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Posts Tagged ‘2015:SB177’

SD Dist 3 State Senate Gen Election: Novstrup and Heidelberger

August 30, 2016 Comments off
SD Legislative District 3

SD Legislative District 3

South Dakota legislative District 3 has  a general election for State Senate. District 3 is comprised mostly of Aberdeen. But it also goes out to encompass Bath and Prairiewood.

The Republican incumbent Sen David Novstrup is not seeking reelection. Rep Al Novstrup decided not to seek reelection for State House, and is switching over to the State Senate race to try winning the seat being vacated by his son. Challenging Novstrup is Democrat Cory Heidelberger. This is probably one of the top races to watch during this election season.

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

*** It should be noted this is NOT a scorecard. This post only looks at some of the legislative priorities of these candidates. These legislative priorities may or may not have any bearing on how the candidates actually vote on legislation.

Al Novstrup

Rep Al Novstrup speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 1/27/16.

Rep Al Novstrup speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 1/27/16.

Rep Al Novstrup (R, Dist 3) – Novstrup switched from House to Senate.
Website – Facebook – Twitter – Ballotpedia – VoteSmart – OpenStates – SoDakLiberty
LRC: House 2016 2015 Senate 2014 2013 2012 20112010 2009 House 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003
SDPB Video: 2014 2012

Al Novstrup has served in Pierre for many years, so I will focus on a few bills he has prime sponsored in order to get an idea of his legislative priorities. First up is this open government bill from 2015:

HB 1153  (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Expand the definition of teleconference to include certain meetings conducted through electronic text colloquy and to require the retention of certain records of text colloquy meetings for public inspection.

HB 1153 would have expanded the meaning of teleconference in open meeting laws to include “e-mail, text messaging, chat services, and other similar media”. House Local Government and Senate State Affairs basically reduced the bill to almost nothing before it was killed by Senate State Affairs. In its final form the bill would only have applied to email. Too bad this bill didn’t pass, it would have been a good movement towards more open government in South Dakota.

Up next for Al Novstrup is this bill from 2014:

SB 120 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Provide for the registration and administration of navigators under the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and to declare an emergency.

This was an interesting bill because it was aimed directly at the implementation of Obamacare in South Dakota. The navigators in question were created by Obamacare as insurance agents to help people enroll in the ACA marketplace. Yet these navigators are not subject to state regulation as every other insurance agent in the state has to. The bill was tabled by Senate Commerce and Energy at the request of Novstrup. The stakeholders involved couldn’t find common ground to get the bill into a workable format. This is an issue that is still being battled in many states. ACA does allow the states to regulate navigators, but the federal government has resisted attempts at such regulations. In testimony Novstrup focused a lot on people’s private data and the lack of oversight of these navigators handling such data; other insurance agents have oversight and repercussions. Navigators are still unregulated in South Dakota, and until lawsuits are settled between other states and the federal government that will likely remain true.

Finally I thought it would be worth looking at this bill from 2013:

SB 187 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Allow a school district to opt out of the continuing contract requirements for teachers.

South Dakota does not have tenure for public school teachers as many other states do. Instead there is something call continuing contracts. This allows teachers contracts to be non-renewed with a simple notice for teachers that have less than four consecutive terms. Teachers with four or more terms can have their contract non-renewed with a bit more work, but can still be done. Novstrup’s bill would have allowed school boards to opt out of continuing contracts so they could focus on provisions that would be in the best interest of the school districts. Senate Education killed the bill 4-3. The SD Education Association of course testified against the bill. But also noteworthy was Rep Paula Hawks testifying against the bill. At that time Hawks was a freshman legislator, and now she is running for US House. There was no way the Education committee was going to let the bill pass, but I do think this bill had shown a commitment by Novstrup to local control of education by school boards.

Overall I would say Novstrup’s bills focus on open government and local control. The ACA navigator bill also shows that Novstrup appears to believe government should have to follow the same laws and regulations as regular people.

Cory Allen Heidelberger

Cory Heidelberger (left in picture) speaking with potential supporters at a meet and greet in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 6/30/16.

Cory Heidelberger (left in picture) speaking with potential supporters at a meet and greet in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 6/30/16.

Cory Heidelberger  (D)
Website – Facebook – Twitter – Ballotpedia – VoteSmart – SoDakLiberty
SDPB Audio: 2016

Cory Heidelberger is an interesting entry in this race. Heidelberger run the liberal South Dakota political blog Dakota Free Press, formerly Madville times. On his campaign website Heidelberger lists the three biggest issues driving him to run for office.

In this post I will only look at the top priority listed from Heidelberger; which he lists as defending voters. Here is what he has to say about defending voters:

The Legislature needs to respect us voters. When we pass a ballot measure like the minimum wage increase and “any willing provider” health insurance law of 2014, we should be able to count on legislators not to tinker with or undo what we’ve done. The Legislature should make it easier for all South Dakotans to vote, to refer and initiate laws, and circulate petitions and run for office. Instead, our current Legislature has acted as if it fears and loathes real citizen democracy. I want all of us South Dakotans to vote and to have lots of good choices when we vote. When you send me to Pierre, I’ll fight to protect the initiative and referendum, the petition process, and every South Dakotan’s right to vote.

The minimum wage was passed in 2014 via Initiated Measure 18 (IM 18). After that was passed by the voters the legislature modified the minimum wage by creating a new youth minimum wage via  SB 177 (SoDakLiberty Posts). Heidelberger took exception to the legislature changing a law passed by the voters and circulated petitions to put the youth minimum wage before the voters. The referral of SB 177 was successful and now the voters of SD will choose whether to have a youth minimum wage this fall via Referred Law 20 (RL 20). Heidelberger is running in part to protect initiated measures passed by the voters from tinkering by the legislature.

Along those same lines he mentions the “any will provider” initiated measure (IM 17) passed by the voters in 2014. There was a bill in 2016, HB 1067 (SoDakLiberty Posts), that would have undone IM 17. That particular bill was defeated in committee. But it was mentioned by Heidelberger as an example of the legislature trying to undo what was passed into law by the voters of South Dakota.

Finally Heidelberger mentions the legislature trying to make it harder for voters to participate in citizen democracy via SB 69 (SoDakLiberty Posts). SB 69 is a bill the majority party in the legislature appeared to use in order to make it harder for competition on the ballot. Heidelberger took exception to what the legislature did with SB 69 and led the petition effort to put it before the voters of South Dakota. That effort was successful and will be on this falls ballot as Referred Law 19 (RL 19). Agree with Heidelberger or not, he definitely has shown a willingness to actually stick up for what he believes in.

Normally I would look at a couple more stances or issues for candidates in these posts. But with Heidelberger I thought it would be more interesting to look at a different aspect of his candidacy. That aspect is the fact that Heidelberger appears to be campaigning for and against himself. Heidelberger has a lot of built-in support from local Democrats due to his liberal-leaning blog. Yet that same blog may also be costing him votes, including from fellow Democrats.

A recent example of a blog post that could be backfiring on Heidelberger is one about a 4-H pallet painted with a combination of the American flag and the christian cross.  I believe Heidelberger wrote the post as a social commentary, and in no way meant it as an attack on a young 4-H member. The public perception however was much different. The day of the post I had many people stop by my fair booth to vent about what Heidelberger has posted. One of those people who stopped by was a local Democrat who has supported Democrat candidates for at least two decades. But after Heidelberger’s post she decided this election she would abstain from voting in the District 3 State Senate race (she couldn’t see voting for Novstrup either). If enough local Democrats do that, it would make the election much easier for Novstrup. True, Heidelberger has the right to post whatever he wants and the post about the pallet did pose some interesting social questions. But at the same time Heidelberger as a candidate must understand that such posts are not always going to be perceived in the way he intended, and in fact may be seen as an attack on 4-H kids.

Another recent example comes from the Americans First, Task Force of Aberdeen, event featuring Ron Branstner. The video footage I shot of the event can be viewed here. During the event Branstner had used a blog post from Heidelberger as an example of what the “liberal rags” have to say about refugees. Heidelberger was given a chance during the question and answer portion to defend himself. But Heidelberger’s defense may have backfired somewhat. Instead of staying where he was standing and making a short statement, or ask a question, Heidelberger went into the center of the room to make what looked like a campaign speech. That made some people in the audience irate, including some local Democrats that didn’t even agree with what Branstner was trying to get people to understand. Personally I understand why Heidelberger stood and defended himself, but it did have repercussions with some older voters that now see him as somewhat of an opportunist. But then maybe this incident will be a net gain as he attracts more young voters that might not otherwise vote.

There are other examples of Heidelberger pushing away certain Democrat voters, especially the older farm Democrats. But I think these two examples show how Heidelberger being a blogger and activist will have some repercussions as a candidate. I can attest first-hand that Heidleberger has been working hard to connect with voters in Aberdeen. The political geek part of me is really interested in seeing how this election will turn out. Here are the questions that come into my mind along those lines:

  • Will Heidelberger gain or lose more votes due to his blogging and activism?
  • Novstrup is expected to get a lot of donations to keep Heidelberger out of the Senate. Will the Democrats fund Heidelberger equally?
  • Heidelberger is an intense in-your-face type of person. Will that resonate well with voters as he is gong door to door?
  • Heidelberger is running at least partly on open government, which Novstrup has actually received recognition by the Newspaper Association as an advocate of open government. Will open government even be an issue in this election (at this point I doubt it).

This should be a very interesting election to watch. When the postcards and attack ads start coming out I expect there will be more than a few aimed at the District 3 State Senate race. I also expect the attack ads against Heidelberger will simply highlight what he has written on his blog.

A look at Referred Law 20, Youth Minimum Wage

August 8, 2016 Comments off

19379021Earlier today I looked at RL 19, now as I continue to look at ballot questions in the 2016 South Dakota election it is time to look at Referred Law 20 (RL 20). Referred Law 20 would decide whether the youth in South Dakota have a lower minimum wage than adults.

This post will look at some of the basics of RL 20. There may be more posts about RL 20 coming in the future; but this post should be a good starting point for anyone trying to research RL 20.

Referred Law 20 goes back to Initiated Measure 18

RL 20 goes back to the 2014 election. On the 2014 South Dakota ballot was Initiated Measure 18 (IM 18). IM 18 was passed into law by the voters and raised the basic minimum wage in South Dakota from $7.25 to $8.50 and raised the tipped employees minimum wage in South Dakota from $2.13 to 1/2 of the basic minimum wage. Further the minimum wage would increase each year according to the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Since IM 18 was passed into law the new minimum wage became effective July 1, 2015. On January 1, 2016, the first auto-increase occurred. The minim wage increased to $8.55. The five cent increase was technically higher than the CPI calculation, but the auto-increase includes a provision that rounds the increase up to the nearest nickel.

There were some legislators that felt it would be harmful to youth employment if the youth minimum wage was set to the same level as adults. Sen David Novstrup (R, Dist 3) then brought forth SB 177 (SoDakLiberty Posts) to create a youth minimum wage of $7.50 for employees under the age of eighteen. Plus SB 177 would not tie the youth minimum wage to CPI, meaning it would not auto-increase each year.

Cory Heidelberger of Dakota Free Press led the petition drive to refer RL 20 to the voters. On June 30, 2015, the Secretary of State office validated the petition and SB 177 officially became Referred Law 20. By referring SB 177 to the voters the new youth minimum wage did not take effect.

Text of Referred Law 20

The text of RL 20 is best read by looking at the text of SB 177. The bill had two sections. In the first section of the bill there was an exemption of “employees under age eighteen” added to the minimum wage law.

The second half of SB 177 would have added this new statute:

An employer shall pay an employee under the age of eighteen at least seven dollars and fifty cents an hour. This wage is not subject to the annual minimum wage adjustment pursuant to § 60-11-3.2. No employer may take any action to displace an employee, including a partial displacement through a reduction in hours, wages, or employment benefits, in order to hire an employee at the wage authorized in this Act.

AG’s Explanation

The Attorney General’s office has provided this explanation for RL 20:

Title: An Act lowering the State minimum wage for non-tipped employees under age 18

Explanation:

State law requires employers to pay all non-tipped employees a minimum wage, with limited exceptions. Currently, that amount is $8.55 per hour. State law also requires that the minimum wage be adjusted, effective on January 1 of each year, by any increase in the cost of living as measured by the U. S. Department of Labor’s Consumer Price Index.

Referred Law 20, if approved, would lower the existing State minimum wage to $7.50 per hour for non-tipped employees under age 18. In addition, no annual cost-of-living wage adjustment would be required for the youth minimum wage.

The referred law would also prohibit employers from taking any action to displace an employee or reduce an employee’s hours, wages, or benefits, in order to hire someone at the youth minimum wage.

A vote “Yes” is for lowering the minimum wage to $7.50 per hour for nontipped employees under age 18.

A vote “No” is against the referred law

Pros of Referred Law 20

There were many Republicans in Pierre opposed to IM18 because they did not feel increasing the minimum wage in South Dakota was a good move. Two particular areas of increased concern with IM18 was the increase of minimum wage for the youth and the auto-increase in the minimum wage each year. No bill was brought forth to change the auto-increase, but David Novstrup did bring forth SB 177 as a fix to the youth minimum wage increasing.

Most proponents of RL 20 I have spoken with focus upon providing opportunities for youth. Realistically the majority of the jobs being talked about here are seasonal or temporary types of jobs. If the minimum wage increases too high it could make it harder for unskilled labor, especially young unskilled labor, to compete in the job market for these seasonal and temporary positions. Having a lower youth minimum wage could have given the youth an advantage over older unskilled labor.

The other pro of RL 20 has more to do with purchasing power. Here is what I wrote about this before:

Minimum wage laws are temporary fixes for what is actually ailing poor people. The problem with the economy in the US is that purchasing power corrodes at ever-increasingly rates. No matter how far wages are raised through legislation it cannot do anything to reverse that trend. Instead resources should be focused on reducing the biggest tax on American’s (especially the poor): inflation caused by the private bank known as the Federal Reserve. Additionally the cost of over-regulation must be looked at in order to reduce the cost of goods and services. Without addressing the root cause of purchasing power loss it doesn’t matter how many times the minimum wage is increased. Finally increasing the minimum wage is also a factor that reduces the purchasing power of US consumers (although a much smaller factor than many other factors). That is why I cannot see supporting the referral of SB 177. In the end it doesn’t really matter if SB 177 is enacted into law or not. Either way purchasing power for consumers will continue to drop and many will continue to call for the same minimum wage increases that haven’t solved anything over the last century.

Cons of Referred Law 20

There are basically two groups of people I have spoken with that oppose Referred Law 20. The first group is those that believe the youth should have the same pay as adults. A second group opposing RL 20 is those that don’t feel the legislature should make any changes to the minimum wage law immediately after the voters of South Dakota pass IM18 into law. There is a lot of people who happen to fall in both of those groups.

In the first group mentioned I have most often heard that young voters deserve the same employment protections as adults. There is no reason for youth be treated as lesser employees just because they haven’t turned eighteen. Heidelberger published a blog post trying to make the case that higher minimum wage does not impact youth workers in South Dakota. The data does not necessarily support Heidelberger’s claim, but at the same time the data also does not appear to show the increased minimum wage hurt youth employment.

The second group of those opposed to RL20 are the voters that feel it was wrong for the legislature to change a law immediately after the voters passed it into law. Actually there was an attempt in the legislature during the 2015 session to prevent this from happening. HB 1175 (SoDakLiberty Posts) would have prevented the legislature from making change to laws enacted through initiated measures for on year. That bill did not pass. But the referral process was used to do basically the same thing. Many of those I’ve spoken with that oppose RL 20 are immensely upset the legislature would dare change a law that was enacted by a vote of the people. These same people take exception to the RL20 proponents who say youth minimum wage was not part of the discussion for IM 18. Opponents of RL 20 contend the youth minimum wage was a part of that discussion. They go on to say that it doesn’t really matter if youth minimum wage was part of the overall minimum wage discussion, because that is what the voters chose and the legislature should respect the will of the people. If RL 20 is defeated I believe it is this second group that will tip the scales against the referred law.

My initial thoughts of how to vote

This is a referred law I don’t really care about either way, but I am currently leaning towards voting Yes on RL 20. My leaning towards yes has more to do with my beliefs that minimum wage laws are more harmful than helpful. Plus I see SB 177 as more of a fix of what was passed in IM 18 than actually overturning the will of the people. But I do understand there are a lot of people who feel SB 177 did in fact override the will of the people and will vote against RL 20 to show the legislature who is in charge. My prediction is that RL 20 will fail; it is unlikely any group is going to create a ballot committee and raise funds to push for RL 20’s passage.

A look at the South Dakota 2015 Freedom Index

October 26, 2015 1 comment

Earlier this week the South Dakota Freedom Coalition released the South Dakota 2015 Freedom Index (click the link to download as PDF). Freedom is an obvious topic for me, so I thought it would be worthy to look at this years freedom index bill by bill. The index scores ten votes for the SD State Senate and SD State House. Eight of the votes are the same for each chamber. There are also two votes that are specific to each chamber.

View the South Dakota 2015 Freedom Index PDF to see what the SD Freedom Coalition has to say. Below are my comments about each vote.

SD House votes

SD 2015 Freedom Index House votes.

SD 2015 Freedom Index House votes.

Vote 1 – Constitutional Convention – HJR 1001 –Enrolled –  SoDakLiberty Posts – Scored for both houses, Nay vote is a + on the index.

I believe a Constitutional Convention is just a bad idea all around. This particular application for a Constitutional Convention is being called for a balanced budget amendment. In my research on an Article V Convention I have found nothing to make me believe such a convention can be limited to a single topic. More likely the convention would convene with a series of proposed amendments coming from various political leanings. I could easily see an amendment coming out of the convention making healthcare a right that must be paid for by the taxpayers or an amendment saying corporations are not people. Those are already being proposed by progressive groups that support a constitutional convention. And as to the Balanced Budget Amendment proposed, does anyone really think the federal government will reign itself in, especially when the amendment includes an ambiguous “national emergency” clause.

Unfortunately HJR 1001 passed, meaning SD has officially submitted an application for an Article V convention. The legislators that voted against the resolution should be saluted for trying to protect the US Constitution from political whims. The pluses those legislators earned on this index are well deserved!

Vote 2 – Limit Authority of Delegates to a Constitutional
Convention – HB 1069 –Signed by Governor – SoDakLiberty Posts – Scored for both houses, Nay vote is a + on the index.

HB 1069 goes along with HJR 1001 highlighted in vote 1. This bill attempts to keep any delegate sent to a Constitutional Convention in line by imposing a fine of up to $5,000 for going against their orders. Since the actual Constitutional Convention is not likely to happen in South Dakota’s jurisdiction I don’t believe such a civil penalty could be imposed. But even if the fine could be imposed I don’t think someone thinking they were doing the right thing would be deterred. This particular bill did nothing but give false assurances in the event of a Constitutional Convention.

Unfortunately the bill passed both houses and is now in Chapter 2-15 of SD codified law.

Vote 3 – Tax Increase for Municipalities – SB 135 –Deferred to the 41st legislative day – SoDakLiberty Posts – Scored for both houses, Nay vote is a + on the index.

SB 135 made it through the Senate. It was then killed in the House State Affairs Committee. A smokeout forced it out of committee, but it failed the vote needed to actually place it on the floor calendar. This one was close! The bill was being pitched as a local control bill. I never thought the bill had a chance of passing with so many other massive tax and fee increases being passed in 2015. Plus, many opponents of the bill thought it was written specifically to allow taxes to be raised in municipalities in a way that would allow favors to be handed out (I tend to agree after reading the bill again).

Luckily the smoke-out attempt was not successful. I do expect to see this again in the 2016 legislative session.

Vote 4 – Right to Keep and Bear Arms – HB 1116 – Deferred to the 41st legislative day – SoDakLiberty Posts – Scored for SD House only, Yea vote is a + on the index.

This was a true constitutional carry bill that would have basically removed the penalties from anyone that wishes to carry a concealed handgun without getting permission from the state. Personally I think this bill should have passed. Using a right should never involve getting permission from the state. What killed the bill was the weak-skinned legislators that got tired of the constant calls and emails from people lobbying for this bill.

The bill passed the House, but was killed in the Senate Judiciary committee.

Vote 5 – Abolish US Dept. of Education – HCR 1003 – Enrolled – SoDakLiberty Posts – Scored for both houses, Yea vote is a + on the index.

Getting rid of the massive bureaucracy known as the Federal Department of Education would allow valuable tax dollars to actually be spent on education. I would think that anyone who actually cares about teachers and public education would want to get rid of this misguided bureaucracy. Education works best when its control is as local as possible. Ironically those pushing to keep the federal Dept of Ed are ignoring the stats showing that the massive bureaucracy has done nothing to improve education in the US.

The resolution passed both Houses. There was a noticeable number of Republicans that did not support the resolution.

Vote 6 – Petition Reform – SB 69 – Signed by Governor – SoDakLiberty Posts – Scored for both houses, Nay vote is a + on the index.

This bill was so bad it became involved in a lawsuit (full disclosure, I am a plaintiff in the lawsuit) and has now been referred to the voters as Referred Law 19. My summary of how the bill kept going downhill can be read here. This bill started out as a good idea, with some tweaks that needed to be made (most notably in the area of newly-formed parties). Instead of fixing the bill, Republican leadership took it upon themselves to make SB69 a bill that would further restrict any ballot access to those that might wish to oppose them.  This is a direct assault by SD Republican leadership on the rights of citizens to petition the government. It is also a top issue I will be looking at in the 2016 election.

The bill actually failed on the House floor. But after some prodding from leadership it passed a reconsideration. Any legislator that voted Aye on the bill should be ashamed of their action.

Vote 7 – SD Athletics Transgender Policy – HB 1195 – Deferred to the 41st legislative day – SoDakLiberty Posts – Scored for both houses, Yea vote is a + on the index.

This was an interesting bill to watch throughout the session. I actually thought it would pass. The South Dakota High School Activities Association (SDHSAA) is an odd organization because it was created through legislation, but thinks of itself as being its own entity. There are other areas I probably would have cracked down on the SDHSAA for, but this was not an unexpected place for the the legislature to  start taking an interest in the SDHSAA.

Before going on I will admit I have no problem with transgender individuals. I really don’t care if a boy identifies as feminine or a girl identifies as masculine. Actually I don’t think most people do care. I also do not care if there are coed locker rooms… But that is where most of society (especially in SD) seems to differ from me.

The SDHSAA transgender policy would allow a person of one sex to share locker rooms with people of the opposite sex. I will share an approximation of a conversation I heard at a Democrat fair booth this summer between a Democrat voter and a Democrat booth worker:

Democrat voter: I heard the Republicans were being mean to the poor transgender children.

Democrat booth worker: That is right! They won’t let transgender children play in the sport that is appropriate for them! And worse they won’t let them use the same locker room as the rest of the team!

Democrat voter: You mean putting two sexes in the same locker room?

Democrat booth worker: Yes, that is discrimination to keep a transgender student out of the locker room they identify with!

Democrat voter: Even if they have the parts of the opposite sex???

After overhearing this conversation I pulled the Democrat voter to the side. The Democrat voter admitted she didn’t realize the policy would allow sharing of locker rooms, bathrooms, or shower facilities. She said she is all for equal treatment, but she doesn’t want a “ding-a-ling” in her granddaughters locker room. In the future she said she might rethink supporting Democrat talking points without doing more research (I wish everyone would do that regardless of party).

I think if the Democrats try to make this an issue in 2016 they will lose with the older voters that are more likely to vote than younger liberal voters. I also expect to see SDHSAA become an issue in the 2016 legislative session. It should make for interesting blogging.

Vote 8 – End Common Core Participation – HB 1223 – Defeated on House floor – SoDakLiberty Posts – Scored for SD House only, Yea vote is a + on the index.

This particular bill is only being scored for the House, because it never passed that chamber. The long version of this bills history can be read here. Cliff notes version: the bill was tabled in Education committee to stop any debate about Common Core;  Rep Dan Kaiser (R, Dist 3) led a smoke-out on the bill to force it onto the floor; the committee sent it to the floor with a Do Not Pass; the floor failed the vote to put it on the calendar. That basically means the SD House floor voted NOT to debate Common Core. With how hot Common Core has become as a topic many of us felt this bill deserved to be debated on the House floor. Hopefully in 2016 the House floor won’t chicken out of having a debate on such a hot topic.

Vote 9 – Recognize Armenian Genocide – HCR 1009 – Defeated on Senate floor – SoDakLiberty Posts – Scored for both houses, Yea vote is a + on the index.

This resolution easily passed the House, but was killed on the Senate floor with a Table motion. It seemed odd the sudden move to kill the resolution with no debate; especially when the resolution has to do with a genocide. The resolution seemed to have some backroom politics going on…

Vote 10 – Big Tax Increase – SB 1 – Signed by Governor – SoDakLiberty Posts – Scored for both houses, Nay vote is a + on the index.

I actually published a post looking at every component of this massive tax and fee increase. There are quite a few legislators proud to have passed this massive tax increase. What bothers me most about the bill is that no actual attempts were made to get the infrastructure funding from other places in the budget that could be cut. Somehow I feel education funding increase will be treated the same in 2016. The legislature will use SB1 as a model to increase a number of taxes and/or fees without looking at other areas in the budget to cut.

SD Senate votes

South Dakota 2015 Freedom Index

South Dakota 2015 Freedom Index

Votes 1-3 – Use House votes from above

Vote 4 – Strengthen Relationship with Communist China – SCR 5 – Enrolled – SoDakLiberty Posts – Scored for SD Senate only, Nay vote is a + on the index.

This was an odd resolution asking for SD and local governments to partner with China. I will admit I didn’t really care one way or the other about the resolution. But considering how anti-freedom the People’s Republic of China is I wonder if it is a resolution that should have passed.

Votes 5-7 – Use House votes from above

Vote 8 – Youth Minimum Wage – SB 177 – Signed by Governor – SoDakLiberty Posts – Scored for SD Senate only, Nay vote is a + on the index.

SB 177 was an attempt to change part of the new minimum wage passed by the voters of SD in 2014. It is also a bill that put legislators in a position where they really had to think about their vote. On one hand SB 177 tries to fix a portion of the minimum wage law passed by voters in 2014. It is an attempt to prevent teen labor from being removed out of the labor pool. Actually I don’t think the new minimum wage removed teens from the labor pool as much as it put more teen labor into the grey market, where no payroll taxes are paid. But on the other hand legislators had to think hard about this vote because the voters of SD had just passed the new minimum wage and any attempt to change that law could be seen as trying to go against the will of the people. I guess it will be found out next year which way the voters of SD see SB177 because it will be sent to the voters as Referred Law 20.

Votes 9-10 – Use House votes from above

 

Dist 3 State Senator David Novstrup at the 2015 Brown County Fair

October 13, 2015 2 comments
SD State Senator David Novstrup at the Brown County Fair. Photo by Ken Santema 08/13/15.

SD State Senator David Novstrup at the Brown County Fair. Photo by Ken Santema 08/13/15.

One of the politicians I took a moment to speak with at the Brown County Fair was District 3 State Senator David Novstrup. Like the other posts coming out of the Brown County Fair this was not meant to be an in-depth interview. Instead it was just a short chat with Novstrup while he worked the Brown County Republican booth.

Novstrup gained some attention during the 2015 legislative session by sponsoring SB 177 (SoDakLiberty Posts), which established a separate youth minimum wage. A petition drive to refer SB177 was successful this summer, so it did not take effect and will be known as Referred Law 20 on the ballot next year. In this chat I had talked to Novstrup about RL20, but because of a fairly loud-mouthed person near us that part of my audio file is unusable. I’ll catch up with Novstrup later in the year to get his thoughts on RL20 again.

Looking back at the 2015 legislative session Sen David Novstrup believes the highway funding bill (SB 1, SoDakLiberty Posts) was the biggest success. He had this to say:

… even though it was a tax increase. We have to have infrastructure in South Dakota because you go to school, you go to work. Everything we buy moves on the roads.

That mirrors what most of the Republicans supporting the bill were saying during session. Novstrup said infrastructure funding is an essential part of government that cannot be ignored. In the end Novstrup was happy with the solution because  was long-term, instead of “kicking the can down the road” with a one or two year solution. Personally I am waiting for the 2016 election  to see if there are any political repercussions that step from this massive tax increase (I doubt there will be in Novstrup’s district).

Sen Novstrup then went on to talk about the Elder Abuse Task-force that was implemented via SB 168 (SoDakLiberty Posts). Novstrup is a member of the task-force and at the time of this interview (2 months ago) the meetings were just starting. He believes it is important for people to know the issue is bigger than they think, mostly because there is more to elder abuse than people realize. When speaking of elder abuse, Novstrup said there are three aspects of abuse that have to be looked at: physical abuse, financial abuse, and emotional abuse. The task-force will have to decide what can be done to help with financial and emotional abuse, especially since they are not as obvious to spot like physical abuse is. Novstrup noted that with the baby boomers aging that this problem will only get bigger.

Going into 2016 Novstrup believes education will be a top focus. Further, the noted education is always a top focus every session, even if it doesn’t appear that way. Novstrup is waiting to see the results of the Blue Ribbon Task Force to comment on what the focus should be. But he did say teachers are important and that “money is a good incentive”. He also said that more than money should be brought to the table to support teachers. Novstrup does say the teacher shortage is real, but that it is real nationwide and is not just a South Dakota issue. He brought up the nationwide issue to point out that simply raising the pay cannot be the only solution.

Sen David Novstrup spent most of this conversation talking about the Elder Abuse task-force. I expect he will focus on that in the 2016 election. His race will be one of those to watch, if he decides to run for re-election that is.

SD SB 177 becomes Referred Law 20

June 30, 2015 2 comments

Earlier this afternoon SD Secretary of State Shantel Krebs validated the petitions to refer SB 177 (SoDakLiberty Posts) to the voters of SD in the 2016 election.

Here is the tweet Secretary Krebs sent out to announce the completion of the validation process:

This is actually the second law passed out of the 2015 legislative session to be referred to the voters. Just yesterday Secretary Krebs validated the referral of SB 69.

Personally I was not a fan of referring SB 177. Ideologically I am opposed to minimum wage laws. And as I noted before, I believe the youth minimum wage going up (as it will now tomorrow) means fewer hours available for the youth of our state. Additionally I feel more people will simply pay teens in cash and forgo the whole tax system altogether. That would allow business owners to keep their costs down and teens to get more money.

Going into the 2016 election it should be interesting watching the two sides of the youth minimum wage debate. At this time I feel the referral will likely pass. There are two groups of people who will likely vote for the referred law. First there is the group that believes the minimum wage should be the same for everyone, including the youth. Second there is the group that feels the legislature was wrong overturning part of an initiated measure passed by the voters of SD in 2014. The key to second group is if people see SB 177 as overturning the will of the voters, or if SB 177 was in fact the legislature fixing a problem with the law passed by the voters in 2016.

2016 is definitely shaping up to be an interesting election year already with Referred Law 20!

Petitions out for two referendums

April 9, 2015 3 comments

election-panda-cleanOver at Dakota Free Press there are two referendum petitions that have been started by Cory Heidelberger. He has setup a page to be a central local to learn about and again access to the petitions. These petitions would stop two laws from being enacted on July 1, 2015, provided enough signatures are turned into the Secretary of State. In this post I will briefly look each referendum, one which I support and one I oppose. As time goes on I may do expanded posts about each referendum, but for now a cliff notes post is what I have time for.

SB 69 – SoDakLiberty Posts – Revise certain provisions regarding elections and election petitions.

This is the bill that kept going downhill as it went through the legislative process.  That is too bad. I originally supported the idea of the bill because it would have been a fair start at election petition reform in South Dakota. I do believe the current petition system in South Dakota needs to be reevaluated and in particular the petition challenge process needs to be changed in ways that would protect the integrity of the election process. Sadly this bill as passed into law no longer does anything but play partisan politics with the rights of South Dakota citizens to challenge the party in power.

There is only one real reservation I have about the referendum process for SB 69. Personally I believe at least two portions of the bill as passed into law would not be upheld as constitutional in federal court. Back in the 80’s the Secretary of the State at the time acknowledged to a federal court that forcing a newly formed party to follow early petition deadlines was wrong. The State Affairs committee was made aware of this and still proceeded to leave that portion un-amended. Additionally SB 69 forces Independent candidates to follow partisan primary rules. That is also something that has been found unconstitutional in other states and shows a misunderstanding of what “independent” means when it comes to the election process. Independent candidates fall completely outside of the partisan primary process and should only have to worry about laws governing the general election. Personally I was hoping this law would go to court so the legislature and Governor would understand that playing partisan politics with constituents election rights are not something to be messed with. But then at the same time I hate it when the State has to spend money to defend a law that never should have passed. So with that mind I fully support SB 69 being referred to the voters.

I will have a copy of this petition with me over the next couple of months and plan to get at least some signatures for the referendum.

SB 177 – Signed by Governor – SoDakLiberty Posts – Establish a youth minimum wage.

SB 177 is an interesting bill because I can understand why many would support SB 177 being referred, but in the end I oppose it being referred. This law would change the minimum wage for those under 18 to $7.50/hour. This is in response to the minimum wage going up due to the initiated measure on last years ballot.

Part of me supports SB 177 being referred because I can understand where people are coming from that the SD Legislature should not change an initiated measure the year it becomes effective. Whether the initiated measure was good or bad from any particular viewpoint, it cannot be denied that a majority of SD voters chose to pass the new minimum wage into law. The legislature has the right to change such laws immediately after being passed into law. There was an attempt this year through HB 1175  to prohibit the legislature from changing an initiated measure for year. That would have been a bad idea. The reason the legislature needs to be able to change an initiated measure right away is in case there is a problem or an unintended consequence that must be fixed right away.

So the question is whether SB 177 can be considered a fix. There is an argument from the supporters of the bill that the new minimum wage will adversely impact young workers because it will make employers much less likely to hire any unskilled and inexperienced teenage workers. I know I’ve talked to some employers that often hire teenage kids for seasonal/temporary work at minimum wage. Due to the increased minimum wage many of them are likely going to reduce the amount of hours they offer these teenagers. That is mainly because the amount of money they have budgeted for such work is fixed. No matter what the wage is set at there is only so much actual funding available for these jobs. A second, and possibly more likely, scenario is that youth employment will appear to go down; but in fact will increase because such labor will be forced to the grey market. That means employers will still hire kids to do work. But they will pay these kids under the table. The grey market tends to increase when taxes and/or regulations go up. By increasing the minimum wage, especially on teen workers, it provides further incentives to hire teenagers outside of normal channels. That means the teenager can keep all of his or money (no taxes withheld) and the employer can keep their payroll liability costs down. A case could be made that passing SB 177 actually will keep more teenage workers in the tax system by keeping their labor out of the grey market.

But fix or not I won’t support the referral of SB 177. Minimum wage laws are temporary fixes for what is actually ailing poor people. The problem with the economy in the US is that purchasing power corrodes at ever-increasingly rates. No matter how far wages are raised through legislation it cannot do anything to reverse that trend. Instead time should be focused on reducing the biggest tax on American’s (especially the poor): inflation caused by the private bank known as the Federal Reserve. Additionally the cost of over-regulation must be looked at in order to reduce the cost of goods and services. Without addressing the root cause of purchasing power loss it doesn’t matter how many times the minimum wage is increased. Finally increasing the minimum wage is also a factor that reduces the purchasing power of US consumers (although a much smaller factor than many other factors). That is why I cannot see supporting the referral of SB 177. In the end it doesn’t really matter if SB 177 is enacted into law or not. Either way purchasing power for consumers will continue to drop and many will continue to call for the same minimum wage increases that haven’t solved anything over the last century.

 

Frerichs, McCleerey and Feickert at the Brown County Democrat March meeting

March 27, 2015 3 comments

On March 26, 2015, the Brown County Democrats held their monthly meeting at the Eagles club in Aberdeen. Sen Jason Frerichs (D, Dist 1), Rep Steven McCleerey (D, Dist 1), and Rep Dennis Feickert (D, Dist 1) were all guest speakers to give their perspective about how the SD 2015 legislative session went. In this post I’ll pull out some of the highlights of what they each had to say (and keep my editorial comments to a minimum)

Sen Frerichs speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 03/26/15.

Sen Frerichs speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 03/26/15.

Frerichs was the first legislator to speak. He opened up by noting that the Senate Democrat caucus actually gained one member in 2015. Along those lines he noted it would have been nice to keep Chuck Welke in the Senate, but he was defeated last fall by Sen Brock Greenfield  (R, Dist 2). He noted that each additional person in the Senate gives the Democrat caucus a little more power, but they need to work on getting at least a third of the Senate to make any real headway. I would agree, in 2016 the Democrats should work hard on getting twelve seats in the Senate if they truly want to have any impact in Pierre.

When talking about this session, Frerichs noted a big theme of this session was that big issues were being avoided. The issues he brought up that were ignored this year include Medicaid Expansion, teacher pay, and teacher recruitment. He believes those issues were “brought up, and placed on top, and placed to the side. And that is unfortunate.”

When talking about the roads bill SB 1 Frerichs noted that the Governor wanted the roads bill and “wants it bad”. He noted the first time going through the Senate he voted no to SB1 quite easily because it really didn’t do much for local governments. Frerichs noted that the conference committee for the bill was one of the worst he has ever seen in Pierre (and I would agree). He noted the bill kept getting delayed during the conference committee process and that the House was holding it up. From his perspective it wasn’t even a Republican vs Democrat issue. It was purely the House trying to control the bill. On the Senate side he noted the Democrats were being lobbied hard to vote for SB1, because they were a couple of votes short in the Republican caucus. Frerichs said that was a good opportunity for the Democrats to push for more local money. The final bill he felt was more “leveled out” so he voted for it the second time. (My summary of what is in SB 1 can be read here).

Frerichs then went on to talk about the water management bills SB 2 and SB 3. Both of these are bills he worked hard on to get passed and will continue to work with going forward. SB 2 creates nine river basin natural resource districts. He also mentioned it creates a pilot project in his area of the state and has a legislative oversight taskforce. He believes there will be a lot of work implementing SB2. He noted that the districts will be a work in progress. When talking about the districts he doesn’t think they will solve all of the water problems; but he does think the program will get the state down the right path of managing the water in the river basins. He said “we shouldn’t just sit back and let mother nature rule us.” That was an interesting segway into his next point. He noted the legislature also passed legislation providing funding for the pine beetle situation west river (SB 152). He noted that west river is fighting to save their property and their economy from a mother nature problem. Further, he finished that thought by saying “This is our pine beetle problem of the east”.

Rep McCleerey speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 03/26/15.

Rep McCleerey speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 03/26/15.

McCleerey said if he had to sum up the session in one word it would be “frustrating”. He believes there is a lack of leadership “coming from the other side” and coming from the Governor’s office. He believes that is an unfortunate situation for the people of South Dakota. When talking about the youth minimum wage bill (SB 177) he felt the Governor should have used a veto. That seemed to tie into the lack of leadership points he made.

Briefly McCleerey mentioned something I have noted and plan to a post about in the future. He felt the time being put in while at Pierre is not sufficient. It was frustrating for him that session ended so early every day, and then on Friday they would be out of there at 1:30 pm.

McCleerey also took a few minutes to talk about the highway bill. He noted that when campaigning transportation funding was one of his top issues. But he was hesitant to vote for the bill because it was a such a “poor bill from the start”. The addition of the interstate top speed of 80 mph made the bill even worse for him. He did vote yes to the bill in the end.

Looking to the future McCleerey stated he believes the 2016 legislative session will be about Medicaid expansion and education funding. After that he believes the next two session will be about the Governors race. He doesn’t believe anything substantial will be done in 2017 and 2018 from his perspective. (I agree with him on these points, I would say the run for Governor in 2018 has already started, but that is a topic for a different post).

Talking about bills before the Health & Human Service’s committee, McCleerey mentioned HB 1080. HB 1080 allows investigational treatments to be used by patients under certain conditions. He was happy to the bill passed so it could help people out.

McCleerey was disappointed to see the tanning bed prohibition for minors (HB 1166) was not passed. He says cancer is increasing at an extreme rate. He says the bill was stopped by “small business libertarian types”. He felt it was almost embarrassing that the bill could not be passed, even though it had been amended many times to work out the differences. He felt it was wrong to choose between cancer and small businesses. Going further, he noted that a bill was passed to allow the use of a chemo therapy pill to treat cancer (SB 101) but the legislature couldn’t pass a bill to prevent cancer.

At the end of his time McCleerey noted the Republicans “are a split party”. He hopes the Democrats can capitalize on the split that is evident in the SD Republican party.

Rep Feickert speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 03/26/15.

Rep Feickert speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 03/26/15.

Feickert began by saying it was a disappointing how few bills the transportation committee actually took up this year. He noted that many of the bills that went before Transportation dealt more with updating the dates referenced in law. He was truly disappointed in SB 1 because there was discussion about where the road funding bill should go. Due to politics, he said that there was a push to get the transportation funding bill taken out of Transportation and put into State Affairs. The committee actually voted to keep the bill in Transportation. Then the next day it voted on the House floor to force the bill out of Transportation and into State Affairs. He said from that point on the massive transportation bill really didn’t have any involvement from the Transportation committee. (This is another issue that deserves a separate post, Feickert has a good point about the politics of this bill).

When going into specifics about SB 1, Feickert noted he was not happy with the tiered property tax portion of the bill. He said this new method of funding roads is “worse than an opt-out”. He believes the tiers are going to hurt big population counties. When it comes to property tax funding he felt the Governor’s original proposal was much better, but that was changed on the Senate floor.

Feickert also felt it was bad that the bill asking for a study on taxing agricultural land by its actual use was not passed (SB 4). He felt the study would have been able to show what the impact would be if a production-based property tax was implemented. Many opponents of the bill said it would negatively impact school funding. Feickert said the study should have been approved so it could be determined if that was true. Along the same lines he mention the bill that would have created a new leased residential property classification (SB 100). SB 100 was vetoed by the Governor. He feels the same arguments for SB 100 should have been used for SB 4. But at the same time he questioned whether landords would actually have passed savings on to renters if SB 100 had been implemented and a new lower tax levy was created for it.

Overall I would say all three legislators tried to make the case that it is hard to serve in a party that is in a super-minority. But all three noted that division within the Republican party does allow for them to have power at certain times. If they can get more numbers in the 2016 election it might open a new door for Democrats. (That is a BIG IF at this point).

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