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.

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House Bill 1201, which Dakota Rural Action has deemed the worst of the CAFO bills in this year's Legislative Session, heads to Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources this morning at 10:00. HB 1201, the only bill on the committee's agenda, would make it harder for citizens concerned about stink, water contamination, and other damage caused by big livestock feedlots to block such harmful ag-industrial developments in their neighborhoods.

Dakota Rural Action's excellent legislative blog notes that the state, which views farming as nothing but economic development, not land stewardship or community building, goes to great lengths to promote big CAFOs. This post from Meghan Thoreau describes the state's County Site Analysis Program and its focus on Big Ag:

The Program has been under development for the past several years and involves several key players, such as the South Dakota Department of Agriculture, First District Association of Local government, Planning and Development District III, Turner County Landowner Value Added Finance Authority Board Member and a few others. As it stands today the program is attempting to grow AG related industries through pre-qualifying sites for Confined Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO) or Agriculturally Related Industrial Development (ARID), such as ethanol plants, cheese plants, granaries, and agricultural manufactures alike. The current methodology and analysis applied is very landowner and CAFO-ARID-operator centric, involving the landowners of pre-qualifying sites and operators of CAFO and ARID industries, with no great effort to secure public participation in the selection of sites, nor communities’ or the environment’s interests. (The only environmental factor taken into account is the area within the protected aquifer zone.) [Meghan Thoreau, "South Dakota's County Site Analysis Program," Dakota Rural Action legislative blog, 2015.02.25]

The County Site Analysis Program isn't about helping counties identify good locations for community gardens, farmers markets, or other small-scale agricultural projects that would promote sustainability and local self-sufficiency. The state wants factory farms. The County Site Analysis Program flags land for such development, and now House Bill 1201 seeks to weaken the review process that allows citizens to weigh the pros and cons of dedicating their land and water to meat and milk factories.

The state already gives factory farms numerous advantages. Let's not take away the few remaining advantages citizens have to protect their counties from over-industrialization. Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources, vote no today on HB 1201.

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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

The South Dakota Legislature will not require me to wear my bright pink t-shirt when I ride my bike. They may, however, require you motorists to give me three feet in town and six feet in the country.

Apparently listening to the bicycle community, Rep. Nancy Rasmussen (R-17/Hurley) went to House Transportation on February 17 and pulled the plug on her House Bill 1214, which would have required bicyclists to wear fluorescent or reflective clothing. Unlike Senator Corey Brown, when Rep. Rasmussen saw her bill was a bad idea, she didn't whine or threaten her opponents; she simply asked that the committee table her bill. Unlike most legislators, committee members Dennis Feickert, Jim Stalzer, and Mike Verchio did not automatically extend Rep. Rasmussen the standard courtesy of voting aye in response to a sponsor's tabling request. HB 1214 nonetheless died 10–3.

House Bill 1030, the "move over for bikes" bill, survived House Transportation, the full House, and Friday, Senate Transportation. You're already supposed to give any vehicle—motor or pedal—a "safe distance" when you pass; HB 1030 defines "safe distance" between cars and bikes as three feet at slower speeds and six feet at speeds above 35 miles per hour.

Department of Transportation lawyer Bill Nevin told Senate Transportation that the point of HB 1030 is not to write more tickets. The point is to educate everyone on the road and bring down the number of car-bicycle accidents. (Nevin said that from 2002 through 2013, South Dakota had 1,156 bicyclists injured—7 of them killed—in collisions with motor vehicles.)

Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-4/Florence), an avid cyclist, joined proponents testifying for HB 1030. He said cars frequently buzz by him within inches while he's riding... which is odd, because in all my riding, I rarely have such close encounters. Could South Dakota motorists be more inclined to buzz Republican legislators than liberal bloggers?

After additional proponentry from the Department of Public Safety, certified bicycle safety instructor Chris Parsley, and the American Heart Association, one opponent took the mic. Shane Barber, rancher and water tank manufacturer from Hermosa, ran the Gordon Howie critique, saying his road, twenty-foot-wide Lower Spring Creek Road, is to narrow to accommodate bicycles and the cars and overwidth hay trucks that would have to give them HB 1030's six-foot berth. Barber complained that HB 1030 makes no provision for "substandard width lanes," a phrase Barber chose carefully. Barber said that current law requires cyclists to ride "as close as practicable" to the right edge of the road. Among the exceptions to that stricture is a "substandard width lane" like Lower Spring Creek Road or Highway 34 through Madison, where cyclists are allowed to take the full lane to discourage passing. Barber said HB 1030 might be acceptable if it included some exception for drivers in such lanes and encouraged bicyclists to do what Barber said is standard practice for drivers of overwidth trucks and farm implements: pull over and let cars pass.

In response to Mr. Barber's concerns, Transportation Chairman Mike Vehle (R-20/Mitchell) plugged his own road-funding bill as the best solution: "If we had more money, we could make the shoulders a little wider." Committee members and the audience laughed—Senator Vehle has been pushing more road funding for years—and the committee then unanimously passed House Bill 1030 to the full Senate.

* * *

By the way, Senate Transportation member Rep. Alan Solano (R-32/Rapid City) mentioned during Friday's hearing that the safety concerns motivating HB 1030 are like those motivating the state's "move over" law for vehicles stopped along the side of the road. That's the rule that says if you see any vehicle pulled over with its hazard lights flashing on the Interstate, you need to get over in the passing lane. The law also applies on two-lane roads, but instead of moving over, the law requires that you slow down to 20 miles per hour below the speed limit. That rule applies to any stopped vehicle with yellow flashers; HB 1030 applies only to bicycles "proceeding." So if you see Rep. Deutsch standing beside his bike on the shoulder of Highway 20 on the way to Florence, you don't have to swerve left six feet, but if he has his winky-blinky light on, you have to slow down to 45.

5 comments

The South Dakota Senate passed the latest nibble at women's reproductive rights yesterday, voting 29–5 for House Bill 1130. This measure makes it illegal for abortion providers to accept payment until after women have had a good hard think during South Dakota's minimum 72-hour waiting period.

South Dakota has only one abortion provider, and even proponents acknowledge that such prepayment is not standard practice. HB 1130 thus has little practical effect. But Senator Angie Buhl O'Donnell (D-15/Sioux Falls) explains the moral effect of further insult to women:

I’m bothered by the underlying idea that women could possibly, that women take so lightly the idea of what they’re going to do when they have an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy that they might think to themselves – well, gee I was gonna decide to keep the pregnancy but I already wrote the check so ok let’s go. That really bothers me [Senator Angie Buhl O'Donnell, quoted in Jackelyn Severin, "Senators Pass Measure Restricting Payments for Abortion Procedures," SDPB Radio, 2015.02.26].

Senate Health and Human Services made a minor amendment to HB 1130, eliminating a line that would have prohibited abortion providers from accepting a commitment for payment. The bill must thus return to the House for concurrence.

67 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

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!

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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

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  • Indy Registration Surges During Referendum Drive; Dems Decline Less Dramatic Than in 2013–2014 2015.09.05
    Bob Mercer provides his regular update on voter registration totals in South Dakota. Here’s a look at the monthly percentage changes for Republicans, Democrats, Independents, and total registered voters this year: In every month except July, Democrats have declined by tiny fractions. In every month, more people have joined the Republicans than have left the Democrats. And in every […]
  • Nevada Shows South Dakota Republicans How to Increase Funding for K-12 Education 2015.09.04
    Governor Dennis Daugaard’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students meets again next week Wednesday, September 9 out at the country club. After one more morning slideshow from the Department of Education, the legislators, administrators, businesspeople—oh yeah, and a couple teachers—will finally get down to discussing their own tenets, goals, and next steps. Those next steps will be […]
  • Retire-Rehire Costly Way to Keep K-12 Workforce: Let SDRS Focus on Real Retirement Income 2015.09.04
    Bob Mercer reports that the South Dakota Retirement System that the 2010 decision to scale back the retire-rehire option may be saving the state pension system millions of dollars: The SDRS analysis looked at the 123 retire-rehires from 2009. Ninety came back within three months; the average break for those 90 was 13 days. There were 42 […]
  • CEOs Claim Lion and Vulture’s Share of Reward from Increased Worker Productivity 2015.09.04
    More from economist Mark Thoma: a new paper from the Economic Policy Institute finds that workers are doing more and not getting paid for it. Over the last four decades, as workers have become more productive, the fruits of that productivity have gone mostly to management’s pockets: Net productivity grew 1.33 percent each year between 1973 and 2014, faster […]
  • Jackley: Circle Bear Smuggled Meth into Brown County Jail 2015.09.04
    Attorney General Marty Jackley yesterday released additional findings that attempt to exonerate the Brown County Jail of any responsibility for the death of inmate Sarah Lee Circle Bear in early July. After publishing autopsy details last month indicating Circle Bear died in the Brown County Jail from a meth overdose two days after she was taken into custody in Roberts […]
  • Payday Lending Caps Reduce Liquor Purchases? 2015.09.03
    Hat tip to Mark Thoma, Economist’s View! Here’s another reason to sign the real 36%-rate-cap petition and help rein in predatory payday lenders… and a reason we might see another powerful South Dakota lobbying group join the payday lenders in promoting the fake 18%-rate-cap petition to protect business as usual for local loan sharks. Cap payday lenders ability to exploit your neighbors, and your […]
  • Diggs: Gerrymandering Bad for Representative Democracy 2015.09.03
    The ratio of registered Republicans to registered Democrats in South Dakota is roughly 7 to 5. The ratio of Republicans to Democrats in the South Dakota Legislature is 21 to 5. (Hey, Governor! Where’s our replacement for Steve Hickey?) Roslyn columnist Lawrence Diggs can’t imagine how those disparate ratios arise from a fair election process (although I’ll warn […]
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    The Black Hills Knowledge Network provides GDP data showing that South Dakota’s economy under Governor Dennis Daugaard has not performed as well as the national economy under President Barack Obama: The Daugaard Administration began with a remarkable 5% GDP growth in 2011. But as the Governor’s 10% cuts in the FY2012 state budget set in, so did a recession, with […]
  • South Dakota Demography Conference October 7-9 in Rapid City 2015.09.03
    John Tsitrian is right: the South Dakota Demography Conference sounds like a blast! South Dakota Dashboard and the SDSU Rural Life and Census Data Center are hosting the third annual demography event on the School of Mines campus in Rapid City, Wednesday, October 7 through Friday, October 9. The conference theme is “Forecasting the Rural/Urban Divide in South Dakota.” Among […]
  • LRC Justifies Fiscal Impact Statements with Methodology and Sources 2015.09.03
    On Tuesday I reported that the Legislative Research Council’s official fiscal impact statements on the four marijuana-related initiatives currently circulating showed far more costs for convictions under the proposed alcohol and tobacco bans than they showed in savings for the marijuana decriminalization initiative. The LRC failed to offer any specific cost figures on the medical marijuana initiative, saying that […]

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