Archive for April, 2016

District 5 State Senator Republican Primary, Solum and Tapio

April 28, 2016 Comments off
SD Legislative District 5. Screenshot of map from SD SOS website on 4/28/16.

SD Legislative District 5. Screenshot of map from SD SOS website on 4/28/16.

South Dakota legislative District 5 has a Republican primary on the State Senate side. District 5 is in Coddington County and is basically Watertown.  Sen Ried Holien (R, Dist 5) had his nominating petition in, but then withdrew from the race. That leaves two other Republicans  trying for his vacated State Senate seat: Rep Roger Solum and Neal Tapio. Whoever wins this primary will face David Johnson (D) in the general election this fall.

Here is a brief look at both candidates.  The candidates below are listed in the order they will appear on the primary ballot. I’ve also included the links I could find to help voters learn more about each candidate.

At this point I would recommend Republicans in District 5 not support Solum (more on that below). On the other hand I don’t know much about Tapio at this time to see what the alternative is.

Roger Solum

Rep Roger Solum (R, Dist 5) – Solum is term-limited in the House and is seeking the Senate seat.
Ballotpedia – VoteSmart – OpenStates – SoDakLiberty
LRC: House 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009

The term limited Solum doesn’t make a lot of information about himself available to potential voters wishing to learn about him. His is a staff member at Lake Area Technical Institute (LATI). Here is his bio from the LATI site:

After nearly 27 years serving with the SD National Guard, with a majority of this time in logistics and operations management, Roger retired from active guard service in May 1999. For the past 10 years, he worked in operations management for a local telecommunications construction company. He is a graduate of Watertown High School and holds a B.S. in Business Administration – Project Management degree from Colorado Technical University. Roger joined the LATI staff in August of 2009 and is the department chair and instructor of the Energy Operations program.

Solum was the prime sponsor of one bill that passed during the 2016 legislative session, HB 1177 (SoDakLiberty Posts). HB 1177 goes into law this July 1 and gives the same tax incentives for large-scale solar facilities that is given to wind farms. Oddly these large-scale solar facilities do not exist in SD, and it is quite possible they will not in the future.

In the 2015 legislative session Solum was the prime sponsor for a few bills having to do with wine and spirits. One of the better of those was HB 1004 (SoDakLiberty Posts), which passed into law and allows the direct sale of distilled spirits from artisan distillers to retailers and wholesalers. That change in law will allow the spirits industry to grow in South Dakota.

Rep Roger Solum listens to Rep Lee Schoenbeck introduce the amendment to give tech school instructors a pay raise. Photo by Ken Santema 2/18/16.

Rep Roger Solum listens to Rep Lee Schoenbeck introduce the amendment to give tech school instructors a pay raise. Photo by Ken Santema 2/18/16.

Now for the bad. Solum did gain some attention in the 2016 legislative session due to what many, including myself, would consider a violation of conflict of interest. This year the 1/2 cent sales tax increase bill, HB 1182 (SoDakLiberty Posts), was passed as a solution to teacher pay. Rep Lee Schoenbeck (R, Dist 5) offered an amendment to that bill. Here is the contents of that amendment, I have bolded the key portion:

On page 6 of the printed bill, delete lines 21 to 23, inclusive, and insert:
”    Section 17. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
    From the proceeds of this Act, each year sixty-three percent shall be dedicated to increasing teacher salaries by school districts, thirty-four percent shall be dedicated to reducing the property tax levies for general education for all classes of property, and three percent shall be dedicated to increasing instructor salaries to competitive levels at postsecondary technical institutes.
Section 18.That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
    The presidents of the postsecondary technical institutes, acting pursuant to rules established by the State Board of Education, shall use the money provided pursuant to this Act to increase instructor salaries at each postsecondary technical institute.”.

This was an odd addition to the bill because instructor salaries for postecondary technical institutes were not a part of the Blue Ribbon Task Force discussion which led to this massive tax increase. It does actually make sense for the pay raise to come from here because the tech schools fall under K-12. But it seemed odd such an amendment would be brought up without any discussion ahead of time. The bigger problem however came when Rep Schoenbeck pointed out on the House floor that Rep Solum actually helped write the amendment. Rep Solum is a tech school instructor and would have direct benefit from the 3% of the of the new sales tax going towards tech school instructor salaries. Solum then proceeded to vote yea to the amendment and vote yea to the bill overall. The bill failed. But then Solum voted yea to reconsider the bill and voted yea one last time to pass the bill. That is four times Solum voted yea as a legislator to give himself a raise as an instructor at a technical institute. At the very least Solum should have abstained from voting due to the clear conflict of interest. I have been told by a lawyer that Solum may not have broken any law, but I still contend his behavior fell short of the morality that would be expected from an elected official.

We will see during the election if his actions taken with HB 1182 have any repercussions with voters. He has both a primary and general election to go through. Both of those are opportunities for opponents to bring up what many would consider a conflict of interest violation.

Neal Tapio

Neal Tapio (R)
Ballotpedia – VoteSmart – SoDakLiberty

Tapio is another one that doesn’t seem to be making information about him easy to find for prospective voters. A couple of months ago Dakota War College did welcome him as a paid advertiser and had this to say about Tapio:

Neal is a successful entrepreneur, a long time conservative Republican, and self described “Tea-Party believing, Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin listening, Donald Trump loving potential candidate for office” who is looking to change the conversation for South Dakota conservatives, and re-focusing what’s important for members of the Republican party in South Dakota.

That doesn’t give me much to work on. I’ll see if I can find out more about his stealth campaign.

District 3 Republican primary candidates for SD State House

April 27, 2016 Comments off
SD Legislative District 3. Most of Aberdeen + Bath. Screenshot of map from SD SOS website.

SD Legislative District 3. Most of Aberdeen + Bath. Screenshot of map from SD SOS website.

To kick off the brief look at candidates in the SD 2016 legislative primary races I will start with District 3. District 3 is in Brown county and is composed of most of Aberdeen plus Bath. Sen David Novstrup (R, Dist 3) is not seeking reelection this year and his dad Rep Al Novstrup (R, Dist 3) is switching houses to run for State Senate. That leaves Rep Dan Kaiser (R, Dist 3) as the only incumbent in this race. There are two people looking to get a House seat: Drew Dennert and Todd Kolden. Whoever wins this race will go against Democrats Nikki Bootz and Brooks Briscoe in the general election this fall.

For full disclosure I do know two of the candidates, Kaiser and Dennert, very well and have only briefly met Kolden. I also happen to support both Kaiser and Dennert in this race. But I will treat this just like any other race when blogging and try to step back and be as fair as possible.

Here is a brief look at the three candidates. Since I actually live in District 3 I plan to find time to do an interview with all three candidates some time in the next couple of weeks. The candidates below are listed in the order they will appear on the primary ballot. I’ve also included the links I could find to help voters learn more about each candidate.

Drew Dennert

Drew Dennert (R)
Facebook – Twitter – Ballotpedia – VoteSmart – SoDakLiberty

Drew Dennert picture taken from his candidate Facebook page on 4/27/16.

Drew Dennert picture taken from his candidate Facebook page on 4/27/16.

Dennert doesn’t give a lot to learn about him on his social media accounts. Here is a blurb he put on Facebook:

I’m running for the South Dakota State House because we need principled conservative leaders representing us in Pierre.

As a conservative Republican I strongly believe in promoting a business friendly environment by reducing regulations and keeping taxes as low as possible.

My platform is simple. I want to stand up for South Dakotans right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.

Fighting for the right to life and protecting the unborn is at the core of my principles.

I also want to fight for South Dakotans liberty and pursuit of happiness, by protecting our God given rights.

If elected I will fight for more liberty and less government.

I would be honored to have your support!

Those are pretty standard Republican talking points. Hopefully between the upcoming Republican forum and an in-person interview I can get more information to post about Dennert’s stances on issues.

An interesting side-note is that Drew Dennert happens to the grandson of former state legislator Paul Dennert (they are probably polar opposites politically).

Daniel Kaiser (R)

Rep Dan Kaiser (R, Dist 3) – Incumbent
Website – Facebook – Twitter – Ballotpedia – VoteSmartOpenStates – SoDakLiberty
LRC: House 2016 2015 2014 2013
SDPB Video: 2014 2012

State Representative Dan Kaiser on the SD House Floor. Photo by Ken Santema 02/24/15.

State Representative Dan Kaiser on the SD House Floor. Photo by Ken Santema 02/24/15.

Kaiser does actually have an issues section on his website, which I will give him credit for.  But since he is an incumbent I would rather look at some key areas of his work as a legislator.

Also before going on I think it would be best to talk about the 2016 legislative session. Just days before the 2016 legislative session began Kaiser found out his son had been diagnosed with leukemia and would have to go through a series of treatments. Due to that Kaiser missed all but one day of the legislative session (he was there for Veto day). Personally I don’t think such a badly timed personal emergency sheds a bad light on him. But it is possible there are people who feel he should not be reelected due to missing a whole session. That is up to each voter to decide for his or her self.

One of the issues I have been blogging about over the last few years is the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Kaiser happens to be one of the few legislators that actually brought up any possible misgivings about the Taiwan resolutions supporting TPP. Unfortunately Kaiser was not able to speak out against this years resolution HCR 1015 (SoDakLiberty Posts), which was the 2016 legislative session version of the Taiwan resolution.

Another issue that I think is important when talking about Kaiser is Common Core. Back in February of 2015 Kaiser led an effort to smokeout  HB 1223 (SoDakLiberty Posts), which would have ended South Dakota’s involvement in Common Core. The attempt to force HB 1223 did not completely succeed. But that doesn’t mean it was a failure. A social media #StandWithDan hashtag went viral (as far as anything purely SD political can go viral). Kaiser was able to breath new life into the battle against Common Core and give people hope this could become an issue for the 2016 election. I will be watching close this year to see if Common Core does become an issue for close races, especially west-river.

Finally I want to mention the fact that Kaiser shows his commitment to open government and transparency by posting each of his votes on Facebook. Just last year I commended Kaiser and Rep Fred Deutsch (R, Dist 4) for doing this. I wish more legislators would do this! It is a great way to see why a legislator voted in a way I would find wrong. It also happens to be a great way to possibly learn something about a bill that wasn’t mentioned in committee testimony (remember these legislators get constantly hounded by lobbyists, and not all of the lobbyists are bad).

Todd Kolden

Todd Kolden (R)
Facebook – Ballotpedia –VoteSmartSoDakLiberty

Todd Kolden picture from his Facebook campaign page on 4/27/16.

Todd Kolden picture from his Facebook campaign page on 4/27/16.

Kolden does provide a post down in his Facebook feed with some issues. Here is what he has to say:

I feel it’s an honor to have this opportunity to continue serving the district and state I grew up in. Before I provide a synopsis of where I stand on issues, I want to point out that I have no personal agenda (personal agenda’s do not belong in the legislature), I have an open mind and always listen to my constituents.
The statements below are not all inclusive and I will not commit to legislation one way or another until I see the details of what is being proposed.

• I support Veterans.
Our state has done a good job supporting veterans but I believe we still have room to improve. Improve healthcare, specifically suicide awareness and assisting veterans overcoming this crisis. Improve job opportunities, specifically strengthening veteran’s preference in public employment and improved assistance in their transition from military to civilian life.

• I support K-12 Education.
The 2016 legislative session took a huge step in addressing the teacher shortage. It was a very difficult decision to raise the state sales tax, one that I mulled over very seriously. One thing to remember, this wasn’t directly related to raising teacher salaries, it was to become competitive with our surrounding states, recruiting quality teachers and retaining them. I put my trust in the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Task force and would have supported their recommendation. I am not one for raising taxes but at some point you have to ask, are we serious about addressing this or not. As I said, I have an open mind and would have listened to any and all options but in my opinion, there was never a viable option presented (new funding and being sustainable). I think as Republicans, we should be proud that our state still has one of the lowest sales tax base in the country. However, I do feel the legislature should have had more time to debate the Governor’s education package, specifically HB1182 and SB131. I would have supported a conference committee to further address SB131 and the amendments that were presented. I’m always happy to discuss this further. With that being said, I don’t feel we are done with education funding.
I also support school districts having firm local control.

• I support Government Transparency.
This has been near the top of my list for the past number of years. Representative Al Novstrup (Senator later this year), has been at the forefront of this transparency push and I support what he has done thus far. He realizes more needs to be done and I would most likely support him. But again, I would need to see the details of any proposed bill before getting on board.

• I support Economic Development.
Simply said, this would include better paying jobs, improved business climate (in particular, small businesses), improved training for those seeking skilled jobs, and filling those hard-to-fill skilled positions. I have 12 years of experience in this area and would bring this to the legislature.

• 2nd Amendment Rights.
I have always supported the right to bear arms and always will. I admit, I don’t beat the drum on this issue because I’ve never felt threatened to have my guns taken away or restricted. However, if I ever felt that threat, I would meet it head on.

• Medicaid.
I do not support expanding Medicaid at this point, simply because from what I see, our state can’t afford it. Again, I’m willing to consider any proposed legislation.

• Community Support.
I would generally support legislation that would provide better support and control to our counties and cities. Again, details…

• Agriculture/Farms.
I have never farmed but know many who do. Farming and agriculture are a huge part of our state and quite frankly, they have a large hand in feeding our state, country, and the world. I would support legislation that keeps our agriculture industry striving to be successful. I believe that if agriculture is successful, it will assist our state being successful.

• Fiscally Conservative.
Simply said, you don’t spend what you don’t have. Reserves should be preserved and used only when absolutely needed. Increasing taxes is not the answer.

• Methamphetamine abuse.
This destructive drug needs to be further addressed. The “Meth” dealers need to be removed from our society and we need to assist the users in getting the help they need to break their addiction.

For the People, Serving South Dakota

I wish Kolden would pin the above post on his Facebook page so people wouldn’t have to dig for it. But I will give him credit for talking about a number of issues. As a current member of the Aberdeen School District School Board I would like to hear what fiscally conservative issues he has fought for on the school board level. I look forward to speaking with Kolden and possibly expanding upon a couple of his issues listed above.

Kicking off the SD 2016 primary election posts

April 27, 2016 Comments off
SD legislative districts. Screenshot from SD LRC website 4/27/16.

SD legislative districts. Screenshot from SD LRC website 4/27/16.

It is time to kick off the state legislature primary election posts for South Dakota. There is a page I will be using to track the candidates in each of these elections. I’m showing there are 26 primary elections in 2016. There are 22 Republican primaries and 4 Democrat primaries.

Over the next two weeks I will have posts looking briefly at each of these primary races. I will also hopefully be attending some of the forums the candidates in some of these races will be attending.

Parents concerned about testing mandates to attend April 25 Sioux Falls School Board meeting

April 24, 2016 Comments off

640343On Monday, April 25, there will be a rather large group of parents, grandparents, and other concerned individuals that will attend the Sioux Falls School District School Board meeting. A few of them will be speaking to share experiences with the School Board about federal and state mandated testing. This is an issue that has been coming to a head for quite some time and is possibly going to boil over this election season.

From what I understand about this event, this is not an attack on  teachers, administrators or the school board. Instead this will be an opportunity for parents and grandparents to tell their side of the story on how the 95% participation mandate for these standardized tests are negatively impacting their children. Further parents  constitutional rights to have a voice in their child’s education are being completely ignored. Maintaining this 95% mandate has caused administrators and teachers to behave in ways that have parents quite understandably upset. I will have more about this in a series of blog posts after the meeting.

It is also worth noting the state is currently being sued over its use of the current standardized test, the SBAC. The crux of the case appears to be the states illegal entry into a compact. While sitting at the hearing I also heard a pretty good civics lesson from Judge Barnett.

I am going to purposely keep this post short and wait until I hear from parents first-hand at the event what their frustrations and fears about the mandated tests are. Anyone living in the Sioux Falls school district that would like to hear about the frustrations of parents might find it worthwhile to attend this meeting. The meeting begins at 5:30 pm at the Instructional Planning Center (201 E. 38th Street, Sioux Falls SD). I will be in attendance and plan to do a series of posts later in the week based upon what I hear from concerned parents.

PS. This meeting also has the SFEA Contract Negotiations working agreement. Which will be the proposed teacher pay increase for the school district.

Categories: Education, South Dakota Tags: ,

Civil asset forfeiture was not chosen as a summer study topic

April 21, 2016 Comments off

Earlier today I blogged about the three summer study topics that were approved by the SD Legislature Executive Board during the 2016 interim session and one summer study topic that was assigned to the LRC as an Issue Memo. Now it is time to look at one of the summer study topic that wasn’t chosen to be looked at during the interim session: civil asset forfeiture. This is a topic I thought would be chosen, especially since it was a topic during the 2016 legislative session (even if it didn’t get any real press coverage). At the end of this post I will include a brief look at two bills from the 2016 legislative session dealing with civil asset forfeiture.

Rep Don Haggar speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 3/29/16.

Rep Don Haggar speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 3/29/16.

During the executive board meeting Rep Don Haggar (R, Dist 10) mentioned the civil forfeiture in South Dakota summer study should be selected as one of the final topics for the 2016 interim session. He noted there were several committee hearings on the topic during this previous session (more on that below) and several million dollars are seized annually. Haggar believes there are constitutional issues, because sometimes assets are seized before conviction. Plus he believes there are questions about the controls that are in place (or not in place) as to how these assets are handled.

Here is the actual proposal for the summer study:

Title of Requested Study: Civil forfeiture in South Dakota. A study of the process, the volume of assets seized, how the seized assets are managed and disposed of, the reporting process, possible abuses, and how South Dakota’s process compares to other states.

Scope of Requested Study:

  • Breadkown seized assets by crime, by type of asset, and by volume.
  • Cost to sieze assets.
  • How often do seizure efforts fail?
  • What process is used to dispose of assets?
  • How are funds held? Checks and balances?
  • What reporting is done?
  • Due process and the burden of proof in forfeitures.

Requested by: Individual Legislators and Committee Vote: Sen Corey Brown (R, Dist 23), Senate Judiciary Committee, and Rep Don Haggar (R, Dist 10).

During the Executive Board meeting Rep Jim Bolin (R, Dist 16) didn’t see a need for this as a summer study because he doesn’t hear constituents speaking out about civil asset forfeiture. Rep Timothy Johns (R, Dist 31) however disagreed with Rep Bolin and believes civil asset forfeiture is a “very timely topic”.

Unfortunately there was not a motion made to actually move this forward as a summer study topic after the other three had actually been chosen. Personally I think this should have been a chosen topic and hope Rep Haggar continues to work on the topic in the 2017 legislative session (provided he makes it through the general election).

Summary of bill from the 2016 session that dealt with civil asset forfeiture

To end this post I will look briefly at two bills taken up during the 2016 legislative session that dealt with civil asset forfeiture.

HB 1088 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Revise and consolidate certain civil forfeiture provisions.

Status: Signed by Governor
SoDakLiberty Stance: Not Opposed (supported original version)
Prime Sponsors: Rep Don Haggar (R, Dist 10) and Sen Corey Brown (R, Dist 23) are the prime sponsors.

This bill originally combined and reconciled two different forfeiture areas of law: drug related and sex traffic related. The biggest change in the original version of the bill would have been to ensure there is a conviction for drug related crimes before forfeiture can occur; that is already the case with sex traffic crimes. That change would have ensured there is due process in place before property is seized.

The AG’s Office, States Attorney Association, and South Dakota Sheriffs Association testified against the conviction provision in HB 1088. HB 1088 then went through a series of amendments that took all of the good portions away. In the end all the bill does now is consolidate the process for civil forfeitures. When this bill becomes law on July 1 nothing will have changed.

Too bad, Rep Haggar brought forth a good bill that would have helped ensure the civil rights of South Dakota residents are protected.

SB 25 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Revise certain provisions concerning forfeiture of property interests of persons convicted of certain crimes.

Status: Signed by Governor
SoDakLiberty Stance: Opposed
Prime Sponsors: The Committee on Judiciary is the prime sponsor at the request of the Office of the Attorney General.

While Haggar was trying to reign in civil asset forfeiture in SD, the Attorney General Marty Jackley was trying to expand forfeiture.

Here is what I had to say about the bill when it was prefiled, and feel was relevant up to it being passed:

This bill would allow the AG’s office to take property from more human trafficking cases. Currently state law allows the state to take the property set forth in § 22-24A-15 for breaking certain state laws. This bill would appear to allow the state to take that same property from people convicted under certain federal laws. That would mean the state has greater power to seize the property of anyone convicted of certain crimes, whether convicted at the state or federal level.

Here is what Jackley had to say in the press release:

“State, local and federal law enforcement officers continue to remove sexual predators from our communities during our joint law enforcement operations and investigations.  Predators convicted of human trafficking and related sex crimes whether prosecuted by state or federal authorities should not keep either their profits or assets used to harm young women and children.  Their profits and assets used to commit these sex crimes should go to help victims and support further law enforcement operations saving taxpayer monies,” said Jackley.

I can understand where Jackley is coming from. But, I fear any time forfeiture laws are expanded that the potential to abuse those laws are increased. According to a report from the Institute for JusticeSouth Dakota already has poor forfeiture protections in place, getting a D- on the scorecard. Part of the reason for that bad score is how easy it is for law enforcement to take property in South Dakota. But another part, and a part I am truly worried about, is explained by this paragraph in the report:

Compounding those problems, South Dakota law does not require law enforcement agencies to track or report their forfeitures. By filing a South Dakota Open Records Law request, the Institute for Justice was able to obtain records of forfeiture proceeds from the South Dakota Office of the Attorney General, which prosecuted almost $4.1 million in forfeitures between 2010 and 2013, or over $1 million per fiscal year. These figures represent all drug-related civil forfeitures conducted in South Dakota during this time.

What is happening with all of this forfeited property and money? Do we really want to expand a program without actually knowing what is going on currently?

Additionally the IJ report gives SD good marks in one area:

Law enforcement agencies in South Dakota make less use of the Department of Justice’s equitable sharing program than do agencies in any other state, perhaps because state law makes it relatively easy for agencies to benefit handsomely from civil forfeiture. Ranking first in the nation on equitable sharing, South Dakota agencies received over $1 million in DOJ equitable sharing proceeds between the 2000 and 2013 calendar years.

Is the ability to use more of this equitable sharing money part of the reason the Office of the Attorney General wants to pass this law?

Executive Board will have the LRC look at legislative pay

April 21, 2016 Comments off

4303315At the April 18 SD legislature Executive Board meeting they took a look at summer study topics. Three topics were chosen for the 2016 interim session. One of the topics discussed, but not chosen as a summer study, was legislative pay. Instead of creating a board to look into this issue the Executive Board will have the Legislative Research Council (LRC) look into the topic through an Issue Memo.

The actual proposed summer study is Study G from the proposed list. Here is what the proposed study was:

Title of Requested Study: Consider establishment of an independent body to determine legislator compensation and support staff.

Scope of Requested Study: Legislator pay, period of service, support staff and any additional means of aiding and supporting the purposes of the Legislature.

Requested By: Individual Legislator: Rep Steven Haugaard (R, Dist 10)

The Executive Board decided to have the LRC look into this as an Issue Memo. Specifically the LRC will look at how other states handle legislative pay and how South Dakota compares to them.

This is an issue that comes up frequently, and repeatedly gets voted down. In this post I’ll look at the ways tried in just the last few legislative session.

During the 2014 legislative session there was an attempt to raise the legislative pay from $6,000 per year to $10,000 per year. That was SB 142 (SoDakLiberty Posts). SB 142 passed Senate State Affairs 7-2. It then died on the Senate floor 18-15, a 2/3 vote was required for SB 142 to pass.

In 2015 a different approach was tried. Instead of raising the legislative pay there was a bill proposed to change the salary of the legislators from being $6,000 for every regular session to being at least $6,000 per every regular session. That was HB 1149 (SoDakLiberty Posts). Technically this would have meant that legislators could make more than $6,000 per year, although it did not provide a mechanism for that to occur. The mechanism to increase legislator pay was in the companion bill HB 1150 (SoDakLiberty). HB 1150 would have provided the same automatic pay raise for legislators as is done for the constitutional officers and Supreme Court justices. Both bills made it through House State Affairs and the House floor. HB 1149 was then killed by Senate State Affairs and HB 1150 was killed by Senate Local Government.

Finally, in 2016 there was an attempt to increase legislative pay indirectly by giving legislators per diem for “constituent service, leadership service, and service on certain standing committees”. That was SB 160 (SoDakLiberty Posts). The bill would have given each legislator an extra $4500 per year for most legislators. It would have given an additional $4500 per year to leadership positions and members of the Appropriations committee; that would have meant a total of $9,000 extra for certain legislators. This back door method to raise legislator pay was killed by the Joint Committee on Appropriations by a vote of 14-2.

Personally I do think the legislative pay needs to be raised. The $6,000 per year pay is simply not enough compensation for the average working person to give up three months of their life. Perhaps having the LRC look into the issue via an Issue Memo will find the support needed to make this happen. If not, this may be just the beginning of an other attempt destined to fail.

Three Interim Study topics chosen by the Executive Board, nursing beds, Medicaid long term care payments, and substance abuse

April 21, 2016 Comments off

On April 18 the South Dakota Legislative Executive Board met in Pierre. My post prior to the meeting can be viewed here. The big agenda item I was interested was the Interim Study Committee Topic Selection. The minutes for that meeting aren’t out yet, but I did have an opportunity to listen in on the meeting. There were three topics chosen for a study during the 2016 Interim Session. At the meeting there was a study request that turned into an LRC Issue Memo and another one that was talked about but not voted on; both of those will be topics for other blog posts.

The complete list of proposed studies for 2016 can be viewed here. There were 16 in total.

Before going into the new interim boards LRC Director Jason Hancock mentioned the legislative boards that already exist during the interim session:

  1. Executive Board
  2. Appropriations
  3. Code Commission
  4. Government Operations & Audit (GOAC)
  5. Legislative Planning Committee
  6. Retirement Laws
  7. River Basin Natural Resource District Oversight Advisory Task Force
  8. Rules Review
  9. State-Tribal Relations
  10. Ag Land Assessment Task Force

Last year there were thirteen interim boards because of the addition of the County Government Interim Committee, the SD High School Activities Association Interim Committee, and the Tribal Economic Development Task Force. This year the LRC said they could handle up to four more interim boards (for a total of 14).

There was a push to get the interim study committees selected right away so FY16 funds could be utilized. $452,000 was appropriated for legislature travel in FY16; of that $324,000 has been spent. Getting these studies going before June 30 will mean at least part of the budget for these interim studies will go under the current budget instead of the new one that begins on July 1.

Now to look at the three topics which were chosen. I won’t go in-depth. There will be plenty of time for that once the committees actually start meeting. These also happened to be the three topics that had the most vote from legislators as a summer study.

Nursing and assisted living beds in South Dakota

Title of Requested Study: A study of the benefits, merits and negative impacts of regulating the number of nursing and assisted living beds in South Dakota. Further, recommend action that may include elimination of or revisions to regulations for the betterment of the South Dakota populace.

Scope of Requested Study:

  • History of regulations in South Dakota.
  • How have the issues surrounding this industry and its constituents changed in recent years?
  • Comparison to the other state’s regulations and their results.
  • Why continue to regulate the number of beds?
  • What are the pro and con  results from these regulations? Who benefits? How are these results measured/quantified? What are the trends?
  • How can more “free enterprise” be introduced into our management of care facilities?
  • What are the forecasted changes for the industry in South Dakota and its constituents?
  • How can the industry best respond to demographic and geographic changes in the state and what role should the state play in these changes for the benefit of all concerned?

Requested By:  Committee Vote: House Commerce and Energy Committee

This issue came up a couple of times during the legislative session. SB 138 (SoDakLiberty Posts) was a bill that passed to allow the construction of a nursing home facility in Rosebud. This had to be done due to the moratorium on new nursing home facilities without legislative approval.

Veterans home floor plan from the SD Dept of Veterans Affairs website.

Veterans home floor plan from the SD Dept of Veterans Affairs website.

Another bill that comes to mind is SB 148 (SoDakLiberty Posts), which authorized additional nursing facility beds for the Michael J. Fitzmaurice Veterans Home. This allowed an additional 24 nursing facility beds for a new total of 76 beds.

I really don’t know the history of this topic so I do agree it seems odd the state is micromanaging nursing beds to such an extent.

Payment methodologies for Medicaid providers in long term care

Title of Requested Study: Assess existing payment methodologies for Medicaid providers to determine adequacy of payments that will provide for long term continuation of services and conclude with recommendations for any changes.

Scope of Requested Study:

  • Current provider methodology for payment: hospitals – LTC – Community Based.
  • Actual costs versus cost report data – What is included in cost reports – cost report years used for calculation.
  • Projection of provider needs 5/10/20 years.
  • Costs unaccounted for in reports.
  • Other payment methodologies used in other states – Pros/Cons.
  • Recommendations for any change.
  • Funding sources for any changes for recommended increases
  • Sustainability and future growth.

Requested By: Individual Legislators: Rep Jean Hunhoff (R, Dist 18) and Rep Dick Werner (R, Dist 22).

This is another topic I’ll have to learn about as the committee does their work. If this ties in with the talk of Medicaid expansion remains to be seen. It also has possible cross-issues with the nursing beds summer study.

Substance abuse prevent in early stages

Title of Requested Study: The study of substance abuse prevention at the earliest stages and options available to South Dakota communities.

Scope of Requested Study: Explore the problem of substance abuse, specifically meth use, and possible community prevention or intervention for pre-teens, teens, and young adults.
Questions to include:

  • At what age are children first exposed to meth?
  • What factors frequently lead to early exposure?
  • What have been the most effective prevention and intervention methods?
  • How can the community be part of the solution?

Requested By: Individual Legislator: Sen Jim White (R, Dist 22)

I’m not sure I see why this is a legislative summer study. The very scope of the study makes it appear any solutions are better handled at the community level.

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