Second Rapid City Legislative Crackerbarrel Meeteing

Phil Jensen


20160130_CrackerbarrelThe second legislative crackerbarrel meeting of 2016 for Rapid City was held this morning at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

Attending the meeting today were Rep. Mike Verchio, Rep. Lance Russell, Senator  Alan Solano, Rep. Brian Gosch, Rep. Kristin Conzet, Senator Phil Jensen, Rep. Scott  Craig, Rep. Jacqueline Sly, Senator Craig Tieszen,  Rep. Dan Dryden, Rep. Jeff Partridge, Senator Terri Haverly, Rep. Chip Campbell, Senator Bruce Rampbelberg, and Rep. Lynne DiSanto.

Senator Tieszen was one of the features speakers, and he promoted one of his bills which was to repeal life without parole sentences for minors, and another to remove misdemeanors from  a person’s public record after 10 years, and a bill to tighten residency requirements for voting in South Dakota. Tieszen said he was part of the South Dakota Blue Ribbon Task Force on education, and supports  the call for increased education funding.  Tieszen also said he supports the governor’s call to expand ObamaCare and Medicaid eligibility in South Dakota.

Rick Kriebel 2016


Rep. Russell was another featured speaker.  Russell said  he believed  Governor Dennis Daugaard’s plan for education is flawed.  He said we can’t get the teacher raise the governor wants  for all of South Dakota’s teachers for the amount of money Daugaard is calling to spend. Russell said he supported Daugaard’s cuts in recent years, thinking the money would be backfilled later,  but instead money has been spent in other areas.  Russell proposes channeling video lottery revenue directly to education, earmarking it for teacher salaries.  His proposal would require that funding cannot be diverted from teacher pay by either the state or local school districts. This would prevent the state from getting  its hands on the money and manipulating where it actually ends up, said Russell.  Russell said it would also prevent school districts  from diverting  it to athletics or any other place than teacher salaries.

Rep.  Campbell was the third featured speaker. Campbell also discussed education funding, stating that he supported a plan like Russell’s because he believed funding it through sales tax would just end up with the money being spent in areas  other than teacher pay again.  Campbell said he had attended some meetings recently concerning an Article V convention, but since this was a presidential election  year, he wasn’t sure they would go anywhere this year due to a “wait and see”  attitude on the part of many.

Rep. Sly was the fourth featured speaker. Also on the Blue Ribbon Task Force, Sly, too, spoke on education funding and teacher salaries. Sly said that although poll numbers support increased teacher pay and raising the revenue through a sales tax increase, actually passing a tax increase is difficult.

Woodrow Wilcox


The first question from the floor was whether the legislators would support Gov. Daugaard’s proposed expansion of ObamaCare and Medicaid eligibility if Indian Health Services were to reimburse the state of South Dakota for Native American care,  thus freeing up more funds to pay for the Medicaid expansion.  Tieszen said health care is available to all South Dakotans, though not all have a way to pay for it.  Tieszen said the taxpayers end up paying for a lot of health care anyway, and that Medicaid expansion is a good way to do it. He said opposition to ObamaCare isn’t a  good way to look at it,  that we have to do what’s best for South Dakota.

Another question concerned the recent passage of a federal law which gives the appearance of moving away from Common Core standards, and whether a measure like HB 1118 would be necessary. Rep. Russell said he was dubious of how much local control had been returned to the states, and that this could be just a “shell game” which involves renaming Common Core in name but not in substance.  Sly responded that she believes too much time is being spent testing in schools.

A question was asked about Russell’s plan to fund education through video lottery revenue, and whether that would further entrench the video lottery industry in South Dakota.  Russell said he understands the concern, and he has always opposed video lottery. He said that as a state’s attorney, he had cases where gas stations took checks in the thousands of dollars in a single day from a single individual to pay for video lottery. Russell said regretfully that South Dakota is addicted to video lottery, and it is here to stay.  He said we collect over $100 million a year from video  lottery, and when it was legalized, we were promised that the money would go to education.  Russell said he was just trying to see that promise carried out.  He said that since then, the priority has been on growing state government rather than funding education.

A question was asked about HB 1067 which would modify Initiated Measure 17 which was passed last year, and whether it was appropriate for the legislature to change what the people voted for last year, especially since there are pending issues affected by this in court right now. Rep. Partridge said this was mostly being driven by Sanford which is based in Sioux Falls, where those opposing it in the medical community are mostly the specialists.  Partridge said the legislature had passed legislation along these lines before,  and the question could be asked  whether it was appropriate to change what the legislature had done.  Conzet said she was initially a sponsor on the bill, but that it was sold to her as being something different than she now believes it to be.  She said it seemed to be more “industry against industry” rather than a true health care freedom conflict.  Gosch said this wouldn’t be the first time  there were matters working their way through court when legislative bodies worked on the law concerning these matters.

A question was asked about why Rep. Verchio sponsored HB 1073 which would have required bicycles to move onto the shoulder and stop if it was backing up traffic in a no-passing zone. Note: this bill was killed in committee earlier this week. Verchio said he had been approached by loggers whose trucks have great difficulty getting around bicycles on some of the winding roads in the Black Hills.  He said this is a big problem in places, and testimony during the hearing affirmed that. He said it was a safety issue, not an anti-bicycling bill.  Rampelberg said he was a sponsor on the bill, and that while most bicyclists behave responsibly, it can be a problem. Rampelberg said that after examination,  it came out that there  were some problems with the application of the bill,  but called on everyone to show respect on the road.

A question was asked about why HB 1008 and HB 1112 which deal with transgender student were being brought when we haven’t yet seen any problems with this. Rep. Russell said that there is a movement to allow boys who think they are girls to go into the girl’s restrooms and locker rooms in schools.  Russell said the federal government has called for “reasonable accommodation”  of these confused students. He said reasonable accommodation is normally understood to mean an accommodation that doesn’t infringe on another person’s rights, and that these bills are designed to make sure that happens. Verchio said he agreed. Tieszen said he did not agree with these bills, and believed they would be a lightning rod for legal action. Verchio pointed out that there are two legal defense organizations that have already volunteered to defend pro bono any school district that is sued over this. Rep. DiSanto said she is a cosponsor of one of these bills,  and that sometimes the state needs to be proactive,  especially when national events  make  it clear that trouble is coming.  DiSanto said school officials were already coming to the legislature stating that trouble was coming,  and they asked for clarification.

A question was asked about HB 1076 to drug test welfare recipients, which was killed in committee this past week.  Rep. Conzet said her issue with the bill was the vagueness in the bill concerning which programs would be affected, as well as the cost.  She said there is abuse in the system, but asked why we were focusing only on welfare recipients and not people who receive other government subsidies.  Sly said similar bills have been brought in the past, but some federal welfare programs prohibit drug testing of recipients.  She said there are procedures already in place for reporting abuse of welfare benefits. DiSanto said she believed the bill warranted a debate on the floor of the House instead of being killed in committee.  She said the issue had tremendous interest in the “mainstream” media and social media, and because of the interest level, it deserved more discussion.  Campbell said he was a cosponsor on the bill,  and that while we have compassion for the needy, those who are paying the bill also deserve consideration.  Campbell said that if the federal government was not involved in welfare,  we would not even be having this discussion.

A question was asked about South Dakota’s lack of a corporate income tax, and whether any of the legislators would support one earmarked for education.  Sly said the Blue Ribbon Task Force looked at a corporate income tax,  and the final report found that potential revenue from such a source was unknown and dependent  on various factors including tax rate,  the definition of taxable income, the entities subject to the tax,  cost to implement, volatility, and so on. Tieszen said such a solution was not viable in the  legislature. Senator Jensen said corporations are often viewed as  “evil  entities” that we should tax. However,  he said, if we did that, the cost of those taxes would get passed on to the consumer in the form of higher costs for goods and services.  Senator Solano said he didn’t see a corporate income tax as a viable option and he would vote against it if proposed.

The next Rapid City crackerbarrel meeting is scheduled for February 20.


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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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