Posts Tagged ‘Burt Tulson’

A look at the final draft of the non-meandered legislation going into the special session

June 8, 2017 Comments off


Last week the non-meandered waters committee met in Pierre for its fourth and final meeting. This leads up to the special session of the legislature convening on June 12. Since I took a look at the draft legislation going into the meeting, I thought it would make sense to also look at the legislation coming out of that meeting.

In this particular post I will copy the text of each section and add any additional information about the section I find relevant. Much of the additional information comes from my notes taken during the meeting; or copied from my previous post if there is no new information. I will also add my personal opinions.

For full disclose I am opposed to this legislation. I have to admit that even though I am a sportsman, I take private property rights very serious and have to focus on those property rights. But as always I will try to write about this topic as fairly as I can, and make sure any opinions I give are clearly stated as my opinion (and not as fact). And, as always if someone wishes to do a guest post to get another viewpoint out I will always consider publishing it here.

I would also like to note this is NOT legislation drafted by the summer study committee. The committee did amend the legislation during the meeting. But overall it appears the legislation was written by Sioux Falls lawyer and lobbyist Matt McCaulley, who also represents the two landowner families that brought the lawsuit against the state. The Governors office and GFP also seem to have had major input into the drafting of the bill.

Fair warning: This is once again a very long post! Actually I just removed almost a thousand words to keep it under 5,000 words.

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to provide for public recreational use of certain waters overlying public and private property and to declare an emergency.

Section 1: Legislative findings

Text of Section 1:

Section 1. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The Legislature finds:

(1) The South Dakota Supreme Court, in Parks v. Cooper, 2004 SD 27 and Duerre v. Hepler, 2017 SD 8, held that the Legislature has the obligation to determine the extent of public use of water overlying private property for recreational purposes; and

(2) Because the state holds the waters in trust for the benefit of the public, the Legislature must balance the interests of recreational users and the rights of private property owners to provide a constitutionally sound and manageable basis for establishing public recreational use of water overlying private property in accordance with this Act

Notes about Section 1:

The  Duerre v. Hepler decision can be read here.

Section 2: Definitions

Text of Section 2:

Section 2. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Terms used in this Act mean:

(1) “Commission,” the Game, Fish and Parks Commission;

(2) “Department,” the Department of Game, Fish and Parks;

(3) “Meandered lake,” any natural water body, except a river or stream, for which a meander line survey was included as part of the official survey conducted by the United States surveyor general for the land on which the lake is situated and the meander lines are shown on plats made by the United States General Land Office;

(4) “Nonmeandered lake,” any natural lake that is not a meandered lake;

(5) “Recreational use,” except as otherwise provided bylaw, use for outdoor sporting and leisure activities, including, but not limited to, hunting, fishing, swimming, floating, boating, and trapping.

Notes about Section 2:

Many people, including myself, have had a lot of uneasiness because “lake” is not defined. During testimony it was mentioned that lakes are defined in an Administrative Rule, specifically 74:51:01:01. Here is the definition of lake from that rule:

“Lake,” a pond, reservoir, or other body of water, created by either natural or artificial means, but not a pond or appurtenance that is used for the treatment and disposal of wastes and that is permitted for such uses

I don’t think this definition really reduces the qualms many have. There is no size or age restrictions. As I read this, a one acre slough could be called a lake.

Section 3: GFP able to create agreements with landowners

Text of Section 3:

Section 3. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The department, on behalf of and in the name of the state, may negotiate with each landowner to acquire, by gift, grant, devise, purchase, lease, or license, recreational use of all or any portion of any nonmeandered lake overlying private property. Any agreement reached pursuant to this section, or any failure to reach an agreement, is not an appealable final action of the department

Notes about Section 3:

This is where the GFP is able to create agreements with landowners to provide access to nonmeandered lakes for recreation. The last sentence is to make sure the agreement doesn’t lead to court action according to testimony.  The committee never really spent a lot of time on this seemingly important section. As long as this means the GFP has to work with willing landowners I see no problem with this section. Many landowners I’ve spoken with have no issues with recreaters, as long as certain restrictions are in place to protect their property. This may be different from lake to lake, so GFP probably will have to create different agreements for each body of water.

Section 4: Permission from landowner to recreate

Text of Section 4:

Section 4. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Any person is entitled to recreational use of the portion of a nonmeandered lake that overlies private property if the person has permission from the owner of the private property.

Notes about Section 4:

This is simple. It basically means the landowners are able to allow people to recreate on water which sits atop their land.

Section 5: Default access by public unless marked

Text of Section 5:

Section 5. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Any nonmeandered lake overlying private property is open to recreational use without permission of any owner of the private property underlying the nonmeandered lake unless the owner of the private property installs conspicuous markers, which may consist of signs or buoys, to identify the area of the nonmeandered lake that is not open to public recreational use without permission or agreement as provided under this Act.

Notes about Section 5:

This has been touted many times as the most essential portion of the bill. By granting default access to sportsmen unless the property has been marked, the bill may get enough support in the legislature to get 2/3 majority. Of course at the same time there is the potential this particular section could prevent a 2/3 majority. Many landowners and sportsmen are unhappy with this particular compromise.

On the sportsman side there are many unhappy that landowners can close off waters basically at will. From their point of view the water belongs to the public, so it should always be accessible. Some sportsmen have also been worried the cost of marking bodies of water off-limits will be taken from their licensing fees to the GFP.

On the other side the landowners do not like the default being that people can go over their land without permission. In most cases we are talking about flooded land which the farmer hopes to make productive again after the water recedes. Actually there are a lot of reasons landowners may not want people to recreate on the water over their land. Remember this is not just big lakes with fish that are being talked about. From the definition of lake the committee has decided to let stand, it would appear any slough, pond, or large mud puddle is open to the public if there is access from a right-of-way.

Hugh Bartels tried to amend this section to specify that all expenses used to close waters be at the landowners expense. This was to help with sportsmen worried license fees would be redirected towards landowner signage.

Section 6: Landowner can’t make money if access blocked

Text of Section 6:

Section 6. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

No owner of private property may receive financial compensation in exchange for granting permission to fish on a portion of a nonmeandered lake overlying the owner’s private property that is marked pursuant to section 5 of this Act. A violation of this section is a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Notes about Section 6:

This section was added by an amendment from Sen Brock Greenfield  (R, Dist 2). He brought this forth to clarify that landowners cannot commercialize waters that landowners have shut down to the public. Greenfield had heard concerns from constituents that this was an issue (I also have heard the same concerns as I’ve traveled).

Sen Craig Kennedy (D, Dist 18) asked how this would be enforced, as the original amendment had no penalty. It was amended to add the Class 1 misdemeanor.

Rep Spencer Gosch (R, Dist 23) mentioned he had reservations about this section because it doesn’t seem right the GFP can make money off the resources but the landowners are restricted. I believe it should be noted the landowner can make money providing access, as long as they are not blocking access to the general public to their portion of the non-meandered water.

Rep Steven McCleerey (D, Dist 1) also mentioned he has problems with this section. He made the point that fishing is being treated differently from hunting. Rep Spencer Hawley (D, Dist 7) did note there are differences between how hunting and fishing are funded and that water is a pubic resource.

Personally I don’t think this will impact much, mostly because I don’t foresee many landowners trying to commercialize marked off land. But it does give the sportsmen a concession as there may be landowners looking to capitalize on fishing as many landowners have on hunting.

Section 7: Certain non-meandered lakes to be treated differently

Text of Section 7:

Section 7. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Notwithstanding the provisions of this Act, any nonmeandered lake listed in section 8 of this Act is declared open for recreational use, based on the following conditions occurring before January 1, 2017:

(1) The open, obvious, and continuous recreational use by the public for a significant period; and

(2) The expenditure of public funds for the construction of one or more boat ramps.

Notes about Section 7:

Basically this section will force the GFP to reopen most of the lakes closed after the court case. The actual lakes to be reopened are listed in Section 8.

This is a section which may cause legal problems down the road. The two conditions listed in this section are being used to justify the lake forcing certain non-meandered waters open to the public. This would mean the landowners with property under the lakes in question are being treated differently from other landowners.

Rep Burt Tulson (R, Dist 2) tried to amend this section to change the “and” to a “or” for the two conditions. The reason for that is some of the non-meandered lakes in Section 8 do not have a boat ramp, even though public funds have been spent there. The Highway 81 lakes were the ones in question.

This is where there was a conversation about words being very important. The amendment didn’t pass. If the amendment had passed there may have been a lot more lakes that could be added to Section 8.

Section 8: List of non-meandered lakes to be treated differently

Text of Section 8:

Section 8. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The waters of the following nonmeandered lakes are declared open for recreational use pursuant to section 7 of this Act:

(1) Casey’s Slough, Cottonwood GPA, Dry #1, Dry #2, Round, and Swan in Clark 17 County;

(2) Deep and Goose in Codington County;

(3) East Krause, Lynn, and Middle Lynn, in Day County;

(4) North Scatterwood in Edmunds County;

(5) Three Buck in Hamlin County;

(6) Bullhead, Cattail-Kettle, and Opitz in Marshall County;

(7) Island South in McCook County;

(8) Keisz in McPherson County;

(9) Grass, Loss, Scott, and Twin in Minnehaha County;

(10) Twin in Sanborn County;

(11) Cottonwood and Mud in Spink County;

(12) Cottonwood in Sully County; and

(13) Dog Ear in Tripp County, South Dakota

Notes about Section 8:

These are the actual list the legislature wants the GFP to reopen public access to.

This bill was amended to remove the following lakes from this list:

  • Highway 81 East in Brookings County. Testimony noted there is a place to back boats in, though it is not an actual ramp. GFP Secretary Kelly Hepler noted there is already legal access here because of its connection to a meandered water.
  • Highway 81 West in Kingsbury County. Testimony noted there is no good public access to this lake from public land. This lake also lacks a ramp. Testimony from a landowner noted that GFP not enforcing current laws is why the public is currently fishing this lake. Actually the whole testimony from the landowner is worth listening to in order to get an idea of why landowners are so frustrated. It also includes him discussing his interaction with GFP and attempts in the past to work out agreements.
  • Reetz in Day County. GFP is working with the landowner to reopen this lake. Actually Reetz is an example of why much of this bill may be unnecessary. Landowners if given a chance to work out details specific to their situation will likely open their flooded lands to the public.

Section 9: Landowners ability to petition marking of non-meandered lake being treated differently

Text of Section 9:

Section 9. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The commission shall promulgate rules, pursuant to chapter 1-26, to establish a process whereby an owner of private property underlying any nonmeandered lake listed in section 8 of this Act may petition the commission to allow the owner of private property to restrict recreational use of the water overlying the owner’s private property. The commission shall determine whether to grant, deny, or modify the petition. The commission shall consider privacy, safety, and substantially affected financial interests of the owner of the private property underlying the water, as well as history of use, water quality, water quantity, and the public’s interest in recreational use of the water.

Notes about Section 9:

Now we get up to where a landowner who owns land under one of the lakes listed in Section 8 can go before the GFP commission to get an exception that would allow them to close part of the water off to the public for recreational use. This section really gives me heartburn. A landowner has to go before an un-elected commission, which answers to nobody, to get permission to restrict access over their land. I believe most of the landowners on these lakes will be unlikely to block access to their part of the lake, But if they do have a reason it just seems odd to have a non-elected body make the determination; especially since that non-elected body is in charge of a state department which many landowners feel are on the side of sportsmen.

This was touted as a way for the landowners and commission to communicate directly and come up with agreements that may keep the lake open.

Rep Spencer Hawley (D, Dist 7) did try to amend the bill to allow the pubic to petition the GFP Commission to reopen a body which has been closed by a landowner. Hawley felt it was important for both landowners and sportsmen to have a petition process. Rep Herman Otten (R, Dist 6) also had an amendment to provide an appeal process that could be used in the future. He instead backed Hawley’s amendment, which did not pass. This issue likely has not gone away. Personally I think Hawley’s amendment would have caused problems and undue hardship on landowners (I believe Rep Mary Duvall (R, Dist 24) made that point, but I don’t feel like going back through the testimony to make sure at this moment)…

Section 10: Preventing perpetual leases with GFP

Text of Section 10:

Section 10. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

No lease or license entered into pursuant to section 3 of this Act may be for a term exceeding ten years.

Notes about Section 10:

This section I agree with. It prevents land from being locked up in perpetuity as some federal conservation programs do.

Section 11: Limiting liability of landowners

Text of Section 11:

Section 11. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The liability of any owner of private property underlying a meandered or nonmeandered lake is limited as provided in §§ 20-9-12 to 20-9-18, inclusive. However, contact between recreational equipment and private property underlying any nonmeandered lake incidental to a lawful recreational use is not a criminal trespass.

Notes about Section 11:

This is probably one of the biggest wins for the landowner side. This section ensures the private landowner is not held liable for anything that happens involving someone in the public recreating on their part of a nonmeandered lake.

Section 12: Marking standards to be created by GFP

Text of Section 12:

Section 12. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The commission shall promulgate rules, pursuant to chapter 1-26, to specify standards for the markers described in section 5 of this Act after weighing the cost and burden of compliance by the owner of private property against the visibility of the markers to the public.

Notes about Section 12:

This section allows the GFP Commission to make rules setting the standards for markers used by landowners to restrict access. It was noted during testimony that the burden of posting notice is placed on the landowner. It was also said during testimony that the GFP would be willing to provide the signs, at the landowners cost, so uniform signs could be used around the state. I’m not sure how landowners are going to take the cost being shifted to them to enforce their property rights.

Section 13: Notification of marked areas

Text of Section 13:

Section 13. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The owner of private property shall notify the department, within a reasonable time frame, of any area of a nonmeandered lake marked by the owner of private property pursuant to section 5 of this Act. The department shall, within a reasonable time frame, identify the marked area and applicable restrictions in any map, guide, mobile application, or website maintained by the state to assist the public in identifying each public hunting or fishing area.

Notes about Section 13:

Here I think something needs to be added (assuming the overall bill passes). If the GFP creates agreements with landowners there are likely to be terms of that agreement. These agreements can include anything like no hunting during calving season or no use of motorized boats. It might be necessary for the GFP to post a sign of some type letting the public know what restrictions, if any, apply to that body of water.

Section 14: Means of access

Text of Section 14:

Section 14. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Access to any nonmeandered lake for recreational use may only be by public roadway, public right-of-way, or other lawful means. Nothing in this Act creates a right of ingress or egress on private property to access a nonmeandered lake.

Notes about Section 14:

This is the section which states people recreating on the nonmeandered water must have legal access to that water without trespassing on private property.

Section 15: Bed and frozen surface usage

Text of Section 15:

Section 15. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

No person may walk, wade, stand, or operate a motor vehicle on the bed of a nonmeandered lake, or trap or hunt on the frozen surface above private land, without permission from the landowner or any other person legally in possession of the privately owned property underlying the waters of that portion of the nonmeandered lake.

Notes about Section 15:

I can see some recreational users not liking the restriction on walking, wading, or standing on the bottom of the nonmeandered lake. That really restricts the amount of swimming which can be done by families. Although technically swimming is already highly restricted because the private land next to nonmeandered lakes are already off-limits.

The restriction for hunting on ice will definitely make some of these landowners happy. People hunting from these nonmeandered lakes and shooting things over private land is a concern for many landowners I don’t see a problem with hunters having to get permission.  But, I’m not sure how the hunters will take this section, I’m guessing not well.

This section was not amended in the final committee meeting as I expected. .

Rep Hugh Bartels (R, Dist 5) tried to amend this section to specify that public lands under non-meandered waters could be walked, waded, or stood in.

Section 16: Transportation lane

Text of Section 16:

Section 16. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The commission shall promulgate rules, pursuant to chapter 1-26, to establish a process whereby a person may petition the commission to open a portion of the waters or ice of a nonmeandered lake marked pursuant to section 5 of this Act for the limited purpose of transportation to a portion of the nonmeandered lake that is open for recreational use under the following conditions:

(1) The marked portion of the nonmeandered lake is directly between a point of legal public access and a portion of the nonmeandered lake open for recreational use; and

(2) There is no alternative legal public access or improved legal public access to the portion of the nonmeandered lake open for recreational use.

Notes about Section 16:

This section basically allows recreational users to have a process to open a portion of a nonmeandered lake marked as off-limits by a landowner because there is more nonmeandered water on the other side of the restricted area. This section may cause some heartburn for certain landowners.

Section 17: Transportation lane standards

Text of Section 17:

Section 17. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

The commission shall set the size and location of the area of the marked portion of a nonmeandered lake opened for transportation pursuant to section 16 of this Act and set reasonable speed, wake, and other limitations to protect the privacy, safety, and substantially affected financial interests of the owner of private property underlying the marked portion of the nonmeandered lake

Notes about Section 17:

Basically this goes along with Section 16 to allow the GFP Commission to make rules about transportation lanes opened up in a restricted area.

Section 18: Penalties for criminal trespass

Text of Section 18:

Section 18. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Any person who enters or remains upon private property or waters overlying private property in violation of this Act is guilty of a criminal trespass in accordance with the applicable provisions of chapters 41-9 and 22-35, except for unarmed retrieval of lawfully taken small game as authorized in § 41-9-8 and subject to any affirmative defense set forth in § 22-35-7. However, any contact between recreational equipment and private property underlying any nonmeandered lake incidental to a lawful recreational use is not a criminal trespass.

Notes about Section 18:

This section provides penalties for trespassing on private property which have been marked as off-limits. There is an exemption for hunters.

This bill was amended a couple of meetings ago to ensure incidental contact is exempt from trespassing. For instance if a fishing lure touched the ground below the water it would not count as trespassing.

Section 19: GFP regulatory authority over non-meandered lakes

Text of Section 19:

Section 19. That subdivision (5) of § 41-2-18 be amended to read:

(5) The management, use, and improvement of all meandered and nonmeandered lakes, sloughs, marshes, and streams extending to and over dry or partially dry meandered lakes, sloughs, marshes, and streams, including all lands to which the state has acquired any right, title or interest for the purpose of water conservation or recreation;

Notes about Section 19:

It should be noted this section will amend an already existing statute; that being § 41-2-18.  This section of law deals with “Rules for implementation of game, fish and conservation laws”.

This section was greatly reduced. Originally the whole statute was included and had a style and form change added. Greenfield’s amendment removed everything except for the section of the statute which was intended to be changed. The inclusion of all the other language has caused a lot of confusion with people trying to read the bill.

The change in this section, which can be seen above with the underline, adds the ability for GFP to regulate “The management, use, and improvement of all … nonmeandered lakes … for the purpose of water conservation or recreation”. This is a section which is being touted as essential for the compromise to work. It is also a section which appears to give the GFP a lot of regulatory power over private land which has been flooded.

I really think this section will be the culprit if the bill fails to pass in the special session. Notice, this section doesn’t say the GFP has the right to regulate the management, use, and improvement of non-meandered lakes where there is public access. No it actually seems to apply to all non-meandered lakes. Which if you look at the definition of lake from above, is basically any flooded land. Giving GFP regulatory authority over all of the non-meandered lakes simply makes no sense. Even if the current GFP administration has no plans to regulate non-meandered lakes which are land-locked by private property, what is to ensure a future GFP administration won’t want to regulate those waters.

Section 20: Report to the LRC Executive Board in 2019

Text of Section 20:

Section 20. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

Before June 2, 2019, but after April 1, 2019, the department shall deliver a report to the Executive Board of the Legislative Research Council which includes the following:

(1) An estimate of the number of acres of nonmeandered lakes open for public recreation and the number of acres of nonmeandered lakes marked pursuant to section 5 of this Act.

(2) For the agreements contemplated pursuant to section 3 this Act, a statistical summary relative to:

(a) Agreements reached with landowners;

(b) Negotiations in progress;

(c) Failed negotiations;

(d) Number of inquiries from landowners to commence negotiations;

(3) An analysis of the agreements pursuant to section 3 of this Act compared to voluntary walk in access programs for landowners;

(4) A listing of transportation lanes set pursuant to section 17 of this Act; and

(5) A summary of complaints, prosecutions, convictions, or other resolution of violations on nonmeandered waters pursuant to sections 6 and 18 of this Act.

Following receipt and public dissemination of the report, the executive board or a designated committee of the executive board shall hold one or more public hearings, which shall occur before September 3, 2019, to discuss the report and solicit input from landowners, recreational users, and the general public.

Notes about Section 20:

Greenfield’s amendment also brought this section into the bill. He believes this will force the issue to stay in front of the legislature.

One of the reasons Greenfield gave for this section is that it would preclude the need for a sunset clause to force the legislature to keep working on the issue. Which brings us to…

Section 21: Sunset clause

Text of Section 21:

Section 21. The provisions of this Act are repealed on July 1, 2021.

Notes about Section 21:

Rep Herman Otten (R, Dist 6) brought the sunset via the amendment process. He noted the report to the LRC Executive Board was a good step, but having a sunset would actually allow people to come and give testimony and force the legislature to relook at the issue. Originally Otten wanted this in 2020. I liked the idea of 2020 because it would have forced legislators to take action during an election year. Otten’s amendment was changed to 2021, which now makes it mid-term. It was Rep Larry Rhoden (R, Dist 29) who asked it to back another year, mostly to give GFP more time after the Executive Board meeting.

Personally I think having a sunset in this bill was essential. If this passes into law there may be many unforeseen consequences. This will force the legislature to deal with those consequences instead of continuing to kick the problem down the road.

Section 22: Emergency clause

Text of Section 22:

Section 22. Whereas, this Act is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, an emergency is hereby declared to exist, and this Act shall be in full force and effect from and after its passage and approval.

Notes about Section 22:

This is necessary for whatever solution the special session passes into law so it can take effect immediately.

Final Thoughts and next post

Since the Governor is choosing to hold the special session on June 12 I would guess this means he believes the votes are there for the bill to get a 2/3 majority. Many have asked me if I think this has a 2/3 majority. I don’t know. I’ve spent more time speaking with landowners and sportsmen than I have with legislators. I do know there are a good number of legislators who don’t like the legislation, but they still may vote yes to it. Actually adding the sunset may have swung a few votes to yes, possibly ensuring it gets passed.

Coming up next I will have a couple of posts explaining a little more about why I don’t like this particular solution.

Video of the District 2 House candidate statements at the Sept 24 candidate forum

September 29, 2016 Comments off
John Graham and Duane Sutton in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 9/24/16.

John Graham and Duane Sutton in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 9/24/16.

On Saturday, September 24, the Aberdeen League of Women Voters and the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a candidate forum in Aberdeen, South Dakota. Earlier I posted some pictures from the event and video of the District 3 candidate forum. In this post I will include video of the District 2 House candidate statements.

District 2 has both of the incumbent Republicans on the House side seeking reelection. Those two candidates are Rep Burt Tulson and Rep Lana Greenfield. Trying for one of the two seats is Democrat John Graham. Both Tulson and Greenfield had conflicts so were unable to attend, but they did send statements for the moderator to read. Graham was in attendance and made a short statement of his own.

In this video the event moderator Carl Perry, Chair of the Aberdeen Area Chamber of Commerce, reads off the statements for Tulson and Greenfield. Then Graham takes the podium for his statement.

SD District 2 State House general election: Tulson, L Greenfield, and Graham

August 22, 2016 Comments off
SD Legislative District 2

SD Legislative District 2

South Dakota legislative District 2 has  a general election for State Representative. District 2 is an odd shaped district that resides in northeast South Dakota. Towns in District 2 include Aberdeen (in the SW corner of town), Ashton, Bryant, Bradley, Brentford, Castlewood, Claremont, Clark, Columbia, Conde, Crocker, Doland, Estelline, Frankfort, Ferney, Garden City, Groton, Hayti, Hazel, Lake Norden, Lake Poinsett, Mansfield, Mellette, Naples, Northville, Raymond, Redfield, Stratford, Turton, Verdon, Vienna, Warner and Willow Lake.

The two Republican incumbents Rep Burt Tulson and Rep Lana Greenfield are being challenged by Democrat John Graham. Since there are two seats up for grab, there will be at least one seat retained by the Republicans.

Here is a brief look at all three 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.

*** 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.

Burt Tulson

Rep Burt Tulson speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 3/10/15.

Rep Burt Tulson speaking on the SD House floor. Photo by Ken Santema 3/10/15.

Rep Burt Tulson (R, Dist 2) – Incumbent
Ballotpedia – VoteSmart – OpenStates – SoDakLiberty
LRC: House 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011
SDPB Video: 2014 2012

Burt Tulson has served three terms as State Representative for District 2. Tulson doesn’t bring forth a lot of legislation, but when he does it is usually focused on local issues.

First up from 2016 is a bill that received quite a bit of attention from detractors of the bill:

HB 1178 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Authorize township boards to prohibit the operation of certain off-road vehicles along township highways.

This bill was withdrawn by Tulson before it even had a committee hearing. Basically this bill would have allowed township boards to close off certain ditches, a power which county commissioners already have. Almost immediately this was labeled as an anti-hunting/fishing bill and Tulson was pressured hard to kill the bill. Apparently there are some who feel (perhaps rightly) counties have already abused this power and there was fear the same would happen with townships. If that is true, perhaps it is time to revisit the power given to the counties and modify it. The original intent appears to be allowing local government the ability to close certain stretches of ditch that have certain hazards that make atv and snowmobile travel quite dangerous.

Up next is a bill that makes travel in SD faster and safer:

HB 1124 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Authorize motor vehicles to exceed the posted speed limit under certain conditions.

This bill as signed into law allows a vehicle that is going down a 65 mph road to pass a vehicle which is going under the posted speed limit. The person passing can do so up to ten miles an hour over the speed limit. By doing this a car can complete a pass much faster and safer than if they had to stay 65 mph or lower. This faster pass could potentially reduce the amount of accidents that occur on highways.

Finally it is worth looking at a bill from 2012 and one from 2015, both of which were passed into law and modify the same statute:

HB 1131(SoDakLiberty Posts) – Revise certain provisions regarding the notice for meeting of public bodies.

HB 1125 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Revise certain provisions regarding the notice for meeting of public bodies.

Both bills modify § 1-25-1.1, which basically handles the notice of public meetings for all government bodies in SD except the state level bodies. The 2012 bill seemed to be mostly language cleanup and allowed for website and email to be used in giving notice.  HB 1125 from 2015 was an even simpler bill, but a good open government bill nonetheless. Basically 1125 clarified in law that agendas posted per public law for public bodies must be posted for ” at least an entire, continuous twenty-four hours immediately preceding any meeting”.

If Tulson proceeds to the 2017 legislative session I expect local issues will continue to be a priority for him.

Lana Greenfield

Rep Lana Greenfield speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 3/7/15.

Rep Lana Greenfield speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 3/7/15.

Rep Lana Greenfield  (R, Dist 2) – Incumbent
Ballotpedia – VoteSmart – OpenStates – SoDakLiberty
LRC: House 2016 2015
SDPB Video: 2014

Lana Greenfield is currently in her freshman term as a State Representative. Greenfield does not bring a lot of legislation forth; a quality many conservative voters appreciate. In her two legislative sessions there has only been one House bill she has prime sponsored:

HB 1109 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Exempt from liability persons who voluntarily maintain certain no maintenance roads.

Rep Greenfield withdrew the bill before it was actually taken up in committee. This is a bill I wouldn’t think would be needed, and apparently it wasn’t. It isn’t uncommon for farmers to do snow removal on no maintenance roads.

As an ex-teacher and a social conservative Rep Greenfield has taken an interest in Common Core. In 2015 Greenfield was the House prime sponsor of a couple Senate bills aimed directly at Common Core. The first was this one:

SB 117 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Further protect the privacy of certain student information.

SB would have added a few pieces of personal information to the information which elementary or secondary school students should not be asked about on a survey, analysis or evaluation. In particular the student information that could not be collected would be the students biometric information, social security number, home internet protocol address, and external digital identity. None of this should be needed by the schools. The Senate education committee killed the bill.

SB 188 (SoDakLiberty Posts) – Require the Department of Education to use a competitive bidding process when acquiring academic assessments.

This was another bill killed by Senate Education. SB 188 was brought forth because South Dakota spends large quantities of money on the tests that are being implemented alongside Common Core. This bill would have required the Department of Education to use open and competitive bids to develop these tests. The Department of Education fought against the bill and had it defeated.

The battle against Common Core appears to be a big focus for Rep Lana Greenfield. If she is reelected I would expect that will remain true.

John Graham

John Graham speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 9/27/14.

John Graham speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 9/27/14.

John Graham (D)
Ballotpedia – VoteSmartSoDakLiberty
SDPB Video: 2014

There doesn’t really appear to be a lot of activity this election season for John Graham. He was also a candidate in the same race back in 2014 (plus a few times prior to that). I last saw Graham at a Brown County Democrat event back in October of 2014. Here is what I had to about Graham’s part of the event:

District 2 legislative candidate John Graham was up first. Graham kept his speech very short. During the intro given to him it was mentioned that he has been to Pierre lobbying on behalf of labor. I think that is something he should be talking about when before crowds like this. Graham talked briefly about funding. Graham would like to see a day where SD isn’t depending upon the federal government for funding. But until that day happens he said it is important to use the money that South Dakota gets from the federal government where it is needed. Graham finished off by saying he is there to represent labor in Pierre.

I did speak with Graham a number of times during that election, and each time he reiterated that he felt labor was very underrepresented in Pierre.

Here is the SDPB video of Graham from the 2014 election:

I don’t see Graham as having too much of a chance in this election. Greenfield and Tulson have a solid incumbency advantage that would be hard to overcome.

Video from the Aberdeen Cracker Barrel 2 on Feb 27, 2016

March 8, 2016 Comments off

Here is the video from the Feb 27, 2016, Cracker Barrel in Aberdeen. This was the second of three cracker barrels held in Aberdeen this year. I did try posting this video a week ago, but I had to work out some video/audio sync issues that YouTube had problems with. The video is split into four separate sections, but presented below in one playlist.

Legislators on the panel:
Sen David Novstrup (R, Dist 3)
Rep Al Novstrup (R, Dist 3)
Sen Brock Greenfield  (R, Dist 2)
Rep Lana Greenfield  (R, Dist 2)
Rep Burt Tulson (R, Dist 2)

A few words from legislators at the Pre-Legislative Luncheon in Aberdeen

December 21, 2015 Comments off

Back on December 10 the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce hosted a Pre-Legislative Luncheon featuring Governor Dennis Daugaard. The luncheon allowed local legislators to give updates going into the 2016 session. Then Governor Daugaard was allowed a LOT of time to go over his proposed FY17 budget.

Rep Greenfield

SD State Rep Lana Greenfield speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 12/10/15.

SD State Rep Lana Greenfield speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 12/10/15.

Rep Lana Greenfield  (R, Dist 2) was the first to speak. She is half way through her first term. As a member of the Local Government committee Rep Greenfield will be bringing forth a safety bill to alleviate townships of liability for minimum use roads.  It also sounds like the bill would protect landowners that choose to clear the minimal maintenance roads of snow from any liability.  I wonder if this isn’t to deal with possible liabilities that may arise from the passage of HB 1122  (SoDakLiberty Posts) during the 2015 session. HB 1122 allows township to designate roads as no maintenance.

Rep Greenfield also said this year will be a year of scrutiny. She said the legislature will be scrutinizing how money is spent and where it is going. With the recent education funding related scandals it is no surprise that conservative legislators such as Greenfield are going to focus on this area.

Rep Tulson

SD State Rep Burt Tulson speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 12/10/15.

SD State Rep Burt Tulson speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 12/10/15.

Rep Burt Tulson (R, Dist 2) spoke very briefly. He spent most of his time talking about how values can be added to communities; namely by organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce.

Tulson may not have wanted to talk about legislation during this meeting. But I would like to take a moment to look back at one bill I am glad he sponsored during the 2015 legislative session: HB 1125 (SoDakLiberty Posts). HB 1125 was a simple bill, but a good open government bill nonetheless. Basically HB 1125 clarified in law that agendas posted per public law for public bodies must be posted for ” at least an entire, continuous twenty-four hours immediately preceding any meeting”. Previously the law was more ambiguous, and could have been taken advantage of by public bodies that wished to hide what they were doing.

Rep Novstrup

SD State Rep Al Novstrup speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 12/10/15.

SD State Rep Al Novstrup speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 12/10/15.

Rep Al Novstrup (R, Dist 3) also chose to keep his speaking time very short. I would however like to highlight an open government bill from Novstrup. HB 1153 (SoDakLiberty Posts) was a good bill that would have expanded the meaning of teleconference for open meeting laws to include the contents of “e-mail, text messaging, chat services, and other similar media”. The bill was watered down by House Local Government and then passed through the House. It was then further watered down by Senate State Affairs where it was eventually killed. Too bad, this is a bill I thought was a good step towards a more open government in South Dakota.

Sen Novstrup

SD State Sen David Novstrup speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 12/10/15.

SD State Sen David Novstrup speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 12/10/15.

Sen David Novstrup (R, Dist 3) talked about the elder abuse task force. The report has not been officially published yet, but Novstrup believes there are 16 recommendations that will come out of that. He hopes to work with the Judicial Branch and Governors Office on getting those recommendations passed this year. The elder abuse task force was created during the 2015 legislative session via SB 168 (SoDakLiberty Posts); Novstrup was the prime sponsor of the bill. Since this is a topic supported by all three branches it is likely to be at least a small focus for the 2016 legislative session.

Rep Harrison

SD State Rep Michele Harrison speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 12/10/15.

SD State Rep Michele Harrison speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 12/10/15.

Rep Michele Harrison (R, Dist 23) is also half way through her first term. Harrison spoke briefly about Medicaid Expansion and the Blue Ribbon Task Force, both areas likely to be the biggest issues of the 2016 legislative session. There wasn’t much about Harrison that has stuck in my head from the 2015 legislative session that makes her stand out. But that really isn’t unusual for a freshman legislator.

Governor Daugaard

SD Governor Dennis Daugaard speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 12/10/15.

SD Governor Dennis Daugaard speaking in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 12/10/15.

Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) then gave a cliff notes version of his budget address (although even the cliff notes version was long!). I’ve already blogged briefly about the Governor’s proposed budget, so I won’t go into that further at this time. But I did take a moment to ask the Governor if his projected revenue included the extra money that was projected to come in via the new Obligation Recovery Center (ORC). Daugaard stated the revenues were projected as conservatively as possible, and he does not believe any of the revenue projections included the extra money the ORC is supposed to take in. Personally I don’t think the ORC is likely to bring in any extra revenue and will end up hurting the poor of South Dakota, but time will tell.

SD Board of Education adopted science standards today

May 18, 2015 5 comments
SD Board of Education meeting in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 05/15/15.

SD Board of Education meeting in Aberdeen. Photo by Ken Santema 05/18/15.

Today the South Dakota Board of Education held its regular scheduled meeting in Aberdeen, SD. Included in item seven of the meetings agenda was the final public hearing for the proposed science standards. The proposed standards going into the meeting can be read on the SD Department of Education (DOE) website.

Below is a brief rundown of the science standards proceedings. I withheld most editorializing in this post. I will follow-up with editorial comments tommorow. This post will focus on reporting what I thought were key points of the proceedings.

Proponent Testimony – Sam Shaw, DOE

Proponent testimony began with DOE employee Sam Shaw. In this meeting Mr Shaw was focused on giving updates. To begin with he went through some of the public comments and the workgroups responses.  There were four comments that had come in since the last meeting. They were each presented as their own documents as exhibits 42, 43, 44, and 45.

Mr Shaw then categorized the four new comments plus previous verbal testimony into five categories and provided responses:

  1. Course pathways. Mr Shaw explained the architecture of the standards will be arranged to allow grade and course level standards. The grade levels were split into middle school (6-8) and high school (9-12).
  2. Equity for transient populations. Mr Shaw explained that if the standards are followed there is more of an emphasis on doing science and core ideas; as opposed to learning facts. By taking this route it is believed local students should do better when moving between schools.
  3. Missing Topics. Mr Shaw says the science concepts from the new standards “do not stray” from those present in the prior standards. He said the main difference is that the new standards focus on core ideas that will be developed over the K-12 progression.
  4. Controversial topics. Some commenters wanted to make sure balance and/or objectivity was presented in the standards for dealing with controversial topics. There was a suggestion to add “for and against” to critical thinking skills. The workgroup did not accept that proposal because they feel each standard is already built with science standards. They felt changing the language would change the classroom from being a discussion to being a debate.
  5. Parental involvement. There were suggestions that parents should be involved in the process. Mr Shaw did note there was originally a parent involved, but had to stop involvement for personal reasons.

Proponent Testimony – Mark Iverson, Watertown Teacher

Mark Iverson, a Watertown teacher and member of the workgroup, then gave some proponent testimony. Mr Iverson believes the standards create good local control. Most notably he believes the new standards will foster learning and critical thinking, while the old standards focused upon memorization and regurgitation of information.

Proponent Testimony – Josh Hall, Assistant Superintendent, Sioux Falls School District

Mr Hall spent his proponent testimony time touting the support he has seen in Sioux Falls in support of the science standards.

Proponent Testimony – Ruth Wegehaupt, Retired Teacher

Ruth is a retired teacher from the language arts field, but has great interest in the science field. She was there to represent a group called Climate Parents. With her was a stack of petitions that were circulated in support of the standards. She also wanted to verify the difference between a scientist using the word theory, and how it is generally used by others. She said the “evidence of climate change produced by global warming caused by human activities is considerable.” Further she noted that scientists have “very high confidence” in human caused climate change. Ruth said that means the statement with that much confident is about 90% true, because scientists cannot say anything with 100%. She explained that terms which sound vague to the normal person, are actually specific when used by scientists.

The bulk of her testimony appeared to be in support of the climate change portion of the standards; which have been a controversial inclusion.

Proponent Testimony – Alice Wegehaupt, 96 Years Old

Alice said “I am evident proof of a change in climate.” Alice grew up on a farm near Aberdeen and has lived in various places since then. When coming back to SD she can assure people that the climate here has changed.

Opponent Testimony – Mary Scheel-Buysee, South Dakotans Against Common Core


Mary Scheel-Buysee testifying

Mary Scheel-Buysee testifying before the SD Board of Education. Photo by Ken Santema 05/18/15

Mary kept her testimony short, she has testified against the various standards many times. She noted she didn’t come to testify against any particular standard. But, she also noted that when she was in high school back in the 70’s that “by now we were supposed to be frozen over”. That appeared to be a retort to ever-changing talking points from climate-change groups.

Mary then said she was speaking not to speak only about the science standards, but all the standards. She asked “if we don’t adopt these, whats the harm?” She noted language arts and math Common Core standards were adopted without proof they work. Further, Mary looked at shifts in pedagogy of math in other countries and the math scores falling. She wants to know where the empirical evidence is that the pedagogical changes will work. Instead of adopting the standards unproven, Mary said SD should wait and see how it works out for others states. If the changes work well for other states, then South Dakota could adopt the standards. Either way, she says the students will continue to learn science.

Mary summed up her stance by saying “please slow down this train.”

Proponent Phone Testimony –  Todd Brist, Principal, Watertown Middle School

Mr Brist listed off four reasons to support the science standards:

  1. Expertise. Mr Brist believes the standards were vetted by local teachers. He acknowledges the standards come from the Next Generation Science Standards, but contends they were vetted by local experts.
  2. South Dakota values. Mr Brist believes the proposed standards are based on South Dakota values, as the previous ones were.
  3. Standards versus curriculum. Mr Brist then took a moment to reiterate that there is a difference between standards and curriculum, and that curriculum is where the controversial topics are actually addressed. He noted decisions on the controversial topics will always be done at the local level.
  4. Implementation. Mr Brist says that the implementation of the standards will have enough flexibility to easily be implemented with local control.

Comment Testimony – Burt Tulson, District 2 State Representative

Rep Burt Tulson testifying

Rep Burt Tulson testifying before the SD Board of Education. Photo by Ken Santema 05/18/15

Representative Burt Tulson (District 2) took a moment to comment on the standards. He noted that his testimony was neither proponent or opponent. Rep Tulson wanted to make a statement. He wanted to make sure that the students taking the test for the standards being proposed be given latitude because of different sides to certain topics. He wanted to note that scientists don’t agree and wanted to ensure that is accounted for in the standards.

Rebuttal – Sam Shaw, DOE

Mr Shaw wanted to say that the new standards are not education reform. He said a lot of research has been done since the last standards were passed, and the new standards are being based upon the new standards. This was in reply to Scheel-Buysee saying SD should slow down. Mr Shaw said the previous standards had a design flaw that didn’t include science practices in the standards.

Rebuttal -Jacqueline Omland, workgroup member

Ms Omland noted she has taught science since 1978. She noted that she hated science in high school, because of how it was taught through memorization. She then noted that she has lived and taught through many science standards; and that she thinks this new set of standards is how she should have been teaching the whole time. “It is not reform, it’s just change” is what she had to say, which mirrored what Mr Shaw said earlier.

Comments – Melody Schopp, Secretary of Education

The Secretary of Education, Melody Schopp, then took a few moments to comment. She believes the public hearing process has made the DOE better by forcing them to change how they do things. Going forward, Schopp believes the DOE has to keep parents involved in the process.

Schopp then noted she will ask the board to take action. There have been two standards that have caused a lot of public comments, and believes something needs to be called out because of them. She believes it is important for parents to be engaged in the tough conversations on those topics with their kids.

She then passed out a statement that she feels is important to be added to the introduction of the standards. Here is the statement that was later amended into the standards:

Through he public hearing process related to adoption of the South Dakota Science Standards, it is evident that there is particular sensitivity to two issues: climate change and evolution. The South Dakota Board of Education recognizes that parents are their children’s first teachers, and that parents play a critical role in their children’s formal education. The South Dakota Board of Education also recognizes that not all viewpoints can be covered in the science classroom. Therefore, the board recommends that parents engage their children in discussions regarding these important issues, in order that South Dakota students are able to analyze all forms of evidence and argument and draw their own conclusions.

She said this intro is asking the classroom to be about the science for topics that are “controversial in the State of South Dakota.”

Standards Adopted

There was a recess as the above words were amended into the standards. After the recess the board voted unanimously to accept the amendment. The board then unanimously passed the adoption of the science standards for South Dakota. The science standards as adopted can be read here.

Tomorrow I will post an editorial of my thoughts about the proceedings of the science standards adoption in South Dakota.

Aberdeen Candidate Forum part II: District 2 legislative candidates

September 29, 2014 3 comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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