I might find South Dakota's religious right wing more tolerable if they'd stop bullying our LGBT neighbors and kids and get back to saying crazy stuff about sustainability and Agenda 21.

Here, wingnut friends, look at the Green Aberdeen project that Ipswich United Church of Christ Pastor Enno Limvere is promoting:

Green Aberdeen will concentrate on community action, education and advocacy, he said.

The group plans to take on projects, such as cleaning up along Moccasin Creek, Limvere said. It will also look to educate people about climate change and what they can do to help. As for advocacy, he said, Green Aberdeen will check into things, such as why the present city recycling program doesn’t accept glass.

The goal, he said, is to make Aberdeen a more sustainable community.

“Burlington, Vt., is now 100 percent renewable energy,” he said. “We could come up with 25-50 percent” [Elisa Sand, "Green Aberdeen Advocates Increased Sustainability," Aberdeen American News, 2015.03.03].

Hear hear on the glass recycling! There are practical economic reasons cities may decline to collect glass, but nothing that separate bins can't solve!

Limvere's plan sounds good, but then he tips his globalist hand:

Limvere said global change will require the support of the United Nations, but individual communities are already rising up to make a difference.

“There are communities that are bagless,” Limvere said, explaining that customers at stores bring their own reusable shopping bags.

On a much smaller scale, he said, people can simply make a conscious effort to use less energy. And that can start with simply unplugging charger cords from outlets. Because those chargers, even when a phone isn’t plugged in, will still use electricity.

“We’re making goals for 2030,” he said. “It’s about sustainability. How can we live as a community so we’re not just adding to the dump site” [Sand, 2015.03.03].

United Nations?!? Aaaaaahhh! Pastor Enno is calling in the UN to take away our plastic bags and ration our phone time!

Pastor Enno's plans sound much more fun than picking on transgender kids. Come to Green Aberdeen's next meeting—Monday, March 16, 7 p.m., downtown at the Red Rooster here in Aberdeen—and see what you can do to make Aberdeen greener. Blue helmets are optional.

4 comments

South Dakota Democratic Party vice-chairman Joe Lowe is organizing a big West River town hall meeting next month for all folks interested in building a winning Democratic Party.

Party chair Ann Tornberg will lay out her vision for the SDDP. Tornberg and Lowe will present results of a statewide survey of party members and to hear the concerns and recommendations of West River Democrats. I'll even drop in, review the 2015 Legislative Session, and call for all good Dems to give Republicans a good butt-kicking in 2016.

Admission, refreshments, and discussion are free, but the party welcomes donations alongside ideas any time.

8 comments

The South Dakota House showed a little common sense yesterday and killed House Bill 1206, which would have allowed individuals to carry concealed weapons on our public university campuses. But some Republicans couldn't let that happen without exposing their contempt for the university students from across the state who admirably mobilized, testified, and lobbied to kill this bill. Young voters, pay attention.

Rep. Scott Craig (R-33/Rapid City) rose to speak to the dying bill (around timestamp 1:09:30 in the SDPB audio). He said he could be inclined to vote against the bill, just because he thinks most college kids—not the righteous, upstanding youth whom he thinks would carry guns on campus, but all the rest of the kids—are drunk rapists:

I wish I saw an irate student body, the representatives of the student bodies in all of our universities and colleges, I wish they were irate about what is killing, not about what might or what could, which I think is a real stretch, but what is killing their peers right now. The date rape is just nuts. We have an out-of-control culture, period, and a big part of that is seen in a four-year party.

I am very concerned about that. Now I am not so concerned about students carrying guns on campus, given who I believe those students would be. At the same time, my concern about the current system, just the culture of college, it is a bar, in many respects it is like a bar, and it is against the law to bring a gun to a bar.

I voted yes for this in committee. I just might vote no on it simply because our young folks are out of control. There's a lot of drinking, and it's like bringing guns to a bar when you go to college [Rep. Scott Craig, floor debate on HB 1206, South Dakota House, Pierre, South Dakota, 2015.02.19].

Rep. Craig did vote to let students bring concealed weapons to their drunken four-year party.

HB 1206 sponsor Rep. Jim Stalzer (R-11/Sioux Falls) followed with his closing remarks. He said a fair amount of rot, but none more rotten than this blatant insult:

When I was in college, I actually had to go to class. I don't know how all these people are here today [Rep. Jim Stalzer, floor debate on HB 1206, South Dakota House, Pierre, South Dakota, 2015.02.19].

Rep. Stalzer chortled at his own comment, as did several of his colleagues. Stalzer and friends are laughing at you, students. They are ridiculing your effort to participate in the political process. They are ridiculing the sacrifice you made to miss class, drive three hours in the middle of winter, and try to persuade a bunch of people who apparently don't respect you to still vote in the interests of public safety on your campuses. They are ridiculing you, students, for daring to use your voice.

Young people, Republicans like Craig and Stalzer need to go. You need to remember these speeches made on the floor of the South Dakota House. You need to come out en masse to vote in 2016 and vote these men out of office.

p.s.: I remind you, students: every Democrat in the House voted against HB 1206. We Democrats don't talk about students that way. We Democrats respect your voice.

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Looking to grill your legislators this weekend? Here are the Presidents' Day Weekend events from the crackerbarrels I listed last Friday. Most events are Saturday, but Redfield holds a special Monday afternoon event:

  • Brandon, Saturday February 14th, 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM CST, Bethany Meadows Community Room
  • Newell, Saturday, February 14th - 9:00 am, NVN Center (120 3rd Street)
  • Piedmont (Foothills Area Cracker Barrel), Saturday, February 14th - 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm, American Legion Post 311
  • Redfield, Monday, February 16, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m., Redfield Depot. The Redfield Chamber has invited legislators from Districts 1, 2, 3, and 23.
  • WatertownSaturday, February 14th, 9:00 am - Watertown Winter Farm Show
9 comments

Senator Corey Brown (R-23/Gettysburg) does not lose gracefully. His Senate Bill 166 was a spiteful and crassly political ploy to weaken voters' right to legislate via initiative and referendum. The press blasted him, a variety of citizens and groups rose against SB 166, and numerous opponents trekked to Pierre yesterday to testify against this destructive bill yesterday.

A bigger man would have responded with a simple apology: I'm sorry. You're right. Senate Bill 166 is a bad idea. I withdraw the bill.

Senator Brown is a bigger something else. When Senate State Affairs finally reached SB 166, after opponents had waited through more than three hours of testimony and discussion in on other issues, Senator Brown took the mic, dismissed "the vast majority" of the opposition as thoughtless and impolite, and craftily tabled—not withdrew, but tabled—his bill before patient, thoughtful citizens had any chance to put their opposition on the record.

Senator Brown also misportrayed Senate Bill 166 as a sincere defense of the state constitution and continued his war against the initiative and referendum by threatening to take petitioners to court.

Here is Senator Brown's complete statement, for the record. All blockquotes are Brown's words, in my transcription. My translations, corrections, and commentary are inserted between blockquotes. This portion of the hearing begins at 3:12:36 on the SDPB audio.

You know, when we are elected, I think most of us take that very seriously and we come here to pierre with the idea that we're going to address problems and issues. Most of the colleagues that I've met here in the Legislature have a true interest in trying to find better ways forward or to take care of things that are deemed incorrect. We also take pretty seriously the oath to defend and support the constitution of the state [Senator Corey Brown, remarks on Senate Bill 166, Senate State Affairs Committee, 2015.02.06].

Translation: I'm awesome. I'm brave and noble. I would never propose a bill just to take away a democratic tool that citizens have used to challenge my party's political agenda and undo the things ALEC tells me to do. Never.

I realize that Senate Bill 166 has generated a lot of discussion.

Translation: I'm awesome for introducing such a thought-provoking bill.

Unfortunately I'd say the vast majority of that discussion has not been nearly as thoughtful as I would have hoped that it would have been.

Translation: People criticizing my awesome idea are clearly idiots.

Essentially we have an issue or at least I believe we do, and a lot of you have heard me speak to this, but I think South Dakota, as you know, was one of the first—it was the first state to allow for initiatied measures and referendums. And in the constitution, there was language that was put in there to talk about qualified electors, and that's what the petitions are supposed to be based off of. You can also turn to section... Article 7 in the constitution which talks about the definition of an elector. When you marry those two things up, I think we run into a third problem, and one of the pieces that really hasn't been discussed in this entire conversation has been the Supreme Court Case in 1994, which was Poppen v. Walker. Now that case didn't have anything to do with initiated measures or referendums. What it dealt with basically the gaming industry.

Poppen v. Walker found in 1994 that video lottery as then constituted was unconstitutional because the Legislature had created a gambling mechanism that did not conform to the court's constructed definition of the "lottery" authorized by popular vote in 1986.

Senator Brown commits supreme irony in turning for legal support to a case in which the Supreme Court ruled that the Legislature had violated a constitutional provision that had been approved by the people.

However, there was a major finding in that case that I think is critical to this discussion today. And I'll just read it to you. Basically the Supreme Court came back and said, "It is the duty of the Supreme Court not the Legislature to determine the meaning of constitutional terms."

Unfortunately, if you look at our state statute, the Legislature at one point adopted code very early in our statehood that tried to define what an elector was, and basically they said you needed to go back and take a look at the last election for Governor, and it will be based off a percentage of that.

Correction: the statute in question, SDCL 2-1-5, was enacted in 1939, fifty years after statehood, and amended in 1976. Neither date qualifies as "very early in our statehood."

The problem is we as a Legislature defined what those electors were, kind of contrary to what the constitution indicates.

Correction: The problem is that not one word of current statute is contrary to language in either of the constitutional provisions Senator Brown cites. Stay tuned: I'm working up a separate post dedicated to that topic.

As we go forward, and I should point out that... I don't know the exact reasoning for why that was put into place way back when, but I think, as it's been pointed out to me, when that was adopted, we were at a point in our state's history where when you registered to vote. you did it every two years. You had to come back in and re-register when the county would call that together, and unfortunately, I don't think the tracking mechanisms were very good.

Essentially, at that point in the state's history, the only way you could really go back and figure out how many people were there was you had to go back and look at the last election and see how many people voted for governor

So I think there was a practical reason to put that in there at one point, and obviously it's remained there for a long time.

However, I think society, technology have got ahead and caught us up to a point where we can go on the secretary of state's website and know how many registered voters there are today. And that's, those are the words that were put in the constitution.

Having said all of that, I'm quite surprised that a lot of folks are willing to not engage in an intellectual conversation.

More irony: A South Dakota Republican legislator complains that citizens are not sufficiently intellectual.

And there was something that occurred last night that made me realize that this has really become too big of a distraction for this Legislature to deal with. I had a call from the page advisor. Opponents are calling the Capitol using swear words and curse words at our high school pages. That is absolutely pathetic. I cannot believe that we would reach that level.

Big translation: Political discourse is over in South Dakota. If activists want to kill a bill, all they need to do is call the Capitol, get on the phone with a high school page, and say, "That bill sucks, dagnabit!"

I find such discourse unintellectual and immoral. But if we're being practical (and I want you to think about the moral compass of various special interest groups), what's cheaper:

  1. Running a candidate to unseat Corey Brown?
  2. Hiring a lobbyist?
  3. Mounting a petition drive to refer Senator Brown's bad laws? or,
  4. Cussing out a page?

Senator Brown is obviously blowing smoke. If I were a legislator, and if some frail blossom of youth on my page staff came weeping to me that some mean citizen had burned her ears with foul language over a bill I cared about, I'd console her, assure her we'd keep her safe, but I'd also take the teachable moment, "Dear girl, some people are nasty, and they will try to distract us from doing what's right. But this bill matters, and we aren't going to let the bullies win."

The shorter translation: Corey Brown has no spine, and he's teaching kids to cave to bullies.

And so in the interest of allowing this Legislature—as you saw by our agenda today, we have many bigger fish to fry and there are a lot of things that we have to discuss and maybe ultimately we just need to let the courts deal with this—I'm going to ask that the committee table this bill so we can move on to the other issues that we have before us.

Translation: With opponents gathered to roast this bill, let's put it on the table. I'm not withdrawing it, and once these people leave, maybe I'll bring it back. Or maybe I'll just sue anyone who dares bring an initiative or referendum this year. Who knows? I'm determined to undermine the initiative and referendum, and if I can't get this bill passed, I'm going to at least create as much uncertainty as I can for all those citizens who think they are better than I am at making laws.

At that point, after allowing Senator Brown his grandstanding and insults, without allowing any opponents to speak, Senate State Affairs did indeed table Senate Bill 166. If SB 166 stays dead, we will at least be spared a bad bill. But sore loser Senator Corey Brown remains unapologetically committed to insulting the people of South Dakota and their constitutional right to legislate.

35 comments

Nancy Hilding of the Prairie Hills Audubon Society sends me this list of crackerbarrels happening around the state this month. Updated lists are available online from the South Dakota Camo Coalition, the South Dakota Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities, and the Associated School Boards of South Dakota.

I'll be hitting the Aberdeen crackerbarrel in the Centennial Rooms at the NSU Student Center at 10 a.m.; get yourself a good breakfast, jot down a question or two, and head to a crackerbarrel near you to hold your legislators accountable. Make 'em earn that pay raise!

  • AberdeenSaturday, February 7th, Saturday,  February 21st, and Saturday, March 7th, 10 am - 12 Noon in the Centennial Rooms at Northern State University
  • Avon, Saturday, February 21, 9 a.m., A-1 Convenience Store.
  • Belle Fourche, Saturday, February 7th, 1:00 pm at the Belle Fourche City Hall, City Council Chambers (511 6th Avenue)
  • Brandon, Saturday February 14th, 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM CST, Bethany Meadows Community Room
  • Brookings, Saturday, February 21, 9:00 AM - 10:30 AM CST, Brookings City & County Government Building
  • CantonSaturday, February 7, Time: 10 am, Location: Pizza Ranch
  • Custer, Saturday, February 28th  at 3 pm, Custer Senior Center
  • Deadwood, February 21st, 9:00 am - Deadwood City Hall
  • Gregory, Saturday, Feb. 7 at 10:30 a.m., Gregory Lanes
  • Highmore, Saturday, February 28, 10 a.m., Hyde County Auditorium
  • Hill City, Saturday February 28th, Time: 1 p.m. , Super 8 Conference Room
  • Hot Springs, Saturday, February 7th, 1:00 pm - Brookside Apartments meeting room
  • HuronSaturday, February 21st, and Saturday, March 7th, 9:00 am - Huron City Hall Commission Room
  • Lake Andes, Saturday, February 21, 1 p.m., Community Building, Main Street.
  • Madison, Saturday, February 7, 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM, Madison Public Library Public Meeting Room
  • MitchellMonday, March 2nd, 12 Noon - Mitchell Technical Institute Amphitheater
  • Newell, Saturday, February 14th - 9:00 am, NVN Center (120 3rd Street)
  • Parkston, Saturday, February 7, 1 p.m., Parkston Armory
  • Piedmont (Foothills Area Cracker Barrel), Saturday, February 14th - 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm, American Legion Post 311
  • Rapid City: Saturday, February 21st, and Saturday, March 7th, Time:  9:00 am to 11:00 am - Location:  SD School of Mines/New Classroom Building
  • Redfield, Monday, February 16, 2:00 p.m.–3:30 p.m., Redfield Depot. The Redfield Chamber has invited legislators from Districts 1, 2, 3, and 23.
  • Sioux FallsSaturday, February 7, 2015 - Segment 1 - 9 AM to 10:15 AM and Segment 2 - 10:30 AM to 11:45 AM; Saturday, February 21, 2015 - Segment 1 - 9 AM to 10:15 AM and Segment 2 -10:30 AM to 11:45 AM, Downtown Hilton Garden Inn
  • Spearfish: Saturday, February 7th, and Saturday, March 7th, 9:00 am - Black Hills State University/Joy Center
  • Sturgis, Saturday, February 7th, 9:00 am - For location contact Sturgis Chamber of Commerce
  • VermillionSaturday, February 28th, 10:00 am - 12 Noon - City Hall Council Chambers (25 Center Street)
  • Wagner, Saturday, February 21, 10:30 a.m., Booms Restaurant
  • Wall, Friday, February 27th, 4:00pm, Wall Drug in the back Café.
  • WatertownSaturday, February 14th, 9:00 am - Watertown Winter Farm Show
  • Winner, Saturday, February 7, 8:30 a.m., Jeff Moore Meeting Room
  • YanktonSaturday, February 21, 10:00 a.m. at the Avera Pavilion.
10 comments

Senate Bill 166, Senator Corey Brown's spiteful and sinister attack on your right to legislate via initiative and referendum, hits Senate State Affairs tomorrow morning, Friday, at 9 a.m.

Friends and neighbors, now would be a good time to call the members of Senate State Affairs (who include Senator Brown) and tell them to kill this voter-hating bill. As I note in my latest essay for South Dakota Magazine, Senator Brown's bill says we don't trust voters to make good decisions at the polls and we must protect them from their own ignorance by reducing the number of issues they have to vote on. (I'm waiting for the nanny-state chorus here....)

Rick Weiland and Gordon Howie agree that SB 166 is a terrible idea that rejects South Dakota's grand tradition of putting faith in the voters:

“While the two of us have different views on public policy, during the campaign we also found common ground on several issues, one specifically being our belief that the will of our people is all too often ignored by our elected officials in both political parties”, Weiland said. “In our view, one of the clearest and best vehicles to ensure that citizens are heard is the initiative and referendum process–which, it’s worth noting, was started in South Dakota in 1898, and was such a good idea that it was copied by 23 other states”, Weiland added.

“Doubling the signature requirement for initiative and referendum petitions is a terrible idea, and we’re urging South Dakotans to forcefully let their state senators and representatives know that they oppose it.  And what is particularly egregious is that the sponsors have tagged it with the 'emergency clause' which, if passed, would make it take effect immediately and, more importantly, mean that it can’t be referred to a vote of the people via a referendum petition”, Howie stated.   “If the sponsors really believe that essentially doubling the signature requirement for initiatives and referendums is 'an emergency,' then we fear for their judgment, and what they would call an actual emergency”, Howie added.   “In truth, the 'emergency' that these legislators fear is that South Dakota citizens, acting together, will substitute their judgment for that of our legislators.  That is not an 'emergency,' its democracy as it’s been practiced in our state since 1898,” Howie said [Rick Weiland and Gordon Howie, joint press release, The Right Side, 2015.02.04].

The Senate State Affairs agenda is crowded tomorrow: they are also taking up Senate Bill 1, the ginormous road funding bill. SB 1 appears first on the agenda, which says the hearing will begin in Room 423 at the Capitol at 9 a.m., then move to Room 414 at 10:00 a.m. There's not telling at what exact time the committee will take up Brown's SB 166, so be there from the opening gavel and listen closely for your opportunity to testify to legislators what a really, really bad idea it is to make it harder to place initiatives and referenda on the ballot.

Update 15:46 CST: If you'd like to e-mail the members of Senate State Affairs, here are their addresses. E-mail them individually, and be sure to use a clear subject line, like "Vote No on SB 166."

If Senator Lederman replies with his bogus line that SB 166 simply brings petition law in line with the state constitution, invoke Bill Janklow. The ever-subtle Bob Mercer posts to his blog a 1975 official opinion from then-Attorney General Janklow, who explained that the Legislature had adopted the current petition signature threshold (5% of votes cast in the last gubernatorial election) in response to the fact that maximum constitutional threshold (5% of "qualified electors," which SB 166 would restore) is too vague and difficult to calculate. No one knows how many qualified electors there are in South Dakota at any given moment. SB 166 would pin petition signatures to someone's wild guess; current law derives signature count from a firm, documented number.

21 comments

Graphic of the Week Award goes to Dakota Rural Action for this banner announcing a rally for clean water and democracy:

DRA Voice Vote Values anti-CAFO banner Feb 2015

Dakota Rural Action is holding the "Rally to Protect Our Voice, Our Vote, and Our Values" Saturday at 8:30 a.m. at the Downtown River Greenway Amphitheater (on the Big Sioux between 6th and 8th Streets) in Sioux Falls.

DRA is steamed about three bills that threaten water quality and the people's right to participate in local zoning decisions:

HB 1173 - Introduced by Representative Qualm (R-21) and Senator Cammack (R-29), this bill would penalize citizens appealing land zoning decisions seen as frivolous. Since courts already have the authority to award damages in frivolous or malicious suits (SDCL 15-17-51), this bills is clearly targeted at preventing citizens from challenging zoning decisions made in their county.

SB 127 - Introduced by Senator Rusch (R-17) and Representative Rasmussen (R-17), this bill would create an exemption to South Dakota law allowing non-family farm corporations to own and operate hog confinements in South Dakota.

HB 1201 - Introduced by Representative Mickelson (R-13) and Senator Cammack (R-29), this bill would reduce the number of votes needed on a county board of adjustment to allow a conditional use permit from 4 out of 5 to 3 out of 5, making it easier for CAFOs to get these permits and move forward [Dakota Rural Action, open letter to South Dakota Legislature, 2015.02.03].

You can sign that open letter, too, and let your legislators know you are tired of their facilitation of the corporate colonization of South Dakota. You can also make legislators hear your voice in person: After briefing the troops, DRA will take its rally to Saturday's Legislative Coffees (apparently Sioux Falls is too sophistimacated to call 'em crackerbarrels): Session 1 starts at 9 a.m. with legislators from Districts 6, 9, and 10; Session 2 starts at 10:45 with legislators from Districts 11 and 12. Both public fora are at the Hilton Garden Inn Downtown... where DRA will be out in force guardin' your voice and your water.

21 comments

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