Speaking of religion and bullying, House State Affairs showed a modicum of decency last week and killed House Bill 1220, certain conservatives' continued attempt to disguise anti-LGBT legislation in freedom of religion.

Eight committee Republicans joined two Democrats in deferring HB 1220 to the 41st day, leading right-wing blogger Bob Ellis to shout that Republicans hate religion. (At least South Dakota Republicans; Indiana Senate Republicans voted unanimously for a similar pro-discrimination bill last week.)

Ellis notes that Equality South Dakota did not testify against HB 1220. Curtis Price explains EqSD's absence from House State Affairs last week:

Equality South Dakota and many of our allies strongly opposed this bill, and, in coordination with others, encouraged our members to track it through our Facebook group.

Equality South Dakota did not testify on HB 1220 since the way it was written the bill did not directly address LGBT issues. It was felt if EqSD would testify, this would bring attention that this is a LGBT related bill and thereby hinder the possibility of killing it [Curtis Price, "HB 1220 Killed," Equality South Dakota blog, 2015.02.28].

I understand the tactical decision, though I cringe at the fact that LGBT is such a dirty acronym in South Dakota that an equal rights organization's best tactic on vile legislation is silence. Bob Ellis views EqSD's tactics as more of the nefarious gay agenda luring unsuspecting dupes into something like political rape:

The homosexual movement has learned that if it can get “useful idiots” in more mainstream organizations to do its dirty work for it, the odds of success for their agenda are much better than if people actually realize the investment of the homosexual agenda in the issue [Bob Ellis, "Religious Freedom Again Treated with Contempt by South Dakota ‘Republicans’," American Clarion, 2015.03.02].

The "useful idiots" in this case are the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, the South Dakota Association of County Commissioners, the Board of Regents, and the Department of Corrections, all of whom testified that HB 1220 is not just unnecessary but harmful to basic governmental functions, not to mention civil rights.

I suppose I'm just another useful idiot who hasn't noticed the gay-agendeers pulling his strings, but as a member of the atheist minority in South Dakota, permit me to remind Bob that "decent, law-abiding God fearing people" are not under any "withering attack." Christianity is not about to disappear. Neither, alas, is Bob's hateful theology.

8 comments

You think I've been hard on Republicans today? Pat Powers is so disgusted with his fellow Republicans that he interrupted his usual lazy Sunday press releases to write his own blog post to blast Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Pine Ridge) and Rep. Isaac Latterell (R-6/Tea) for exposing the vile, selfish thoughtlessness that having an R in front of one's name excuses in South Dakota:

How does saying test anxiety is contributing to a disturbing suicide rate encourage a young professional businessperson to run as a Republican candidate for office when asked? When going door to door, how does saying “Planned Parenthood is beheading children people like ISIS terrorists” convince people that helping Republicans get elected is a worthwhile cause?

The answer is that they don’t. They’re just incendiary bombs being lobbed for the sole purpose of getting personal attention. And of course they’re going to get attention. They’re over the top, offensive and just plain stupid. And all that attention comes at the expense of all the other Republicans who are trying to do the difficult job of governing, and are now at risk of being painted with the same broad crazy brush by Democrats and the media who look for these opportunities.

Everytime I read that kind of things, I find myself asking “For crying out loud, please stop damaging the Republican brand.” If you feel the need to say something offensive and incendiary, sleep on it first. Bounce it off of a colleague for a read on how it sounds [Pat Powers, "For crying out loud, please stop damaging the Republican brand. (And maybe sleep on it before you say it.)" Dakota War College, 2015.03.01].

Oh, Pat, you and your "brand." May and Latterell aren't "damaging" the South Dakota Republican brand; they are the logical product of the very Republicanism you peddle. They ooze Republican anti-intellectualism. They throw whatever they've got at their opponents. They say vile falsehoods to arouse their base, then assume they can wave the flag or hit Delete and make us all forget. May and (more so) Latterell are Republicans straight out of a Dakota War College lesson plan.

Because May and Latterell are products of the politics he practices, Powers can't issue a simple, uncategorical rejection of their errors. Powers still couches his critique in language about Democrats and the media that make it sound like we are to blame for talking about what Republican legislators say and do in Pierre. "Broad crazy brush"? Hey, if crazy Republicans were just the trim, I could use my narrow brush. But with Reps. Craig and Stalzer disrespecting students who beat their gun bill with smart lobbying, with Rep. Stalzer dissing cops, and with former Noem intern Tomi Lahren calling Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren men (why? why?!?), the "crazy" folks aren't the trim; they are the siding. I can paint all day with the biggest brush I've got and still not cover all the rank idiocy that South Dakota Republicans put out.

(Note: Powers has yet to critique Craig, Stalzer, or Lahren for saying things that hurt the GOP "brand".)

South Dakota Democratic Party chair Ann Tornberg, at whom Powers has regularly thrown mud, agrees with his assessment of Latterell's irresponsible headline-scoring. She sends out this comment appended to Huffington Post's coverage of Latterell's equation of Planned Parenthood and ISIS:

Our politics are cheapened when extreme GOP legislators resort to demagoguery to score headlines. No matter your position on issues like life and choice, South Dakotans deserve better than this kind of hateful rhetoric [Ann Tornberg, SDDP e-mail, 2015.03.01].

Tornberg is party chair; she has as much interest in promoting her party's brand as Powers does his. But for Tornberg, panning Latterell's comments is about respecting all South Dakotans and resisting demagoguery and hateful rhetoric. For Powers, it's just damage control, throwing a couple fellow Republicans overboard for fouling the party's effort to conceal its inherent extremism behind a marketing curtain.

48 comments

I didn't expect today's blog cycle to be the Thoughtless Comments from South Dakota Republicans series, but the hits keep coming.

Facebook friends share comments made at CPAC by Rapid City-born, San Diego-based former Noem intern turned conservative spokesmodel Tomi Lahren, who, in response to the charge that the GOP is the party of old, rich, white males, calls Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren men:

So, I think we’ve gone through this: Old, rich, white males. I want to remind you, let’s look at the top three Democrats for 2016. You’ve got Hillary, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden? Old, rich, white, and if the pantsuit fits, male too? [Tomi Lahren, quoted in Tony Ortega, "CPAC Speaker Calls Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren 'Old, Rich, White Males'," Raw Story, 2015.02.28].

Such absurdity warrants no rebuttal. But warranting more attention is Lahren's pro-choce declaration:

See, women like Sandra Fluke will have you believe the only way to be pro-woman is to lobby for free birth control. But, sorry, hun, I’m a Republican, and I can take care of myself. And besides that, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want the government anywhere near my body or my health choices, because have any of you seen how Obamacare or ‘healthcare dot dud’ has been working out? [Lahren, in Ortega, 2015.02.28]

Lahren cites her South Dakota upbringing in her speech to boost her down-home cred, so she must stay in touch with South Dakota politics. She must know her Republican kin back home have passed all sorts of laws dismissing the notion that little ladies like her have the mental wherewithal to take care of themselves.

But CPAC and the conservative media don't pick speakers like Lahren for their rhetorical rigor or mental acuity.

26 comments

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.

25 comments

David Montgomery left South Dakota last December for a better job in the Twin Cities. He now gets to report on Gallup numbers showing Minnesota's better rate of uninsured people:

At the beginning of 2014, just 9.5 percent of Minnesotans lacked health insurance, the fourth-best rate in the country. As of the start of 2015, that uninsured rate is now 7.4 percent, 2.1 percentage points lower.

...A previous study, conducted between September 2013 and May 2014 by University of Minnesota researchers, also showed a drop in Minnesota's uninsured rate. It used a different methodology and found the uninsured rate falling from 8.2 percent to 4.9 percent [David Montgomery, "Minnesota's Uninsured Rate Falls, Says Survey," Pioneer Press, 2015.02.24].

The uninsured rate in South Dakota dropped from 14.0% to 12.7%. Minnesota embraced the Affordable Care Act by implementing their MNSure state health insurance exchange and expanding Medicaid. South Dakota has taken neither action.

Montgomery posits no causation, but Minnesota's Democratic leaders want to give the ACA and MNSure the credit. Those DFL legislators are probably right. Take a look at this graph from Gallup showing the nationwide uninsured rate:

Gallup US uninsured 2014

Climb, climb, climb, fully enact ACA—plummet.

Then look at the Gallup state-by-state uninsured data on which Montgomery bases his report:

Gallup uninsured by state 2014

The uninsured rate went down everywhere in 2014, but the statisticians at Gallup don't hesitate to name the spade that's filling this hole faster:

While a majority of Americans continue to disapprove of the Affordable Care Act, it has clearly had an impact in reducing the uninsured rate in the U.S., which declined to its lowest point in seven years by the last quarter of 2014. This trend could be poised to continue, as 55% of Americans who remain uninsured plan to get health insurance rather than pay a fine.

States that have implemented two of the law's core mechanisms -- Medicaid expansion and state health exchanges -- are seeing a substantially larger drop in the uninsured rate than states that did not take both of these actions. Consequently, the gap in uninsured rates that existed between these two groups in 2013 nearly doubled in 2014 [Dan Witters, "Arkansas, Kentucky See Most Improvement in Uninsured Rates," Gallup, 2015.02].

The ACA is working. South Dakota should get over its Obamaphobia and help the ACA work.

20 comments

Bob Mercer notes who would get the Chamber of Commerce Business Caucus vote for Governor and President. Right now, these Main Streeters' top picks are Matt Michels and Hillary Clinton.

The gubernatorial straw poll rejects the perhaps conventional view purveyed in the media that the GOP is bracing for a three-way gubernatorial contest among Attorney General Marty Jackley, District 12 Rep. Mark Mickelson, and eyelash-battingly coy Congresswoman Kristi Noem. Lt. Gov. Michels and Democrats' great white hope Stephanie Herseth Sandlin both got more straw poll votes than those three GOP contenders.

If spelling counts, the Business Caucus's misspelling of Noem's name as Kristie suggests they aren't paying as much attention to her as she might like. Only one person picked Shantel Krebs for governor, versus thirteen for Noem, but by gum, the ballot spelled Shantel's name right!

On the Presidential side, while the preference for Clinton is suprising, the Chamber predictably prefers mainstream moderates like Hillary and second-place corporatist and dynastirian Jeb Bush. The next Bush gets more votes than any two of the five wild-eyed ideologues on the Business Caucus's list—Rand Paul, Scott Walker, Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, and Rick Perry. Clinton gets more votes than all five right wingnuts together. (I invite debate as to whether we ought to include Mike Huckabee in that list.)

(Bonus liberal hope: there are three Chamber members who would vote for Elizabeth Warren and one for James Webb.)

And John Thune? He appears to have fallen into the Chamber's blind spot. They don't hint at all at Thune aspiring to anything other than the job he has right now in the U.S. Senate. (Gee, Rep. Gosch: maybe your embarrassing apology for the Daschle Rule was all for nought!)

But don't read too much into these numbers. The Business Caucus polled about 130 members. Only 84 named a favorite gubernatorial candidate; only 81 named a Presidential pick. The Business Caucus members aren't nearly as interested in elections 1.5 and 3.5 years off as they are on the issues before the Legislature right now. We'll talk about the Chamber's Legislative opinions in a separate post, coming soon!

30 comments

The Senate Judiciary Committee looked the National Rifle Association in the eye yesterday and said no... twice.

The NRA sent lobbyist John Commerford from Washington, DC, to lobby for House Bills 1096 and 1116 before Senate Judiciary Tuesday morning. Both bills tinkered with our concealed weapons permit laws; HB 1116 was the worse, effectively repealing the need to obtain a permit to carry a concealed firearm. The NRA supported both bills, and Senate Judiciary rejected both bills. The only votes supporting HB 1096 and HB 1116 came from Senator Jeff Monroe (R-24/Pierre), who has previously laid bare his fearful fealty to his NRA score.

The full Senate struck another blow against gun nuttery yesterday by tabling Senate Bill 192, which would have allowed sergeants-at-arms in the Capitol to carry firearms. Prime sponsor Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) wheezed again about his vague terror at our "ever-changing, increasingly volatile world" yet yielded to law enforcement and security professionals and asked the Senate to table his fearful bill. The Senate obliged.

The Legislature has now killed six bills dealing with concealed weapons in their titles (previous dust-biters: HB 1108, HB 1183, HB 1206, and SB 162). Only two concealed weapons bills have survived: HB 1215, creating an enhanced concealed weapons permit, is headed for Senate committee, while the Governor has signed Senate Bill 12, making it easier for military spouses to get concealed weapons permits.

I cheer the Legislature's possibly growing willingness to say no to the NRA. Now how about developing the will to say yes to the NEA? The Legislature seems to have floated more bills to put guns in people's pockets than to put more money in teachers' pockets. Tell me, citizens, which problem seems to be more urgent in South Dakota: the inability of citizens to defend themselves with secretly carried deadly force, or the inability of teachers to make ends meet on South Dakota's barrel-bottom teacher pay?

22 comments

To the Republicans Are Really Marxists file, add this statement from Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels on preparations for the as-yet nebulous Blue Ribbon Stalling Tactic on education:

We might be smart individually but collectively we're brilliant [Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, interview with WNAX Radio, 2015.02.24].

In other words, Lt. Gov. Michels and his boss Dennis Daugaard value groupthink over individual genius. Hey, that's why we have Common Core, right?

Update 11:08 CST: Blogger John Tsitrian questions the Daugaard-Michels Administration's collective brilliance given our state economy's soft performance.

35 comments

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