I purposely don't register to vote, because I don't want to be tempted to vote, at least not while I'm still a newspaper reporter. I'm not a billionaire, either. But there is a billionaire named Robert Mercer. He too goes by Bob. Our middle names differ. I'm Michael. He's Leroy. We have different wives. He is married to Diana. I'm married to Ellen. Bob and Diana have three daughters. Ellen and I have a daughter and a son. I never worked for IBM Research or for the hedge fund Renaissance Technologies. Bob Mercer did, but not this Bob Mercer.
PIERRE — Ryan Brunner, state government's commissioner of school and public lands, wants to trade 58.5 acres of public lands that South Dakota owns in rural Hand and Spink counties for 7.5 acres of private property listed for sale in Huron next to the State Fair. The state Department of Agriculture currently pays $2,500 per year to lease the Huron property. Livestock trailers and carnival trailers park there during events at the fairgrounds. The Huron parcel at the fair's southeast corner is valued at $104,900. The state lands are appraised at $117,366.03.
PIERRE — South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard wants Sept. 19 to be Ben Reifel (Lone Feather) Day in South Dakota. The announcement came Friday afternoon from state government's Department of Tribal Relations. Reifel, a Republican, won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1960 and served five consecutive terms. He was the first American Indian from South Dakota to serve in Congress. He retired rather than seek a sixth term in 1970. Reifel, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, was born Sept. 19, 1906, in a log cabin at Parmalee.
PIERRE — Trustees for the State Historical Society approved a smaller budget for Deadwood historic preservation Friday. The 2018 budget is $6,901,440. The 2017 operating budget of $6,950,000 was about $50,000 smaller than the 2016 amount and about $122,000 less than for 2015. "Gaming is flat and has been dropping," Kevin Kuchenbecker, the city's historic preservation officer, told trustees. State law provides budget authority to the board.
Graduation and dropout rates went a bit askew for students with disabilities during the past academic year in South Dakota, a state government official said Thursday. The graduation rate slipped to 73 percent from 76 percent, while the dropout rate rose to 23 percent from 21 percent, Linda Turner told members of the statewide special education advisory panel. "We want to continue to make improvements in that area," Turner said. She is state director for special education.
Men and women in South Dakota's state prison system increased this calendar year, according to data presented Wednesday to state government's Corrections Commission. From January through August, the average daily population of male inmates passed 3,300 each month. Female inmates numbered more than 500 each month since April. The trends mark the first time inmate populations consistently reached those levels. The Legislature approved changes in 2013 that Gov. Dennis Daugaard hoped would slow prison growth.
PIERRE — State government's Board of Economic Development approved four loans totaling nearly $8 million from South Dakota's low-interest business pool Tuesday. They are: • A $900,000 loan to R and R Holdings, parent company of Watertown-based Glacial Lakes Rubber and Plastics, which makes shoe soles; • A $1,696,000 loan to the Vermillion Area Chamber and Development Company, which is constructing a building for Innovative Proteins; • A $1,755,000 loan to Doyle Family Land Co., a Sioux Falls-based manufacturer of Diamond Mowers; and
PIERRE — Six contractors submitted bids to rebuild the State Highway 34 bridge over Chappelle Creek 22 miles east of Pierre in Hughes County. The least expensive was 23 percent more than the project engineer expected. Nonetheless, state government's Transportation Commission awarded the project Tuesday to the lowest bidder, Swingen Construction Co., of Grand Forks, North Dakota. The company proposed doing the work for $710,436.30. The estimated cost was $576,310.70.
PIERRE — John Scheetz, of Spearfish, is the newest member of state government's Board of Minerals and Environment. He is environmental manager at the Sanford Underground Research facility in the former Homestake underground gold mine at Lead. Gov. Dennis Daugaard named Scheetz to succeed Linda Hilde, of Madison. The announcement came Monday through an item on the board's agenda and was confirmed Monday afternoon in the weekly Legislative Research Council Bulletin.
PIERRE — As 2017 began, 31 states including South Dakota had what website Ballotpedia describes as "trifectas." That's one political party holding the governor's office and majorities in both legislative chambers. Democrats have six trifectas. Republicans have 25, including South Dakota Each state has its reasons. A difference of 19 states seems to say something about one party's strength, and the other party's weakness. What that something is, however, isn't clear.