Reps Kaiser and Deutsch have shown a commitment to constituent communication during the 2015 SD legislative session
Open government and transparency are huge issues for me. I would say anything that elected officials do to improve communication with constituents should be applauded for the commitment it shows towards the goal of open government and transparency. During the 2015 SD legislative session Rep Dan Kaiser (R, Dist 3) and Rep Fred Deutsch (R, Dist 4) showed their commitment by posting why they voted the way they did on every House floor vote. This is something I noted US Rep Justin Amash doing two years ago and hoped more would follow suit. Luckily SD had two Representatives willing to step up to this informative, yet potentially dangerous, thing for a politician to do.
Kaiser has actually done this both during the 2014 and the 2015 SD legislative sessions. After every vote he goes to his public Facebook page and posts a link to the bill that was just up for a vote. He also adds how he voted and why. Actually he did make one change from 2014 to 2015. In 2014 he waited until session was done each day to post his all of his votes. During the 2015 session he posted most of the directly after doing the vote.
Deutsch is a freshman legislator this year and has also posted each vote taken on the House floor. His public Facebook page can be browsed to find the links to each bill voted on. He also adds how he voted and why he voted a certain way for each vote.
Both legislators should be applauded for this commitment towards communicating with constituents. This communication shows a commitment to legislative transparency. It is rare to find politicians willing to openly communicate so often. Actually such communication also makes my job as a blogger much easier. This constant communication from these legislators lets me understand why they vote yes or no when I feel they should have voted the other way. Sometimes I will find there is a point of view I didn’t take into account when originally reading the bill. And often that point of view was not mentioned on the House floor (that is an issue for another blog post).
On bill I followed with interest this year was HJR 1001 (SoDakLiberty Posts), which called for an Article V convention. Below are the posts from each of these two legislators about their vote. I am using this vote as an example of what can be learned because this happened to be a close vote (39-30) and these two legislators voted differently.
Here is Rep Kaiser’s post about HRJ 1001:
Here is Rep Deutsch’s post about HJR 1001:
For a constituent that is looking to find out the why of certain votes in Pierre these posts are invaluable. In just a couple of sentences each legislator was able to summarize the why of their vote. Additionally these posts can be commented on. If anyone wishes they could ask the legislator to expand upon their reasoning.
Beyond these two I have seen an increase in Facebook usage from other legislators as well. Not every legislator is going to post on Facebook about each of their vote (although I wish they would). But many have stepped up and done more frequent posts than was seen in past years. Typically these are posts about bills a particular legislator is the prime sponsor of. I applaud the legislators that have been doing this as well.
Hopefully in the 2016 session there be even more legislators willing to communicate more often with constituents through Facebook. Even if they don’t post every vote, any increased amount of communication works towards transparency in Pierre. That is a winning scenario for constituents!
PS. If you do try looking through old Facebook posts on pages such as these you have to deal with the silly highlights feature that annoys the heck out of people. Here are the steps you will have to take in order to deal with this problem when on a Facebook page:
- Scroll down the page until you see the word “highlights” as pictured below:
- Click on “highlights”
- Click on “all stories”
- You will now see all posts on that page as you scroll down. Without choosing “all stories” it will omit many posts and cause a lot of frustration.
PPS. I know this is a post about SD legislators. But I should notice I’ve seen this done at the City Council level as well. Recently Aberdeen City Councilwoman Jennifer Slaight-Hansen posting during city council meetings. I applaud her for doing so and I hope she will keep it up.
On Thursday the South Dakota Democrat Party hosted a Women’s Rally in Aberdeen. This was a chance for the party to highlight some of the women from the Democrat party they hope will make an impact upon politics in South Dakota. The event had quite a few speakers that mostly stuck to small speeches. In this post I will keep my commentary to a minimum; and instead focus on reporting what took place at the rally and pass on some pictures.
To warm up the crowd for the event, District 3 State Senate candidate Mark Remily had the Karaoke mike going (he actually does a pretty fair job singing Ring of Fire). Most notable though was Wismer taking the mike to sing Patsy Cline’s Crazy. She did pretty good singing that song.
Before the main guest speakers went on stage there were brief words from Deb Knecht (SDDP Party Chairwoman) and Jennifer Slaight-Hansen (Brown County Democrats Chairwoman). Knecht listed off many of the strong women Democrat candidates on the ballot and passed on her belief that when women vote it means a win for Democrats. Slaight-Hansen took a moment to also mention there are also male Democrat candidates that require support this election. She also briefly noted that not only are women votes important to Democrats, but so are votes from Native Americans. She said there are “basically three Republicans versus a Democrat” in the US Senate race. Therefore she believes anyone looking to vote Independent will in fact be voting for a Republican to win (of course the Republicans say the same thing about votes to Independents being a win for Democrats). Slaight-Hansen also said Democrats need to be sent to represent women’s issues.
Local Democrat party activist and long-time Senator Johnson staffer Sharon Stroschien was also in attendance. She passed on a message from Democrat US House candidate Corinna Robinson. Robinson was unable to attend because of the SDPB US House debate being held at the same time. After Sharon spoke the audience stood up and waved so someone from the SDDP could send a pic to Robinson wishing her luck at the debate. I took that opportunity to take the picture below, it shows how well attended this event was.
Democrat Secretary of State candidate Angelia Shultz was the first candidate to speak at the event. While going through her biography Shultz noted her world had changed as she went through higher education. She saw the “plight of women and those of lower socioeconomic status”. She was astounded by what she saw. So she then went on to further education at SDSU to study sociology with an emphasis on social justice and community development. While studying at SDSU she started to look into what could be done for the plight of women. I think that part of her bio showed why she was perfect for the Women’s Rally (besides the obvious fact she is a woman candidate).
After working at the Pentagon she came to Aberdeen. While here she was able to work on curriculum for women and children’s issues at Presentation College. In this curriculum she was able to focus on how women and children are disproportional impacted by global issues. She used that experience to reiterate the fact she was speaking at this rally for a reason, and it wasn’t just because she is a woman.
Schultz then moved on to talking about the Secretary of State (SOS) race. She says elections need to be run in a fair and balanced fashion. She said just ten years ago South Dakota was second in the nation for voter turnout; and then in 2012 South Dakota fell to twenty-second in the nation for voter turnout. Schultz says an imbalance of power and the power structure currently in Pierre is the cause of this drop in voter turnout. She noted that 18-24 year olds is where voter turnout was down the most. Within that age range the proportion of women voting was even worse. Within that age range she noted that one in five women are at or below the poverty level. Shultz added some more statistics and asked “what if these women showed up to vote?” Shultz believes it is important to show these young women how important it is to vote.
Shultz said as the future SOS, she would put forth an effort to place a ballot in every woman who can vote from “eighteen to dead”. She wants women to understand they are not an “invisible people”, but that women are people who can turn things around in this country.
Next up in this event was Democrats SD Governor candidate Susan Wismer and Lt. Governor candidate Susy Blake. Blake spent her few minutes on the stage mostly talking about how Wismer would be a great Governor. In particular Blake focused on Wismer’s experience on the appropriations committee in the SD Legislature. Further, Blake made the case that Wismer went against certain pieces of legislation that Democrats would normally back because “we don’t have the money”. I think Blake did a good job of highlighting Wismer as a fiscally responsible Democrat. Finally, Blake said that “women are ready to step in and take over”.
After some of the usual intro type talk Wismer spoke about the budget cuts from four years ago. That move by Daugaard four years ago caused her to believe the Democrats needed someone to challenge Daugaard. Since Wismer felt that she “get’s it”, she ended up entering the SD gubernatorial race.
Wismer said she feels good coming out of the SDPB gubernatorial debate (my post about it here, I disagree she did good enough).
Then Wismer mentioned talking with many industry boards, mostly Republican, she has been speaking with while traveling the state. She has enjoyed “giving them a piece of my mind”. In these speaking engagements she has been letting groups know that we have “not been very good stewards of what our ancestors gave us”. Areas she mentioned that she believes are not being taken care of include schools, nursing homes, roads and bridges. Wismer says she is talking about these issues because damage exist whether or not the Governor actually wants to talk about it.
Going on, Wismer said it is crazy not to expand Medicaid. She believes the decision of whether to do something should not depend upon where the governor is in the election cycle. By not expanding Medicaid, Wismer says the Governor will have already cost SD $300 million in investments. She says the governor needs to have the nerve to say and do what is right.
Wismer then spoke briefly about the minimum wage initiative on the ballot. She said the SD Board of Retailers was unhappy with the minimum wage issue, especially the inflationary increase part of it. Wismer said the SD Board of Retailers will likely work with the legislature to “correct” the parts of this initiative they don’t like after it passes this falls. To stop that Wismer said more Democrat numbers are needed in the legislature; or create more balance by sending her to the Governors office.
Finally, Wismer used her constant talking point of Pierre needing a “competition of ideas”. She briefly mentioned EB-5 when talking about competition of ideas. Wismer believes EB-5 is a symptom of one party having control of State Government for forty years.
After Wismer spoke, Deb Knecht added that she hopes EB-5 will help Democrats on the ballot.
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin then took the stage. Her absence from the 2014 election as a candidate or party activist has been noted by almost anyone that follows politics in South Dakota. She began by talking about NE South Dakota Democrats ability to elect “competent, fair, exceptional leaders”; many of which are women. Herseth Sandlin stated she was almost brought to tears thinking about the history being set by Wismer and Blake. She believes Wismer and Blake are going to “set a precedent for Hilary” when deciding to run for US President.
Herseth Sandlin said it is important to think about the children’s future. To that end she believes it is important to invest in education, invest in infrastructure, invest in working families, invest in healthcare, and invest in good paying jobs. In order to accomplish that, Herseth Sandlin says Wismer and Blake need to be sent to Pierre. In addition reinforcements from the legislature must be sent to help. She said new leaders are also needed, such as Angelia Schultz in the SOS office.
After speaking briefly, Herseth Sandlin introduced Senator Heitkamp of North Dakota. I was actually hoping to hear more from Herseth Sandlin. Her reentry into SD politics was not too deep.
Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota then came up to give her speech. She came right out saying the South Dakota Democrats “have done it right” with their lineup of candidates.
Heitkamp talked about forty-thousand people who can’t get Medicare expansion and the healthcare infrastructure going unattended. She spoke about the morality of saying no to those in need for political reasons. At times like this she says it is important to stand up for those forty-thousand and give them a voice. She spoke directly at Wismer and said those people need a voice even if they will not vote for her.
By electing Wismer and Blake, Heitkamp says a difference can be made. Heitkamp said it is important not to pay attention to the odds. In her own race for the US Senate, Heitkamp noted she was given an 8% chance of winning. She talked about those odds and noted she is now serving in the US Senate for North Dakota. This part of Heitkamp’s speech was actually a pretty good rally story to get the audience excited. It is a pretty good story, going from growing up in a ninety person town to being elected to the US Senate.
After more little stories, Heitkamp talked about how important it is to get Wismer and Blake elected. She says it matters to Native Americans. Heitkamp talked about spending time on Standing Rock and how the State of SD fails works with the tribe. She says it matters for school teachers. In order to get quality teachers, Heitkamp said that teachers must feel valued. Further, she said when teachers are valued, that shows the society cares about children.
Finally Heitkamp noted that elections matter because it impacts who is represented and who those elected think about. She made the case that a candidate doesn’t get anywhere without a great amount of people helping and supporting that candidate. To win this election, Heitkamp said it is important for local Democrats to volunteer and get more votes.
Overall the audience was very interactive with clapping and cheers throughout the whole event. If this rally was designed to get the Democrat base in Aberdeen excited, I would say this event was a success. It will be interesting to see the Democrat vs Republican turnout in NE South Dakota on November 4.
Here is one last photo from the event. The speakers lined up on the stage for a picture.