PIERRE — The South Dakota Railroad Board chose Harlan Quenzer, of Mitchell, as its new chairman Wednesday. "Thank you, I think," Quenzer said after he was nominated. During the roll call to cast a unanimous ballot, he said, "I think I probably shouldn't vote on that." Jerry Cope, of Rapid City, was chosen as vice chairman. "I'll sit this out," Cope said during the roll call on his selection. Quenzer replaced Todd Yeaton, of Kimball, who resigned as chairman and left the board last month before his term ended.
PIERRE — South Dakota lodging businesses should be paid the same rates in 2018 as they have been since 2015 when state government employees stay overnight on official business, members of the state Board of Finance agreed Tuesday. State tax collections have come in lower than legislators and Gov. Dennis Daugaard expected in February when they agreed on a new budget that began July 1. The governor recommended zero increases next budget year in state aid to schools, most state employees and most healthcare providers.
PIERRE — MidAmerican Energy won a favorable ruling from South Dakota regulators Tuesday for its wind turbines already spinning — but in Iowa. It means the company can pursue a second set of production tax credits from the federal government for up to 706 locations. The "re-powering" plan calls for MidAmerican Energy to invest more than $1.3 billion installing longer blades, new gearboxes and other equipment.
Last week marked retirement for Melody Schopp as South Dakota's secretary of education. She stepped aside Dec. 15 after seven years as state government's top public-school official. At the request of a reporter, she put together a daily diary marking her final week. Here are those thoughts:
PIERRE — The head of state government's Department of Transportation said Monday that Dakota Southern broke a federal regulation regarding hazardous materials when it stored rail cars on a siding. The South Dakota Railroad Board meets Wednesday to decide whether to take away the company's lease for the state-owned Mitchell-Rapid City line. Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist made the comments in testimony to the Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee.
PIERRE — A state senator who is the only announced Democratic candidate for governor told a panel of South Dakota lawmakers Monday he would accept a compromise on how long state government records should be kept. South Dakota doesn't have a state law establishing a minimum period for retaining records. Instead state law designates a state board to set regulations. The Legislature's Government Operations and Audit Committee met a dead end this year as its staff searched for old records from the GEAR UP program.
PIERRE — Marcia Hultman said Monday she would provide data on South Dakota's Future Fund to a legislative panel. She is state secretary of labor and regulation. Her agency administers South Dakota's unemployment taxes and benefits. The Future Fund was created 30 years ago under then-Gov. George S. Mickelson by splitting away a portion of unemployment taxes that businesses pay. Every governor since then controlled the Future Fund for a variety of economic development purposes that were outside the Legislature's control.
PIERRE — The apparent defeat of Republican Roy Moore by Democrat Doug Jones for a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama on Tuesday fueled a new hope for Democrats in many states, including South Dakota, about the 2018 elections. Alabama was even redder — more Republican — than South Dakota. The Jones victory raised energy for Democratic candidates. So a Democratic candidate could win a statewide office here next year. But there are differences. Three candidates seeking Republican nominations in South Dakota's primary elections next June are women.
PIERRE — The new coordinator for South Dakota's fight against aquatic invasive species laid out a 2018 work plan Friday that looks more aggressive than this year's version. Big-headed carp and zebra mussels are the priorities, Mike Greiner told members of the state Game, Fish and Parks Commission. One member, Mary Anne Boyd of Yankton, praised the presentation but said he should go farther. "I think we need to be aggressive as we can," Boyd said. She wondered whether boat and bait inspections should be "more than voluntary."
PIERRE — Kevin Robling presented a plan Friday that would triple the preference points accumulated by hunters who had applied unsuccessfully for South Dakota big-game or other special licenses or had purchased the points outright. He is special projects coordinator for the state Game, Fish and Parks Department. His approach would statistically improve the chance of drawing a license as a hunter gathered more of the points.