MERCER: Some Q-and-A’s on SD’s 2012 sessionThe Legislature is on a two-week break until March 19 when lawmakers return for their final scheduled working day of the 2012 session. Here’s a look at some of the topics people have been discussing.
By: Bob Mercer, The Daily Republic
The Legislature is on a two-week break until March 19 when lawmakers return for their final scheduled working day of the 2012 session. Here’s a look at some of the topics people have been discussing.
Q. What does the possible referral of House Bill 1234 really mean?
A. Assuming the signatures are gathered to put the teaching-reforms legislation on hold, South Dakota voters will get the chance Nov. 6 to express their views on the theme of educator evaluation and merit pay.
The vote will be a referendum too on Gov. Dennis Daugaard and those fellow Republicans who singly pushed it to passage.
Q. Why does the governor have a weak record on vetoes?
A. In 2011, the Legislature overrode two vetoes outright and refused to make the changes the governor sought through an unusually broad use of a style-and-form veto. Lawmakers sustained one veto, which was perfunctory because the problem in that legislation was fixed through passage of another piece of legislation.
Coming off that 1-for-4 mark, the governor has issued one veto so far in 2012, as of this writing on Friday morning. He was whipped in that latest battle, as the House of Representatives voted 68-2 to override and the Senate overrode 26-6.
The legislation sponsored by Rep. Dennis Feickert, D-Aberdeen, provides a tax exemption for straw, corn stover and bean straw that’s used for livestock bedding. It was a direct response to the Revenue Department’s recent audits of dairies and the department’s new policy of seeking tax payments for the use of those materials.
Q. Why so much more emphasis on gun rights?
A. Much of South Dakota’s lifestyle and much of our economy revolve around sportsmen’s use and ownership of guns. That’s always been true.
Helping contribute to greater interest in recent decades have been the rise of cable-TV outdoors programs, the growth of paid hunting for pheasants, and the expansion of species and seasons by the Game, Fish and Parks Commission.
But in the past five to 10 years we’ve definitely seen a harder-line activism on gun rights come from the Black Hills and surrounding prairie region.
Q. Why is that?
A. There is a different wave of conservative politics taking deeper hold in the Black Hills. Make no mistake: The 2008 election of President Barack Obama clearly was followed by a run-up in firearms sales in many parts of the nation.
And, there has been a successful push for manufacturers to bring their firearm businesses to the Black Hills, especially in the Rapid City-Sturgis area.
We’ll have to see whether Gov. Dennis Daugaard signs into law the legislation that eliminates much of South Dakota’s concealed-weapon permit requirements. As of this writing Friday morning, House Bill 1248 remained on the governor’s desk without a decision.
It also would be worthwhile for the governor to bring together the sides in the fight over whether business owners can be prohibited from enacting policies that ban firearms in vehicles in their parking lots. This issue isn’t going away.
Q. Why did Sen. Al Novstrup need legislation to force the resignation of Darrell Raschke as manager for the James River water development district?
A. Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, didn’t pick this fight, but once it was in his grasp, he refused to let go.
Raschke had been crossways for years with the Legislature. Democrats repeatedly rose to his defense for reasons that haven’t been clear on the surface.
He and his board engineered a large property-tax increase that clearly contradicted what Raschke told a legislative committee would happen. The Legislature, led by Novstrup, came back to force a rollback.
Novstrup wanted the district’s financial records. Raschke and the board’s legal counsel, Democratic then-Sen. Maggie Gillespie of Hudson, fought him. Novstrup prevailed on appeal to a state hearing officer.
(Novstrup, unfortunately, didn’t collect or pay for the records. This type of situation probably needs to be addressed in state law, so that a government isn’t stuck with the cost for fulfilling public-records requests.)
The property-tax blowup led to new candidates running for the board and getting elected. They requested a financial review by the state Department of Legislative Audit.
The findings led Novstrup to seek some way, legislatively, to bust up the district in order to force a fresh start and get Raschke out. Raschke resigned last month.
What’s likely to come from this is closer examination of water development districts. They have property-tax authority but aren’t required under state law to receive reviews by Legislative Audit.
Q. What about Sen. Tom Hansen’s watershed task force?
A. Hansen, R-Huron, might have passed one of the most important bills of the 2012 session. It calls for a panel of legislators and citizens to look at drainage issues and make recommendations.
County governments in some cases are purposely backing away from involvement in drainage matters involving landowners. There’s no coordination on big challenges such as the James River basin and the Sioux River basin, both of which have lots of water backed up.
This is a very important economic issue too. There’s agricultural production lost, frustration over property taxes on flooded land, road damage and the problems when high water floods homeowners and businesses along lakes, rivers and creeks.
Q. How were the matters involving Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, resolved?
A. They really weren’t, but the temperature got turned down.
By the end of session Nelson was participating in a Black Hills-based effort to get him restored as a member of the House Republicans caucus. It didn’t seem to succeed. That petition drive also called for Rep. Lance Russell, R-Hot Springs, to also be restored.
Generally the disputes between Nelson and the House Republican leader David Lust of Rapid City and House Speaker Val Rausch, R-Big Stone City, gradually dissolved, at least in the public view, after Rausch re-seated Nelson to the front of the House, directly under Rausch’s view.
The roots of the conflict will always remain: No matter what Lust and Rausch have said, Nelson believed Lust and Rausch spied on legislators and then covered it up.
After Nelson was penalized by the re-seating up front, Rausch as speaker let Nelson speak, and Nelson made more of his speeches. Nelson seemed to like the new spot, because he got to stand in front of all 69 other House members.
And contrary to some claims, legislators didn’t automatically kill all of eight of Nelson’s proposals because he was the prime sponsor. One passed, and was signed into law by the governor, dealing with public notices on water right applications.