The Legislative power couple of Rapid City fringe conservatism, Senator Phil Jensen and freshwoman Rep. Lynne DiSanto, whose every move in Pierre ought to arouse the suspicion and scrutiny of all good liberals, have floated a bill I find I must support.

Senate Bill 77 is titled "An Act to allow nursing mothers to breastfeed in certain locations." Actually, it would permit moms to breastfeed their kids in darn near any location. SB 77 reads, in its glorious one-sentence simplicity, "Notwithstanding any other provisions of law, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be present."

Football game, public library, Perkins, the sidewalk in front of Pat Powers's house, the front pew—if Mom feels like going out, and if baby's feeling noshy, Mom can feed that baby the way only she can.

Well... at least someone in Pierre supports raw milk.

I do have a question about the reach of this proposed law. As written, SB 77 sounds pretty absolute. "Notwithstanding" seems in one swoop to fell every possible legal restriction (though I skim through statute and find no legal restrictions on breastfeeding). "Public or private" seems to declare pretty much any location as the proper domain for moms to carry out that blissful natural function. "Otherwise authorized" seems to say that if you own a restaurant or a rifle range and a customer breaks out the homebrew for Junior, you can't say, "Excuse ma'am, your lactation is bothering other guests, I must ask you to leave;" try it, and your customer may have grounds to haul you to court for infringing on her legal right, enshrined in Senate Bill 77, to feed her child. No breastfeeding rooms, no segregation—Senate Bill 77 makes the right to breastfeed absolute.

...which is fine, right? Kids gotta eat. Moms gotta feed. And that's what breasts are for, right?

Unless someone can conceive of the exceptions to which this policy should be subject, Senate Bill 77 is the real pro-woman, pro-baby, pro-life legislation I've been waiting for, the sort of bill that may boost South Dakota's ranking for truly family-friendly policy... but I can't shake the feeling that Senator Jensen, Rep. DiSanto, and the mostly conservative caucus signed on as sponsors are up to something. Let moms do their thing, and keep your eye on Jensen and DiSanto.

P.S.: The only South Dakota statute I can find dealing explicitly with breast feeding is SDCL 16-13-10.4, which exempts breastfeeding mothers from jury duty. This statute also lets expecting parents and parents of newborns, up to six weeks, skip jury duty. The Legislature passed this law in 2012.

182 comments

I'm not ready to hit the top stories of the year cycle quite yet (six days left! who knows what could happen?!), but Bob Mercer is. South Dakota's last full-time statehouse reporter picks five top South Dakota political stories of 2014:

  1. Rounds wins Senate seat.
  2. Krebs wins Secretary of State.
  3. Democrats nominate women for governor and lieutenant.
  4. State retirement fund earns 18.9% net return.
  5. Voters increase minimum wage.

Mercer does not lay out criteria for "top political stories." Most of his choices seem to revolve around ongoing impact on South Dakota's politics and economy. Ousting the last Democrat from statewide office certainly has ongoing impact on the political landscape. So will changing our top election official: smarter and tougher Shantel Krebs can promote the Republican agenda of Democratic vote suppression much more aggressively than half-checked-out Jason Gant. Our recovering retirement fund promises future economic security, while our minimum-wage hike provides a little economic boost and economic justice right now. The minimum-wage hike also affirms the power of Democrats to promote their pro-working-class agenda through initiatives.

But Mercer's #3 seems the odd woman out. The Dems' executive office nominees, Susan Wismer and Susy Blake, are nice people. But their all-female candidacy is "historic" only in the driest, textbook sense of the word. Wismer and Blake didn't win. They didn't blaze new trails in campaign organizing, fundraising, or get-out-the-vote activities. They didn't capitalize on their womanliness to raise awareness of or change the conversation about women's issues in South Dakota. The Wismer-Blake ticket seemed to win nothing more than its own Trivia Crack™ South Dakota Edition entry, and even that achievement is twinned with failure: political gurus discussing the first all-gal ticket will inevitably mention that ticket was also the biggest loser, ceding the Governor's office to the incumbent by 45 points.

I welcome your critique of Mercer's list and your own lists below; stay tuned in the coming days for my own blog-based lists of big South Dakota news, based on your comments and my own criteria... once I've recovered from all those Christmas Swedish meatballs and pickles! Mmmm....

12 comments

Next week the South Dakota Board of Regents will discuss Dr. Joseph A. Hartman's review of the geology and geological engineering program at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The UND geology professor visited campus last April. His findings support the argument I find myself making all too often about South Dakota's education funding: money by itself does not guarantee better education, but sometimes you have to spend more money to meet basic needs.

Dr. Hartmann identified a number facilities upgrades that will require spending in the coming years:

  • GGE classroom and teaching facilities cannot support the 5% annual increases in undergraduate enrollment increases mandated by the Mines 2020 Strategic Vision and Plan.
  • GGE laboratory sections require "hands-on" training and there is little room for either larger lab sections or increased numbers of lab sections.
  • Mineral Industries (Ml) building requires renovation because of circuitry, HVAC, and asbestos.
  • New space for GGE is a top priority in Mines 2020 Capital Campaign fund-raising [Dr. Joseph H. Hartman, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Geology and Geological Engineering program review, 2014.08.24, p. 17].

If we want more scientists and engineers, the students we train to that end will need more classrooms and laboratories to develop the skills we crave.

Dr. Hartman also identified some equality issues that require some fiscal will:

One that resonated was access to female bathrooms on all floors in the GGE building. Because of course scheduling conflicts (back to back, as a simple example), women students are not able to visit a bathroom conveniently and thus be late for class. They considered this a Title IX concern.

Subsequent to my visit I learned that “The lack of women's bathrooms on the first and third floor of the building is well known to all women faculty, staff, and students who use the building and the latter two groups have made periodic requests to facilities and the administration to remedy it. The bathrooms were renovated several years ago but, inexplicably, the male restroom on the second floor was made co-ed, but no attempt to provide female restrooms on the other floors was made” (Maribeth Price, August 2014). Apparently, this is a failure of the School to address a long-standing problem despite faculty and student concerns and repeated requests [Hartman, 2014.08.28, p. 9].

Dr. Hartman also notices a lack of electronic journals and a lack of funding for trips to academic conferences.

Classrooms, laboratories, and bathrooms don't just bubble up from the ground like the lava our Hardrockers study. Professional geologists don't come from walking around the courtyard having Socratic dialogues. Fulfilling its mission requires spending more money. We'll find out this session whether our Legislature is willing to put its money where its mouth is, or whether it will continue to expect professors and students to find their own resources.

24 comments

Some trivia from the South Dakota Board of Regents placement outcomes report:

1. The racial group with the highest rate of placement in jobs or ongoing education in South Dakota: American Indians. 

First-year South Dakota placement rates, 2012. Source: South Dakota Board of Regents, "Placement Outcomes of Regental Students," p. 9.

First-year South Dakota placement rates, by race, 2012. Source: South Dakota Board of Regents, "Placement Outcomes of Regental Students," Nov. 2014, p. 9.

Compare cautiously a sample of 82 Indians with a sample of 2,661 whites. But let's me optimistic: get more Indians to university, get them to graduate, and they'll put their skills to work in South Dakota as surely as the rest of the graduate population.

2. The sex with better in-state placement: women.

First-year South Dakota placement rates, 2012, by sex. Source: South Dakota Board of Regents, "Placement Outcomes of Regental Graduates," Nov. 2014, p. 9.

First-year South Dakota placement rates, 2012, by sex. Source: South Dakota Board of Regents, "Placement Outcomes of Regental Graduates," Nov. 2014, p. 9.

The Regental report does not clarify whether more women than men are actually going to work or grad school or whether this ten-point gap in placement indicates that more men leave the state for work than women.

3. The best campus for first-year in-state placement: Dakota State. The worst: School of Mines.

First-year South Dakota placement rates, by campus, 2012. Source: South Dakota Board of Regents, "Placement Outcomes of Regental Students," Nov. 2014, p. 9.

First-year South Dakota placement rates, by campus, 2012. Source: South Dakota Board of Regents, "Placement Outcomes of Regental Students," Nov. 2014, p. 9.

Of course DSU has a high in-state placement rate: it lives and breathes as the training school for Citibank and Premier Bankcard.

School of Mines advertises a 98% placement rate for its graduates. Mines graduates also fetch some of the best starting salaries in the country. A School of Mines placement brochure lists 119 employers who hired 2011–2012 Mines grads. Mines marks 21 of those employers as South Dakota employers. That supports the conclusion we might draw from the numbers above that encouraging students to go into science and engineering does not immediately translate into benefits for South Dakota's economy.

Update 2014.11.28 10:43 CST: School of Mines communications manager Fran LeFort responds to my inquiry about these states with this note:

It is worth noting a significant number of our graduates are hired by companies in the region and may still contribute economically to the state. Some of these companies are just outside the borders of South Dakota – Wyoming coal mines, North Dakota oil fields, Nucor in Norfolk, Neb., etc. [Fran LeFort, e-mail, 2014.11.26]

Note that every Regental institution may be able to make a similar claim. An analysis of regional placement on top of state placement might be interesting, but I have a feeling that telling legislators, "Hey, look how much our programs are boosting Minnesota's workforce!" won't rouse much cheering.

3 comments

The Governor's Office of Economic Development and Madison's Lake Area Improvement Corporation score another coup, bringing Iowa sexy bra manufacturer Best Darn Guns (should a company really force us to swear?) to town:

Best Damn Guns website, http://bdguns.corecommerce.com, screen cap, 2014.11.13

Best Damn Guns website, http://bdguns.corecommerce.com, screen cap, 2014.11.13

In a brilliant example of vertical (or is it horizontal, or cross-your-heart?) integration, the LAIC announces it is also bringing the closely associated Wilt Manufacturing, whose subsidiary Wilt Wire and Fabrication does something with Wire EDM, which is obviously connected to the the supporting industry of making underwires.

Or not. Once I get past the crass and gratuitous disembodiment and oversexualization of the female body, I realize Best Darn Guns makes gun parts. But their advertising makes clear the real psychology behind South Dakota's gun nuttery. Carrying guns and now building local economic development makes us real men and gets us action.

Welcome to South Dakota, Best Darn Guns and Wilt Manufacturing! We look forward to your billboards.

10 comments

Hey, Pressler Democrats! Does this flyer help pull you back to Democrat Rick Weiland?
PP Weiland v Pressler 2014 front
PP Weiland v Pressler -back
Planned Parenthood MN-ND-SD's PAC has been filling South Dakota mailboxes with this mailer. Planned Parenthood has also put up ChooseWeiland.com to remind pro-lady Dems that Weiland supports their values better than Pressler. The pros for Weiland:

Let Women Decide, Not Politicians

We need leaders like Rick Weiland who will protect our right to make private medical decisions without government intrusion.

Protect Life-Saving Preventive Care

Rick will protect funds for lifesaving pre-cancer screenings and mammograms for millions of women and will fight against any attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.

Supports Expanded Paid Family Medical Leave

Rick will fight to expand paid medical leave to workers in companies with fewer than 50 employees [links mine; Planned Parenthood MN-ND-SD PAC, ChooseWeiland.com, downloaded 2014.11.03].

And the Pressler cons:

Voted 100% against the Pro-Choice Position

Former Republican Senator Larry Pressler voted against the pro-choice position 100% of the time.

Opposed the Family Medical Leave Act

Former Republican Senator Larry Pressler voted against the Family Medical Leave Act passed in 1993.

Opposed Life-Saving Preventive Care for Women

Former Republican Senator Larry Pressler said he probably would’ve voted against the legislation which has expanded life-saving preventive care to millions of women without a copay [links mine; ChooseWeiland.com].

One pale yellow flag: on preventive care, we're talking about the Affordable Care Act. (Preventive care with no copays—yeah, remember that benefit that Mike Rounds and Kristi Noem would repeal?) Yes, Pressler did say that, had he been in the Senate in 2010, he'd have voted against the ACA. But he has also said that the ACA is the law of the land, that repeal is unrealistic, and that we should work to make the ACA better. That puts Pressler somewhere in the neighborhood of where Stephanie Herseth Sandlin stood in 2010. Of course, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin didn't have to run against a Weiland....

So Dems, if you're still thinking of making Mike Rounds Senator by voting for Larry Pressler, does the pro-choice issue swing you back to Rick Weiland?

6 comments

Susan Wismer is making her final campaign pilgrimage around the state this weekend, including  a 2 p.m. stop today at Dem headquarters in Madison. She ought to play this Joan Jett Get-Out-The-Lady-Vote video at every stop, really loud:

In his Thinking Unenslaved reboot podcast Wednesday night, Jered Dawnne and I discussed how being a Democrat and fighting for women's rights can get one a bad reputation in South Dakota. Democrats, feminists, and other believers in equality and liberty need to get our Jett (and our Tyler, and our Page, and our Weiland) on and not give a damn. Go, fight, vote!

5 comments

I love South Dakota. I love ladies. So why doesn't South Dakota love ladies?

Never mind the syllogistic stretch; check out why 24/7 Wall Street says South Dakota is the seventh-worst state in the Union for women:

Median earnings for women in South Dakota were roughly 75% the earnings of their male counterparts in 2013, one of the lower rates in the country. The lower earnings may be due to the relatively small percentage of women in management occupations. As of 2013, slightly more than 31% of workers in managerial roles were women, well below the national rate of 39.2%. Working women in South Dakota cannot take paid time off to care for sick family members or tend to their own health or pregnancy. Moreover, South Dakota has not begun to implement the expansion of Medicaid benefits allowed under the Affordable Care Act. With women accounting for nearly 55% of all state residents living below the poverty line in 2012, expanding Medicaid benefits would likely improve the living conditions for women [Thomas C. Frohlich, Alexander Kent, and Alexander E.M. Hess, "The 10 Worst States for Women," 24/Wall Street, 2014.10.16].

I love South Dakota. I want to say good things about South Dakota. But candidates like Mike Rounds and Dennis Daugaard are claiming they deserve your vote because they've done good things for South Dakota, when in fact they have only left in place a political and economic system that denies a huge majority of moms (and dads!) the opportunity to leave one parent at home to raise their kids, then hurls those women into an oppressive business regime that excludes them from lucrative positions of power.

Women, you appear to have your doubts about Democratic gubernatorial candidate Susan Wismer. You should harbor even greater doubts about the economic status quo in which the Republicans vest their interests. Check your pocketbooks, and vote accordingly.

15 comments

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