PIERRE — The three elected members of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission took their fine-toothed comb to Otter Tail Power's electricity-efficiency program and liked what they found Tuesday. The state regulators praised Otter Tail for its 2015 results and voted 3-0 to accept the report. The company is based at Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and serves customers in parts of northeastern South Dakota. Commission chairman Chris Nelson asked questions about whether one business customer received too much benefit from the efficiency program's reimbursement system.
PIERRE — The new Board of Internal Control for state government met for its second time Tuesday as its members began putting steps in place for more transparency regarding grants and contracts. The new processes will focus first on federal grants that pass through state government and in many cases go next to grant sub-recipients or contractors. The state law approved earlier this year at the request of Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels creating the board includes a requirement that grant agreements be publicly posted on state websites starting July 1.
PIERRE — Continuing our look into campaign finance loopholes that were used during South Dakota's primary elections for the Legislature, this week we'll consider un-sourced donations, independent expenditures, and partisan-financed independent candidates. The South Dakota Gun Owners political action committee, operated by Ray Lautenschlager of Rapid City, is an example regarding un-sourced donations.
PIERRE — Julie Mathiesen, of Sturgis, resigned from the state Board of Education (BOE) recently because of South Dakota's new law requiring disclosures of possible financial conflicts. The law applies to members of state boards and commissions and to people who work in leadership posts in public education. Mathiesen is the first state appointee to step down before the new law takes effect July 1. She is director for the Technology In Education organization that assists schools throughout South Dakota.
PIERRE — Secretary of State Shantel Krebs plans a review of South Dakota's campaign finance reporting laws, according to her office's spokesman. Jason Williams said she intends to convene a summer subcommittee with representatives from the Legislature, the state Board of Elections and the business community. Proposed changes will be presented at the October meeting of Board of Elections.
PIERRE—South Dakota needs criminal sanctions for people convicted of drug abuse who are caught using again during their probation and parole periods, several police chiefs told legislators Wednesday. The panel of lawmakers is studying methamphetamine and opioid use and looking for ways to steer students away from that path. Karl Jegeris, the Rapid City police chief, suggested tracking babies whose mothers are methamphetamine users. He also asked for a third party to conduct a survey of people who work in the criminal justice system.
PIERRE — The South Dakota Railroad Board granted a six-month extension Wednesday for Dakota Southern Railway to continue leasing the state-owned line between Napa and Platte amid a dispute about who controls its future. The lease negotiations are mired in a feud over who has federal clearance to operate on the line. Declining to step aside is the Napa Platte Regional Railroad Authority that held the lease for about 35 years until the state board chose Dakota Southern instead.
PIERRE — The South Dakota Board of Economic Development approved four grants for local development purposes Tuesday. The Faulkton Area Economic Development Corp. receives a $384,000 grant from the local infrastructure improvement program; The Beadle and Spink Enterprise Community Inc. receives a $250,000 grant for use in its revolving loan fund from the economic development partnership program; The South Eastern Development Foundation receives a $250,000 grant for use in its revolving loan fund from the economic development partnership program; and
The Legislature's Executive Board selected on Monday a new member of the South Dakota Investment Council. He is Jeff Nelson of Wentworth. Nelson is the former chief officer for East River Electric Cooperative at Madison and was a Democratic candidate for the state House of Representatives in the 2014 elections. Nelson succeeds Jim Means of Yankton, a senior officer at First Dakota National Bank. Investment council members are allowed one five-year term and can't all be from the same political party.
PIERRE — Money flew like punches with fury in the final weeks of many campaigns leading to last Tuesday's party-primary elections across South Dakota. Maneuvers that attempted to deceive or make discovery difficult became commonly used, especially in some of the fierce Republican legislative primaries. Many candidates of both parties and supporters have turned South Dakota into a wild west of politics. Gradually we're making progress toward more transparency within the formal structure of state and local governments.