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Call for Proposals: What Bills Should SD Legislature Pass in 2016?

We tried this heading into the 2014 Session; let’s try it again! 

Dakota Free Press readers include some of the sharpest policy thinkers in state. So let’s put on our thinking caps and come up with some proposals for the 2016 South Dakota Legislature to consider that would make our state better.

lady tin foil hat
No no no—I said thinking caps, people!

Two years ago, you readers came up with a basket of proposals, which we narrowed down to five specific bills for the Legislature to legalize industrial hempreduce the Governor’s authority to fill vacancies in the Legislature, reduce the tax on food and raise the tax on booze, require the state to match economic development spending with boosts to K-12 and higher ed funding, and a combo bill creating a unicameral Legislature and creating a bipartisan redistricting commission.

A redistricting commission proposal is already headed for our 2016 ballot. The other topics above certainly remain relevant. But what else can you come up with? Perhaps a funding and accountability mechanism for the Blue Ribbon K-12 teacher pay recommendations? (Remember, you’re competing with Rep. Lance Russell, Rep. Lee SchoenbeckStan Adelstein, and me for ideas there!) Perhaps a reduced cap on no-bid contracts or the elimination of education service agencies to prevent corruption?

Or how about some repeals? What laws can you think of that we could strike from the books and make an immediate and positive difference in South Dakotans’ lives?

Submit and debate your proposals in the comment section. After Christmas, I’ll unscientifically select the most promising and/or provocative topics and poll them here on Dakota Free Press. Then we can draft and refine the most popular measures into honest-to-goodness proposals for legislation that some brave legislator could throw in the hopper by the time the 2016 Session opens on January 12.

Remember, we want South Dakota proposals, real bills that Pierre could pass and act on. Save your resolutions and calls for an Article V Constitutional Convention for your own thumb-twiddling legislators—we want real problem-solving!


  1. Donald Pay 2015-12-23 12:08

    I would suggest a bill that updates and strengthens, but mirrors the concept of, the 1984 initiative on nuclear waste.

    With the federal government undertaking a new round of studies for radioactive waste storage sites and repositories which prominently mention South Dakota as a possibility, and the beginning of a new concept for “consent-based siting” for such repositories, it makes sense to get out front of this issue. South Dakota would not need this new effort, except for the fact that the 1984 initiative was repealed in a truly gutless way by the Legislature in a 100+ page bill in, I think, 1987.

    Gov. Daugaard at one point wrote that he would not agree to any radioactive waste site in South Dakota absent a vote of the people, yet he has made no effort to put forth a mechanism that would bring that vote to fruition. Absent a mechanism, his words are meaningless.

  2. Roger Elgersma 2015-12-23 13:24

    End the death penalty.

  3. Roger Elgersma 2015-12-23 13:30

    End TIFs except for truly deteriorated neighborhoods. That is what they were supposed to be for now we got a TIF for a luxury building next to the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls.
    Anyone can say that their big new building will improve the neighborhood and increase tax rates but that is not enough reason for the neighbors to pay less than you do.
    Ending all TIFs would be ok since they are only meant to be used in neighborhoods that are so run down that the real estate values are real low. That low price of land should be a good incentive and the size of a whole deteriorated neighborhood would be enticing to a big project that needed a lot of land which is not usually available in a city all in one place anyways.

  4. Roger Elgersma 2015-12-23 13:34

    End RV voting. The republicans do not need the advantage in this state anyways and it takes votes out of states that any republican would rather had more republican votes anyways. If people voted where they really lived, they would be much wiser voters and be more likely to be informed voters. Ones own selfish immediate goals are not always for the common good or even good for you yourself.

  5. Roger Elgersma 2015-12-23 13:37

    Get rid of the Gag Law. This was put in while Janklow did not want Dick Butler to be telling people all the wrong places that the state was putting money. With the threat that the Gag Law puts on state employees that if they tell the truth when there is a problem that they will go to jail and get fined, we now have created a culture where lots of state money can disappear in a program like EB 5 or Gear Up and we get a disaster before it gets caught. Taking away the guarantee that no one will tell will reduce the bravery of those who are inclined to cheat.

  6. leslie 2015-12-23 13:59

    How about a whistle-blower law instead?

  7. Roger Elgersma 2015-12-23 13:59

    Hire more auditors to check on budgets. We had a problem in Sioux Falls of hundreds on people on housing assistance that were not eligible. Haley Higgins of KELO did a wonderful job of investigating and reporting on this and finally someone started to fix the problem, or I assume there was an improvement. This should have been caught before.
    When I farmed in Minnesota I lived right next to a state highway. I noticed that the snow plows did not start till the snow stopped falling and in a long slow snowstorm there was a lot of traffic that packed a lot of snow on the road which would freeze and stay all winter.
    The next year they got a new director of the local state road crew and when he moved to town he happened to join our church. He has been a snow plow driver a long time and was new at management. I told him that if they would start earlier and drive faster they could throw the snow all the way to the fence line so it would not pile up and they could go fast enough that they could make more trips in the same time so they could plow it both while it was snowing and after the last snow and not get a lot more hours overtime. This worked real well and he got an award for the cleanest roads in the state and a promotion to a larger territory. But in the process the auditors noticed that it took fifteen hundred gallons more fuel to drive faster and make two trips rather than one. Since the employee hours had not risen, the state came and severely accused the workers of someone stealing fuel. One of the workers was on the county central Democrat committee with me and seriously advised that I give no more opinions since they had been harassed bad for two days. Then they realized that it took more miles and the auditors checked the odometers and found that they had used a realistic amount of fuel, so the accusations were over. Later when I moved to Sioux Falls one of the cities snow plow drivers told me that the people from Pipestone had showed the Sioux Falls street department the idea of plowing before the snow stopped falling and it works good here as well.
    So in Minnesota they have a lot of taxes and government services but they watch the money close enough that even a change in management is noticed right away and there is no cheating or corruption to speak of. They could make a change to improve and keep a good change but they do not get huge problems before anyone notices it. Watching the money is money well spent.

  8. Roger Elgersma 2015-12-23 14:02

    Leslie, both get rid of the Gag Law and a whistle blower law. Run them together and call it a government efficiency law rather than an anti corruption law since the republicans could not stomach the fact that they have corruption.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-23 14:08

    Donald, is the text of that 1984 initiative available online?

  10. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-23 14:10

    Roger, refresh me on the gag law—where is that in statute? That’s the thing Janklow pushed to shut Dick Butler up, right?

    Hire more auditors—is that a separate bill, or does that just need to be a line in the budget for more money and FTEs for the Department of Legislative Audit?

    Leslie, Roger, what would a whistleblower law look like? Which states have good examples with proven results?

  11. Craig 2015-12-23 14:14

    “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” ~Benjamin Franklin

    With that in mind, it is time we admit the reason our state is 4Xth or 50th in so many areas is because we keep doing the same things year after year, cycle after cycle. Thus it is time for new ideas and some bold vision.

    Tax Reform: Add a corporate income tax (albeit lower than the national average) and a personal income tax (again lower than the national average). Start taxing certain types of professional services and tax advertising. Offset these by lowering property taxes and eliminating sales taxes on unprepared food and on medically related items / services. This puts more dollars in the hands of the low incomes and working middle class and shifts the tax burden onto the individuals and companies who can most bear it.

    Crime Reform: Repeal the death penalty and ensure the maximum penalty for crimes involves prison time with no possibility of parole. Increase mandatory minimum sentences for drunk driving / impaired driving and repeat criminals. Remove non-violent, non-repeat offenders from jails and prisons and instead rely upon less expensive monitoring coupled with increased fines. Give lower income offenders the ability of offsetting any fines levied against them by performing community service or by completing educational programs (as applicable).

    Education Reform: Increase funding for education with specific earmarks towards teacher salaries. Setup a commission to research school density and determine if any type of school consolidation would result in increased opportunities for students and/or what economic impacts they would have and set a timeline for the recommendations of the commission to be phased in over a 15-20 year period as new facilities are needed. Consider county based schools rather than city based schools in areas where the number of students per grade level is less than 50.

    Technology Reform: Treat broadband as a necessary utility much like clean water and electricity. Take steps to ensure every resident of the state has access to broadband service and regulate it to control costs. If Google can offer Google Fiber to major metro areas for 60-70% less cost than existing companies, a state should be able to do the same. Migrate all state records onto an electronic system allowing driver’s license, birth records, marriage records, hunting licenses, concealed carry permits etc. to be stored and accessed electronically without the need for citizens to “show their papers” (when feasible and applicable).

    Political Reform: Voting districts shall be aligned by county borders and the number of representatives shall be based upon population (adjusted with each future census). No person shall be elected to serve more than two terms (total) in either the State Senate or State House. Any elected official who wishes to campaign for another elected position must resign his or her current position prior to declaring their candidacy for the new office. All persons running for statewide political office must have been a citizen of South Dakota for no less than 180 days prior to filing campaign paperwork.

    All citizens are automatically opted-in to vote and have to choose to remove themselves from the voting roles. All voters must have a physical residence within the state and have had to be physically present in the state for no less than 100 days in the prior calendar year in order to be eligible to vote (exclusions allowed for active duty military etc.). All electronic voting machines MUST produce paper “receipts” indicating how a person voted (codes will be used to ensure personally identifying information is not printed). These receipts can then be used to audit final election results to ensure open and honest elections.

    All donations to political parties will be stored in an electronic format, and any state contract, employment offer, or other potential benefit given must have any donations linked to that individual or company within the past 10 years must be disclosed in writing at the time of the contract/offer. Membership to any ‘club’ or group associated with elected officials will be publicly disclosed.

    Logic Reform: Eliminate Daylight Savings Time. Allow absentee voting via smartphone, computer or tablet from the comfort of one’s home (if we can safely log into our bank accounts online we can surely log into an electronic voting platform). Promote and teach the metric system. Ban cable and satellite providers from broadcasting any television show which features the Kardashian family to any resident. Change the state motto from “Under God the People Rule” to simply “ówaŋžila” (Lakota for In Unity).

  12. Roger Elgersma 2015-12-23 14:38

    With a law for more auditing, it would first seem that either more money for the department and more ftes would do it. But since there was hundreds of people getting housing assistance and a few making over fifty thousand, and apparently no one getting caught, and since the Gear Up had books not matching from ending balance to beginning balance month after month for years, there is apparently no one watching at all. So in this big of a gap between reality and what should be, they may need a law to open another branch in the Auditors office to make a point and to assure it gets done. When they notice a few hundred gallons of fuel in Minnesota and notice nothing here is a major difference. I once met someone who was a school principal on the rez for twenty years and an alcoholic those twenty years and no one noticed till he quit drinking and became a pastor so he quit on his own with no one checking. Many things need to be getting some oversight here and blabbing about local control just does not get the job done right in South Dakota.
    Yes, I think the situation is dire enough to have a whole law about it.

  13. Roger Elgersma 2015-12-23 14:40

    The whistle blower laws I have heard of give the whistle blower a percentage of the amount of money that would be saved in one year after the correction is made. Maybe fifty percent if I remember correctly. I do not remember if that was federal or a state law.

  14. Roger Elgersma 2015-12-23 14:45

    For an RV voting law, I do think that they should be disenfranchised of their voting and citizen rights if they do not live here more than three months per year. They simply are not living as citizens here. If someone retires and travels all year round then do need to be a citizen somewhere so they could be grandfathered in by proof that they are retired and did live here previously five years of their life.

  15. Roger Elgersma 2015-12-23 14:56

    I heard Dick Butler talk at democratic forum and said he had found state bank accounts under the names of kids of state officials. But now he could not tell us who they were anymore. I think I have time to look up the statute today.
    Larry Long was the AG who wrote the bill. As soon as Janklow was finished as governor the legislators were going to Pierre with eighty percent for getting rid of the Gag Law. Larry Long got them behind closed doors and told them why they wanted to keep secrets and told the press that he would have to analyze the law first so they could change it without other complications. Well he did not have to analyze it to understand it since he wrote it and knew everything about it already. Later he became a judge and when another judge told democratic forum about a case that the courts had thrown, she got fired and Larry Long was the head judge in this district at the time. He is a major advocate of cover ups.
    So we not only need to get rid of a bad law but also to get rid of those who wrongly use a bad law. Getting rid of the bad law will weed out some and slow up others. I am not sure how to write a law to get rid of those who cover things up unless we use their tactic of fining and jailing those who cover things up rather than fining and jailing those who tell.

  16. Paul Seamans 2015-12-23 15:11

    I like Donald Pay’s thoughts on uranium issues. I would suggest reforms on eminent domain laws. Presently it is to easy for corporations like pipeline companies to condemn land for their private gain.

  17. Rorschach 2015-12-23 15:16

    Your memory is not 100% Roger. Mark Barnett was the AG when Janklow was governor and the gag law was written. Larry Long did not fire any judges. Circuit Judges are elected and can’t be fired. Magistrate judges are appointed to 4-year terms and cannot be fired either. They can be convinced to resign, but no magistrates of either gender have been ushered out since Larry Long has been chief judge.

    It is true that politicians engage in politics while in office. I have found that Larry Long has been a fine and thoughtful judge since leaving his political role.

  18. grudznick 2015-12-23 16:17

    I like Mr. Pay’s idea too and I may offer my own nuclear burying ideas too. Mr. Pay has them running through his brain most waking minutes so I will not have given my ideas as much thought, so I must warn you.

    I have some other good reforming ideas too. You will all like them.

  19. JSR 2015-12-23 19:29

    Totally reorganize school districts. 150? Or so is too many. Use economies of scale to make us more efficient with the low number of teachers we have and more efficient with the dollars we spend. Especially east river, west river would be limited due to distance.

  20. grudznick 2015-12-23 19:37

    Consolidate SD counties down to 35 or less. Make school boards subservient to county commissions.

  21. Douglas Wiken 2015-12-23 21:04

    Roger E on snow removal makes sense. I have been trying to get that idea across here in Winner and Tripp County. Years ago my MIL flew to Arizona to visit her daughter there. She came back 45 days later. The ice on the streets here when she left was still here. We had a string of very cold days and despite hopes of the city streets manager, God did not take care of the ice problem. It seems obvious that moving snow is easier than scraping ice of the streets and highways. Sometimes as Ambrose Bierce, the writer of the Devil’s dictionary, noted, “Chinese cheap labor is not inexpensive.” The same is true for Chinese cheap for road and street maintenance. Driving to Rapid City last week, I saw four semi-trucks in the ditch or median, one with 4 large transformers on a flatbed stopped just before the grade east of Wasta turned into a near canyon. I think most of those resulted because of fog, but I don’t know. One was laying on its side. This is not a law change, but a policy change that is needed. The State Highway Dept. and Highway Patrol should not allow over-width loads on highways or interstate when they are only partially plowed. A bunch of us got behind a slow semi pulling a house or half of one that was 12 or 14 feet wide. It was unsafe to pass for dozens of miles because of slush and ice in the passing lane.

  22. Ed 2015-12-24 09:35

    I agree with Paul Seamans that the eminent domain laws should be revamped so that only public, non-profit entities like rural water systems, highways, and rural electrics would be able to use eminent domain if necessary. Privately owned for-profit firms like oil companies and real estate developers should not be allowed to have the power of eminent domain.

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-24 10:15

    Craig, that’s a far more comprehensive and transformative package of legislation than we usually hear from our politicians. Care to run for Legislature next year?

    Permit me to respond to each plank individually, even though I can see useful connections among the planks.

    On tax reform, I have no doubt we could easily gain useful revenue by setting corporate and income tax rates below federal levels and offsetting other state taxes. Taxing proportionate to ability to bear the burden makes perfect sense. Can we keep our state income tax clean, with one neat standard deduction and personal exemption and no loopholes?

  24. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-24 10:16

    Craig’s criminal justice proposals are similarly progressive: punish lawbreakers, but don’t hit low-income lawbreakers so hard that they are stuck in the poverty that might have inclined them to choose a life of crime in the first place. Punish in ways that rehabilitate and more surely prevent the convict from returning to that life of crime.

    Death penalty repeal failed to get out of first committee in the 2015 Session—do you suppose Pastor Hickey can bring some good theological arguments back from Scotland and help push a repeal further in the 2016 Session?

    By the way, Scotland has no death penalty, and there is less crime now than before abolition of the death penalty 50 years ago. Correlation….

  25. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-24 10:30

    On education reform—let’s fuse Craig, JSR, and Grudz’s comments (and invite Kurtz to jump in): school and county consolidation could produce some efficiencies, although the Blue Ribbon K-12 panel didn’t seem to think so… or at least they didn’t think the savings would make a sufficiently compelling case to provoke the firestorm that would accompany taking away lots of small-town autonomy. We could talk about just consolidating administration without closing any schools, but administrative salaries don’t make up a big enough chunk of the budget to render enormous assistance in raising teacher pay.

    Curious: how did we evolve a system in which public schools operate as a separate governmental entity? What would we gain and what would we lose if we folded management of schools into the duties of county commissions? If we did put county commissions in charge of school district management, would we want to make county elections non-partisan the way school board elections are?

  26. mike from iowa 2015-12-24 11:04

    From 2014- SOUTH DAKOTA
    Whistleblower protection laws previously appearing in our South Dakota Scorecard were repealed
    and now appear in new locations within the state’s codified laws. They are: S.D. Codified Laws § 3-
    6C-19 (freedom of speech); S.D. Codified Laws § 3-6D-22 (retaliation); S.D. Codified Laws § 3-6D-5
    (general protections for civil servants). This was just a reorganization. Says nothing about rewards-only that employees can’t be disciplined.

  27. leslie 2015-12-24 13:33

    good eye. 6D-4 exclusions and 6D-8 seem to require standards of employment countering favoritism, but excludes much of the executive branch and others like SOS. sneaky? no experience with this.

  28. grudznick 2015-12-24 14:11

    3-6D covers state civil service. It says so right at the top. That means the people in the GRUE but not the people who are not union members. This would mean the only tattletales that would come forward are union members and we know the unions are dying.

  29. leslie 2015-12-24 14:49

    its ch. 3-6D assh*le. happy holiday and thank you. please define and elaborate from your vast personal wealth of experience, how we could expand this to trap the likes of the obvious administrative abuses we talk alot about here. otherwise go talk to pp and others of your persuasion rather than your constant undermining trollings. :)

  30. Lynn 2015-12-24 15:15

    leslie, Whoa! Ease up there. It’s Christmas Eve for some of us. Time for joy and happiness not anger.

  31. Donald Pay 2015-12-24 15:33

    I’ve thought, too, that school/county consolidation/fusion makes sense, but I never had the guts to speak or write it. That would have to mean the fused school/county position would be non-partisan. That would be a good change, I think, and it might pilot a later effort toward a non-partisan unicameral legislature. Or, why not think HUGE, and do it all at once.

  32. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-24 15:59

    On Craig’s technology reform proposal: expanding the broadband network to all residents is a major public infrastructure investment; digitization of licenses and other records is a possibly complicated BIT software project. Yet the two do hang together: a key reason to ensure everyone has access to broadband is to ensure that everyone has equal access to online licenses and government records. We need to invite Daniel Buresh in to help us estimate costs

  33. Roger Elgersma 2015-12-24 16:21

    Rorschach, then Larry Long was the assistant AG when the Gag Law was written. Another judge told us that Pat Reipel had to quit when Larry happened to be the top judge in this district. She had said that there was a few cases where a judge had thrown a case and when asked why she had said that when I was there she said that I needed to know that the system could improve for my peace of mind. So I went around town saying they fired the honest judge and finally got her back. When Staggars, an old Republican who said to me, ‘well she told’ said to me that some thought is was the right thing to do.

  34. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-24 16:38

    Paul, eminent domain reform could be tricky. Should we do something like Iowa considered, the plan to require consent of a certain supermajority of landowners along the route of a proposed project? Or should we tighten the definition of “common carrier” that has allowed TransCanada and Dakota Access/Energy Transfer Partners to have their way with us?

  35. Paul Seamans 2015-12-24 17:59

    Cory, I need to study Iowa’s eminent domain laws. I believe that in Iowa common carriers need to go before the Iowa Utility Board to prove that they qualify for common carrier status. In South Dakota all they have to do is declare that they are a common carrier. That is one thing that needs to be changed.

    I really do like the idea that before a corporation can use eminent domain that they have to obtain voluntary easements from a certain percentage of landowners before they can use eminent domain. I like the 75% figure. TransCanada always liked to claim that they obtained 100% of their easements in South Dakota from willing signers. If that’s the case then 75% should be a piece of cake.

  36. grudznick 2015-12-24 18:09

    Here’s one all you big government fellows should be able to pile onto: every contract from every government should be put on Google. Every school contract and city board contract and county mowing contract and state E-B5 contract should be able to be on Google.

  37. leslie 2015-12-25 23:08

    it seems to me if we wanted to be out front technologically, we’d form a new department of digital networking the size of GFP or DENR as the utility and necessity of oversight and understanding easily equals minerals and moose. Also a Department of Independent Audit of State Functions.

  38. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-26 07:37

    Whistleblower law… I notice that the Anti-Corruption Act (Initiated Measure 22, if SOS Krebs certifies all pending ballot question petitions), Section 41, requires the state ethics commission to maintain a telephone hotline and a website through which individuals can anonymously report instances of corruption in state government. Of course, people already have such a hotline in the form of Dakota Free Press….

  39. Mark Winegar 2015-12-26 14:25

    Let’s make it a felony to misrepresent the truth on the House and Senate floors.

  40. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-26 14:39

    Mark, treat every statement on the House or Senate floor as a statement made under oath, subject to perjury? Would a prosecutor have difficulty proving intent to lie?

    Note that to pass such a law, we’d have to change Article 3, Section 11 of the state constitution, which privileges legislators from arrest for “for words used in any speech or debate in either house.”

  41. Roger Elgersma 2015-12-26 14:46

    I do not like the idea of putting county commission and school board into one. I think that it is good that everyone on the school board has interest and expertise on schools and education and not have a first priority of roads and taxes. Education is important enough and a big enough part of the budget that they should have their own boards etc.

  42. bret clanton 2015-12-26 20:14

    I believe a law requiring all blog commenters to post in the name that appears on their birth certificate would be appropriate….

  43. jerry 2015-12-26 20:20

    Would that be the name on the long form or the short form Mr. Clanton

  44. grudznick 2015-12-26 20:23

    We have these fancy technologies these days. The emails of every state employee making more than $40,000 and the emails of every single elected official including the legislatures should be posted in reality time on a web page that people could read and search.

  45. grudznick 2015-12-26 20:31

    A law that declares all people posting on blogs to be journalists and letting them have free tickets to events would be good and drive more people to bloggings.

  46. bret clanton 2015-12-26 20:34

    Which ever one would reveal the handsome person behind the computer screen Jerry…..

  47. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-12-27 13:44

    Careful, Bret: make any law concerning birth certificates, and some Republican will hoghouse it to require that we refer to any blog commenter by the personal pronoun dictated by the sex indicated on his/her birth certificate.

    Grudz, how about just requiring that all state employees communicate via public messages on Facebook?

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