The six opening statements given at yesterday’s crackerbarrel in Aberdeen show that rookie Rep. Drew Dennert is the biggest policy nerd in the group, while Senator Al Novstrup is the biggest peddler of pablum in the bunch.
Moderator Mike Bockorny gave each of the legislators two and a half minutes to offer general or prepared comments before getting to voter questions. Senate Pro-Tem Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) opened the show mostly harmlessly with mention the precision agriculture facility proposed for SDSU (SB 183, SB 194, and HB 1264) and the building-funding bills for NSU (HB 1061 and HB 1071) and a promise to try (cue Master Yoda) to find more money for community service providers and state employees.
Brock’s mom Lana—i.e., Representative Lana Greenfield (R-2/Doland) said she learned about wine and some out-of-state hooch being bogusly labeled as South Dakota products in House Commerce and Energy Wednesday. She also noted the bills she helped kill that would have allowed local governments to publish their notices online instead of in the newspaper (see HB 1141 and HB 1142).
The only Democrat at the podium, Senator Jason Frerichs (D-1/Wilmot), agreed with Senator Greenfield that the new SDSU precision ag facility deserves funding. He also noted that he’s working on a bill (HB 1119) to allow counties to make more farmland eligible for the riparian buffer strip property tax break. Finally, Senator Frerichs spotlighted his SB 138, a measure that would undo part of an amendment he himself placed on the new school funding formula in 2016 (see Amendment 131fb to 2016 SB 131).
In 2016, Senator Frerichs and the Legislature voted to end the practice of allowing local school districts to keep additional tax revenue from wind farms and folded that revenue into statewide K-12 funding to make the new teacher pay raise funding formula work. The 2016 compromise allows school districts to keep 100% of the property tax revenue from new wind farms in the first five years the turbines spin, then gives a new fifth of that revenue to the state each year, stepping the local keep to zero by year ten. Senator Frerichs wants to change the step-down formula to 75% local keep in year six and 50% local keep thereafter.
Then Rep. Drew Dennert got up and read every bill in the hopper. Almost.
HB 1176, HB 1177, HB 1081, SB 199, HJR 1001, HB 1061, HB 1062, HB 1071, HB 1206, HB 1190 (saving $6.2 million over ten years), HB 1123, HB 1140—twelve bills! And he focused on real policy instead of drawing attention to his silly plan to write the right to hunt, fish, and trap into the state constitution (HJR 1005, before House State Affairs Monday at 7:45 a.m.!). Dennert is still a radical right-winger whom I will gladly help Democrats oust this year, but Drew at least makes an effort to sound like a keen policy wonk.
Rep. Dan Kaiser (R-3/Aberdeen) only talked about three bills: HB 1104 on domestic abuse victims, HB 1145 on legislative subpoena power, and HB 1138 on prostitution. Rep. Kaiser’s comments on HB 1145 were particularly pointed. He expressed serious concern about the $60 million that he said disappeared through “misappropriations” in the GEAR UP scandal. Rep. Kaiser says he expects his effort to allow the State-Tribal Relations Committee to issues subpoenas will encounter significant opposition “because it is such a hot political issue and some folks frankly don’t believe that this committee should have the authority to find out where your money went.”
To their credit, each of these five legislators at least mentioned at least two substantive bills before the Legislature. Then came Al Novstrup:
The Republican District 3 Senator said Aberdeen’s crackerbarrels are the best. He told a joke about Senator Greenfield. He spent over a minute setting up a joke about Brock Greenfield. He bragged about rubber stamping Governor Daugaard’s appointments of Dr. Becky Guffin to the state Board of Education and Jim Thares to the Board of Regents. He mentioned “Governor Rounds” visiting, surviving the Republican train wreck, and talking about optimism about the economy. And he mentioned civility twice.
It’s bad enough Al always sounds like he’s talking through a mouth full of pebbles (and not overcoming them à la Demosthenes); it’s worse that what does come out doesn’t inform us any better than the donuts the Chamber provided at the back of the room.