It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary to invest money now in order to save more money down the road. I’m happy to report the money raised by the road-funding bill has made a difference. Since the bill was enacted, the state has awarded 298 construction contracts encompassing work on 6,078 miles of state highway and 172 bridges, most of which are local bridge projects. A significant share of these contracts would not have been possible without the new funds [Governor Dennis Daugaard, Twitter video, 2017.10.20].
Lead sponsor of the 2015 road tax, Senator Mike Vehle, joined several of his Mitchell and Davison County neighbors last Tuesday to celebrate the first bridge refit completed with new road tax dollars, a bridge right in his own district:
Before a group of guests on an unseasonably warm October day, Vehle was glad to see his years work come to fruition.
“You can have the nicest oil road coming up to the bridge, or you can have just a washboard piece of junk dirt road,” Vehle said. “But if there’s no bridge, it’s all over, you’re not going anywhere.”
The rehab was funded mostly through Bridge Improvement Grant (BIG) funds, for which the project received $507,200 from the state when it was awarded in 2016. The other funds came from Davison County, which was able to acquire the state grant because it has a five-year transportation plan and levies a wheel tax [Evan Hendershot, “Davison Co. Celebrates SD’s First Completed BIG Program Project,” Mitchell Daily Republic, 2017.10.17].
Remember, those aren’t just tax increases the Republicans keep advocating. Those are investments in public works, government projects vital to the commonwealth.
Maybe the Governor and Mark Mickelson need to take the lead on this ‘sexual revolution’ going on in Pierre and own up to their own skeletons in the closet. Mark is fortunate he lives in Sioux Falls and has a buffer from the day to day operations, but Dennis should know these things are going on….
His cheesy dumb farm kid persona won’t cut it on this issue. And while Mickelson is worried about outside money on petition drives he should be more concerned about inside pocket pool going on in our capital city. Address the real issues going on in Pierre for once [Scott Ehrisman, “Maybe the Governor Should Take the Lead with the Sexism Problem in Pierre,” South DaCola 2017.10.22].
58% of Americans agree with Senator McCain and me that Old Bone Spur (maybe the Secret Service’s real code name for POTUS?) is not doing his job well. His Gallup disapproval hasn’t dipped below 50% since March 11. The Real Clear Politics poll average shows similar results: Trump’s approval has been below 40% for most of the time since mid-July.
South Dakota Democrats spent eight years losing votes because of South Dakota voter’s distaste for a really effective President with a funny-sounding name. It’s time for Democrats to turn that around and get South Dakotans to punish our current majority party for bringing us a President with far less in common with South Dakotans, including the simple ability to do his job.
Two thirds of South Dakota’s Congressional delegation marks the weekend press-releasing about the pleasure of shooting the state bird. Senator John Thune shot that wad last weekend, so this weekend he has to get back to acting like an elected official instead of a marketing twit by talking about policy. Alas, our senior Senator’s weekend column is another screed trying to trick regular folks into backing one more handout for the rich, the repeal of the estate tax.
In my opinion, one family-run operation that’s forced to sell because of the death tax is one too many. Now is the time to bury the death tax once and for all, and I’ll continue my years-long fight to do so in the tax reform bill I’m working on in the Senate [Sen. John Thune, weekly column, 2017.10.20].
One shooting with one gun should be one too many, but Senator Thune shrugs off that ill as the price of rootin’-tootin’ freedom, better solved by personal tactical responses than the repeal of anything.
In 2016, only 682 taxable estates—or just 13% of all taxable estates—reported having any farm assets at all, said Beth Kaufman, an estate lawyer at Caplin & Drysdale and former associate tax legislative counsel at the Treasury Department.
And those farm assets represented just a small percent of the gross estate values on average. That suggests that for many in this select group, the farm was not the sole—and maybe not even the primary—source of income. It also suggests there may be other assets to tap if needed to pay an estate tax bill.
For example, Kaufman noted, farm assets represented just 5.4% of total assets on average in taxable estates worth between $5 million and $10 million.That drops to 3.6% for estates worth between $10 million and $20 million, to just under 2% for those worth between $20 million and $50 million, and to 1.5% of estates valued at more than $50 million [Jeanne Sahadi, “No, the Estate Tax Isn’t Killing Family Farms,” CNN Money, 2017.10.10].
Even the “poorest” estate tax payers are only holding 5.4% of their wealth in farm assets. For every dollar of farm assets, those taxpayers have 17 dollars in non-farm assets they can use to pay off whatever estate tax Uncle Sam is asking for.
For supporters of the death tax, their favorite talking point is that it hits a small number of family-owned businesses, farms, and ranches each year, as if that somehow justifies a confiscatory tax on a larger swath of Americans. What they conveniently fail to mention is the large expense – both in time and money – that farmers and ranchers invest during their lives to avoid being a death tax statistic. Too often, these folks have to hire costly lawyers, accountants, and estate planners, all of which can cost well over one hundred thousand dollars, to develop an effective estate plan. They can also spend tens of thousands of dollars each year in life insurance premiums – again, all just to avoid being a victim of the death tax [Thune, 2017.10.20].
By that argument, Thune could justify getting rid of all taxes (and doesn’t every tax “confiscate”?) that require all Americans to spend time and money preparing their returns, which is anarchistically absurd. The estate tax doesn’t just fund public services; at least as importantly, it helps reduce the concentration of wealth that poses a threat to democracy. Perhaps we can find ways to make it easier to pay without hurting the few farms it may impact (and we already do that). But arguing that a few wealthy pals want don’t want to pay as much for their tax lawyers isn’t the most statesmanly argument I’ve heard for repealing a tax.
But we know better than to expect statesmanship from Thune. He’s just tooting the pro-rich-man horn that keeps his donors and corporate minders happy. It’s too bad the only topic Thune and the rest of our Congressional delegation can discuss with authority and honesty is pheasant hunting.
For the most part, South Dakota remains a hard place to live and love as one sees fit.
Equality South Dakota lists the policies that earned seven of our cities any points on the Municipal Equality Index:
Brookings was scored for having a human rights commission with enforcement mechanism; non-discrimination in city employment; trans-inclusive heathcare benefits; LGBTQ liaison in city executive’s office and the police department; anti-bullying school policies; city provided services to LGBTQ youth; hate crimes reporting; openly appointed LGBTQ leaders; and leadership on LGBTQ equality efforts.
Sioux Falls was scored for having a human rights commission with enforcement mechanism; non-discrimination in city employment; trans-inclusive heathcare benefits; LGBTQ liaison in city executive’s office and the police department; city provided services to people living with HIV or AIDS; hate crimes reporting; openly appointed LGBTQ leaders; and leadership on LGBTQ equality efforts.
Vermillion was scored for having non-discrimination in city employment; anti-bullying school policies; hate crimes reporting; and leadership on LGBTQ equality efforts.
Spearfish was scored for having non-discrimination in city employment; anti-bullying school policies; and hate crimes reporting..
Rapid City was scored for a human rights commission with enforcement mechanism; and hate crimes reporting.
Aberdeen was scored for anti-school bullying policies and hate crimes reporting.
The low scores in most South Dakota towns reflects low support for LGBTQ inclusivity in state law. However, HRC lists a number of cities that, despite a lack of supportive state laws, still score perfect 100s on the MEI:
HRC lists Minnesota, Iowa, and Colorado among seventeen states with comprehensive LGBTQ protections. MEI 2017 scores in the eight listed Minnesota cities range from 47 in Bloomington to 100 in Minneapolis. The nine listed Iowa cities range from 67 in Waterloo to 100 in Cedar Rapids, Davenport, and Iowa City. (Sioux City scores 91.) Colorado’s nine listed cities range from 48 in Littleton to 100 in Denver.
South Dakota isn’t the worst place to be gay: Arkansas, Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, and Wyoming have highest-scoring cities scoring below our high-score town of Brookings. Oklahoma and Wyoming have no place scoring above 50.
Argus Leader Media reached out to every woman currently serving in the Legislature as well as many former legislators, lobbyists, interns and pages. Many of the more than 30 women interviewed said sexism in Pierre is nothing new.
Longtime legislators and lobbyists describe the atmosphere as a “good old boys’ club.” Women have never been proportionately represented in the Legislature, and for much of the last decade, they’ve accounted for only about 1 in 5 lawmakers.
The boys’ club mentality is exacerbated by the Capitol’s remote location, more than three hours from the state’s largest cities. Far from home and their families, male legislators are well-positioned to do what they want without fear of consequences.
“Men have the feeling that they can just behave any way they want and get away with it,” said former Rep. Peggy Gibson, D-Huron. “There’s a ‘what happens in Pierre stays in Pierre’ mentality.”
Gibson and others made sure newcomers to the Capitol were warned about the sexism they’d likely face, though harassment is not commonly discussed among those working in Pierre [Dana Ferguson and Megan Raposa, “Sexism in the Statehouse: Women Detail Harassment in Pierre,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.10.21].
None of the women speaking out name specific offenders.
Joining Gibson in speaking on the record to Ferguson and Raposa about sexist, objectifying language and behavior in Pierre and the culture of intimidating women into silence:
Former legislator Paula Hawks, who briefly shook up her U.S. House race against Kristi Noem last year by making public her story of being raped in college. Hawks says “90 percent of the time” Pierre offers a “safe culture” but “The fact that that exists, even to a small extent, is unacceptable.”
Former lobbyist Ro Ann Redlin
Former lobbyist Tiffany Campbell
Former legislator Caitlin Collier
Rep. Susan Wismer (D-1/Britton), who recalls harassment when she was an intern in the 1970s.
Former legislator Lora Hubbel
Former legislator Elaine Roberts.
Poo-pooing the problem:
Rep. Elizabeth May (R-27/Kyle): ““I have never felt uncomfortable…. I’ve never felt out-gunned. I’ve never felt my opinion didn’t matter.”
Sen. Kris Langer (R-25/Dell Rapids), who claims these reports are just Democratic smear tactics: “It’s not something that’s ever bothered me…. There’s never anything said that you wouldn’t tell a good friend.”
Former House Speaker Dean Wink: “I think the South Dakota Legislature is probably considered one of the safest for women… There are obviously exceptions from time to time.”
Lt. Gov. Matt Michels, who presides over the Senate: “Any perception that there is some sort of culture that exists during the legislative session, I would absolutely reject that out of hand.”
Numerous 2017 interns, who say “they never experienced sexism or harassment.”
Somewhere in the middle:
Rep. Julie Bartling (D-21/Gregory) says she’s never been harassed, but “I believe the legislators are becoming more cautious as to what is going on and how it’s perceived.”
Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton says legislators could use “awareness training.” (How one ropes lobbyists into such training is an open question.) House Majority Leader Lee Qualm says he’s open to more discussion.
In the online discussion, frequent blog commenter Anne Beal proves women can be sexist pigs, too, by trying to distinguish between sexism at the Capitol and sexism at the bars:
The State House is a business environment. A bar is a social environment.
If people go to a bar after work, start drinking, dancing, and flirting, well, that’s what happens in bars. If two people go into a bar together, that’s a date. If they go alone, that’s cruising.
If a woman doesn’t want men hitting on her, she doesn’t go to bars unescorted.
Of course there are some people who say that a woman should be able to go to a bar by herself and drink all she wants and nobody should bother her, but she should let the waitress or bartender know “I don’t want anybody buying me drinks tonight” so that they can make sure it doesn’t happen. She might explain she’s just had a tough day and wants to get hammered all by herself.
Otherwise some guy will have a drink sent over to her and she’ll be expected to let him join her. So the staff needs to know ahead of time.
Here Beal is contending that the default setting for women at bars is “Fair Game!” and that women have the burden to remove themselves from public ogling, groping, and other objectifying behavior. In other words, Beal is saying life is a meat market, and women are meat that men are welcome to sample until told otherwise.
Let’s reverse that. Let’s tell otherwise now.
Women are not meat. Women do not exist to satisfy men’s lust. Women are not ours to grab, proposition, or ogle. Women don’t need to jump through hoops to invoke their rights. Their rights exist from birth, before they say a word, and we men have an obligation to respect those rights.
The burden is not on women to tell men to leave them alone. The burden is on men to leave women alone.
Update 09:33 CDT: Former legislator Fred Deutsch wants equal time for his perceived grievances. Dana Ferguson is willing to give it:
Go for it, Dana: let’s hear Fred’s woeful false equivalency and tearful tale of men oppressed by women in Pierre.
Yesterday the White House issued an amendment to Executive Order 13223, the emergency declaration President George W. Bush signed three days after 9/11 and under which state of emergency we apparently still live, now and forever. (Psst—Donald! Maybe we could “Make America Great Again™” by getting over our fears and putting an end to our endless state of war.) As Salon explains, declaring the country to be in a 9/11-esque state of emergency allows Trump to call retired military personnel back to active duty.
Kristi Noem may be the Tom Daschle of the Republican primary in 2018. Stuck in Washington for seven years, gubernatorial candidate Noem is looking out of touch with the South Dakota issues and events around which her race may revolve.
Jackley played another advantage this week, challenging Noem to sign a clean campaign pledge. Noem declined, and of course she would, because it is an obvious campaign stunt, but the practical point is that Jackley is here in South Dakota able to launch these campaign stunts any time he wants, and now, because his campaign team had the time and bandwidth to launch this particular stunt first, he can run around the state saying Noem refused to promise not to attack his family and children. The bitter attack politics of Washington must be rubbing off on Kristi; she’s lost touch with South Dakota values—the campaign lines write themselves.
Jackley will be there, as will both GOP Congressional candidates Krebs and Johnson, but no mention of Noem yet.
In running for governor while serving in Congress, Kristi Noem is attempting a political move unprecedented in South Dakota. Seven of our 31 governors have gone on to serve in Congress after governing South Dakota (Crawford, Norbeck, McMaster, Bulow, Bushfield, and Rounds went to the U.S. Senate; Janklow is the only South Dakota governor to win a U.S. House seat), but no one has served South Dakota in Congress and then come back to be our governor. These small examples from this week’s news indicate why making that switch is difficult. Noem hasn’t been in Pierre dealing with state-level policy since 2010. She’s completely missed the EB-5 and GEAR UP scandals that have prompted Sutton’s transparency push. She’s been reading the Boehner-Ryan script for four terms instead of forging her own state-level agenda. And now she’s facing a primary opponent who’s on the ground every day in South Dakota and better able to stay in touch with the Republican base in his work and his play.
Kristi Noem gone Washington—watch for that narrative to develop as we head for the primary.
Lt. Mark Eisenbraun is with the Rapid City Police Department. He says video evidence is more powerful if an incident makes its way to court.
“The hope there is that this is one additional tool that police, law enforcement, can use to try and increase our effectiveness in prosecution and hopefully hold offenders accountable and protect victims,” Eisenbraun says [Lee Strubinger, “RCPD and PCSO to Implement Body Camera Program in January,” SDPB Radio, 2017.10.19].
That’s the conclusion of a study performed as Washington, D.C., rolled out its huge camera program. The city has one of the largest forces in the country, with some 2,600 officers now wearing cameras on their collars or shirts.
“We found essentially that we could not detect any statistically significant effect of the body-worn cameras,” says Anita Ravishankar, a researcher with the Metropolitan Police Department and a group in the city government called the Lab @ DC.
“I think we’re surprised by the result. I think a lot of people were suggesting that the body-worn cameras would change behavior,” says Chief of Police Peter Newsham. “There was no indication that the cameras changed behavior at all.”
Perhaps, he says, that is because his officers “were doing the right thing in the first place.”
In the wake of high-profile shootings, many police departments have been rapidly adopting body-worn cameras, despite a dearth of solid research on how the technology can change policing.
Think about it, Rapid City: you have $300,000 of your own money to spend on public safety. Are you sure you want to spend that money in an effort to get different results from the statistical shrug the D.C. evidence shows? Or might there be some other, less costly activities in which you could invest that money to improve law enforcement outcomes?
Spending cuts are justified if we’re using them to reduce our debt. I’m willing to apply that kitchen-table economics to federal budgeting. But how do we cut Medicare and other vital public services and still end up with a bigger deficit and more debt?
Let’s hope Speaker Paul Ryan and Rep. Kristi Noem can impose some sanity (what am I saying?) and at least demand that budget cuts go toward real deficit reduction, not tax cuts for the wealthy and voodoo economics.