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Feickert and Frerichs Talk School Funding, Grassy Strips, CAFOs in Aberdeen

Rep. Dennis Feickert
Rep. Dennis Feickert

Rep. Dennis Feickert (D-1/Aberdeen) and Senator Jason Frerichs (D-1/Wilmot) spoke yesterday at a packed Brown County Democratic Forum. Both men discussed the 2016 Legislative Session.

School Funding: Rep. Feickert defended his vote against House Bill 1182, the half-penny sales tax to fund teacher pay raises, as “the right thing to do.” He likened this year’s sales tax increase to last year’s tax increase to fund road repairs and said both measures exemplify the Republicans’ habit of creating crises before taking action. (Rep. Feickert did vote for last year’s road bill.)

Senator Frerichs vote for HB 1182, but the farm machinery tax remains a burr under his tractor seat. He says the hit ag producers take paying an extra $500 per $100K of machinery on top of the general sales tax they pay with everyone else outweighs the thirty cents an acre they may get in property tax relief. Senator Frerichs notes that the majority of the property tax relief goes to commercial property owners who were left out of the Janklow property tax relief of the 1990s. The property tax relief will be divvied out proportionate to the general education levy on each sector, and commercial property has a mill levy five and half times higher than the ag levy and over twice as high as the residential levy.

Senator Frerichs noted that he did not sign onto the Democratic funding alternative, SB 151, because he generally opposes more sales tax. He said he has gone on record many times in favor of a corporate income tax, most recently in this year’s SJR 2, to get Walmart and other corporations to take some of our tax burden off working folks.

On SB 159, the stealth voucher bill that will take funding away from public schools, Frerichs said the state constitution is pretty clear on not allowing “credits” to go toward religious education. He also nodded toward the potential conflict of interest the prime sponsor may have, given her husband’s involvement with the insurance industry that stands to save two million dollars thanks to SB 159.

Grassy Buffer Strips: Feickert and Frerichs both supported Senate Bill 136, the conservation tax incentive pushed by their fellow farmer Senator Jim Peterson (D-4/Revillo). Feickert expressed frustration that big industry groups like the Farm Bureau and South Dakota Corn Growers who claim to represent farmers would oppose a bill intended to give farmers a tax break based on the actual use of their land and to give ag producers more credibility as real stewards of the land. Feickert praised the South Dakota Grassland Coalition for the work they did to pass SB 136. Feickert noted that the Governor proposed spending $1.5 million to restore pheasant habitat last year (the final bill appropriated $350K, but Governor Daugaard has called for more), yet the Governor has opposed the habitat-boosting SB 136. Feickert said SB 136 makes a point to the Governor on support for conservation.

Sen. Jason Frerichs
Sen. Jason Frerichs

CAFOs: Frerichs and Feickert both expressed dismay over Rep. Mark Mickelson’s (R-13/Sioux Falls) narrow-minded focus on promoting concentrated animal feeding operations as the only option for promoting ag production in South Dakota. Frerichs said he’s not opposed to development if it’s done right. CAFO developers have to be neighbors. Frerichs says the CAFOs that see their permits rejected by local government usually lose because they don’t work with their neighbors but try to drop their big plans on locals without notice or cooperation. Frerichs said Mickelson’s HB 1140 this session is worse than the pro-CAFO deregulation he brought last year. Feickert agreed, saying Mickelson is trying to remove local control from the CAFO permitting process, an odd position for a Republican to take.

Medicaid Expansion: Frerichs joined Senator Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton) in voting against the FY2017 budget Friday. He said that the Legislature should have authorized the $373 million in federal spending necessary for Medicaid expansion. Even if the policy isn’t fully hammered out, there was no reason the Legislature had to wait to say, “Spend Uncle Sam’s money if we get it!” Frerichs said removing that funding item is pure politics: Governor Dennis Daugaard just wants to protect certain Republican legislators from primary challengers eager to scream “Obamacare!” one last time.

Highway 12: Outside of the Legislature, Feickert said he attended a Department of Transportation meeting last Thursday, at which Transportation officials recognized the stretch of Highway 12 from Aberdeen to Ipswich as a high-risk zone. Feickert said “99%” of the accidents there are due to driver error. He reported that Rep. Michele Harrison (R-23/Mobridge) is asking DOT to extend the divided four-laner west from Aberdeen, but Feickert says the state won’t pursue that costly option. Instead, he said we may see DOT bid out center rumble strips, which are far more cost-effective than laying new concrete.

What’s Next? Feickert is termed out of the House and does not plan to run for Senate. He says he’s happy to get back to haying and calving north of Aberdeen. Frerichs just got married last summer, but he has filed to run for another term in the Senate. Prodded by an audience member who indicated a desire to see Frerichs run for higher office, Frerichs said the Dems have an “awesome bench” with members like Senators Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke) and Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission). He said he’d love to see Stephanie Herseth Sandlin run for Governor, but he noted he gets along great with Sioux Falls mayor Mike Huether, too. Frerichs said he “will run for something,” but he said his biggest focus after family is agriculture.

3 Comments

  1. Rorschach 2016-03-15

    I’m glad we have these two great guys working for us. They are relatively conservative Democrats, but their hearts are in the right place. I don’t begrudge Rep. Feickert his protest vote on the regressive sales tax increase as he forced one additional Republican to flip flop and support a tax increase. And he’s right. Republicans don’t do anything around here until they have created a crisis and let it fester for awhile.

    I’d like to see Stephanie run for governor too because I know she could win and carry a lot of Democrats into office with her. I would not be surprised to see Sen. Frerichs run for governor some day.

  2. Ken Santema 2016-03-15

    I could see Frerichs running for Gov. I think he is they type of candidate they need to look towards. The problem is they need to find a way to give any candidate like him experience campaigning. One of Wismers biggest problems two years ago was lack of experience campaigning, and it showed. District 1 unfortunately doesn’t get any general election competition.

  3. Jenny 2016-03-15

    The democrat legislator I was most impressed of watching this year is Troy Heinnert from Mission. Cory has agreed with me on here that SDDP needs to keep him in mind. I don’t know if he’s ever been mentioned before as a possible candidate for higher office, but out of all the SD Dems I heard, this guy I found most impressive. He’s a very smart debater, articulate with genuine charisma and doesn’t play it cautious like a lot of the SD Dem legislators feel like they have to. He’ll tell it the way it is, which is something I think the SDDP needs these days. Please SDDP keep this guy in mind. Invite him to your meetings or whatever you guys are doing to find people these days.

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