Rep. Stace Nelson removed from Legislature's Ag committeeState Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, says his opposition to a proposed Hanson County dairy as well as battles with legislative Republican leadership have cost him a seat on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
State Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, says his opposition to a proposed Hanson County dairy as well as battles with legislative Republican leadership have cost him a seat on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
He termed the change “a disgrace” that was made for political and personal reasons.
“I’ve been a burr in the saddle on several issues,” Nelson said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. “I’m not an establishment politician. I march to my own drum.”
Nelson, who represents Hanson and McCook counties and part of Minnehaha County, said Speaker Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City, told him in a telephone conversation Monday night that he would not be reappointed to the ag committee and would instead serve on the House Local Government Committee.
Nelson said Rausch told him there was no room for discussion, and Rausch said later Tuesday that he does not plan to reconsider his decision.
The men exchanged text messages Tuesday morning as well, both said.
On his Facebook page, Nelson posted this:
“I have been officially informed, by Speaker Val Rausch (R), that he is removing me from my position on the Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee. The reason given was my support of Hanson County residents in their opposition to a foreign investment 7K cow dairy that the Sec of Ag supports.”
Rausch, reached at his home Tuesday night, denied the change in committee assignments had anything to do with political battles.
“I had to make room for a newly appointed member and I thought Stace would handle the move better,” he said.
“I wish he wouldn’t air the wrong conclusions in the press. That’s very unfortunate,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. He’s a very passionate man and a good legislator.”
Rausch said he had to make committee changes after Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed Dave Scott, of Geddes, to represent District 21 in the House.
Scott replaces Kent Juhnke in the House. Juhnke, a Vivian resident, was appointed to the Senate to replace Cooper Garnos, of Presho, who resigned Nov. 16 as the state senator from District 21.
Rausch said he had to shift legislators where he thought they could best serve the state.
“Stace Nelson was one I thought would do a good job on a different committee, because he is quite flexible and well informed,” he said.
“I think the moves are still good moves for the state of South Dakota and as speaker of the House, that’s my first responsibility, and egos have to take second place to that,” Rausch said.
Nelson said he is disappointed that he was removed from a committee to make room for a “freshman political appointee.”
He said he hopes Rausch changes his mind.
“I would prefer they do the right thing,” Nelson said. “This is personal retaliation. I feel I did a great job. I have a good background in agriculture.”
He said he grew up on a farm and several relatives have farmed and still farm. He said he took ag classes at what was then Mitchell Vo-Tech as a high school student and now owns a small farm.
Scott is a fourth-generation farmer in Charles Mix County. He is a 1970 graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in general agriculture. He and his wife, Becky, have three adult children, one of whom farms with him near Geddes.
Nelson said Scott would be a better fit on the Local Government Committee.
Scott has served for 26 years as the township clerk for Jackson Township and is a board member of the Association of Towns and Townships.
Scott is also that organization’s representative to the Local Transportation Assistance Program, which provides engineering assistance to small towns and townships. Scott served from 1994 to 2000 on the State Transportation Commission.
“This was not about putting the right guy in the right spot,” Nelson said. “This was about retaliation.”
Nelson also has publicly objected to changes in legislative district boundaries, which he termed “gerrymandering;” called for making voting records more accessible online; and differed with South Dakota Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones on the proposed large dairy in Hanson County.
Nelson is a leading opponent of the proposed dairy, which would be owned by an Irishborn developer.
He called it a “foreign investment” that is opposed by most residents of Hanson County.
Nelson said he felt he is being “taken to the woodshed” for his refusal to toe the party line.
“And he made comments to the affirmative about that,” Nelson said, referring to Rausch.
The speaker made “several biting comments” about Nelson’s efforts to fight against the proposed mega-dairy, Nelson said.
Rausch said while the men discussed confined animal feeding operations (CAFO), such as the proposed large dairy in Hanson County, that was not a reason he shifted Nelson from the ag committee.
Nelson said he knows he has ruffled feathers in his first year in Pierre.
“That was not well received by seasoned politicians like Mr. Rausch,” he said. “I was also outspoken about the gerrymandering of Representative [Lora] Hubbel in District 11. And Representative Rausch was in charge of the committee that did that.”
Nelson said he was also told that House leadership was obtaining advance access to bills that were in research by the Legislative Research Council (LRC).
He said an LRC staffer complained “bitterly” about that.
“He said it was one of the most egregious abuses of power he had seen with LRC,” Nelson said.
Rausch said the two men never discussed that and he has not been bothered by Nelson’s comments on issues and the legislative process.
Nelson, who served 13 years in the Marine Corps and 10 years in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, lives in rural Hanson County 16 miles northwest of Mitchell.
He currently represents Hanson, McCook and northwestern Minnehaha counties in District 25, but redistricting has placed him in District 19 if he runs for a second term in 2012.
District 19 will consist of the counties of Hanson, McCook, Hutchinson, Douglas and most of Bon Homme.