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Dems Acquiescent: Minority Legislators Must Call Out GOP Neglect

You'd think I'd spend an episode of Inside KELOLand cheering the Democrats and throwing shoes at the Republicans. But on last night's Inside KELOLand discussion with four South Dakota legislators, my Democratic friends left me as barefoot as the Republicans, as the Dems failed to attack the noodle-headed policies of the GOP regime in Pierre.

My Democratic friends seem to be stuck in South Dakota Nice. Senator Scott Parsley (D-8/Madison) talked about a Democratic amendment to the road-repair plan that would have directed the excise tax toward local governments. Local roads and bridges are in worse shape than state infrastructure. Republicans killed that amendment. But Senator Parsley didn't explain to voters how Republicans had killed a sensible Democratic plan to direct dollars where dollars are needed most. Senator Parsley mildly said, "it was a good debate, good discussion."

Senator Parsley was similarly gentle on in an argument about property tax and roads. Senator Dan Lederman (R-16/Dakota Dunes) said he thought that spending property tax for road repairs went too far (because, you know, that property you own has nothing at all to do with the roads that you use to get to that property). He said the original bill created a new property tax, and such new taxes ought to be subject to a vote of the people. Senator Parsley responded that the proposal was not a new tax, that property taxes already fund roads. But he prefaced his argument with the mild, "Not to argue with Senator Lederman...."

Senator Parsley, you are arguing with Senator Lederman. You should argue with Senator Lederman. He has it coming, because he is wrong. Let the voters know that he is wrong. Let the voters know that Republicans are costing counties money by forcing them to hold an expensive election every time they want to raise money for local infrastructure instead of leaving it to citizens to decide under the referendum power they already have whether they want to put a bridge-repair levy to a vote.

Rep. Paula Hawks (D-9/Hartford) was similarly far too gentle in the face of the Republican baloney served by Rep. Don Haggar (R-9/Sioux Falls). Rep. Haggar said he did not expect the Legislature to offer any more than the 2% increase the Governor has proposed for K-12 funding. Rep. Hawks replied, "I generally agree we're not going to see anything over that 2% as ongoing money."

Back up, Rep. Hawks. You should never open a comment on the ongoing Republican strangulation of K-12 budgets with the words, "I agree." Or at the very least, you say, "I agree the Republicans in the Legislature aren't going to give us more than 2%, because Republicans don't think our kids are worth the investment. But we should do more than 2%. We have to do more than 2% if we're going to stand any chance of recruiting teachers and maintaining educational opportunities."

Rep. Hawks misses another point-making opportunity on a question about the Governor's proposed "Blue Ribbon Task Force" on education. Rep. Haggar says the task force is "absolutely" a "great idea." He then happily babbles away from the fundamental question of the teacher shortage, saying we need to look at whether the education funding formula "promote[s] the right behaviors." Rep. Hawks, who should be rolling her eyes, who should be giving Rep. Haggar a Seth-and-Amy Really?!?, instead mildly replies that she is "pleased" that we're going to spend time looking at education. Rep. Hawks notes that she gets "a little concerned" that the task force may just be "pushing... down the road another year" a problem that we already understand. Rep. Hawks outlines that problem—years of short funding leading to teachers leaving the profession and college students not entering the field—but instead of speaking with the pain and passion of a veteran teacher who has seen the damage done by the state's neglect, former teacher Hawks states these issues somewhat nonchalantly, as if we've heard the words before and there's no need to get excited about them. She then punctuates her comments by saying she's optimistic that the task force can produce results. By opening and closing with an endorsement of the task force, Rep. Hawks sends the primary message that Rep. Haggar and Governor Daugaard are on the right track and that her concerns are secondary.

My mild-mannered Democratic friends could argue ("Not to argue with blogger Cory, but...") that they are simply drawing flies with honey. But on the big issues, these Republicans need swatting. They are neglecting critical problems, and voters need to know it. If we Democrats are going to be an effective opposition party, we need to oppose, and we need to take advantage of every opportunity (like 23 minutes on the top-rated TV station in the state) to pitch that opposition to the public.

The South Dakota Democratic Party is in the process of hiring a new executive director (that position was supposed to be filled by the end of January; we're working on that, right, Central Committee?). One can hope that the new executive director will model the sort of captivating and mobilizing fire that our Democratic legislators should be using to challenge the Republican neglect of the public welfare.


  1. mike from iowa 2015.02.16

    Emasculation of South Dakota Dems continue. Somewhere DD and Troy are smiling.

  2. Jeff Barth 2015.02.16

    Our few Democratic legislators in Pierre are immersed in a sea of Republicans. They stay at the same hotels, eat and drink at the same events and sit together at committee meetings. Making waves can lead to a lonely existence. And it is already lonely in Pierre. Ask Stace Nelson.

    With Stockholm syndrome eventually hostages began to like their captors. Remember Patty Hearst who after weeks of rape, starvation and being locked in a dark closet actually robbed banks with her own kidnappers.

    Democrats in South Dakota have been in minority for too long. We want friends, we want influence and we want to get something done. After a while we begin to relate to our captors. We see their good side. We hope for a crumb off their plate. We become tame.

    I am not the ball of fire I once was as a county commissioner. My Republican friends (and they are friends) have outnumbered me 4-1 for the past nine years. I need Republican votes to do anything. Luckily for me they sometime need my vote too.

    Elect more Democrats.

  3. Curt 2015.02.16

    Central Comm meets Sat in Pierre ... not sure whether they are ready to fill the ED job, but Chair Tornberg assures us that Zach Crago remains 'on retainer.'
    I realize this misses the main point of the post - 'weak tea' being served up by the minority party, but nevertheless relevant, I think.

  4. Lanny V Stricherz 2015.02.16

    Mr Barth, Please don't let the Dems off the hook by talking about how it can be lonely in Pierre. It is pretty lonely being a citizen of this state if you are not part of the elite. Why would we elect more Democrats, when the ones that are there are Republican light at best.

    Cory hit the nail on the head. If you want to elect more Dems, then the ones who are in office need to act like Dems and be for the people and for what is right. And you Mr Barth should know this best of all when you have asked for a liquor tax increase to pay for the increased costs that counties are experiencing in law enforcement and jailing over liquor concerns. How are your efforts with the Republican controlled State Government on that issue, going?

  5. mike from iowa 2015.02.16

    Can we now refer to South Dakota wingnuts as the Symbionese Liberation Army-even if none of them are tanned dark enough?

  6. Jeff Barth 2015.02.16

    Mr. Stricherz… just call me Jeff.

    Cory, the schoolteacher, is not wrong is grading the performance of our Democratic legislators or county commissioners and neither are you. I was offering an explanation for their performance based on my own experience in captivity.

    As regards to the “Alcohol Tax” I can assure you that county commissioners of all parties have strong support for an alternative to property tax and there is a statewide network working on it. While it failed to get sponsors in this session the issue is alive.

    PS. Mike, I like it.

  7. Nick Nemec 2015.02.16

    This is only a slight divergence from the topic of the post, but the booze tax is a classic example of how Republican governance has failed our state. Alcohol is responsible for, or involved in, a high percent of the criminal activity in South Dakota. The court and law enforcement costs incurred because of alcohol fueled illegal activity are currently paid for with property tax receipts. An increase in the booze tax and a formula to allocate that money back to counties to help pay for those costs is a common sense solution to a problem facing local government. It is a user fee and frees up property tax money for other uses like repairing roads.

    The big money industry lobbyists will come out of the woodwork to defeat a booze tax increase, but I'll bet a majority of South Dakotans would support it if some politicians with the guts to speak truth to power explained to them.

  8. Owen 2015.02.16

    I agree with you Cory but I think the problem is that the Democrats in Pierre are trying to do the right thing and try to work with the Republicans. But the right wing of the Republicans have to have things done their way and they won't compromise with the Democrats on anything and they way it is now they don't have to.
    I think there are Republicans that are willing to work with the Democrats and realize they don't have all the answers. But like the Democrats these Republicans are either unwilling or unable to stand up to there own party.
    Somehow the Democrats have to get the people of South Dakota engaged, I believe that even though this is a mostly Republican state the people here are reasonable and I can't believe that if people would just care more Democrats would get elected. I don't think it has anything to do with gun rights as some would lead us to believe.

  9. grudznick 2015.02.16

    Owen, if the libbies in the legislature worked with the real republicans instead of always voting with the nut jobs to try and protest GOP things those libbies could be more meaningful. I'm just sayin.

  10. Lanny V Stricherz 2015.02.16

    Believe me Jeff, I was not castigating you. I just think that the Democrats have to show more backbone. Let me give you the best example that I can. In November of 2013 Kathy Tyler called on the legislature to begin an investigation of EB-5 and got not one legislator, let alone one Democrat to stand up with her and call for that investigation. Fast forward to the fall of 2014 and as long as the Dems would not side with her, the extremists on the right, put out false ads which then defeated her in the election. "If we don't stand together, we will fall separately," is an oft quoted but seldom attributed thought that comes to mind.

  11. Owen 2015.02.16

    Grud your definition Republican nut jobs and mine are different I believe. Democrats can't work with the Bolins and Ledermans of the legislature because those right wing crazies won't work with the Democrats. Just saying.

  12. Jenny 2015.02.16

    Rep Paula Hawks is representing the moderate to conservative brand of the democrat party, Cory. SD just doesn't go for the Al Franken diplomatic tell it in your face style that MNs seem to go for. I agree, she could be a bit more vocal, but that's just not who she is. I don't know who that would be, maybe Jason Frerichs? I see potential from him with a bit of grooming.

  13. Lanny V Stricherz 2015.02.16

    " SD just doesn't go for the Al Franken diplomatic tell it in your face style that MNs seem to go for." That is why I am registered Republican. If the Democrats cannot take a stand, might as well have a voice with the party that will apparently always be in power in SD.

  14. Douglas Wiken 2015.02.16

    South Dakota Democrats had too many years of Daschle, Johnson, and Herseth-Sandlin all trying to appeal to SD Republicans. In the process they turned off Democrats and failed to make the case for Democratic or even rational policies in South Dakota. Johnson came close when he labeled know-nothing Republicans as "Taliban Republicans". but he quickly waffled on that. SD Democrats don't even want to present hard facts that dispute GOP mythology let alone make persuasive cases for anything liberal no matter how sensible and rational.

  15. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.16

    Curt, your note is relevant! That's why I mentioned the exec at the end, because the critique I'm applying to timid legislators should also be applied to applicants for that important job. Electing more Democrats will require an exec and party leadership focused on fight.

  16. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.16

    Jeff, intriguing mention of Stockholm Syndrome and Patty Hearst. What if we appeal to another analogy, POWs in Vietnam, and we advocate finding our Chuck Norris to infiltrate and start handing out rifles and grenades?

    At the very least, if Jeff's explanation is apt, we need to grab Patty away from her captors and deprogram her out of thinking that the bad guys have anything to offer her.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.16

    Jenny, is she representing the mod/con ideology or just a moderate rhetorical style?

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.16

    "present hard facts... dispute GOP mythology"— Douglas just wrote the to-do list for the next exec of the party and of every Democrat who runs in 2016.

  19. Disgusted Dakotan 2015.02.16

    Instead of lamenting the Democratic Legislators you do have. Shouldn't you look to see what has worked with them and replicate their successes in getting elected?

    @Owen You see how ignorant it is for conservatives like Sibby and Bob Ellis to call the moderate faux Republicans "Liberals?" it is equally erroneous to call them "right wing" or conservative. No "Right Wing" Republican would ever claim a difference between raising taxes/fees and no "Right Wing" Republican would ever advocate raising taxes. They are moderates, not conservatives, and definitely not "right wing."

  20. judy judy 2015.02.17

    To answer your question about Paula Hawks, she is barely a Democrat. In her first election, she abandoned her Democratic running mate, AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Mark Anderson, and jointly advertised with one of their Republican opponents as being part of "Your Bipartisan Team" while simultaneously taking money from the Democratic Party and sending postcards to Democratic households jointly picturing herself and Anderson as "Your Democratic Team". When confronted with evidence of this Machiavellian maneuver, she claimed she knew nothing about it despite a Campaign Finance Report that revealed her campaign committee paid $900.00 toward the cost of the mailing. She has never apologized or expressed any remorse for this betrayal of a "real Democrat" who would have called the Republicans to task as you wishfully suggest. She is nominally a Democrat, but basically just another ambitious politician with a demonstrated lack of personal integrity.

  21. leslie 2015.02.17

    thanks judy. questions dd?

  22. Badger, Out! 2015.02.17

    Protocol #1 "What they don't know can't hurt us" demands that "Politically Correct Additives" be blended into all of the fabricated propaganda before the misleading partial truths and twisted facts swill is pitched by disingenuously sugary-sweet SD Friendly flapping jaws. Futile and insane to try to "Fix Stupid" by rebutting SD Friendly swill with SD Nice impudent rebuttals over and over again. The politically correct swill needs to be flushed and the flapping jaws spewing it exposed with in-your-face vigor with documented facts. Next, partisan swill present in our broken election process and non-creditable results due to four decades of enacting, amending and rescinding SDCL election statutes and Board of Election regulations in a partisan manner favoring the current political regime need to be factually addressed with in-your-face vigor while ignoring the issues the brewers of the swill have with their "Big Boy Pants". Folks, the registered voter score is approximately GOP 46.2% versus DEM/NPA/IND 53.4%. DEM/NPA/IND voters are damn tired of the SD Friendly and SD Nice politically correct swill. Time to stir the coals red hot with blue flames lighting up "Big Boy Pants" telling those with all the right answers who refuse to compromise on all issues we are going to expose your backsides and you can all just KMA!

  23. mike from iowa 2015.02.17

    George Hitler Weasel Bush tried to defend his no new taxes pledge by calling the new taxes "user fees". He was a hard right nutjob.

  24. Lanny V Stricherz 2015.02.17

    And both of our Democratic US Senators, Daschle and Johnson voted both times to cut taxes, in spite of the fact that no one was calling for tax cuts and all were thrilled to finally be paying down the debt racked up by the Reagan tax cuts. Remember we were getting a tax dividend so to speak from the ending of the cold war. Defense spending had been cut, but we immediately under Clinton went into the war in the Balkans. Then under Bush 43 we had the two wars with two tax cuts, which at the time most economists were saying was sheer insanity.

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.17

    If the Dem/Ind/NPA bloc really is a unifiable majority, we will need candidates who can speak with fire and clarity to mobilize them to donate, knock on doors, and vote. Whom do we have on that front, Badger?

  26. Lanny V Stricherz 2015.02.17

    Gosh why did Kathy Tyler's name immediately come to mind?

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