In this week’s episode, Green Aberdeen leader Enno Limvere tells us about Green Aberdeen’s local environmental efforts, the Earth Day Fair his group is hosting Saturday, and the theology behind his environmentalism. Plus, co-host Spencer Dobson and I talk about fallout from the Clare Lopez anti-Islam show, backlash against South Dakota’s discriminatory adoption law, Speaker Mark Mickelson and the cost of vo-tech education, and our Congressional delegation’s aversion to town halls.
Speaker of the House G. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls) is a funny guy. The Legislature’s 2017 Interim Study Survey included a comment section where Speaker Mickelson submitted this important guidance for his colleagues’ consideration:
The non-meandered waters issue will take some serious thinking… or maybe just a new survey and a big round of eminent domain (because ultimately, that’s what the fishing advocates are after, the state finishing the taking that the rain gods started). But workforce housing? Come on, G. Mark—that’s just another issue where Republicans and business owners are going to ignore the obvious solution: raise wages, and workers can afford to fix up or buy houses. (There, done, saved you three meetings.)
76 of our 105 legislators* responded to the interim study survey by April 12. Summing their rankings produces this list of preferred topics:
Legislators came nowhere near taking my dare to put refugees on the interim agenda: the three refugee-related topics finished 14th, 19th, and dead-last 22nd. Adding those three topics’ rank points still wouldn’t have beat non-meandered waters or workforce housing (or #3, issues facing the new Government Accountability Task Force). The least popular of those three refugee study proposals, Study “K”, came from Democratic Senator Reynold Nesiba, whose District 15 includes a lot of refugees have settled in Sioux Falls. His proposal was phrased favorably toward refugees, immigrants, and religious minorities, seeking study of these questions:
How do we ameliorate differences and better facilitate cross-cultural understanding to more quickly and effectively integrate new South Dakotans into our workplaces?
What is already working at firms with diverse workforces?
What obstacles exist to further integration? How do we overcome these?
What? Senator Nesiba wanted to get rid of obstacles to making new people part of South Dakota? No wonder it came in last: the only other legislator to express interest in Senator Nesiba’s positive refugee proposal was fellow freshman Rep. Bob Glanzer, Republican from Huron, where a number of Karen refugees have settled to work at the turkey plant.
*p.s.:Legislators not responding by April 12 and not listed on survey tally:
Reps. Anderson, Bartling, Bordeaux, Brunner, Conzet, DiSanto (no guns on topic list, so boring!), Frye-Mueller, Goodwin, Hunhoff, Johns, Kaiser, Latterell, Marty, McCleery, McPherson, Kent Peterson (hey! Mr. Assistant Majority Leader! How about leading?), Qualm (hey! Mr. Majority Leader! Ditto!), Ring, Rozum, Smith, Wiese, and York;
$9 million—hmmm… maybe all the businesses (like the burgeoning construction industry, which enjoyed a hiring boomlet last year even as agriculture foundered) counting on the state to do their job training for them could rummage around in their office couches and come up with amount to subsidize vo-tech tuition.
Rep. Mickelson says money is short for tech-school advocacy:
“No one gets paid to think about advocating for the technical schools,” he said [Mercer, 2017.04.15].
An eager reader notices Speaker G. Mark Mickelson’s (R-12/Sioux Falls) hypocrisy on funding state functions with unhealthy habits. Speaker Mickelson says there’s no way he’ll support the initiative to regulate and tax recreational marijuana:
“Never. Absolutely not,” said South Dakota House Speaker Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls. “Tax yourself for something you need, don’t tax someone else for their path to destruction” [Dana Ferguson, “Could Recreational Marijuana Help Pay S.D. Teachers?” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.04.03].
That’s funny—Speaker Mickelson’s neighbor Rep. Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) offered House Bill 1199 this year to repeal another tax on some South Dakotans’ path to destruction, video lottery, and Speaker Mickelson let that healthy proposal die in its first committee hearing. Mickelson’s fellow Republicans offered another bill in 2014 to reduce the state’s reliance on video lottery, and Mickelson didn’t sign on as a co-sponsor. And back in 2013, G. Mark supported a bill to entice more people to the path of video lottery destruction by octupling the maximum payout.
Now the Republicans who voted for Anderson’s hoghouse amendment are going to argue hard that SB 106 is not a tax increase but simply a credit reduction. Let’s see what you think:
Right now, retailers get to keep a little bit of their sales tax as compensation for the work they do collecting that money from us customers and sending it to Pierre. The collection credit is 1.5% of the monthly sales tax collected or $70 each month, whichever is less.
The Anderson amendment revises that credit to 1.4% of monthly collections or $65, whichever is less.
Hmmmm… SB 106 means retailers keep less money and send more tax dollars to the state. Practically, the reduction of that credit is an increase in taxes paid, right?
Retailers’ lobbyist Bill Van Camp doesn’t care what we call it; he doesn’t want it. Van Camp got a copy of the Anderson amendment about twenty minutes before it was presented (which was twenty minutes before pretty much anybody else in South Dakota got to see it) and ran over to House State Affairs to say wait a minute! Van Camp noted that the retailers had held off on asking for an increase in their collection credit in Senate Bill 36 as a fair trade-off for allowing that bill to move the collection date a few days earlier. He said the Retailers had stood down in polite recognition of the state’s tight budget situation. He said the Retailers object to resurrecting this issue and reducing their collection credit.
Speaker G. Mark Mickelson indicated this credit reduction/tax increase is just a vehicle to get overhauled in conference committee to balance the budget and protect the expected 0.3% K-12 funding increase, Medicaid provider payments, and the Build South Dakota fund. Ten Republicans held their noses and voted for the Anderson amendment to SB 106. Republican Isaac Latterell joined Democrats Julie Bartling and Spence Hawley in voting nay.
Senate Bill 106 now rolls like a fiscal grenade to the House floor, just waiting to blow up in the face of legislators who try (like Al Novstrup earlier this year) who try to undo the tax break with which they bought Retailers’ support for last year’s sales tax increase.
Correction 2017.03.07 07:28 CST: My original report said the proposed tenth-percent reduction of the credit was worth $5 million. I regret the error.
When Senate State Affairs took up House Bill 1073 Wednesday, Senator Ryan Maher moved and Senator Billie Sutton seconded Amendment 1073cb, which every year would adjust both the $100 gift cap and the $75 meal exemption by the consumer price index.
I listened to the audio (SSA PM—hear timestamp 68:40) hoping to hear an explanation of why legislators would want to include a cost-of-living adjustment on this particular set of restrictions. So far they’ve included no COLA on campaign finance limitations (see SB 54). Are they (or the lobbyists who educate them) really so concerned about all the little freebies they receive throughout the year will be eaten up by inflation?
No one appeared eager to answer that question. After a few seconds of silence, committee chairman Bob Ewing called for a vote on the amendment. Senator Sutton called point of order, saying he’d seconded the amendment for discussion purposes, and by gum, he wanted discussion.
After some hemming and hawing from Senate prime sponsor Ernie Otten, House prime sponsor Speaker G. Mark Mickelson dragged himself to the microphone to say he’d never witnessed any problems in the absence of a gift cap. He acknowledged that IM22 had offered a gift cap but was “written pretty poorly.” He said he’d looked at lobbying restrictions in Nebraska and Minnesota to come up with HB 1074 with its “pretty reasonable exemptions” spelled out in Section 4. But on the cost-of-living adjustment, Speaker Mickelson passed the buck, saying it arose from “a couple concerns” Senator Kris Langer had, “so I’ll let her talk about the amendment.”
Committee member Langer then offered this statement, which I quote in full:
I do think this helps some of my concerns—I will just say “helps,” it doesn’t alleviate all of them, but, um, I would ask you to support the amendment [Sen. Kris Langer, discussion of 2017 HB 1073, in Senate State Affairs, PM meeting, 2017.03.01, timestamp 75:26].
To be clear, Senator Langer told Senate State Affairs nothing about why she wants a cost-of-living adjustment on the lobbying gift cap. Chairman Ewing called for a vote, and the amendment passed 6–3.
Following the amendment, South Dakota Chamber exec David Owen came to the mic and offered Senator Sutton and his colleagues no explanation of the COLA, either. But he did stroke his Republican friends’ sense of superior morality and martyrdom:
This is a well-written good limitation on gifts that replaces a completely unworkable version drafted and approved by the people, and here’s the tragedy that will befall all of you: the repeal of that unworkable work made page 1, dominated the news. This is a more workable solution, and I’ll bet it doesn’t make page 6 [David Owen, testimony, Senate State Affairs, PM meeting, 2017.03.01, timestamp 79:30].
Only two bills have been withdrawn. None have been voted down. Most have sailed easily through their votes. The only exceptions have been Capitol-shooter HB 1156, which passed the House 46–20, on the edge of veto-overridability, and permit-repealer HB 1072, which struggled out of House State Affairs last week 7–6 and has been deferred twice in the House to end up on the calendar today, Crossover Day, the last day on which each chamber can pass bills to send to the other chamber.
Gun groups have gotten five of the six bills they want from the House. That’s a better success rate than I’ve ever enjoyed on any particular agenda. Yet National Association for Gun Rights lobbyist Jordan Mason says that the delay of HB 1072 is Speaker G. Mark Mickelson’s effort to “kill our Second Amendment rights!” Mason also says Speaker Mickelson is treating him poorly:
Apparently – some think I’m being overly “aggressive” on Constitutional Carry with Speaker Mickelson.
I have been polite and courteous to all of our Representatives, including the Speaker. In fact, in early February when I first approached Speaker Mickelson on this bill to schedule an appointment to speak to him – it was Speaker Mickelson, that after asking if I was the “gun guy,” began ranting about how he would do “everything he could to kill our bill,” and then kicked me out of his office before even giving me the courtesy of allowing me to personally introduce myself. To be fair, I did ask him if I could at least introduce myself after he asked me to leave – which he allowed me, and then showed me the door. Even further, after Speaker Mickelson was absent in House State Affairs all morning on Feb. 15, walked in on our bill – without hearing testimony – only to vote “No.” And then, today, in his introduction of HB 1200 – a bill designed to intimidate members of organizations by compelling the disclosure of their affiliation – Speaker Mickelson named the organization I represent by name, clearly directing his intimidation efforts at our organization and attempting to shift the discussion to an ad hominem attack on our organization – not the issue or policy he presented.
In all of this – I have only asked vehemently that we only focus on the issue and to encourage Speaker Mickelson, our organization has simply reached out to his constituents about his actions and statements. If Speaker Mickelson doesn’t like hearing from his constituents, I believe there are other lines of work available for him to pursue where that isn’t a requirement.
I make no apology for continuing my oath to defend our Constitution and the rights within. I have done so honorably and I have no reason to apologize, nor do the people I represent [Jordan Mason, Facebook post, 2017.02.23].
The sad trend I see here is the gun absolutists unwillingness to compromise. Every little bill is a Constitutional crisis, a refighting of the Revolutionary War. Every tiny procedural delay is a sign of treason, a cause for mass electoral mobilization.
Get a grip, gun nuts. You’re already taking up more Legislative oxygen than your issue practically deserves. The concealed pistol permit is a reasonable requirement that helps us weed out bad actors. And the permit does not take away any of your Second Amendment rights: you can all strap a holster on your hip and proudly display your pistols around town all you want.
HB 1072’s delay is not the end of the world (though its provision allowing kids to carry concealed pistols with their parents could be the end of a few lives). HB 1072 is just another opportunity for impractical absolutists to grandstand about shiny toys that they will never use to resolve a policy debate, put food on the table, or raise anyone’s wages.
Our Republican legislators wag their fingers at us voters for passing Initiated Measure 22, which they repealed on the insistence that it was unconstitutional. But when they want to pass their own limits on campaign finance, Republican leaders gleefully ignore concerns about constitutionality.
The unconstitutional nature of HB 1074 is its obvious violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Freedom of speech applies to every citizen, regardless of home state. South Dakota cannot say, “South Dakotans can say X but Minnesotans cannot.” In this case, “say X” happens to be “write a check for $150,000 to SD Voice to promote Cory’s I&R amendment.”
Representative David Lust tried to make this point in House State Affairs, calling the $100K cap on out-of-state contributions to ballot question committees “censorship.” Speaker G. Mark Mickelson insists that the state has a compelling interest (key phrase to use when trying to override the First and Fourteenth Amendments) in limiting out-of-state contributions, but the case law Mickelson wishfully dismisses says no way:
University of Chicago Law School professor William Baude said he doubts it would survive a court challenge.
The U.S. Supreme Court declared in a 1981 decision that limits on contributions to ballot measure committees are unconstitutional under the First Amendment, said Paul S. Ryan, a vice president at the Washington watchdog Common Cause, which opposes big money in politics.
The high court has said that contributions to candidates can be limited to prevent the corruption of public officials, Ryan said. But, he said, the court found that with a ballot measure, unlike a candidate, there is nobody to corrupted, so there’s no legal justification for limiting donations [James Nord, “South Dakota Tries to Limit Outsiders’ Money in Initiatives,” AP via Pierre Capital Journal, 2017.02.15].
That ruling suggests Mickelson and friends can’t even impose the uniform cap on contributions to ballot question committees that Secretary of State Shantel Krebs originally proposed in Senate Bill 54. Amendments have stripped that cap from SB 54.
Contributions to a statewide ballot question committee from a person who is not a resident of the state at the time of any contribution, a political committee that is organized in a state other than South Dakota, or any other organization that is not filed as a domestic entity with the secretary of state for the four years preceding a contribution may not exceed one hundred thousand dollars in the aggregate for a general election cycle [2017 HB 1074, Section 1, excerpt, as amended 2017.02.15].
If I’m a billionaire who wants to plunk over $100K into a South Dakota ballot question committee, I can show a little foresight, organize an entity in the state this year, and be ready to pour unlimited funds into a petition drive in 2021. Or I can hire a lawyer or Lisa Furlong to organize a political committee for me in South Dakota and start transferring money right now. Or I can call up MyDakotaAddress.com in Madison, rent a mailbox, and establish my personal South Dakota residency in days.
Those holes in HB 1074 will render it useless in stopping what Mickelson and friends say they want to stop. The Constitution says they can’t stop what they want to stop. But when HB 1074 comes to the House floor this week, these Republicans will continue to insist that their desire to rein in initiative and referendum is worth a losing fight in court.
Folks who think that action ended the South Dakota Legislature’s sex scandal should tune in to The Greg Belfrage Show on KELO Radio tomorrow (Wednesday) morning at 8:05 a.m., when Belfrage will interview Senator Stace Nelson about who knew what when.
For the attention of the AG and for the record with House leadership, the following information is provided as written documentation of information already passed to several of you in person which I received from former interns who served in the House in 2015.
Two former interns reported the suspect legislator in fact knowingly gave alcoholic beverages to a known minor in 2015 on at least one occasion. One intern reported that he allegedly engaged in kissing and fondling of an intern, allegedly in front of at least one other, who was so intoxicated the intern opined the young intern may not have been sober enough to consent to the contact. To be clear, interns identified 2 interns he (the legislator) had consensual sexual intercourse with in 2015, another different one he groped while she was extremely intoxicated, and another one that he sexually harassed and outraged when he was caught trying to “get with” multiple pages. The interns indicated he was texting them constantly through out (sic) the day trying to “get with” the female interns.
Several House leadership members confirmed that written complaints were received by House leadership members, last year, allegedly alluding to the sexual contact with interns and pages , (sic) and when the one intern was extremely intoxicated. . . [Senator Stace Nelson, e-mail to Legislative leaders, Attorney General Marty Jackley, and LRC Director Jason Hancock, 2017.01.19; in Todd Epp, “Legislators Likely Knew in 2015 That a Member Was Having Sex with Interns,” KELO.com, 2017.01.24].
Just after Wollmann’s announcement, KSFY News spoke with Former House Speaker, Dean Wink, who had been out of state for the last week. Wink told KSFY News reporter Erika Leigh that he became aware of Wollmann’s relationships with interns back in 2015, after receiving an unsigned letter that appeared to have come from an intern.
Wink says he confronted Wollmann then, but the former legislator denied the allegations. The former House Speaker said he believed him, despite the whispers that resurfaced again near the end of the 2016 session.
“I asked Rep. Wollmann to come to my office and discuss the content of the letter, and [we] agreed that dating interns is completely inappropriate and out of bounds for all the obvious reasons,” Wink explained.
Reporter(s) stated they have been working on this for an extended period of time based off of complaints they received last year which they discussed with leadership (NFI). TV news reporter explicitly told me to relay to a legislator whom she believed made a misstatement of fact in describing the timeframe he became aware of this misconduct, that the suspect legislator of this misconduct “lied” when confronted, and only confessed to (limited aspects) the misconduct when she advised him that she was in possession of a taped interview with a former intern. It is my understanding that interview is extensive, confirms everything contained herein, and much more [Senator Stace Nelson, e-mail to Legislature and A.G. Jackley, 2017.01.20].
Wollmann’s lie, followed by his fatuous observation about his experience in film-making, already cast his confession in a bad light. If the information about the taped intern interview is true, then it appears all the clearer that Wollmann was ready to keep lying, as former Speaker Dean Wink claims Wollmann did when confronted about accusations of sexual misconduct in 2015, until faced with the cold hard fact that someone had finally spoken up to stop him.
Finally, correspondence between Senator Nelson and House Speaker G. Mark Mickelson indicate the nature of the deeper scandal here, the possibility that Republican leaders did not adhere to their own rules in handling Wollmann’s misconduct. Senator Nelson apparently shared accusations about Wollmann’s misconduct with Speaker Mickelson prior to the airing of Wollmann’s confession on KSFY. Speaker Mickelson responded with this letter on Tuesday, January 17, the day before the Wollmann story went public:
Senator Nelson responded by e-mail Wednesday morning, seven hours before KSFY posted the Wollmann story:
I am in receipt of your request which runs directly contrary to the explicit provisions of the Joint Rules of the SD Legislature. I am forwarding you LRC’s official response of how these allegations were supposed to be handled when they were first brought forward to House leadership over the last two years, and how they must be followed now.
It greatly concerns me that you are purposely inserting yourself into a situation in which you have such an obvious conflict of interest which would clearly require you to recuse yourself.
#1 Legislative rules required all legislators aware of this misconduct to report it. Reports from legislators expressly indicate that leadership received timely complaints over the last two years, and did not follow the Joint Rules in handling the complaints that they received. In doing so, they themselves violated the ethical standards and requirements of our legislative rules.
Your request is duly inappropriate in that it violates the due process rights of the accused explicit in the requirements of our Joint Rules; it inappropriately attempts to assume authorities not granted you by statutes or rules and it clearly subverts the authority of your fellow House members who collectively share the responsibility to investigate this reported misconduct under the Joint Rules of the SD Legislature; AND, it violates the due process rights of the victims of this misconduct who deserve(d) to have this misconduct thoroughly and impartially addressed in a timely fashion required under our Joint Rules.
…In closing, I have been told by more than one person that House leadership stated that Nelson made all of this up and brought the rules change as a vendetta to harass the suspect legislator and his fiancé. That comment, in light of the above information, convinces me that this is an extension of the efforts to cover this matter up and protect the legislator your own colleagues have called a “sexual predator” [link added; Senator Stace Nelson, e-mail to Speaker G. Mark Mickelson, 2017.01.18].
House Majority Leader Lee Qualm brought his motion that afternoon to convene a Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion. Speaker Mickelson named the nine members of the committee the next day.
Karl Adam, Miles Beacom, David H. Billion, John Calvin, Harry Christianson, Dana Dykhouse, Gil Haugen Construction, Tim Kessler, Dan Kirby, Nancy Neff, Larry Ness, Elaine Pacquin, POET, Thomas Reaves, Art Russo, Kevin Schieffer—these big-dollar donors and a whole lot of other Republicans need to find another horse to back in the 2018 gubernatorial race. Rep. G. Mark Mickelson, fresh off his easy reëlection to the District 13 House, announced today he’s backing out of his bid for the seat his dad and his grandpa occupied on the second floor of the Capitol:
He says it’s difficult to raise his sons if he’s out campaigning. In a letter sent this week to supporters, Mickelson says he expects to refund contributions to his political action committee, which has raised nearly $1 million [“Rep. Mark Mickelson Opts out of Running for Governor in 2018,” AP via Sioux City Journal, 2016.11.10].
Since forming his gubernatorial race PAC in August 2015, Mickelson had raised $922,641.98. He spent $52,487.28 on himself and $22,750 on 42 fellow legislators campaigns and Chris Nelson and the Butte County GOP in this year’s election. He thus has $847,404.70 left to send back to Adam, Beacom, Billion, et al. If everyone accepts an 8% discount on those refunds, Mickelson can cover everyone.
Looking at who might be left, likely relieved GOP rival Marty Jackley has $289,390.08 on hand in his gov-PAC as of the end of October plus $413,395.63 in his A.G.-PAC as of last April. Kristi Noem appears not to have created any such state PAC, and I don’t think she can dump her million-plus from her Congressional campaign fund into a state run. Matt Michels was sitting on $15,678.98 at the time of his last report last December. This blog’s favorite surprise Republican candidate for governor in 2018, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs, had only $1,151.24 in her SOS campaign committee back in January.
Note that Mickelson’s demurral leaves the door open for another Sioux Falls candidate to claim the Queen City of the East’s 2018 voters. Paging Mayor Mike Huether?