Last updated on 2013.08.29
Much has been said here in the blogosphere about the form (cheap, chickenly anonymous, but punchy) and legality (yup, legal) of the coordinated and anonymous PAC attack on SDGOP House leaders David Lust, Justin Cronin, and Brian Gosch and Senate Majority Leader Russell Olson. But what of the substance?
The PAC attack postcard cites six bills from the 2011 Legislative session and one from 2012 dealing with veterans issues. Here's the table from the card; I add Senator Olson's votes where applicable. From the postcarders' point of view, nays are anti-veteran votes on all but 2011's SB 188:
|2011-HB1083"Revise ineffective veterans education statute"||Nay||Nay||Nay|
|2011-HB1125"Increase certain veteran bonus payments"||Nay||Nay||Nay|
|2011-HB1163"Allow disabled veterans to obtain handicap hunting permits"||Yea||Yea||Nay|
|2011-HB1196"Establish veteran centers at state colleges"||Nay||Nay||Nay||Nay|
|2011-HB1253"Establish provisions for military & overseas voters"||Nay||Nay||*excused*|
|2011-SB188"Abolish select education benefits for SD National Guard"||Yea||Yea||Yea||Yea|
|2012-HB1106"Restore funds to veterans service officer programs"||Nay||Nay||Nay|
The only error I find in the vote counts is the postcard's claim that Rep. Gosch voted against 2011 HB1253. He was in fact excused from that State Affairs Committee vote.
Now some notes on each bill:
2011 House Bill 1083: Veterans get free tuition to South Dakota public universities. HB 1083 would have extended that deal to our vo-techs. The bill did not provide funding to help the Board of Regents cover the expenses of educating those veterans without tuition support.
2011 HB 1125 was a mostly Democratic measure to increase state bonus payments to veterans, in some cases double or more. It included no funding mechanism.
2011 HB 1163: Current law allows folks who can't walk or who have a really hard time doing so to obtain "disabled hunter permits" and shoot from their vehicles. HB 1163 would have extended that privilege to veterans with a Department of Veterans Affairs disability rating of at least 30%. If I understand this chart on disability ratings correctly, that provision would have included vets with an amputatedthumb or trigger finger, a missing eye, hearing impairment, or certain levels of depression.
2011 HB 1196 would have created veterans resources centers at each South Dakota public university. The bill passed the House, even though it was an unfunded mandate; a watered-down version ("may" replaced "shall") failed in the Senate. School of Mines has established a VRC anyway, and other Regental campuses are looking for similar ways to better serve the incoming wave of degree-seeking veterans.
2011 HB 1253: House State Affairs tabled this bill at prime sponsor Rep. Marc Feinstein's request. Rep. Feinstein said in committee on Feb. 9, 2011, that his bill was put together "hurriedly" and was "not ready for prime time." He said the measure passed immediately before his bill came to House State Affairs, HB 1130, covered similar ground. Since then, Secretary of State Jason Gant appears to be using federal grants to help military and overseas voters in the way this bill intended... not that we should take much comfort in anything Secretary Gant is in charge of.
2011 Senate Bill 188 sought to abolish the 50% tuition break given to National Guard members seeking graduate degrees at South Dakota public universities. Governor Daugaard requested the bill. It passed the Senate 31 to 4, but failed in the House.
2012 HB 1106 would have restored cuts made to veterans services officers in Governor Daugaard's hack-happy first budget in 2011. Those cuts passed almost unanimously in 2011, with the onlynay coming from Democratic Senator Jason Frerichs. The cuts apparently cost no jobs, but they are another pointed example, as Rep. Spence Hawley (D-7/Brookings) pointed out to House Appropriations on Feb. 2, 2012, of the state shifting costs to the counties.
The PAC postcard lists legislator votes mostly accurately. However, the key word in the postcard seems to be "niggardly," characterizing the legislators of concern as declining to extend government largesse to veterans. Only one of the bills (2012 HB 1106) would have provided any more money for veteran services. Only on one other bill (2011 SB 188) did the attacked SDGOP leaders actually vote to take a financial benefit away from veterans. Three of the bills the leaders opposed (2011 HB 1083, 1125, and 1196) provided no funding to pay for the veterans benefits that sponsors wanted. And on two of the bills (2011 HB 1196 and 1253), it appears the state is working to address those issues despite the failure of those bills.
If we look at the details surrounding the legislation listed, we may find the picture of Reps. Lust, Cronin, and Gosch, and Sen. Olson as "niggards" toward veterans is no more slam-dunkily clear than the identity of the people behind these anonymous PAC attacks. But the PAC-men know that when they launch an attack like this, not everyone will look at the record. Even the silliest attack can chip away at the walls. If these opponents of the GOP leadership can extend these attacks from one early August raid to an ongoing barrage, Republicans like Lust, Cronin, Gosch, and Olson may have to expend more resources than they want to maintain their grip on power.