House State Affairs gave short shrift to Rep. Steve Hickey's (R-9/Sioux Falls) House Bill 1086 Wednesday. Rep. Hickey wants the Legislature to spend the summer studying what it would do in case of a national economic collapse that would leave South Dakota without the federal aid on which it depends for nearly 40% of its budget. The committee listened for a few minutes, then killed the bill, 12–1. (Rep. Hickey's only ally: Rep. Scott Munsterman, R-7/Brookings, who may also believe a Long Economic Winter, if not The End, is nigh.)

Rep. Mike Verchio (R-30/Hill City) voted to kill HB 1086. In a Facebook conversation, Rep. Verchio tells the good Hickey that the Legislature has "much bigger issues to cover"...

...issues like those covered by the five bills Rep. Verchio is prime-sponsoring:

  1. HB 1112 to nudge up county power to restrict fireworks (how very Republican).
  2. HJR 1002 asking President Obama to pardon Peter L. Larson, dinosaur hunter.
  3. SB 79 to exempt all trailers from the county wheel tax... at a time when counties desperately need revenue to fix their roads.
  4. SB 107 to fiddle with the statutory language on drivers' learners permits. increase the period an instructor permit is valid and to revise the requirements to upgrade to an operator's licence or a restricted minor's permit.
  5. SB 152 in pork for his home district to fight an arguably unwinnable battle against pine beetles, who are simply nature's response to our mixed-up forest priorities.

Much bigger issues? Maybe. I'm curious, though: how does one determine what constitutes a greater priority for the Legislature? Are there principles one can apply... or do we just trot out that line about "much bigger issues" to dismiss conversations we find too complicated or unpleasant to have?


Josie Weiland, senior at Stevens High School, challenged legislators to defend Senate Bill 128 at a Rapid City crackerbarrel yesterday. SB 128 is Senator Phil Jensen's (R-33/Rapid City) effort to pervert the First Amendment into permission to deny others' civil rights, not to mention nullify federal law and subjugate the judicial branch to the legislative branch.

Here is Weiland's challenge to the attending legislators and to all South Dakotans:

Senate Bill 128 is an unproductive act of discrimination that allows for social oppression of the LGBT community, and is a clear violation of human dignity. It violates John Locke's social contract, which is the very foundation of the U.S. Constitution, which states: every person is entitled to the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of happiness, unless the individual takes another individual's unalienable rights away. The bill fails to give warrant as to how this will actually be benefiting South Dakota and is a poor reflection of our elected officials to be focusing time on creating bills that disconnect our communities and serve to maintain oppression. It is certainly not allowing "liberty and justice for all". Our elected leaders should allocate our time and money into issues that actually benefit the community such as Common Core and expansion of Medicaid. THESE are issues that should be prioritized. The Republican Party and sponsors of this bill want less government involvement, so please, what is the justification behind THIS exemption? [Josie Weiland, crackerbarrel, School of Mines, Rapid City, 2014.02.01].

Mention John Locke, and you're sailing over most legislators' heads. Here's how Senator Jensen responded:

Senate Bill 128 is an anti-bullying free speech bill. We've all heard recently Colorado had a bake shop, cake shop, cake decorating business that they refused on their convictions, their religious beliefs to not provide a wedding cake for a gay couple. Well, you'd think that the Constitution would protect these folks from lawsuits and harassment, but they're going through the wringer on this thing.

This bill is just a proactive bill that will protect businesses and individuals from the bullying by the anti-straight folks... [Senator Phill Jensen, crackerbarrel, 2014.02.01].

At this point, members of the audience laughed. Weiland did not. Sounding incredulous at the absurdity of the adult at the front of the room, she interrupted:

Excuse me, anti-straight folks? This is a proactive bill that decreases bullying? [Weiland, 2014.02.01]

Weiland understands Senator Jensen is offering unabashed GOP Newspeak. SB 128 grants bigots legal protection for straight bigots to engage in verbal and economic bullying against homosexuals. It also protects gays who would bully straights in the same way. SB 128 itself is bullying.

Senator Jensen plowed ahead, without acknowledging Weiland any more than he had in his opening words:

The Attorney General happened to send me an email that said we're going to have to modify section 4 to read that the AG shall defend the constitutionality of sections 1 and 2 of this act as authorized by law. Otherwise [inaudible] authoroty issue and a fiscal impact issue [Jensen, 2014.02.01].

Senator Jensen is referring to the current wording of SB 128, which would require the Attorney General to defend bigots in court at taxpayer expense. AG Marty Jackley appears unconcerned about bullying and civil rights, but at least he's watching out for his office's budget.

Senator Jensen's "response" drew disheartening applause. So did the following statement by Rep. Mike Verchio (R-30/Hill City):

My stance on all of this is that I would like to have everyone who wants repsect for their values and their causes to have the same respect for my values and my causes. Because I am a very proud Christian conservative and follow the teachings of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ™ does not make me a bigot, and I object to people who think I am a bigot [Rep. Mike Verchio, 2014.02.01].

Being proud, Christian, conservative, or a follower of Jesus does not make anyone a bigot or a bully. Acting like Senator Jensen and Rep. Verchio does. Weiland understands that difference. She offers this rebuttal online:

I never mentioned the word Christianity or bigot in my speech and neither of them answered my question, or gave warrant as to how they were upholding the name of "Christianity". Now the responses from the gentleman were so un-Christlike, I have a hard time getting myself to see the other side. I got extremely emotional after all of this because I realized that this is ACTUALLY how these men think. I am extremely appalled and disgusted by this bill, and would encourage you all to do something about it too! [Josie Weiland, Facebook post, 2014.02.01]

Weiland tried to do something more about it after the crackerbarrel. She tried talking logic face to face with her Senator. She found it rather difficult:

After the meeting, I tried to confront Sen. Jensen about his bill, and after chasing him down for a while (because he was literally running away) I caught up to him. I asked him this: "Based on the premise of this bill (free speech), you wouldn't object to a bill that protected business owners from legal suit if they chose to deny Christians services?"

He told me he didn't know what I meant and started quickly walking away. So I told him to replace the words "sexual orientation" with Christianity in his bill, and according to the warrants of it, he would thereby have to agree.

Instead, he didn't say anything.

So I called him out and said "You're just going to ignore this? Ignore the public opinion?" (after all, I am in his district) He replied, "I suppose I am just going to ignore it." The worst thing about all of this? Sen Phil Jensen of District 33 runs unopposed [Weiland, online, 2014.02.01].

Weiland turns 18 this year. She's still too young to run against Senator Jensen (got to be 21 to serve in Pierre), but she will get to vote against him, and get her friends to vote against him, if some brave Democrat from District 33 will give her the chance.


So the Displaced Plainsman noticed last week that Rep. Mike Verchio (R-30/Hill City) was kicking up a fuss about Agenda 21 in the Custer paper. Rep. Verchio was complaining that his fellow legislators failed to do anything substantive against the conspiracy he and modern John Birchers think the United Nations is waging against us:

Verchio said HCR 1008 is well-meaning, but is “useless because it is toothless.” HB 1190, which failed in the Senate State Affairs Committee Feb. 15, would have had the force of law behind it.

“It prohibited the State of South Dakota and its political subdivisions from adopting any Agenda 21 policies,” he said. “This may lead us down the slippery slope and bears watching at the state, county, township, city and town level. I hope we can bring it back next session” [Jason Ferguson, "Legislators Concerned about Agenda 21," Custer County Chronicle, 2013.03.14].

That's funny: Rep. Verchio says HB 1190 would have done what he says needs to be done about this conspiracy he imagines. But if you check the House State Affairs committee roll call vote from February 15, you will see that Rep. Verchio voted to kill HB 1190.

Don't ask me to make sense of either Verchio's vote or subsequent statements. Expecting sense from anyone perpetrating the Agenda 21 myth is a fool's errand.


The Displaced Plainsman finds Rep. Mike Verchio (R-30/Hill City) flecking John Birch spittle all over the Custer County Chronicle about Agenda 21, the non-binding United Nations document created in 1992 to offer guidelines for countries trying not to die from environmental degradation. Rep. Verchio, like other Birchers and nutcases with too much time on their hands, thinks Agenda 21 is a nefarious United Nations plot to turn us into Soylent Green.

Rep. Verchio says he's disappointed that all the Legislature did about Agenda 21 is pass the "useless" and "toothless" House Concurrent Resolution 1008, a silly measure by which big majorities of both chambers of our Legislature declare combatting poverty and pollution "destructive and insidious". Rep. Verchio says he wants real legislation, something like this year's HB 1190, which would have forbidden South Dakota governments from acting Agenda 21-ish.

Mike Verchio and Bruce Rampelberg, the Tinfoil Twins

Mike Verchio and Bruce Rampelberg, the Tinfoil Twins

Senator Bruce Rampelberg (R-30/Rapid City) joins the madness as well, telling the Custer County Chronicle that Agenda 21 ideas like walkable cities, urban housing, resource conservation, and decisions made for the greater good are all evil. But read carefully: in neither the Custer article nor in HCR 1008 do we hear one specific example of South Dakota state or local government implementing one specific policy that (a) can be tied directly to the Rio 1992 UN document or (b) has done harm to a single specific South Dakotan.

The Displaced Plainsman aptly skewers Verchio, Rampelberg, and the rest of the tinfoil hat club by pointing to Rob Sisson, former mayor of Sturgis, Michigan. Sisson says he implemented sustainable development policies to lower costs and conserve resources. That's real conservatism, not the baseless, time-wasting conspiracy theory with which Representative Verchio and Senator Rampelberg are embarrassing their district and the state of South Dakota.


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