First Rapid City Legislative Crackerbarrel Meeting of 2016

Rep. Lynne DiSanto

Rep. Lynne DiSanto

Phil Jensen


The first Rapid City legislative crackerbarrel meeting of 2016 was held at the South Dakota School of Mines this morning.

On hand were Rep. Mike Verchio, Rep.  Brian Gosch, Rep. Kristin Conzet,  Senator Alan Solano, Senator  Terri Haverly, Rep. Lynne DiSanto, Rep. Chip Campbell, Senator Craig Tieszen, Rep. Jeff Partridge,  Rep. Dan Dryden, Senator Phil Jense, Rep.  Jacqueline Sly, and Rep. Scott Craig.

Senator Jensen was one of the featured speakers that started out the morning. Jensen said that in North Dakota, every bill in their legislature gets not only a committee hearing, but a vote on the floor of the legislature. He said that in Nebraska, they do things a little differently, where they guarantee one “priority bill” from each legislator will get a floor vote.  Jensen said he is working on such a change for South Dakota, but it will probably not be submitted this year.  Jensen said he is also working on a bill to speed  up sexual assault DNA tests. Jensen also said he was working on language to strengthen the right to keep and bear arms  in South Dakota.

Rick Kriebel 2016


Rep. Partridge was another featured speaker, and he spoke primarily on education funding. He began by citing the South Dakota Constitution on education:

The stability of a republican form of government depending on the morality and intelligence of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature to establish and maintain a general and uniform system of public schools wherein tuition shall be without charge, and equally open to all; and to adopt all suitable means to secure to the people the advantages and opportunities of education.

Partridge said we could pay teachers better by moving around some existing funds,  and raising new revenue.  He said accountability tools would be needed if we increase  revenue, such as better student/teacher ratios.

Woodrow Wilcox


As the question and answer segment began, the first question was on Governor Dennis Daugaard’s call for more funding for teacher pay. Rep. Scott Craig said the first question to  ask is whether they really need an increase.  Craig said he has heard from some people who say teacher  pay should be increased,  and some who say it should not be increased.  Craig asked whether people thought there were other options than those currently on the table. Rep. Mike Verchio asked where other government employees (e.g. law  enforcement) ranked in pay, and whether it was appropriate to single out a particular vocation within government for increased  salary. Verchio pointed out that some government employees (including teachers) retire from their first vocation,  collect a pension,  then go on to work another government job and “double dip” the taxpayers.  So there may be other opportunities for cost savings in education. Verchio said we might consider funding education through an income tax,  local  government through property tax, and state government  through sales tax. Partridge said we want teacher pay to go up, but the question is how to do that.  He said holding districts accountable for how they pay their teachers is key. He also mentioned shared services to help districts become more efficient, including distance-learning. Partridge also questioned why every district claims  it needs the administrative and support overhead it claims  it needs.

pq_20160123_DiSantoA doctor asked about HB 1067 regarding Initiated Measure 17 passed last year. He asked whether it was right for legislators  to vote to overturn a measure approved by a majority of the people. Senator Haverly said it was not sold to  her as “gutting IM 17”, and she is taking another look at HB 1067. Rep. Conzet said she voted for IM 17, and  that HB 1067 was not sold to her the way it is being perceived.  She said she is reconsidering the bill, and though she is one of the sponsors, she will be voting  against  it.

A man raised the question whether teacher pay was singularly deserving of  a raise,  when most vocations pay less in South Dakota. Rep. DiSanto said  that teachers work hard and she really appreciates what they do, but the reality is most of  us could leave South Dakota and earn more elsewhere.  The reality is pay is lower in South Dakota for most vocations than in other states.

A question was asked about HB 1076 and how RINO Gov. Daugaard had said this was an “somewhat insulting.”  DiSanto said she thought about voting  for a pay raise for herself this year, but decided  to something less controversial.  She said she was a 19 year old single parent and the father of her child was uninvolved with the child. She said she was on welfare, working low income jobs, and going to school on grants.  She said she was so poor that she had to turn on her oven to  heat her home. She said she knows what it feels like to be poor and on food stamps, but she also knows that the taxpayers are the ones who gave her the opportunity to be where she is now,  with two degrees and a child who is succeeding  in life.  She said that is the person bringing this bill.  She said it is not insensitive that we drug test our military,  police officers, fire fighters, and 80% of private sector  employees. Yet somehow the governor has the audacity to say it is insensitive to drug test welfare  recipients. She said the only insensitivity is toward the people being asked to fund these programs.  She said that someone trying to milk the system, who may be selling their benefits to  get money for drugs, isn’t deserving.  She said there are eight assistance programs for  children in Rapid City, and that it is ludicrous to claim  she wants children to starve to death when there are so many avenues of assistance available.  She said people need to look in the mirror and accept responsibility for their choices.

pq_20160123_JensenDiSanto said that as the bill is currently written, the person taking the test would pay for the test,so there would be no additional cost to  the taxpayer. She said some people believe the taxpayer should pay for the test, and she is not opposed to that, and it might be amended  so in committee.  She said she could accept that.

Tieszen said until we drug test everyone who receives a subsidy (e.g. farmers) from  the government, we shouldn’t talk about drug testing for welfare  recipients.

Craig said he has signed onto the bill. He is a pastor  by trade, and his heart goes out to the poor.  He said his church and many others are generous to the poor.  He said at first he did  not sign onto the bill because it might give  the appearance of being  insensitive.  But he said he came to realize that there  are those who take advantage of the system,  and that this measure has the ability to prevent some  of those from taking advantage of the taxpayers.

Rep. Campbell said we would not be having this discussion were government not involved in welfare, and the intent of this bill is  to protect the working public and their interest. Campbell said he would  hope the taxpayers would thank DiSanto for trying to help protect them from  having  their pockets picked by others.

A question was asked about HB 1008 restricting school restrooms to people of the biological sex for which they are intended. Senator Solano said the bill requires that children of the opposite sex will  not use the same restroom or locker room at the same  time.

On a question about revenue, Senator Jensen said the governor has finally come out of the closet as a tax-and-spend liberal. Jensen said we had $9 million in tax and fee increases last year, and more would hurt everyone in South Dakota.

A question was asked about the governor’s proposed Medicaid expansion. Rep. Gosch said he was hearing from someone integral in these discussion was doubtful whether solid legislation was going to be put together in time,  but that he expects to know more in a couple of weeks.

A questioner asked if Senator Solano would support the drug testing for welfare recipients bill from the perspective of clinical evidence concerning drug addiction.  Solano said that we needed to look at the evidence. DiSanto  replied that she had been in the trenches working with low income families, and people who have been released from prison with addictions, and that she has seen it in her family.  She said South Dakota has programs in place to help people struggling with addition, and that she hoped people would seek  out this help.  She has stated in the  past that this bill would help get people with substance abuse issues connected with help to  break free from  using drugs.on

A question was asked about whether any legislation  would be proposed to deal with immigration issues and illegal  immigration in the state.  Senator Jensen said according to social services experts,  8,000-9,000 refugees who have some into South Dakota since the year 2000. He said screening for refugees,  Syrian refugees in particular, is unreliable and we need  to see improvements in that area.  Rep. Craig said he is drafting a bill similar to one passed in Tennessee a few years ago dealing with the state’s ability to absorb refugees.  He said federal law dealing with refugee placement in the various states limits the state’s options.  Craig said his bill would call for the federal  government to partner with the state in  deciding when and where refugees would be placed  within the state.

Three more crackerbarrel meetings in Rapid City are scheduled for the remainder of the 2016 legislative session.

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Bob Ellis has been the owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005. He is a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, a political reporter and commentator for the past decade, and has been involved in numerous election and public policy campaigns for over 20 years. He was a founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota with his wife and two children.
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