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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The fourteen community workforce development grants recently approved by the states are heavy on local training. Consider the grant the City of Pierre won. Pierre proposed a $100,000+ two-pronged program.

First, Pierre says it needs more truck drivers for construction (how's that for specific workforce needs?). They want to create a branch of Mitchell Technical Institute's commercial driver's license (CDL) training program in Pierre. They also want to cover the cost of that training and licensing (about $2,500) for each of those potential drivers. In return, the new CDL holders would promise to work for their sponsoring company for a period to be determined or pay the money back of they leave early.

Second, Pierre wants to target the 10% of local high school students in the area who apparently don't have solid post-secondary education or career plans with a job-shadowing program. The city would line sixteen kids up with employers who need more potential workers in their hiring pipeline. The shadowers would do real work eight hours a week for sixteen weeks. They'd get paid real money, $10 an hour—a quarter from the business, a quarter from the city, and half from the state grant.

Pierre asked for $50,240 from the state; they got $20,480, which equals the total cost of the job-shadow program.

Why would Pierre focus on training local young people and current residents who can't afford CDL training? Let me highlight one passage from Pierre's application:

...[W]e looked at strategies for building that pipeline and identified two primary options.

  • recruiting people from outside of South Dakota
  • engaging people who are already near, but not currently engaged in the workforce

Our employers tell us, historically those who come from outside the area don’t stick around. To retain employees, they need a local connection. So, we chose the engagement route and explored a number of disengaged workforce sources... [City of Pierre, Community Incentives Matching Program grant application, November 2014].

Trying to recruit out-state workers apparently doesn't work, at least not in Pierre. Our capital city thus chooses to grow its own workforce.

Update 11:01 CST: Hmmm... the Gregory Business and Industrial Development Corporation is getting $7,000 from the state as part of its $14,000 program to help local folks get their CDL. Gregory's application says the cost of CDL training and testing through MTI is $1,600 per student, not $2,500. Gregory will support ten students in their CDL class. The state will pick up $700 for each student, local GBIDC donations another $700, and each student the remaining $200.

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Oh look: free breakfast and baloney from oil industry shills:

Consumer Group to host South Dakota Pipeline Safety Breakfast

Industry experts to converge in Pierre, South Dakota to discuss critical safety issues surrounding the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline

Pierre, SDConsumer Energy Alliance (CEA), an organization that advocates for energy consumers, will host a briefing to inform South Dakota legislators and staff about important pipeline safety issues surrounding the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline on Tuesday, January 27, 2015 at 8:30 a.m. CT. Breakfast will be provided for attendees.

  • What: South Dakota Pipeline Safety Breakfast hosted by CEA
  • When: Tuesday, January 27, 2015 from 8:30 a.m. - 9:30 a.m. CT
  • Where: South Dakota Education Association Auditorium, 411 East Capitol Avenue, Pierre, South Dakota
  • Who: Moderator: Michael Whatley, CEA Executive Vice President; Brigham McCown, former administrator of the federal Pipeline and Hazardous Material Safety Administration (PHMSA); Andrew Black, President and CEO of the Association of Oil Pipe Lines
  • RSVP: Credentialed media should RSVP to Kristin Marcell at kristin@smartmarkusa.com or 215-504-4272.

Credentialed media—in other words, no bloggers or other amateurs allowed. (Say, where does one get an official journalist's license in South Dakota, anyway?)

The Consumer Energy Alliance is a front group for tar sands oil companies. The "moderator" for the January 27 Pierre event, Washington D.C. Lobbyist Michael Whatley, created the CEA to wage an astroturfy public-relations campaign against clean-fuel standards. Whatley has used CEA to create what his own e-mails call an "Echo Chamber" of industry press releases to promote Keystone XL since fall 2011. Brigham McCown is a Bush recount lawyer who got his PHMSA gig through cronyism, not pipeline safety expertise. Andrew Black's job is to lobby for pipelines on behalf of his organization's members, which include Keystone XL builder TransCanada. His degree is in economics and his experience is in media relations and politics, not engineering.

But hey, they're serving breakfast. Mmmm.

Update 07:43 CDT: If Whatley really wants to "moderate" a discussion, he should invite energy consumer Rick Weiland to expand on the thesis he offers in Sunday's Sioux Falls paper that Keystone XL simply feeds oil-industry greed.

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Last month, after Gannett axed several good reporters from that Sioux Falls paper, content strategist Patrick Lalley was bragging that remaining journalists Jonathan Ellis and David Montgomery were "unparalleled in this market."

David Montgomery, who in the past six years has reported for the Pierre Capital Journal and the Rapid City Journal as well as his current employer, just won a promotion right out of Lalley's market:

It’s with both excitement and sadness that I can announce I’ve accepted a job as a political reporter at the Pioneer Press newspaper in Saint Paul, Minn.

This is a step up for me — a bigger city and a bigger audience, just like my past moves.... I’ll be stepping into some huge shoes: the spot I’m taking is being vacated by Bill Salisbury, a 37-year veteran of the Pioneer Press and the dean of the Minnesota Capitol press corps, who is retiring on Jan. 5.

Though it’ll be tough, I’m looking forward to the challenge and the competition in the bigger Twin Cities media market. (I’ll also enjoy covering a legislature in the city where I live, instead of having to spend months in a motel room every winter.)

It’s going to be a fast transition. My last day at the Argus Leader will be Friday, Dec. 19, and I’ll start at the Pioneer Press a few days later on Monday Dec. 22....

I’m sorry to be moving on but am definitely richer for my time here in South Dakota. Thanks for six great years! [David Montgomery, "My Next Step," Madness and Truth, 2014.12.05]

David Montgomery attended a blog party at my hacienda in 2009. I was pleased to meet him then, and have been pleased to read, learn from, and build on his work here in the South Dakota blogo-newsosphere. Montgomery provided swift reporting, keen analysis, and wonderfully wonky spreadsheets. I will miss his contribution to our understanding of South Dakota politics. I wish him nothing but the best.

Coming on the heels of Gannett's vicious downsizing last month, Montgomery's departure makes me wonder: was he shopping for a new boss in case the Sioux Falls axe fell on him? Are Gannett's changes creating an environment where a serious political journalist feels he cannot fully and freely practice his craft? Or is it just what it is: a great career move to a bigger market (and one more brain that South Dakota's low-tax, low-wage economy couldn't keep)?

Montgomery mentions the challenge his employer faces in replacing him. Montgomery can trade Pierre motel rooms and four-hour drives for a nice flat on Grand Ave and a twenty-minute trip to the Capitol on the bus (mass transit—Montgomery can write his stories while commuting!). Meanwhile, his boss Lalley has one month to find someone else willing to drop their plans and decamp for to one of the most remote (and hence corrupt!) state capitals in America.

If content strategy and audience analysis determine that the consumer experience won't be enhanced by Legislative coverage, South Dakota will be down to one full-time statehouse reporter. One man, Bob Mercer, telling us what's going on in our state government—Mercer's great, but even Mercer alone is bad for political coverage.

Let's hope Lalley recognizes that he has to consider more than a business case here: he has to consider the public obligation of the state's largest newspaper to fully cover the Legislature. Lalley, I hope you're speed-dialing Denise Ross.

(I check the classifieds: that Sioux Falls paper has two listings for a city/county reporter and a listing for two breaking-news reporters, diurnal and nocturnal. Perhaps Jon Ellis drew the short straw for a room at the Pierre Super 8.)

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Mike Rounds gets one newspaper endorsement, from his hometown Pierre Capital Journal. The editorial board in our capital tepidly defaults to experience on every statewide ballot line. They excuse Rounds thus:

We are well aware of the ongoing federal investigation into the EB-5 mess, and although significant questions remain, the experience Rounds brings outweighs any negatives from that issue ["Our Endorsements," Pierre Capital Journal, 2014.11.03].

They darn Rep. Kristi Noem with similar faint praise:

Republican incumbent Kristi Noem has more experience than Democrat Corinna Robinson and gets our endorsement. However, our board shares fairly broad agreement across party lines that Noem is a lackluster performer in the U.S. House, standing for non-controversial causes such as the move to stop human trafficking (as though anyone would take the other side of that issue) or predictable Midwest causes such as the farm bill – legislation from which her own family’s farm operation harvests plenty in taxpayer subsidies, as a letter elsewhere on this page observes. Noem deserves credit for taking a strong stand for conservation provisions in that bill, however [PCJ, 2014.11.03].

Even tough decider Governor Dennis Daugaard gets a bit of ho-hum from his closest monitors:

While we cannot see a great many accomplishments, we don’t see very much to fault him for, either [PCJ, 2014.11.03].

The only exception to the Pierre editors' safe embrace of company-town incumbency comes in the District 24 Senate race, where they reject Republican Senator Jeff Monroe's low-achieving in favor of trying something new and Democratic:

Our recommendation: We favor the Democratic candidate, Ruth Rehn, over the incumbent Republican, Jeff Monroe. The consensus on our editorial board is that, just as Rehn is contending, Monroe has not been very effective in his latest stint in the Legislature. Ruth Rehn is not the first to draw attention to this point. It was also the point of attack for Monroe’s fellow Republican in the primary, former lawmaker Tad Perry, who emphasized his success in getting legislation passed as the main difference between him and Monroe. The point still holds. We think it is time to give someone else a try and see if another candidate is better at getting thoughtful legislation enacted for South Dakota and District 24 [PCJ, 2014.11.03].

Like Senator Phil Jensen, Senator Jeff Monroe posts dangerous and dumb Glenn-Beck-karaoke bills that get in the way of practical lawmaking to do real good for all South Dakotans. The Pierre Capital Journal appears to recognize the importance of results... but only when the candidate is not a big-name statewide star. But the paper is at least showing a spark of critical thinking. Keep heading down that path, Pierre!

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The Pew Research Center released a study yesterday on journalism in our state capitals. Pew finds 751 full-time statehouse reporters and 851 part-time statehouse reporters. Newspapers have retreated from the statehouses, but they still provide the largest portion of that press corps, 38%. Television stations provide 17%, just barely more than the 16% coming from non-traditional media like non-profit groups and online news outfits.

Pew Research: full-time and part=time reporters assigned to statehouses, plus organizational source, 2014

70% of all newspapers and 86% of local TV stations don't bother to assign anyone to their statehouse beats.

Radio stations make up only 8% of the statehouse press corps. Public radio stations provide almost half of that noble corps.

South Dakota wins special mention for having the fewest full-time statehouse reporters, two. Bob Mercer works the capital for a group of South Dakota newspapers. The Associated Press also maintains a Pierre desk.

A straight count is perhaps unfair, since South Dakota has far fewer news consumers than most states. Texas has the most statehouse reporters, 53, but with some 26 million residents, that breaks down to one reporter for every 490,000 Texans, compared to one for every 410,000 South Dakotans. (Pause a moment. Think about that, Bob: you're the only guy on the job for over 410,00 people.)

But let's not make excuses: all four states with less population than South Dakota manage to station more reporters in their capitals.

Pew Research Center: Statehouse reporters in ten least populous states.

Pew Research Center: Statehouse reporters in ten least populous states. [Pew Research Center, "America's Shifting Statehouse Press," 2014.07.10, p. 30. Click to embiggen!]

North Dakota has five full-time reporters in Bismarck. Wyoming sends six full-timers to Cheyenne, plus eight part-timers and four session-only correspondents.

Why does this matter? Recall the theory that geographic isolation of a capital contributes to less press coverage, which in turn facilitates more corruption. One recent study ranks South Dakota eighth for corruption. Neither North Dakota nor Wyoming appear in the top ten.

Hmm... maybe getting candidates to challenge one party rule is only one way to tackle South Dakota's corrupt regime. If we can't field candidates, maybe we need to field correspondents.

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Hey, Democrats! Want to warm up for next week's SDDP convention with on-the-street activism? Want to roadtrip to Pierre? Then give Corinna Robinson a call!

Our U.S. House candidate is organizing a big marching crew for the American Legion parade happening during Oahe Days in Pierre Saturday afternoon. Carry Corinna's banner, hand out candy and campaign lit, wear a Corinna t-shirt, spread the word!

If you're interested, contact the Robinson campaign. Then get yourself and ten friends to Pierre's Griffin Park, the parade staging area, by 3:30 p.m. Central. Forward, march!

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Governing maps the buying power of the minimum wage in 308 cities across the U.S. (South Dakota needs more big cities so we can get on maps like this!):

Source: Source: Governing calculations of cities' highest minimum wages and Council for Community and Economic Research's Cost of Living Index, 2013 annual average composite score.

Source: Governing calculations of cities' highest minimum wages and Council for Community and Economic Research's Cost of Living Index, 2013 annual average composite score. Click here for Governing's interactive map!

The darker the green, the more you can by with that minimum green in your pocket. Ranking cities from palest to darkest—i.e., from least buying power to most—Sioux Falls and Pierre, the only two towns in the survey, come out 75th and 48th, respectively. That means there are a lot more towns where it's easier to put food on the table with minimum wage than it is in South Dakota (relatively easier, that is, remembering that a living wage is more like $16.23).

By Governing's cost-of-living calculations, that $7.25 an hour stretches to $7.44 in our Queen City of the East but shrinks to $7.13 in the capital. Both beat the Twin Cities, where $7.25 acts more like about $6.60. But Mankato and St. Cloud offer better buying power for minimum wage-earners, boosting their base bucks to about $7.70.

Passing the minimum wage initiative on this year's ballot and raising our minimum wage to $8.50 an hour would skyrocket the buying power of the minimum wage in Sioux Falls to $8.72 and hour, placing Sioux Falls among the 30 cities with the highest minimum-wage purchasing power. Pierre at $8.36 would tie Kalamazoo, Michigan, and be in the top 50.

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