Archive for September, 2014

Aberdeen Candidate Forum part II: District 2 legislative candidates

September 29, 2014 3 comments

On Saturday, September 27, the League of Women Voters Aberdeen Area and the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum at the Hub Area Multi District Vocational Center. Part two of this forum included all of the legislative candidates running for office in SD District 2. Running for the Senate seat is the incumbent Chuck Welke (D) and challenger Brock Greenfield (R). Trying for the two House seats are Burt Tulson  (incumbent R), Lana Greenfield (R), Natasha Noethlich (D) and John Graham (D). The rules for this forum were simple, each candidate was given a three-minute opening statement and each candidate would have a minute to answer each question.

Part I of the forum with the District 3 candidates can be read here.

As usual for posts of this type, I will pass on the parts of what candidates said that I find interesting. I will also add my own thoughts.

Chuck Welke, Brock Greenfield, Natasha Noethlich, John Graham, Lana Greenfield, and Burt Tulson at a candidate forum in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema.

Chuck Welke, Brock Greenfield, Natasha Noethlich, John Graham, Lana Greenfield, and Burt Tulson at a candidate forum in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema.

Opening Remarks – Each candidate was given three minutes to give a few opening remarks. Most of their opening remarks were filled with biographical stuff, I generally avoid that and will only point out anything I find interesting.

Chuck Welke – Welke mentioned that while he was substitute teaching in 2012 there were many things being done by the SD legislature that were unpopular with teachers. In particular he mentioned HB 1234,  which was later struck down by voters on ballot as Referred Law 16 (I blogged against it here). Welke said HB 1234 made teachers feel “devalued”. I can understand where Welke is coming from. 1234 tried to do too much, and didn’t appear well thought out. Welke noted transparency and accountability is a big issue for him. He said SD has a high corruption rate and needs more balance. Also, the transparency bill he sponsored in 2014 didn’t even make it out of committee. I think he is referring to HB 1172, which would have required certain legislative meetings to open to the public (including the Republican caucus meetings). Personally I wish 1172 would have passed, it seems too often that everything is decided in caucus meetings and very little debate happens on the legislative floor.

Brock Greenfield – Greenfield spent his opening remarks on biographical talking points. He did note that elections are about differences. I think that talking point is eluding to the fact that he contends Welke is too liberal for such a conservative area.

John Graham – Graham noted labor has very little representation in Pierre. He contends that is part of the reason wages are low in South Dakota. Graham points out that welfare is provided to corporations, but then due to low wages from those corporations the taxpayers are also subsidizing the employees. He says that is a situation that is unfair to employees and taxpayers. Further, he contends that more money could have been given to teachers for pay.

Lana Greenfield – Greenfield says she is running because she “is excited about economic development”. She is seeing things pick up in small towns such as Doland. New businesses are coming in and current businesses are expanding. Greenfield sees young people moving back.

Natasha Noethlich – Noethlich feels agriculture is under-represented in Pierre. She noted only 10% of the legislature has any ag background. I’ve heard this talking point from a couple of other candidates from the ag industry. Yes, ag is the biggest industry in South Dakota. But having followed the bills that actually get brought up in Pierre, I feel ag is very represented. But that might just be a perception error on my part.

Burt Tulson – Tulson noted he has been involved in baseball for 49 years. That really has nothing to do with the election, but it is an interesting fact. His key issues listed were agriculture, economic development, roads, gun rights, protecting unborn children, and education of our youth. He says teachers in SD do a great job educating our children, and that they must continue to be provided the tools they need.

Minimum Wage – Do you favor raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50? This is regards to the ballot initiative on minimum wage this year.

Brock Greenfield – Brock mentioned minimum wage increase bills are seen in Pierre often. He noted a study commissioned by the Governor found that arbitrary minimum wage increases actually decreased the purchasing power of the people the increase was meant to help. Greenfield would rather raise all wages in state by promoting economic development and bringing more people to the marketplace competing for labor. It is good to see a legislator that understands purchasing power.

John Graham – Graham supports increasing the minimum wage because it is tied to a lot of social issues. He noted families where both parents have to work and who will take care of kids.

Lana Greenfield – Lana noted about 2% of people in the state are on minimum wage. She says minimum wage often goes to kids summer jobs working fast food or as life guards. Greenfield noted that an increase in minimum wage would potentially eliminate some of those positions, or raise the cost of items for consumers.

Natasha Noethlich – Natasha supports a minimum wage increase because it would help families. She noted most people in this area are above the proposed minimum wage anyway, so let’s get everyone up there.

Burt Tulson – Burt highlighted the fact that “competition takes care of wages very fine in our state”.

Chuck Welke – Welke favors the increase. He says young mothers and young families with kids need help. Chuck said that people would spend more money and therefore more sales tax revenue would be raised. I find this an odd stance from a Democrat, because Democrats often tout sales tax as being a repressive tax on the poor. He also mentioned this years workforce summit meetings, and low wages are shown as a big problem in South Dakota. My biggest problem with Welke’s answer has to do with the Keynesian belief that simply spending more money lifts the economy. It is that very concept that has gotten the federal government in such great amount of debt.

Education – Do you feel that the level of state support for education is adequate? What should be done to fill teacher vacancies?

John Graham – Graham says teacher pay needs to be raised to keep current and recruit new teachers in the state. He doesn’t feel taxes would need to be raised to do so. Graham contends other portions of the budget can be better used in education. In particular he called out money that wasted on the Aberdeen Beef Plant.

Lana Greenfield – Lana noted there is a shortage of teachers all across the country, and not just in South Dakota. She would promote solutions such as loan forgiveness for graduates that stay in the state to teach. Lana doesn’t believe just money is the reason for the teacher shortage, and other incentives must be looked at.

Natasha Noethlich – Natasha does not think the state is supporting education properly. She highlighted problems small school districts have and said it is a crisis situation.

Burt Tulson – Tulson noted the state gives money to the school boards, and that the school boards actually set salaries. He does think teachers deserve to get paid more. Burt had an amendment for the budget to force schools boards into allocating certain funds to teacher pay, but withdrew it at the end of session. Personally I’m glad he withdrew it. Teacher pay is important, but that amendment would have taken local control away from school boards. Further, he noted that many teachers have student loans where they are paying up to 6.8% interest to the federal government. He believes SD teachers that promise to stay here should have an incentive available to pay off that loan. I’ve noticed this proposal becoming more popular with Republican legislators.

Chuck Welke – Welke noted the education summer study he was a part of last year. During that he noted the state is in a crisis situation regarding education. This year he says SD is even more in a crisis mode because of so many schools starting the year without positions filled. Chuck says the kids are the most important resource in our state and questions why more money is not used to take care of those resources.

Brock Greenfield – Brock reiterated that teacher shortage is not just a SD issue. He noted back in 2008 that he brought up a tuition reimbursement bill for teachers in certain critical need areas (2008:SB 181, did not pass). He noted the idea continued to resonate, and the idea was eventually passed into law. Greenfield also noted South Dakota is 35th in student allocation, but last in teacher pay. He says that disconnect must be looked at. He feels any solution has to refrain from trouncing on local control.

Abortion – What role do you think the legislature should play in regulating abortion.

Lana Greenfield – Lana said she is very pro-life and believes abortion is murder. She does note the life the mother is very important, and that might be one exception. She would never support legislation allowing abortions to be done as a loophole.

Natasha Noethlich – Noethlich says she is confident in the women of SD to speak with others and make decisions about their bodies. She says this is an issue about personal freedoms and privacy. Natasha tied this into being a Constitutional issue because of guaranteed personal freedoms. She says she is not pro-abortion, but doesn’t want the government getting involved in such decisions.

Burt Tulson – Burt noted he is pro-life and that it is important to him to protect unborn children. He would however look at legislation protecting the lives of mothers.

Chuck Welke – Chuck said he considers himself pro-life. He says there is a difference between pro-life and pro-birth; and he contends many of the people calling themselves pro-life in the legislature are actually pro-birth. Welke says the pro-birth group turns its backs on pregnant mothers prenatal care and turns its backs on families needing healthcare. Chuck said SD already has some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the US. He said he is not in support of abortion in any way. But he says there needs to be exceptions. He also believes things should be done to make sure women are not put in that position.

Brock Greenfield – Brock noted he has been involved in pro-life issues for many years. Greenfield noted he has a 100% rating with the SD RTL, but Welke has a 20% rating. He contends there weren’t too many controversial abortion bills, but legislators such as Welke wouldn’t support them. Brock said the question shouldn’t be about whether to kill a baby, but what other options such as adoption that should be looked at.

John Graham – Graham said he is pro-life. John says he has no problems with women using birth control. But, he does not think abortion should be used as birth control.

My Thoughts – This is always a touchy subject at political forums. I would like to note I like the concept of what Welke was saying, but I see it a little different. I also believe many pro-life candidates are actually pro-birth. But where I differ is in how that is interpreted. To me pro-life people should not just oppose abortion, but also oppose other types of murder such as the death penalty and military intervention. The pro-life stance should follow the belief that nobody has the right to take the life of another, outside of self-defense. Noethlich brought up personal freedom, which would normally get a libertarian such as myself behind her. But the big question is when people believe life “begins”. Personally I believe an unborn baby is a life, and that aborting it without a self-defense reason is murder. In that case it is the liberty of the unborn baby that I would protect.

Infrastructure funding – Would you support user fees, higher gas taxes, or license fees to finance SD highways?

Natasha Noethlich – She noted her township had to opt-out to take care of their roads. That allowed about another $10k per year to maintain roads. She is open to anything. But she thinks too much financial burden has been put on local government.

Burt Tulson – Tulson noted a bill he sponsored to allow townships to meet and vote to tax themselves more to improve roads. The bill (HB 1140) passed the House, but was killed in the Senate Taxation committee. He highlighted that bill to show what he is trying to do in order to deal with infrastructure issues. Personally I wish the bill had passed. It really is a local control issue. Right now the state says townships cannot tax themselves more, even if they wish to. He spoke briefly about the gas tax, and noted that people really wouldn’t notice a small increase in the gas tax.

Chuck Welke – Welke noted he supported Tulson’s bill. He said the bill was killed by Tea Party types on the Senate Taxation committee that will not vote for anything that raise taxes. Chuck also somehow tied this into the Norquist Pledge against raising taxes. Finally, he said any solution must not be totally on farmers or any particular group.

Brock Greenfield – Brock noted he never signed the tax pledge; not because he doesn’t believe in keeping taxes low, but he doesn’t want to tie his hands. He noted a few years back he supported the license plate fee increase because it was need at the time to address roads. Greenfield also said he supported Tulson’s bill because in District 2 the bill would have allowed townships to fix their problems.

John Graham – Graham said he is in favor of anything that will save the roads. He also noted the base of the roads were not meant for modern equipment.

Lana Greenfield – Greenfield noted the roads have been like this for a hundred years. She doesn’t have any answers. Speaking in regards to the gas tax, Lana noted gas mileage today is much better than in older vehicles.

Medicaid Expansion – Do you support Medicaid expansion? Why or why not?

Burt Tulson – Burt calls Medicaid expansion a carrot offered by the Federal government, with the state unsure of whether the federal government will have the money it promises. He says accepting Medicaid expansion could lead us down a slippery slope.

Chuck Welke – Chuck is in favor of Medicaid expansion. He contents the states have already expanded Medicaid are seeing fewer people without healthcare insurance going into hospitals. Welke then went back to his pro-life talking point from earlier. He says it is pro-life to take care of people. Finally he noted there is fraud in every program, and that should not be used a reason to prevent Medicaid expansion. I believe that talking point was actually in reply to Dan Kaiser from the District 3 forum earlier.

Brock Greenfield – Brock noted that one in seven SD residents are already on Medicaid. He said there is a huge cost impact coming with expansion and that any ‘free money’ from DC actually ends up costing us a lot. Greenfield notes that any money put towards Medicaid expansion will take money away from areas such as education or infrastructure. Or maybe it will lead to tax increases.

John Graham – Graham says SD should expand Medicaid. If the state says no, he contends the state should find other ways to fund it. John then mentions that the state already takes money from the federal government for other things, so why stop here. I agree with Graham that the state does take a LOT of money from the federal government. But I reach different conclusions than him. I believe it is time for SD to stop taking so much money and truly look at local solutions.

Lana Greenfield – Greenfield says the 48k number brought up to expand Medicaid is not true because many of those are already being served by other means such as IHS. All I would disagree with her there is that many who use IHS say they are not really being served (but that is a different issue). She went on to note that the federal government does not actually have any money. In the future SD taxpayers will be on the hook for this expansion as the federal government will not be able to meet its commitment.

Natasha Noethlich – The moderator accidentally skipped Natasha, she was given a chance during closing to have an extra minute to answer this(I was glad to discover the moderator missed her, I feared that I ‘zoned out’ and missed a candidate speaking) . She very much supports Medicaid expansion. Natasha doesn’t understand why the state took stimulus money for the roads, but then failed to do so for Medicaid expansion. Noethlich also called out the Governor for asking for a waiver, and asks why he couldn’t just expand.

Closing Remarks – Mostly fluff. If they said anything worthy I’ll post it. If not these are my final thoughts on the candidates.

Chuck Welke – Chuck brought up again a large portion of SD budget already comes from the federal government, and he believes it is purely political as to why SD won’t expand Medicaid. He then went back to wages. He says “if you pay them, they will come”. He also says many of the abortion bills that come up in Pierre don’t’ make sense or don’t really change anything. I kind of agree with Welke on his last point. I do think some of the abortion bills may have been created to build scorecards. Overall I think Chuck did great actually providing more in-depth answer in this forum. I disagree with some of his stances, but I must admit he does a great job of actually trying to answer questions.

Brock Greenfield – Brock noted he is pro-life, pro-family, conservative, pro-Second Amendment, pro-Constitution. Overall I liked Greenfield in this forum because he actually brought up purchasing power during the minimum wage question. I think purchasing power is a concept too few politicians (of either party) actually look into.

John Graham – It was quite obvious that Graham is new to this. I think he did OK for a first-timer. And I do agree that labor is under-represented in the SD legislature.

Lana Greenfield – She feels America has a math problem, because some people think that money spent by government will come from somewhere else. I agree with her on that. Overall I think Lana did a fair job. She did bring up some talking points that others didn’t.

Natasha Noethlich – Natasha brought up that money has to be spent to make money. She said it is time to invest money in the future of SD. Overall I think Democrats should be happy with her as a candidate. She hit her talking points. I wish she had more detail to some of her answers. I will be interested to see how her and Lana end up percentage-wise after the election.

Burt Tulson – Burt ended reiterating that he tries to live a life of “joy and kindness”. Anyone that knows Burt knows he believes that. Overall I think Burt did a good job. His local control road districting bill received a lot of support from other forum members, showing voters he knows how to pick good bi-partisan issues.

Aberdeen Candidate Forum part I: District 3 legislative candidates

September 28, 2014 15 comments

On Saturday, September 27, the League of Women Voters Aberdeen Area and the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum at the Hub Area Multi District Vocational Center. The first part of this candidate forum included all of the legislative candidates running for office in SD District 3. Running for the Senate seat are David Novstrup (R) and Mark Remily (D). Trying for the two House seats are Dan Kaiser (R), David Novstrup (R), Burt Elliott (D) and Pat Hale (D). The rules for this forum were simple, each candidate was given a three-minute opening statement and each candidate would have a minute to answer each question.

As usual for posts of this type, I will pass on the parts of what candidates said that I find interesting. I will also add my own thoughts.

Al Novstrup, Dan Kaiser, Pat Hale, Mark Remily, David Novstrup and Burt Elliot at a Candidate Forum in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema.

Al Novstrup, Dan Kaiser, Pat Hale, Mark Remily, David Novstrup and Burt Elliott at a Candidate Forum in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema.

Opening Remarks – Each candidate was given three minutes to give some opening remarks. Most of their opening remarks was filled with biographical stuff, I generally avoid that and will only point out anything I find interesting.

David Novstrup – David says he is running so he can “continue to make a positive difference in people’s lives” for those living in South Dakota. Novstrup noted there are several important issues coming up in the 2015 session. Some examples he listed were: recruit and retain workers in SD, keeping taxes low, provide quality education, keeping government small, holding state government accountable for how it spends money, promoting economic development, keep regulations to a level that is only necessary, and energy independence. David actually had a lot in there. Many of the talking points are important to both parties, he is definitely going into the State Senate race looking to get all votes.

Mark Remily – Mark says the main reason for him running in this race is “the need for accountability in state government”. He said this includes the legislative, judicial and executive branches. Currently Mark says the balance of power in Pierre is one-sided and a “healthy minority” is needed. This is the talking point I think Democrats such as Remily are smart running on. Republicans in SD do enjoy a super-majority in Pierre. Remily then went on to mention the issues he finds important: Medicaid expansion, funding education at a “responsible level”, defending civil rights, EB-5, infrastructure, XL pipeline, low wages, and human trafficking. Excluding Medicaid expansion, I think Remily came up with a good list of issues.

Burt Elliott – Burt came out saying he is running for “re-election” in District 3 because that is the seat he held “two gerrymanderings ago”. He noted he has two residences. One in District 2, and now a basement apartment in District 3 due to “family issues”. He said the basement apartment was necessary because a one level house “without so many steps” was needed. I would like to point out he has taken some heat from Republicans over the issue. His voter and occupancy records show he lives in District 2, but he is being accused of using an address in District 3 so he can get elected. Burt knew this was going to be an issue, so he brought it up right away hoping to head off any controversy. This does come up more than once in the rest of the forum. Burt said he is running because he is tired of being retired and believes in a participatory citizenship. I like Burt, but I have to give him a fail on his opening remarks, since he didn’t talk about one issue it means the focus of his opening remarks was on his residency. That might backfire on him since that will be what people remember him for when voting.

Pat Hale – Pat focused on his three-part platform of leadership, balance, and integrity. For leadership he listed relevant parts of his resume. On balance he said the current political system was based on a two-party system, and that state government has gone too far right. Pat says the current legislators are focused on things such as texting and dog breed bans instead of working on government transparency. I wish Hale had expanded more upon transparency. It is an issue I think works particularly well in District 3 after the beef plant debacle.

Dan Kaiser – There is one part of Dan’s bio I think is relevant to the issues. He noted his wife used to work for DCI focused on Medicaid fraud. This is notable because there is so much fraud relating to Medicaid that the State of SD has to have a DCI agent dedicated to such cases. In a year where Democrats are running on Medicaid expansion I think his wife’s insights have given him more reason to run against Medicaid expansion. Going on, to show he is sincere about transparency, Dan noted he has used social media at the end of each legislative day to inform constituents about how he voted on every floor vote (just like US Congressman Justin Amash). Kaiser believes in true transparency at all levels, especially at the level of elected officials. Dan pointed out he had success in his first term by supporting legislation passed so that platonic relationships would not be treated as domestic in abuse cases (2014: SB7). Finally Kaiser noted he is running because he does not want the cost of government to be placed on his sons generation.

Al Novstrup – Al noted he has worked and passed legislation “that forces government officials to produce documents requested by citizens” (2011: SB101). Before SB101, Al says there was no penalty for secrecy in government. For passing that bill, Al was awarded the 2012 Eagle Award by the South Dakota Newspaper Association. I think Al knows transparency is a winning issues in District 3 and is showing he has tried to work towards open government. Novstrup noted he has gotten 27 bills pass during his tenure in Pierre. He says these bills cover a wide variety of topics. These topics include: open, transparency, and honest government; fair taxes; helping local governments prevent fraud; helping law enforcement catch drug dealers; and helping small businesses. Al has worked on a wide variety of bills, most I think are good (transparency, local control), and a few not so good (drug war). But then he brought up Burt Elliott’s record. He noted Elliott worked to get a bill passed that would allow trust funds to be setup for domestic animals (2005: HB1138 failed, 2006: HB1178 passed).  Al says the bill passed by Elliott would allow wealthy people to set up a trust fund for their dog or cat and avoid taxes. Novstrup brought this up to run on his record against Elliott’s record. It is definitely clear Al is trying to make sure District 3 has reasons to vote for him over Elliott.

Education and teacher vacancies – A question was asked about whether there is adequate state support for education and what should be done to fill teacher vacancies.

Mark Remily – Remily feels the current support for education in SD in inadequate. He says there is plenty of money out there and says money should be taken from reserves to give education (that talking point will come up later). He also noted there are other revenue streams available to the state such as legalizing industrial hemp and medical marijuana. Remily found a talking point on which I can agree with him. Legalizing industrial hemp would be a huge boom to the SD economy and bring in a lot of tax revenue. On medical marijuana it would do a lot to ease the suffering of certain patients suffering from chronic ailments. Remily said there are plenty of sources of revenue to pay teachers a respectable salary.

Burt Elliott – Elliott said that since SD is 51st in the nation for teacher pay he would think the answer is NO to South Dakota supporting education. On teacher vacancies he said “money is always nice”, but there is more to the issue than that. Burt said things such as authority and respect are also important. While talking about this Burt brought up the fact teachers in SD do not have tenure, and instead have what is called continuing contract. I understand why Burt mentioned this. Republicans often invoke tenure when talking about teacher issues, I think Elliott was just trying to point out the topic of tenure is irrelevant in SD. Due to lack of time I’m not sure he made that clear.

Pat Hale – Hale noted teachers are being lost at an alarming rate in SD. He noted teachers can go to some other states and start ten thousand dollars higher. Pat said education seems to be a “bad word in Pierre” because bills are not passed supporting education. Along those lines, Pat also noted the Governor didn’t want any new taxes passed before the election. It should be noted that during the re-election, Governor Daugaard is NOT promising no new taxes…

Dan Kaiser – Kaiser noted that his record over the last two years shows he supports bills pertaining to K-12 funding. But he went on to mention that many factors are taken into account with teacher pay. He pointed out that the state legislature does not set teacher pay. He also noted that studies looking at teacher pay does not look at taxes in other states; such as property, sales, and income taxes. Also, Kaiser noted there are many benefits within SD that keep people here which have nothing to do with pay. Finally, Kaiser noted teacher pay is a local control issue that the state legislature should not be involved with. I agree with Dan on that last talking point. If the SD legislature would decide to try imposing teacher pay amounts on School Districts I believe many local control advocates (such as myself) would fight against such legislation. Personally I think anyone worried about teacher pay should be pressuring the legislature to give more money to education and to their school board to better utilize that money.

Al Novstrup – Al noted he is on the appropriations committee, so he comes at this from a perspective of balance. Novstrup agreed education needs more money; but he also noted areas such as infrastructure, counties, Aspire, etc… But he said wanting more money for areas has to come from somewhere because the State budget needs to balance. Novstrup also mentioned going into reserves to pay education (brought up by Remily at the beginning of this round). Al would rather not take money away from future generations for use now. He said the voters of SD had the opportunity to vote on this and overwhelmingly chose not to touch that money. I think most people agree with Al on the issue of leaving the reserves alone. Novstrup also noted he would be opposed to legalizing marijuana. That might not be a winning topic for him long-term. There is a lot more support for medical marijuana in particular. Finally, Al did say there are other sources of revenue the state has potential access to. He said allowing two pipelines through South Dakota would raise another $40 million in tax revenue that could be used for education.

David Novstrup – David noted that 46% of the budget in SD goes to education (including higher education), and that no other State agency receives as much money. Novstrup says legislatures need to talk with teachers and superintendents and see what can be done. He said a proposal a couple of years ago had some good solutions. This is in reference to HB1234 of the 2012 session, which was sent to voters as Referred Law 16 on the 2012 ballot (I blogged against it here). As David notes, that law maybe tried to do too much and was rejected by the voters. David said he will continue to work on solutions such as the ones contained within Referred Law 16. I would have preferred it if David had included a couple of pieces of Referred Law 16 that he thinks are good. That would have been good for voters to know.

EB-5 – What should be done to verify the status of the economic development EB-5 money. Ya know there had to be an EB-5 question in Aberdeen!

Burt Elliott – Elliott noted that South Dakota has been rated by many sources as one of the most corrupt states in the US. Burt says “executive and legislative accountability has to be established”.  Further, he says there needs to be more open information and ethics enforcement ability. Instead of going down the route of a special prosecutor, Burt says there should be more action and “moral responsibility on the part of people who are supposed to be looking into this.” I think the implication here is that the legislature has not done enough in its oversight duties. I would agree! It does appear the legislature as a whole is not very interested in really finding out what happened or holding anyone accountable.

Pat Hale – Pat thinks some restrictions need to be placed upon the economic development money in which the Governor has total control. I would agree with that as well. He should have expanded upon that thought. Right now there isn’t just an imbalance of power in Pierre between the two parties. There is actually an imbalance between the legislative and executive branches. Too much power currently resides within the executive branch with little oversight from the legislative branch. I think all legislative candidates (both parties) should be bringing that up.

Dan Kaiser – Dan mentioned HB1224 during the 2014 session that a Democrat tried to pass in order to look into the issue more. Kaiser noted he was one of the Republicans to sign onto that bill. He noted the best way to solve anything related to EB-5 is to look into it more. Kaiser also noted the US Attorneys Office (Brenden Johnson) should be looking into this and will not comment on it. Kaiser finds it suspicious that Johnson’s office won’t at least say there is an ongoing investigation, if there is one. Finally, he mentioned that EB-5 programs are crony capitalism (corporate welfare). He says these programs where the government and private industry get in bed with each other is a way to tax the poor and give wealthy people more money. Instead Kaiser supports free-market principles.

Al Novstrup – Al noted there have been seven or eight audits done already, but that hasn’t been enough. Novstrup would actually assign a special prosecutor and give them tools to get to the bottom of what happened. In particular he would recommend a Democrat prosecutor such as Brenden Johnson to make sure it gets done. Al has an interesting idea there, if Brenden comes up with nothing it cannot be blamed on Republicans trying to hide anything.

David Novstrup – David also feels there are a lot of questions that haven’t been answered. He also noted there have been, and will continue to be a lot of meetings about the topic. But he also noted EB-5 is a federal program, and that the US Attorney should enforce federal law. Novstrup is interesting in finding out what the US Attorney has found out.

Mark Remily – Remily went through many of the numbers involved with Aberdeen Beef Plant and how much money was sunk into the plant. Mark noted Aberdeen lost $1,481,361 (Remily is an Aberdeen City Council member). Remily says the corruption of EB-5 goes all the way top; and there needs to be more accountability in state government. Remily highlighted a lot numbers, which I think is good. But if they had bothered, anyone promoting EB-5 could refute those numbers because some of them have nothing to do directly with EB-5; they were part of the Aberdeen Beef Plant debacle. That is why this topic hasn’t been as big of a winner as Democrats had hoped in this election cycle. The topic is simply too big and too many involved areas for easy campaign messages.

Infrastructure – Would you support user fees, higher gas taxes, or license fees to finance South Dakota highways.

Pat Hale – Hale basically said he would support anything that would get more money for roads.

Dan Kaiser – Dan noted that increased gas taxes would negatively impact the poor more than the rich. Poor people tend to have older vehicles which are not as fuel-efficient. They would carry a heavier burden in increased gas taxes. Kaiser noted that he and David Novstrup both supported efforts for road districts. I like Dan’s answer here. He is focusing on local control solutions.

Al Novstrup – Al noted he would be supportive of making sure the infrastructure is high quality. He said that if that means new taxes then he is ready for that debate. I will note that Al never really said if he would support any of the proposed tax increased; just that he would support having the debate about it.

David Novstrup – David focused more upon how high each tax increase was, to make sure it wasn’t too high. He also noted counties and townships are struggling to maintain their infrastructure. Finally, Novstrup said he would probably be supportive of the proposed revenue increases, but would have to see the details first.

Mark Remily – Remily noted the roads need help. He says he doesn’t know the answer, but user taxes are maybe the way to go. I really thought a current Aberdeen City Council member would come prepared with a better answer to an infrastructure question.

Burt Elliott – “The answer obviously is yes”. He noted there is currently a legislative summer study on the issue (here is my post on the hearing in Aberdeen). He said “user fees have to be part of the equation”. This is an area I’m going to have to disagree with Elliott on. He seems to be of the same mindset as Senator Vehle during the transportation portion of the SD Ag Summit: that it is right to push for new taxes before the study is done. User fees may be an answer out of that study, but Elliott seems to be in the mindset that user fees will be an answer no matter what the study says. I just can’t understand that viewpoint.

Medicaid Expansion – Do you support Medicaid expansion, why or why not.

Dan Kaiser – No. First, Dan says more money coming from the federal government devalues the monetary supply. In order to give that money to the states, more money is printed. Kaiser noted that when the value of people’s money is lowered, the poorest among us suffer the most. Dan would rather help the poor by leveling the playing field so poor can have a chance to do better for themselves. Finally, Dan noted the fraud, waste, and abuse of the Medicaid system. He noted that the state only goes after Medicaid fraud to a certain extent, because the state is on the hook for a portion of that. It is an odd situation, I may have to speak with Kaiser’s wife to learn more about it.

Al Novstrup – Al says the real question is whether taxpayers should be asked to pick up the tab for other people’s healthcare at a time when most are struggling to pay their own. So he says the answer is no. He also wonders where the federal government will get the money. Novstrup said the two ways to do that is for the federal government to print more money or ask the taxpayers for more money; both of which he says are harmful. Overall I think Dan and Al rocked at answering this one.

David Novstrup – David pointed out that Medicaid expansion is not free to the State of SD. It would cost the state $100 million in administrative costs over the next decade. That money would either have to be taken from existing programs such as education or infrastructure, or that money would have to come from higher taxes. He also noted SD had asked the federal government for a waiver to focus on a SD solution. Personally I didn’t like the waiver Governor Daugaard was asking for, but it did show the federal government is not willing to work with states on localized solutions.

Mark Remily – Remily would support full Medicaid expansion. Mark mentioned that Arizona (a similar political state to SD) implemented Medicaid expansion with few problems. Remily also pointed out Governor Daugaard knew the waiver wouldn’t work.

Burt Elliott – Elliott would support Medicaid expansion. He noted that as a Brown County Commissioner that he was able to see first hand that we are already paying healthcare for the uninsured. He said Medicaid expansion would expand out the burden of helping those without insurance. Burt contends the only reason Medicaid expansion didn’t pass in SD is because a Democrat President was behind it. I think there is some truth behind Elliott mentioning partisan reasons for some Republicans not wanting to expand Medicaid.

Pat Hale – Hale supports Medicaid expansion. He highlighted SD giving up $280 million for Medicaid expansion, but at the same time SD accepted $1.7 billion dollars in other federal dollars. Actually Hale has a point, SD does get a lot of federal dollars.

Residency – One last question directed at Burt Elliott about his residence.

Burt Elliott – First Elliott mentioned a similar situation with a Republican legislator from Spearfish while Elliott served before. But if this is the legislator I believe he is talking about (Christopher Madsen), that was a case of someone moving after they got elected because of a new job in Sioux Falls. It isn’t really analogous. Burt says he doesn’t know what the big deal is. He said election cycles don’t always fit with family timelines. So he got a basement apartment in town. He also noted if it weren’t for gerrymandering he would still be in District 3. I would stop mixing the gerrymandering answer with the family reasons answer. I think that confuses his answers.

Closing Remarks – Mostly fluff again. If they said anything worthy I’ll post it. If not these are my final thoughts on the candidates.

Al Novstrup – Al did ask about Elliott needing a house with one level (to reduce stairs). Al noted his basement isn’t on one level, its down a level. So he thinks Elliott should expand on that. Al also noted Elaine Elliott appears to still live in District 2. Overall I think Al did a good job of highlighting himself during this forum. He also made sure everyone understood there are potential issues with Elliott’s address.

David Novstrup – David focused on early voting. Actually this is a year I would urge people to refrain from early voting. There are too many potential questions with at least one statewide office. I think voters should wait until the last possible day to vote, that way any potential scandals don’t blow up and cause people to regret their votes. Overall David did fair in this forum. I don’t think he stood out at all. But I also don’t think he pushed anyone away.

Mark Remily – Remily focused on people registering to vote. I think that was a good area for a Democrat to highlight, since they have dramatically falling registration numbers. I question how good Remily would be as a legislator, mostly due to the infrastructure questions. I really felt a current Aberdeen City Council member should have been able to come better prepared with road solutions.

Burt Elliott – Burt invoked glass houses. I believe that was directed at Al, because Novstrup spends part of the year in Sioux Falls. Again, I think Burt is using a Republican situation that is not quite analogous. Overall I think Burt did good interacting with the audience, he always does. Burt is a great guy that people love to hear stories from. However he seemed to have the least to actually say about issues, and instead focused on his stories. That combined with his residency issues may hurt him getting votes from constituents that research the candidates.

Pat Hale – Hale mentioned his support for the minimum wage ballot issue. He urged everyone to vote for that on the ballot. Overall I would say Hale was overshadowed by the experience of everyone else participating in the forum. All of the other candidates either currently do or have served public office. That gave him a huge disadvantage when talking about certain issues. His main hope this election cycle is if the Democrats have a great GOTV effort going into Election Day.

Dan Kaiser – Dan did take a moment to speak about Elliott’s residency issue. He noted that when someone runs for office, that person signs a document under threat of perjury that they plan to stay at that residence for the foreseeable future. I looked on a nominating petition and here is part of what a candidate declares under oath: “I reside in the district from which I am a candidate.” Kaiser would recommend Elliott plead the fifth after signing that document and coming here and saying he is looking for a new residence. Moving on, I think Dan did great in this event. Kaiser had a great mixture of stances that happen to align with my political beliefs.

I just found out two of the top ten challenged books in 2013 are favorites in my house

September 26, 2014 5 comments
Two graphic novels from my collection that I am currently re-reading. Photo by Ken Santema

Two graphic novels from my collection that I am currently re-reading. Photo by Ken Santema

It is Banned Books Week. Since Freedom of Speech is one of my top political issues I thought it would be worth doing a post on. One thing I didn’t expect though was to find my family has two of the top 10 challenged books in 2013. I say that because I have dozens of books/comics/graphic novels that could potentially be considered a lot more controversial than either of those on the list.

Here are the two banned book on the list that currently reside (quite enjoyably so) in my house:

1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence

10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith
Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence

The first most widely banned book (or rather series) is Captain Underpants. It happens to be a favorite of one of my boys. Supposedly it is causing quite a stir with parents due to language that isn’t well suited for fourth graders. I decided to read one of the Captain Underpants books this morning. I found nothing I would consider obscene for a fourth grade boy. Actually I found it to be a pretty interesting read compared to most of the books my kids get at the book fair every time teacher conferences come around. It is also worth noting that this book series (and the Ninjago books) has actually been able to get my kid to read without being asked. That is quite a remarkable accomplishment.

If there are parents out there that don’t like Captain Underpants. Well, all I can say is tell your kids not read them. It seems pretty silly to keep children from being entertained and learning new concepts (which is what reading is really about). But hey, I have no problem with parents censoring their kids. It is only when those parents try to get books banned that I have an issue with those same parents. Banning Captain Underpants from school libraries will not protect anyone. I would think by the 21st century that parents would have learned to stop trying to keep their kids from learning new things. But that is the way it goes. Too often in history books have become banned ‘for the children’.

Number ten on the list I found to be an even more odd selection. I first started reading Bone back in the mid 90’s (I think, time is getting fuzzy). Bone is such an interesting series because it started humble (story-line wise), yet became such an epic adventure. I don’t recall any time when I would say the book is racist. And as to violence, I don’t see it being any more violent than older contemporary comics before the CCA. Actually if my kids ever really get into comics I would probably recommend the series to them. It really is a good series that can be enjoyed by all ages. I really fail to see how this would be considered a title for people to try banning.

Looking at the list of ten most challenged books I can maybe understand why parents are trying to get them banned from libraries (I still disagree, but do understand). Personally I think parents would do better to promote reading and expanding knowledge for their children. Banning books has never solved anything………

PS. The picture in this post has nothing to do with either book being talked about in the post. It is just an example of two graphic novels that would probably cause someone’s head to explode if they think Captain Underpants is extreme.

Categories: Free Speech Tags:

SD 2014: District 1 is blue, no general election for legislative races

September 26, 2014 4 comments
South Dakota Legislative District 1

South Dakota Legislative District 1

This will be the first in a series of thirty-five posts looking at the SD legislative races going into Election Day 2014. To start the series I will look at District 1. This district is a very blue district, no Republicans were even found to run for a legislative seat. The district includes Day, Marshall, and Roberts counties; plus a weird N-NW portion of Brown County. Actually if you know where Dennis Feickert lives you will notice how the 2010 redistricting happened to put him in District 1, where he used to be in District 3. Some have said the odd shape of District 1 in Brown county has more to do with putting him in that blue district as part of the redistricting game.

Back in May I looked at the Primary election in District 1. Since all legislative candidates in District 1 were Democrat, there will be no general election for the legislative races. Here is the current status of District 1 going into the 2015 Legislative Session:

District 1 State Senator: Jason Frerichs

Jason Frerichs is the current Democrat Minority Leader in the State Senate. He sailed through the Primary Election and now the General Election with no opposition. During the 2014 legislative session he seemed to do a pretty good job keeping focused on some standard Democrat stances such as Medicaid expansion. If I were a Democrat (which I’m not), I would say he is doing a pretty good job in Pierre.

This previous legislative session he was State Senate prime-sponsor for House Concurrent Resolution 1017 (HCR 1017). If passed, HCR 1017 would have urged Congress and various federal agencies to “recognize industrial hemp as a valuable agricultural commodity”. I’ve spoken with many farmers around the NE portion of the state that would love the option to include industrial hemp in their options of crops to produce. Hopefully Frerichs will try again in 2015, his being a farmer helps to reinforce that the agricultural industry would benefit from allowing the production of industrial hemp.

Really the only thing that outright annoys me about Frerichs is the fact he had no Primary or General Election opposition in 2014. And that isn’t his fault, there just wasn’t anyone in District 1 stepping up to oppose him.

District 1 State Representatives: Dennis Feickert & Steven McCleerey

The House seat did have a Primary Election. Feickert won his re-election easily with 1,638 votes. Sisseton area farmer Steven McCleerey easily won the second seat with 1,350 votes. The third person in the race, Dustina Gill, did a lot of work traveling the district trying to get votes. But from the feedback I’ve heard in the district,  she just wasn’t that good at actually engaging people. If Gill runs again she might want to re-evaluate how she interacts with potential voters. A lot of interactions can backfire if not done properly.

One thing worth noting about District 1 is that all three legislators fall in the farm/ranch category. I don’t think the average farmer in District 1 can say they aren’t well represented in Pierre!

Links to information about SD legislative candidates

September 26, 2014 Comments off

I have created a new page on SoDakLiberty to keep track of links to research SD legislative candidates. It is at the far right side above, labeled SD 2014 Legislative Races. The page itself is more of a resource for me to keep track of ways to research candidates.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be doing a post or two per day about each of the 35 SD Legislative Districts. As I do those posts I will update the links page (it is quite noticeable that I don’t have most of the districts done yet).

After the 2014 election that Page will be trimmed down and be a resource to links about currently elected officials in 2015.


Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

September 24, 2014 3 comments
Bush-Obama Image Source Unknown

Image Source Unknown

Update: An astute reader noted I had already used this blog title two years ago. I guess that just shows my consistency on the topic. 

A periodically recurring theme on this blog is how there is little, if any, true difference between President George W Bush and President Obama; at least from a libertarian viewpoint. A couple months ago I noted the lies leading into the Iraq war and the lies leading into the current war against Syria ISIS were basically the same. It would be hard to imagine Obama could do anything to make an anit-war libertarian such as myself believe Obama could become even more Bush-like. I guess I should know better than to underestimate President Obama. He found a way to make himself completely indistinguishable from Bush.

Here are a few lines from President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly (via Buzzfeed):

There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil.

The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.

No god condones this terror.

Wow, those lines sound like they were spoken by President Bush himself. Yet sadly they came instead from Nobel Peace recipient President Barack Obama.

To give a comparison, here are a few quotes from President GW on Wikiquotes:

My administration has a job to do and we’re going to do it. We will rid the world of the evil-doers.

The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I’ve directed the full resources for our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.

Nope, I don’t see a difference between the two. Too bad the US didn’t have at least one major party that opposed war and foreign interventionism. Going past the two big parties, I am happy to note the Libertarian Party has come out against Obama’s new war. Perhaps in the 2014 election more voters should be looking at independent and third-party candidates, especially if they are against war.

PS. I think I forgot to post this last week. Here is the latest video from Remy, which happens to be about the ISIS crisis:

PPS. OK, since Obama is going to create more wounded veterans with his new war it might be appropriate to show this video as well:

PPPS. Oh yeah, the title of this post:

Categories: War Tags: , ,

Token EB-5 post for this week

September 24, 2014 1 comment
Angus Cow, Curious by Kim Newberg

Angus Cow, Curious by Kim Newberg

The Democrats have continued to pound Republican US Senate candidate Mike Rounds for his ties to EB-5. The latest move was made by Democratic Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth; who is filing a lawsuit against Rounds and other interested parties to get documents about the failed EB-5/NorthernBeef/SDRC/Etc.. scandal. Personally I think the lawsuit was a bad move on the Democrats part, especially since they didn’t name a key person at SDRC.

With all of the developments in the EB-5 scandal I am often asked why I don’t blog about it more often. There are a couple of reasons. First, I try to focus on areas I feel the mainstream media (print and TV) or other political bloggers in South Dakota are overlooking. There are vast amounts of articles and blog posts constantly being written on the EB-5 scandal by reporters and bloggers. If I have something to say about EB-5 it is usually contained within a post about a connected party, such as a post about Rounds or Daugaard. Second, I believe the concept of government intervening in the free market is wrong. The Democrats attacking Rounds are not doing so because they believe in free markets, they are doing to so for political opportunism. My opposition to EB-5 and related Northern Beef issues has more to do with opposing market interventionism. I think the whole concept of market interventionism should be the public debate; and not simply whether a Republican and his cronies were wrong doing the same types of market interventionism that both Democrats and Republicans enjoy.

As I close this post I will mention that I don’t think any illegal activity will ever be tied to Rounds in regards to EB-5 or Northern Beef. At most the Democrats can maybe make Rounds look incompetent. But in a red state I believe more people would rather have an incompetent Republican than a competent supporter of socialism. Personally I would rather have neither kind of candidate, maybe its time to look at the Independent candidates some more…

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