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MERCER: Susan Wismer makes a point in Susy Blake

PIERRE — The question stopped coming after a few days. Maybe it was because of my answer.

I would simply shrug my shoulders when people asked about Susy Blake of Sioux Falls as the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor.

Then I would say she did have one truly amazing achievement while she was in the Legislature.

An idea so good that the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate had to pass it.

It was her solution to the problem of food-tax refunds.

Many people from low-income households weren't applying to get their money back.

The refund program had become an embarrassment to Republicans. They passed the refund program in 2004 at the request of then-Gov. Mike Rounds, a Republican.

It served as a defense against a ballot measure that called for repealing the sales tax on many food purchases.

Voters rejected the tax repeal. It received 123,210 yes votes and 255,855 no votes.

But not many people went through the steps to get their refunds. Because of the low volume, administrative costs were relatively high.

Eight years later, Susy Blake submitted what would be her final piece of legislation. She proposed abolishing the refund program and giving the money to Feeding South Dakota.

It was a home run. Of her 23 co-sponsors in the two chambers, 11 were Republicans.

Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, correctly identified the constitutional weakness of her legislation. Because it named a specific organization, it was prohibited as what's known as a special bill.

Brown could have made sure the bill died. Instead he made sure it lived.

Brown's amendment removed Feeding South Dakota and said the Department of Social Services could make grants from the leftover money.

The Senate approved the revised version 26-9* and the House agreed 61-6.**

Blake served in the state House of Representatives from 2009 through 2012. She didn't introduce any legislation in her first session.

In her second, she sponsored one bill. It became law. HB 1189 prohibited insurers from asking whether a person was a victim of domestic violence.

Her third year saw Blake introduce three bills. All failed. In her fourth and final session, Blake put in the Feeding South Dakota idea.

One point Rep. Susan Wismer of Britton is trying to make, as the Democratic nominee for governor, is there can be better ways to reach budget decisions.

She opposes many cuts made in 2011 by Republicans at Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard's request.

That's the beauty of her choice of Susy Blake to be her running mate. Susy Blake very much proves Susan Wismer's point.

*The nine senators who voted against the amended version were Republicans Art Fryslie of Willow Lake, Tom Hansen of Huron, Phyllis Heineman of Sioux Falls, Kent Juhnke of Vivian, Elizabeth Kraus of Rapid City, Bruce Rampelberg of Rapid City, Tim Rave of Baltic, Larry Rhoden of Union Center and Mike Vehle of Mitchell.

**Six House members voted against the final version. They were Republicans Lance Carson of Mitchell, Brian Gosch of Rapid City, Jenna Haggar of Sioux Falls, Shawn Tornow of Sioux Falls, Kim Vanneman of Ideal and Dean Wink of Howes.