. Arneson's *330 neck and asking the rest of the family if they would like to watch him die. Petitioner told the Arnesons that he, petitioner, was a killer, and forced the parents to drink vodka from a bottle with him. He also threatened to cut the eight-year-old girl's eyes out with his knife. After leaving for a few minutes, petitioner returned and grabbed Mrs. Arneson. At this time Mr. Arneson was able to strike petitioner with the vodka bottle, allowing the family to run to safety. All told, the Arnesons were held in the room at knife point for from forty-five minutes to an hour after Mr. Arneson first gave petitioner the $20.00 in the hallway [Eaglehorse v. South Dakota, 1979].

Now Rep. Greenfield didn't connect the dots for us. She didn't explain how this incident of crime 40 years ago justifies allowing us to walk around our Temple of Democracy and Civilization with firearms tucked in our britches. The point of her anecdote seemed to be simply to arouse fear.

One violent crime forty years ago. Hmmm... sounds to me as if the Capitol Building is one of the safest places a person could be.

But let's look at the incident Rep. Greenfield cited in the context of the bill she was advocating. The Arnesons were on a family visit. They likely did not anticipate trouble. There is no indication that Mr. Arneson or his wife held concealed weapons permits or had said on their way into the building, "There might be danger here, but the law says we have to leave our guns in the car."

Had HB 1183 been in effect, would the Arnesons have been armed? Had they been concealedly armed (which is what HB 1183 envisions), would Eaglehorse not have pulled that knife? When Eaglehorse pulled the knife, would Mr. or Mrs. Arneson have been able to execute a quick draw before Eaglehorse could do harm?

And would the presence of a gun have produced any different result from what really happened: Mr. Arneson grabs the vodka bottle, whacks the bad guy, and gets his family out to safety. No one but the bad guy is hurt, and the authorities arrest Eaglehorse and Stein, without shooting anyone.

Your story is plenty scary, Rep. Greenfield, but you failed to explain how it logically defends the policy position you advocated. Fortunately, this time, faulty logic and faulty gun policy did not prevail in the Legislature.

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Last week, District 2 Reps. Lana Greenfield (R-2/Doland) and Burt Tulson (R-2/Lake Norden) both bucked the GOP leadership and voted for House Bill 1216, a measure proposed by Democratic Rep. Dennis Feickert (D-1/Aberdeen) to lift the cap on annual property tax increases. HB 1216 would have wrought a historic change in Janklow-era tax reform. Governor Dennis Daugaard opposed it, and the Republican majority killed it last week Wednesday.

At the Presidents' Day crackerbarrel at the Redfield Depot, Reps. Tulson and Greenfield responded to concerns from Spink County Sheriff Kevin Schurch and a Spink County Commissioner about jail costs by referring to their vote for HB 1216 as an effort to help counties get money to take care of such needs. Both Tulson and Greenfield criticized their Legislature for talking the talk but not walking the walk on local control:

Key comments:

Rep. Tulson: "I was a county commissioner, and many of you here have been there, or township board people. I trust you. You are not going to tax yourself unless you really see a need, not a want, but a need. I trust you, but... I don't know where it comes from, the trust that you guys couldn't do and make that decision yourself doesn't seem to be there in the Legislature."

Rep. Greenfield: "We always are so concerned about saying we need to have you manage it locally, and then we try to micromanage by voting for things that strap you.... I was disappointed that that cap didn't come off. It doesn't show much faith or trust in the local people" [crackerbarrel, Redfield, South Dakota, 2015.02.16].

It's not just me: even faithful Republicans like Reps. Tulson and Greenfield recognize that the talk of local control in the Capitol is a sham. The Republican majority doesn't trust local leaders to spend real money to fund basic government needs.

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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.

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I didn't set out this week to pick on Representative-Elect Lana Greenfield, but her own words are making it clear she will make for easy blogging with her own burbling of GOP propaganda and sloppy thinking.

KELO reports that even Northern State, which produces more new K-12 teachers than any other South Dakota campus, isn't keeping up with market needs:

"It's always difficult to increase the number of majors in the hard-to-find areas," said Connie Geier, NSU School of Education Dean.

With education major numbers overall relatively steady in recent years, Geier wants to see an increase. Numbers vary from year to year, but there are about 20 percent fewer teacher major graduates now than there were 10 to 20 years ago, Geier said.

"We've been larger than this in the past and that would be a healthy growth for us," Geier said.

That could also be healthy growth for education in the state based on information the university receives from schools across South Dakota [Erich Schaffhauser, "NSU Teacher Program Holding Steady, Wants Growth," KELOLand.com, 2014.12.05].

Rep.-Elect Greenfield joins the conversation in the KELO-Facebook comment section, which thrills me. All legislators should be willing to interact with the people they serve in online public forums. If nothing else, such online interaction gives us a chance to swiftly correct our legislators when they are wrong:

When the argument is posed that our teaching graduates are leaving the state for higher pay, it can be countered with this article. There seems to be a lack of interest in going into the teaching field...period. We need to turn this around, but the question is HOW [Lana Greenfield, comment, KELOLand.com, 2014.12.04].

O, Lana, dear Lana. There is nothing in this article that counters the fact that your soon-to-be fellow Republican legislators, including your son Brock, have exacerbated South Dakota's teacher shortage by throttling K-12 funding for decades. It does nothing to counter the fact, to which every superintendent in this state but Joe Graves will attest, that teachers are leaving South Dakota for states that pay more.

This report actually shows another problem with the Legislature's ongoing neglect of education: salaries aren't high enough to keep existing teachers or to entice enough replacements into the field. The last line of the article has Dean Geier telling Greenfield HOW to turn the teacher shortage around [in Schaffhauser's paraphrase]: "increased teacher pay in South Dakota would help draw more students to the profession."

Rep.-Elect Greenfield is apparently so desperate to excuse her party's disresepect of her former profession that she will ignore the prima facie import of a simple news report. Rep.-Elect Greenfield, can you keep up that willful ignorance for two years, or would you like to amend your remarks and your worldview and use your voter-given authority to look for real solutions to South Dakota's teacher shortage?

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South Dakota teachers lost a fine advocate in the Legislature with the defeat of District 4 Democrat Rep. Kathy Tyler. One could hope that voters in neighboring District 2 have compensated for that loss by electing 37-year teacher Lana Greenfield to the House. Alas, Greenfield's a Republican, so scratch that hope.

As revealed in a "nice" Aberdeen American News interview, Representative-Elect Greenfield has already internalized the party-line excuses for Legislative inaction and irresponsibility.

Greenfield acknowledges there's a teacher shortage but rejects the obvious rational solution of paying teachers more:

An increase in pay may not be the only thing needed to draw teachers to South Dakota, Greenfield said.

“I just don’t think that’s workable as far as enticing our students into getting into the (teaching) profession,” Greenfield said. “Of course, I want the teachers to have a raise. Of course, I think that they work too hard, and if there are monies, I think that money should be specifically earmarked when it’s sent to the schools for the teachers” [Katherine Grandstrand, "Former Teacher Ready for Legislative Position," Aberdeen American News, 2014.11.30].

"If there are monies"—as if those monies appear out of thin air, independent of the appropriative decisions of legislators.

Offer more money, and you'll get more teaching candidates. The only reason that's not workable is that legislators like Rep.-Elect Greenfield throw up their hands in despair and declare themselves powerless to find the money to make those raises possible.

Greenfield perpetuates the guilt trip that teaching is about love, not money:

But money is rarely the bottom line for teachers, Greenfield said.

“More teachers that I know are worried about the outcomes of their profession rather than their income,” Greenfield said. “I loved teaching and looked forward to it every day. I loved the students and staff. In a small school, you get along as a family” [Grandstrand, 2014.11.30].

Got that, teachers? You don't worry about your income, do you? Selfless service to a family is what you're all about, right? And if you're not, well, what kind of a greedy monster are you?

Of course, Rep.-Elect Greenfield can't keep her own extemporaneous bromides straight. One moment, she says the Legislature is a "business," "not a dog-and-pony show." The next she's making entirely unbusinesslike pronouncements in favor of continued inefficiency:

With a majority of South Dakota’s schools in small towns, keeping those small schools open is important not only for the students, but for the community.

“The school is the center of the society in a small town. There’s so many activities that take place that are school-centered,” Greenfield said. “People go there for Snow Queen contests, PTO carnivals, plays, music concerts; it’s a gathering place.”

The ruralness of the state adds another hurdle in attracting teachers to South Dakota.

“I’m worried because I’m afraid that, with the shortage of teachers across the nation, the last thing I want to see is our small schools having to shut down and give way to larger schools that have more crowded class conditions just for the sake of filling them with a math teacher,” Greenfield said [Grandstrand, 2014.11.30].

Hold on. I understand Greenfield's effort to tell teachers that life is more than money. I appreciate her willingness to argue that keeping small rural schools open should be about more than money. But how is that at all businesslike thinking? And if Greenfield is willing to so regularly overthrow concerns about money in favor of greater issues, why does she not apply the same expectation to taxpayers and legislators? Why does she not march to Pierre and say, "There are more important things than leaving money in the pockets of our wealthiest citizens. We need to spend our money to pay teachers the raises that we all think they deserve for their selfless service. We need to pay more taxes so that every one of those rural schools doesn't just survive but thrives!"

But there I go expecting consistent and conscientious policy formulations from Republican legislators. Silly me. Rep.-Elect Greenfield isn't really formulating policy. She's just marking time until she gets to Pierre, where she will faithfully carry out the orders of a stingy, anti-education GOP leadership, which she will frost with sugary word confections for the voters back home.

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