I’m judging debate today, where South Dakota’s brightest and bravest students regularly display a keen grasp of evidence, logic, and rhetoric. I will thus miss the crackerbarrels, where our Republican legislators usually struggle to rise to the same standards.
On IM22 aftermath: Many so-called “replacement” bills for IM22 seem to focus more on restraining initiative and referendum rather than putting any new limits on legislators, their behavior, and their campaign finance. Can you give examples of ways that your “replacement” bills limit the power and privilege of legislators?
Related: Do you believe the Legislature should make it harder for citizens to exercise their Constitutional right to legislate through initiative and referendum? If so, do you believe citizens should make it harder for the Legislature to pass laws?
On the budget: What taxes will your raise and/or what programs will you cut to balance this year’s budget?
On HB 1156: Why do you or any other non-law-enforcement personnel need to carry a pistol in the Capitol?
Friends and neighbors, use today’s crackerbarrel in Aberdeen (Ramkota, 10 a.m.) to tell Senator Novstrup to replace that squish with spine. HB 1182, the Governor’s half-cent sales tax to fund competitive teacher salaries, is on the Senate’s Monday calendar. Various sources say that HB 1182 is still a couple votes shy of the necessary 24 votes, a two-thirds majority, to pass this tax bill. Novstrup may be among fence sitters.
I can’t make Aberdeen’s crackerbarrel today (I’m supporting education by judging debate!), but fellow teachers, parents, and taxpayers, pack that meeting room and the Ramkota and don’t let Novstrup leave until he makes a commitment.
Remind him second that there is no viable alternative plan on the table. The Blue Ribbon K-12 panel identified the magnitude of the problem back in November: $75 million minimum to raise teacher pay to arguably competitive levels. In the three months since that report came out, no one has found the money for such a plan in the Capitol couch cushions (and as District 13 GOP Senate candidate David Bergan says, they won’t). None of the preceding ten task forces on education identified any such unused revenue in the budget to raise teacher pay. David Novstrup has had ten Sessions in Pierre to find such money, and he hasn’t yet. Unless Novstrup has somehow made fiscal magic happen, unless he can read you an exact funding source today that saves us from more regressive sales tax and still tackles the teacher shortage by raising average teacher pay to at least $48,500 this year, his time to dither is done.
And if Novstrup resorts to arguments about how sales tax is regressive, thank him for adopting the argument Democrats have been offering for years and ask him what progressive taxation options he would prefer. After he spends five minutes hemming and hawing to avoid saying income tax, ask him if this Legislature, this Session, has the political will to pass any kind of substantive tax reform. Let him stammer a couple more minutes, and then when he has admitted his inability to lead the Senate to any kind of meaningful tax reform, tell him that his only option to help teachers right now, this year, is to back House Bill 1182.
Yea or nay, David? It’s that simple. District 3 voters, if you want South Dakota to solve the problem of having the lowest teacher pay in the nation, make Senator Novstrup give you the right answer this morning.
But Rep. Novstrup nails exactly the problem with HB 1161: the payday lenders are trying to scoot their regulations into a new, separate chapter of state law, which would “exempt[…] themselves from whatever you’re going to vote on next fall.” Rep. Novstrup calls that “loophole to drive trucks through” “very problematic.”
Then, at 2:55, Rep. Novstrup wales on the payday lenders even harder and gives this remarkable condemnation of Amendment U, the fake 18% rate cap:
There’s some sincere people that have put a ballot issue out that says you cannot charge more than 36%. Then there’s other people that have put out an 18%. That’s put out by the industry in an attempt to confuse and defeat the other issue. So the 18% is actually what they call a decoy…. When you have a chance to vote next year, there’s an 18% and a 36%. Normally you say, “Well, I think we’ll go with an 18% interest rate.” The answer’s just the opposite from what you’d expect. The reason the 18 is a fraud is because it says no lender in South Dakota can charge more than 18% unless the person getting the loan signs an agreement to that effect. So if you want the loan you have to sign an agreement to that effect and the law doesn’t mean anything [Rep. Al Novstrup, Aberdeen crackerbarrel, 2016.02.20].
Steve! Steve! Reynold! Did you hear that? Al didn’t say he’ll vote for IM 21, but he called you guys sincere!
More importantly, Republican Representative Al Novstrup used the words decoy and fraud to describe the 18% rate cap. Al says it’s fake, I say it’s fake, and from the immediate audience response when Al explained Amendment U’s written-agreement loophole, voters appear to recognize that Amendment U is a fake.
Rep. Novstrup says Sister Myra’s position appears to be correct, but he still qualifies his opposition to the payday lenders’ tricks, saying there’s a “99% chance I’m with you” on HB 1161 (and perhaps by extension on Amendment U), but he says he still wants to hear the debate to make sure he hasn’t misunderstood the bill.
Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) says he declined lobbyists’ invitation to sponsor HB 1161 “because of the concerns of the ballot issues.” We can only assume those concerns are those his dad enunciated more clearly for him at the mic. David said he’s waiting to see if HB 1161 makes it out of the House to study it and decide his position.
Rep. Greenfield spent very little time addressing specific funding alternatives. Instead, she said HB 1182 has been a very “disturbing” issue for her. She said she’s received lots of e-mails saying “Shame on you” and “I’m so disappointed,” plying the blame-the-victims line that I’ve been hearing from other HB 1182 opponents who apparently don’t like being criticized for their bad votes.
Rep. Greenfield outlined her main reasons for opposing HB 1182. She said HB 1182 is a tax bill, with no mention of teachers. She repeated the hoary old (false) complaint that we passed video lottery on the promise that the revenue would go to K-12 education and then were cheated. She said the 2012 initiative vote against the penny sales tax for education and health care obliges her to respect “the will of the people” and not vote for a half-penny sales tax dedicated to teacher pay.
Rep. Greenfield then complained that the Governor appointed mostly big-city people to his Blue Ribbon K-12 panel. I count eleven out of 26 small-towners—I’m counting Madison as small, and Vicki Harmdierks works in Mitchell but lives in Wessington Springs. Without breaking down how many of those “big-city” Blue Ribboneers are small-town kids at heart (Armour’s Venhuizen jumps to mind, but I’m sure Lana sees Tony as a city clicker), 15 out of 26 members being “urban” (curious: how many of you South Dakotans feel urban?) is about 58%. The eight biggest counties in South Dakota constitute 58% of our population. eleven small-towners on a statewide committee isn’t that bad a split.
But hey, Rep. Greenfield isn’t going for specifics. She’s not explaining exactly why the ideas Supt. Guffin and teacher Steve O’Brien and thirteen other city-clickers reached consensus on with their eleven small-town counterparts are flawed; she’s just grasping for some narrative to justify her partisan obstinance.
Rep. Greenfield then cribbed Senate Jeff Monroe’s ploy and said the Blue Ribboneers found that the low pay was not as big a problem for teachers as being overworked and not having enough prep time. Rep. Greenfield is referring to the Ingersoll data that the Blue Ribbon K-12 panel heard last summer:
Rep. Greenfield reversed the order: lack of prep time was #1 and too heavy teaching load was #2. Low pay tied with too large class size for #3. Rep. Greenfield ignored the Blue Ribbon Panel’s recognition that Ingersoll’s survey was not South Dakota-specific: as the Blue Ribbon report says on page 13, “The survey data is nationwide, and the task force acknowledged that low salaries are probably a more significant factor in South Dakota. Unfortunately, no similar data exists that is specific to South Dakota.”
And even if we let Ingersoll’s non-South Dakota data dictate our problem-solving priorities, Rep. Greenfield offered no plan for helping teachers with those first two problems, probably because increasing prep time and reducing class sizes would require even more money to hire more teachers. Rep. Greenfield just keeps insisting that the third problem—the problem which the Legislature can most directly address—isn’t worth Legislative action.
Then, seemingly afraid that Blue Ribboneers like Dr. Guffin will take her opposition personally, Rep. Greenfield claims that the pending legislation isn’t the Blue Ribbon plan at all but something the Governor’s office composed either before, during, or after the Blue Ribbon panel met. Rep. Greenfield does not substantiate this claim. The Governor’s initial endorsement of action on teacher pay on January 12, 2016, and the three bills introduced on February 2, 2016, mostly copy, with a few added details, the proposals laid out in the Blue Ribbon panel’s final report issued on November 11, 2015. No member of the Blue Ribbon panel, including vocal HB 1182 opponent Rep. Steve Westra (R-13/Soux Falls), has come forth to say their exercise was a complete charade and that the Governor’s people had already drafted the bills last spring.
Rep. Greenfield is trying portray her opposition to raising teacher pay as a brave stand against a dictatorial Governor and critical fellow legislators. Rep. Greenfield alleges “brutal” arm-twisting in Pierre to pass this bill. She alleges “people were hauled in behind closed doors and they were scolded and they were made promises in order to keep this bill moving forward.” She accused Rep. Roger Solum (R-5/Watertown) of voting for Rep. Lee Schoenbeck’s (R-5/Watertown) amendment on sending some of the new sales tax money to the vo-tech schools to raise his own pay. She moaned about getting mass e-mails saying, “How dare you!” and Rep. Schoenbeck going hard after her anti-teacher vote on the radio and on Facebook and that Sioux Falls paper putting opponents’ faces in the paper.
Oh my gosh—a legislator thinks publicity is a bad thing?
Rep. Greenfield did endorse the argument the Democratic caucus has offered that the Governor’s Blue Ribbon plan is bad for small schools because it pressures them to cut 400 teachers (maybe 631 teachers) or consolidate. However, Rep. Greenfield ignores the fact that the pressure for those cuts lies in the funding formula in Senate Bill 131, not in the funding mechanism of House Bill 1182. She could vote for House Bill 1182 to raise the money for schools, then amend SB 131 when it comes to the House to better accommodate the needs of the small schools she claims to be defending. Or she could come out and endorse the Democratic plan, Senate Bill 151, which has funding mechanism and formula all in one neat bill.
Rep. Greenfield said any new money must be earmarked for teachers. On Thursday, Rep. Schoenbeck offered Amendment 1182of, which dedicates 64% of the proceeds of the sales tax increase to increasing teacher salaries. That sounds like an earmark to me. However, Rep. Greenfield voted against that earmark amendment, and she voted against HB 1182 in full with that earmark amendment. Rep. Greenfield either forgot about that amendment or lied to us at yesterday’s crackerbarrel.
Rep. Greenfield ended with a firm declaration that she will stand her ground and not be part of “this blatant corruption.” Wow—EB-5, GEAR UP, the flag theft, and Rep. Greenfield calls raising taxes to raise teacher pay “blatant corruption”? Now Rep. Greenfield is just singing in the shower, putting some kind of Mr. Smith Goes to Pierre mask on her cowardly inability to overcome her ideology and solve South Dakota’s #1 policy problem, our destructively low teacher pay.
The Aberdeen crackerbarrel brought all sorts of fun. Both of northeast South Dakota’s parent-child legislator duos—Rep. Lana and Senator Brock Greenfield and Rep. Al and Senator David Novstrup—joined us, meaning referring to legislators by last name confuses everyone. It’s a good thing we’re all on a first-name basis here in South Dakota.
The targeted Novstrups kept their seats and let Brock Greenfield answer first. Brock said he’ll never support a tax increase, because he’s a good “servant of the people and therefore I will not vote to increase my salary or any of the per diem or any other payments that would come in the off-Session.” Brock did not mention that he keeps trying to exempt himself from the sales and use tax that he’s supposed to collect and remit to the state as an amateur sports coach during the off-Session. (Hearing on SB 147 is Monday, 10:00 a.m., Senate Taxation.)
Al is also right that legislators’ salary hasn’t been raised since 1998, when HB 1212 raised pay from $4,267 for 40-day Sessions and $3,733 for 35-day Sessions to a flat $6,000 every year. That was amended down from the original $10K per year proposal. Of course, the 1998 Legislature had the decency to make sure that law didn’t take effect until January 1 following the election, to give voters a chance to decide who deserved that raise and who didn’t.
Al showed some courage and says he’d vote for a pay raise that “would allow most people” to serve. He said New Hampshire’s $100 a year means “the wealthy have been able to serve in New Hampshire and the working class probably can’t. If we want a Legislature that is strictly from the retired and strictly from the wealthy, keep freezing our salaries forever, and you’ll end up with a Legislature that doesn’t represent the people.”
Having collected his thoughts, David Novstrup, the man actually sponsoring the bill in question, rose to explain his motives. He said he wants to make sure the Legislature funds teacher pay before raising legislator pay… which I would think would mean we’d see David’s name on bills to raise teacher pay before we see his name on bills to raise legislator pay. But no—page through his bills, and you see David’s name on more pay for legislators and members of the Board of Pardons and Paroles, funding to name a submarine, and stealth vouchers for private schools, but not on any of the bills seeking to give teachers more money. Hmmm… David, you’re saying one thing about priorities to the public, but you’re sponsoring bills that suggest other priorities. (Hmm… what was that I said about Father Al maybe wanting to slide over to the Senate race?)
David guaranteed Senate Bill 160 will fail. But then he tried to enunciate the argument that the basic market principles that are making it hard for low-paying South Dakota to recruit teachers also make it hard for low-paying South Dakota to recruit legislators.
I think some of you might really question how qualified some legislators are in this state and question their judgment. So I think you don’t want the pay so low that people are doing it because they are rich and wealthy, but you don’t want it so high that they’re doing it for the money. And so I think a slight increase is reasonable, but it’s just not going to happen and it will be a long time before it does, because it’s hard for us to make sure that those other priorities are met and have money left over for that because those are our priorities [Senator David Novstrup, response to question about legislator pay, Aberdeen crackerbarrel, 2016.02.20].
Curious: does David think that adding a $4,500 expense reimbursement for rank-and-file legislators and a $9,000 reimbursement for legislative leaders earning $6,000 salaries is mathematically “reasonable”? If so, I’d like to apply his definition of “reasonable” to the pay increases we’re trying to get for teachers: we should raise teacher pay from the current $40,880 average to $71,540 for regular teachers and $102,200 for department chairs and committee leaders. That sounds perfectly reasonable, don’t you think, David?
David then tried to make another point. Unfortunately for David, he made the argument that I make for replacing him and his colleagues with more Democrats:
But at some point you’re going to have a Legislature that’s all from one group which doesn’t help the decisions and the point of view, just all the issues we have in the state. We need to have a diverse group, our legislators, our city council, our county commission. If you have all the same people from the same group, you’re going to have some bad decisions come out of that legislative body [David Novstrup, 2016.02.20].
I am thrilled that David has finally figured out that one-party rule is the route to bad decisions. I look forward to winning David’s vote in November and working for reasonable pay increases for teachers, state employees… and maybe legislators, so we can recruit more qualified public servants.
Crackerbarrels take place this Saturday, January 30, in Brookings (District 7), Huron (22), Rapid City (the dirty 30s!), Spearfish (31), and Vermillion (17). If you know of other crackerbarrels, let ASBSD and me know!
So bring your notepads and cameras, come to the crackerbarrels, and grill your legislators about hoghousing and sending bills to the 41st day!