Rep. Lynne DiSanto (R-35/Rapid City) is already requiring legislators to talk about breasts; now she's going to have them saying "clitoris" on the House floor.

House Bill 1089 would make it a Class 4 felony to mutilate female genitalia. Some cultures think female genital mutilation is an acceptable practice. HB 1089 takes the anti-multicultural position that these cultures are wrong and would suppress this cultural practice in South Dakota.

Rep. DiSanto and I would have gotten along swimmingly back in my SDSU days when I was listening to Rush Limbaugh and waging war against my profs for teaching multiculturalism in my education classes. "If our calling as teachers is to respect and celebrate other cultures," I would ask my profs, "how do we deal with cultural practices that harm the health and dignity of our students?" Had I known about female genital mutilation at the time, I'd have held it up as Exhibit #1 of the limits of multiculturalism.

I've given up Rush, but I maintain my apparent agreement with Rep. DiSanto that some cultural practices deserve no tolerance, let alone celebration. The only reason I can think of to oppose HB 1089 (and I have to try to think of some reason, because hey, it's Lynne DiSanto!) is that it may be unnecessary. That same conservative me from 1992 who fought value relativism would also fight superfluous legislation. Might female genital mutilation already be covered by our statutes on assaults and personal injuries, or perhaps child abuse?

But that's an argument about the content of the law, not the cruel act House Bill 1089 opposes. Check with the lawyers and the LRC, but on face, HB 1089 looks like a good bill.

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Gary Jerke submits to Gordon Howie's blog a vague homily to putting Bibles in public schools. The former Yankton-area legislator opens by saying "Last evening a group from our church appeared before our local school board concerned about their policy toward distribution of Bibles to the children...." Jerke does not directly tell us what the school board's policy is or what his group's concerns are. He also doesn't tell us what school board in South Dakota meets on Saturday night. (The post is dated January 25; "last evening" was January 24.)

But details and explanation be darned, we're off and running into the fundie shower-singing meant to get its practitioners into heaven faster:

Schools are to be a place of preparation and yet the most important aspect of preparation (meaning to make ready) we overlook. That is the preparation of spiritual things which the Bible first addresses in Joshua 22:26 in the building of an alter as a place to show witness to God. For me that underscores a part of my cultural history where in communities churches were built in the heart of our towns and pastors were regarded as the highest authority or often final word on many if not most matters [Gary Jerke, "Be Prepared," The Right Side, 2015.01.25].

Pastors as the highest authority in the community, giving the final word on most matters—translate that as theocracy.

But wait! What's this introduction of spiritual things into the public school curriculum? What does that "preparation" have to do with getting students ready to become welders? "Spiritual things" sounds an awful lot like "philosophy," and we all know philosophy won't help our students get good jobs! How dare Gary Jerke threaten to distract our schools from their primary mission of solving South Dakota's workforce shortage?

I am sure the Governor will join me in standing against this intrusion of impractical theology into our K-12 workforce preparation system.

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Just a month ago the State Conservation Commission awarded 29 grants to 20 conservation districts to spend more than $350,000 to plant more shelterbelts. Heck of an idea, right?

House Bill 1055 kills that program. The Department of Agriculture is asking the Legislature to strike the chapter of state law that authorizes the Department and its State Conservation Commission to certify, inspect, and pay landowners for keeping trees and bushes on their land to prevent soil erosion and keep South Dakota agriculture viable.

I don't know if the Department has a better idea or if they are just giving up on shelterbelts. But we'll from the Department tomorrow, Tuesday morning, before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee at 7:45 a.m.

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What was that I said—wait, that the City of Pierre said—about workers recruited from out of state not sticking around? That's not Huron's experience.

Where Pierre's workforce development project is all about cultivating workforce among existing residents, Huron going big on recruiting and retaining workers from the other side of the planet. Since 2007, 2,500 Karen refugees have come from Burma to live in Huron. The Karen came at first to work Huron's big turkey plant; they now hold jobs in 30 Huron area businesses, and Huron wants more. The big ticket item on Huron's workforce development grant application (which the state approved for the full $125,000 requested) is "Diversity Engagement," which includes more direct recruitment of Karen refugees in surrounding states, more English classes, more job fairs targeted at workers who aren't fluent English speakers yet, and more big Karen cultural events like soccer, volleyball, and cane ball tournaments and Karen New Year celebrations (January 5—welcome to 2754!).

Huron also plans to use its state grant to sponsor more management training classes. It's one thing to learn enough English to get a job at the turkey plant; it's another to learn enough English to run a production shift and budget meetings. Huron needs more of its Karen residents, who now hold one out of nine jobs in Beadle County, to be able to move up the ladder and fill the white-collar jobs from which baby boomers are retiring.

By the way, Huron's application states that in a survey of Karen residents, it found that "100% of participants felt welcomed in the community and had experienced no racism since arriving." That cultural acceptance is a key part of getting folks recruited from elsewhere to stick around. Huron and the state appear willing to invest heavily in pening their doors even wider to convince these newcomers to stay.

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I'm not sure what sector of the electorate Gordon Howie thinks he's targeting by investing so much of his blog energy in blowing smoke for Annette Bosworth. Continually stumping for an admitted lawbreaker and fake conservative who showed no ability to build a viable campaign in South Dakota serves neither Howie's objective of building an effective opposition voting bloc nor the higher aims of justice. Neither will defending Bosworth with errors of fact and law.

In his latest excuse for Bosworth's petition circulation felonies, the re-energized conservative blogger Howie repeats the charge that the Attorney General's prosecution of Bosworth is unfair given all the other alleged violations of petition rules that go unpunished or lightly punished:

Many petitions circulators have violated this “oath” by not “personally witnessing” every signature.  In South Dakota, just a few years ago, six Republicans were found guilty in a case that involved as many as 1,400 signatures.  Their penalty… a $200.00 fine.  Now, for an alleged violation involving 37 signatures, Annette Bosworth is facing 24 years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines and the loss of her license to practice medicine.  Seem fair to you?? [Gordon Howie, "Is Your Legislator Guilty?" The Right Side, 2015.01.22]

Howie refers to a ballot probe in 2004 that found six Republican get-out-the-vote operatives, including future state legislator Todd Schlekeway, notarized absentee voter applications without personally witnessing the applicants' signatures. Note that Schlekeway et al. were not circulating petitions; they were soliciting absentee voting applications, thus invoking charges under different law. As I explained in July, Schlekeway's violation of his notary seal was a misdemeanor. He pled guilty and received a misdemeanor penalty.

In the Schlekeway case as in the Bosworth case, the Attorneys General (Long then, Jackley now) have acted to uphold the letter and spirit of the law while protecting voters from disenfranchisement. If Howie wants to invoke the Schlekeway precedent, then the fair outcome would be that Bosworth would plead guilty to her felony and receive her felony penalty.

Trying to fabricate a defense for Bosworth out of thin air and grade-school excuses, Howie accuses a majority of South Dakota legislators of committing the same crime and challenges them to deny it:

Actually, the practice of “not personally witnessing” petition signatures is widespread, but rarely challenged.  Certainly not to the level of felony charges.

Here is the question for every Legislator in South Dakota, both past and present:

Will you swear that you personally witnessed every single signature on every petition you have circulated?

There are, no doubt, some who can respond in the positive.  They will be in the minority.

Howie made this same baseless and cowardly charge for the same Boz-crush purpose at the beginning of the month. His charge is logically, legally, and factually wrong because...

  1. Howie cannot name a single guilty party.
  2. Howie produces no example of a petition with evidence of a false circulator's oath.
  3. Howie confuses a rhetorical question for logical proof.
  4. Howie shifts the burden of proof from prosecutors (who can slam-dunk meet that burden against Bosworth in court) to the unnamed defendants under his blanket accusation.
  5. Howie forgets that every legislator who circulated a nominating petition has already answered Howie's rhetorical challenge by signing the circulator's oath.

Howie's last resort may be the appeal for mercy. Note his inclusion in the list of consequences for Bosworth the fact that a felony conviction could cause her to lose her medical license.

Commit one felony, get kicked out of your profession? Welcome to my world. State law says South Dakota teachers can lose their teaching licenses for committing any crime involving moral turpitude or drugs. The Professional Teachers Code of Ethics puts my teaching license at risk if I engage in any act the results in a conviction. I suspect other licensed professions have similar rules. Professional status carries special burdens.

If Howie wants to propose revoking all professional licensure requirements in South Dakota and declare that criminal records should bear no weight on allowing people to teach or practice medicine, I invite him to lay out that case. If Howie can produce evidence of petition fraud by other candidates, I invite him to lay out the evidence. So far in his fresh Boz-crush, he has done neither... and even if he does, such arguments and evidence will have no bearing in front of Bosworth's judge next month.

124 comments

The House State Affairs Committee amended and approved House Bill 1029 this morning. HB 1029 updates the environmental and energy-efficiency requirements created in 2008 for the construction and renovation of state buildings.

HB 1029 updates South Dakota statute to use the United States Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design latest standards, issued November 2013, instead of the July 2009 standards. HB 1029 also raises the threshold for requiring adherence to LEED standards from 5,000 square feet or $500,000 in construction cost to 10,000 square feet or $1,000,000 in construction cost.

Earlier this week, Dakota Rural Action blogger* Tony Helland raised his concern that doubling the square footage and dollar thresholds will reduce the state's energy savings and its commitment to reducing the state's environmental impact. No one at this morning's hearing raised that concern. In her testimony explaining why the Bureau of Administration requested HB 1029, State Engineer Kristi Honeywell simply said that smaller buildings cannot meet the LEED standards. (Hmm... an 872-square-foot dental office can do it, but hey, I'm a blogger, not an engineer....)

David Owen of the South Dakota joined Engineer Honeywell to advocate HB 1029. Interestingly, he noted that when the state proposed the original green-building requirements in 2008, the business sector raised its predictable hue and cry about government requirements. Owen summarized that resistance as "blah blah." He then told today's committee that the state was right, that the original LEED requirements were a good idea, and that the state has used the energy-efficiency requirements well. Keep that example in mind the next time you hear the Chamber of Commerce crying about government action killing jobs.

The American Chemistry Council (that's an ALEC pro-corporate lobby, not chemists) and the Black Hills Forestry Resources Association were on hand to oppose HB 1029. These two industry groups did not like the direction the original HB 1029 went in getting rid of some alternative rating systems from the green-building requirement. Larry Mann, lobbyist for the BHFRA, explained that in 2008, the LEED standards didn't allow credit for timber harvested from national forests. The inclusion of other standards friendlier to Black Hills timber was a compromise that made our green-building requirements tolerable to local industry. HB 1029 as written undid that compromise and raised hackles. But in her opening, Engineer Honeywell offered an amendment to put back updated versions of those alternative standards that the industry lobbyists found perfectly acceptable. Their opposition evaporated, and everyone at the table was happy.

Rep. Roger Solum (R-5/Watertown) posed an interesting question: does South Dakota need these green-building standards to qualify for any federal funding? Engineer Honeywell said no. Apparently, South Dakota has adopted green building standards out of the goodness of its heart.

Rep. Don Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls) asked what the return on investment is for all this greenery. Engineer Honeywell didn't have the ongoing utility cost savings, but she did say that the up-front cost to get green-certified is less than 2% (I assume she means of the overall costs of the project).

Rep. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton) asked about the different LEED certification levels. Engineer Honeywell said there are four: certified, silver, gold, and platinum. South Dakota requires and will require post-HB 1029 silver LEED status. Rep. Bolin emphasized that that means we are requiring the second-lowest standard. We're green, but not that green...

...which evidently keeps these green-building requirements tolerable for most of our Republican legislators. House State Affairs passed the multi-standard amendment and House Bill 1029 as amended, with only Rep. Bolin's dissenting vote, for debate on the House floor.


*I really like sound of the words action blogger together. Let's make t-shirts! :-)

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Rebuttal of the week to gubernatorial malarkey on K-12 education funding comes from Leola superintendent Brian Heupel, who offers this observation on Governor Dennis Daugaard's persistent shirking of responsibility for South Dakota's perennial barrel-bottom teacher pay:

"The governor always says that the local school boards determine teacher pay," Heupel said. "Well, I look at it, when I was growing up, if my dad gave me 50 cents, I couldn't go to the store and buy something for a dollar" [Patrick Anderson, "Teacher Shortage Stories," that Sioux Falls paper, 2015.01.22].

The teacher shortage is real. Heupel and his colleagues in Flandreau, Alcester-Hudson, Chamberlain, and Estelline aren't making it up. And the amount the Governor is willing to spend on education is directly responsible for our continued sorry state.

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Boy, if the Mugwumps are concerned about letting the Department of Health give them orders, wait until they see the Department of Revenue's plan to grab their paychecks and bank accounts.

Senate Bill 59 is the Department of Revenue's proposal to create a state debt collection office. Louisiana created such an office last year, and it may generate $10 million in new revenue for that state.

Well, "new" revenue probably isn't the right term. A state debt collection office recoups revenue the state should be getting but doesn't, because someone tries to skip out on a payment to a state agency, constitutional office, the Board of Regents, or the courts.

To get that money, Senate Bill 59 would empower the Department of Revenue to garnish wages. Suppose you take a Critical Needs Teaching Scholarship, get the state to pay for your last two years of college, but then get financially rational and go to work as a network technician instead of as a teacher in South Dakota. You need to pay the state back for all that free tuition, but you think, "Ah, they'll never notice."

They'll notice, and SB 59 will allow them (the Board of Regents, the Governor, whoever's watching the books) to refer your debt to the state debt collection office. SB 59 will empower that office to...

  1. contact your employer and require that your employer withhold your debt from your paycheck and send it straight to Pierre (Section 25);
  2. authorize your employer to hit you with a $25 fee for processing the "administrative wage assessment" (Section 28);
  3. contact your bank and take money out of your accounts (Sections 42–58);
  4. authorize your bank to charge you $25 for processing the "administrative bank levy" (Section 53);
  5. block issuance or renewal of your driver's license, teaching certificate, bar certification, hunting license, fishing license, or pretty much any other license the state might issue until you've paid your debt to the state or at least set up a payment plan (Section 62);
  6. charge you a cost receovery fee equal to 20% of the amount you owe the state, which fee will help fund operations of the state debt collection office (Section 6).

Add all that up, try to stiff the state for $16,000 in tuition, and you could end up paying $19,250.

I have a call in to the Department of Revenue; once I've visited with state officials, I plan to write a follow-up to explain just how much state debt is out there and how much a state debt collection agency could collect.

A state debt collection agency could be useful. When the Banking Commission realize Joop Bollen owes the state $2.4 million in bank franchise tax, they could just send some letters, hit a few buttons, and take that money right out of Bollen's bank accounts. If the state felt generous, it could expand SB 59 to include county agencies and use the bank and wage garnishments to collect all those delinquent property taxes right away.

And think about this: Senate Bill 59 would empower the Department of Revenue to reach out to any employer in the state and withhold money from any paycheck. SB 59's withholdings could serve as a test run for the mechanism we'd need to collect a state income tax. Nothing in the bill says that... but oh, we creative minds can think of some useful implications down the road.

Senate Bill 59 goes to Senate Commerce and Energy for its first hearing soon. Let's see if any conservatives come to the hearing feeling queasy about empowering the state to grab deadbeats' paycheks and bank accounts.

Update 2015.01.26 05:25 CST: Bob Mercer gets some more details on the proposed state debt collection office:

  • The state currently contracts with The Affiliated Group of Minnesota to collect debts. That company gets 15% to 22.5% for its services.
  • The Department of Revenue has paid CGI of Farifax, Virginia, $49,000 so far to analyze South Dakota's unpaid-debt situation. SB 59 comes from CGI's recommendations.
27 comments

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