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Sunday, January 31, 2010

HB 1189: Domestic Violence Is NOT a Pre-Existing Condition

Republicans should not listen to me on campaign finance report dates. But when it comes to the issue of insurers treating domestic violence as a pre-existing condition, a lot of Republicans are listening to the Madville Times instead of Dakota War College.

Last fall, we talked about how some health insurers will jack up premiums or even deny coverage for women who've been beaten by their husbands. South Dakota's Division of Insurance assured us that would never happen. Mr. Powers dropped by to back that claim and suggest no law was needed. On his own blog, he called legislation to prohibit using domestic abuse as grounds to deny health coverage needless government intervention and a waste of time.

Evidently, a bipartisan group of 31 legislators have decided Mr. Powers is wrong. HB 1189 outlaws discrimination based on domestic violence in life and health insurance policies. Among the legislators Mr. Powers will surely lambaste for "wasting time" on problems that don't exist:
Both my senator and Pat's, Senator Merchant from Brookings, are sponsoring this bill. So's my Rep. Fargen, who's really out in front of things for a freshman, and Pat's Rep. Pitts. So are a crowd of DWC's favorite Dem targets: Senators Heidepriem, Jerstad, Turbak Berry, and best of all, Kloucek.

Go ahead, Pat. Criticize this bill. Whip your supporters up with your silly jokes about Frank's legislative prowess and Scott's cranium.

I will simply say... Blake, Russ, Shantel, and Tom; Pam, Sandy, Nancy, Scott, and Frank; and the rest of you... thank you.

SD's Last Whiskered Congressman Chides Nelson for 'Stache Dash

The whisker quote of the week comes from former South Dakota Congressman Clint Roberts, in an interview (on his 75th birthday! congrats, Mr. Roberts!) with Seth Tupper on the role of facial hair in politics:

Had Nelson or Curd opted to keep their facial accessories, they would have needed to look only as far back as 1983 for a role model. That was the last year South Dakota had a mustache in Congress, and it belonged to Clint Roberts, a Presho native who lost his seat to Tom Daschle when the state’s representation in the U.S. House was cut from two seats to one.

...Roberts said he, too, was urged to shave off his mustache when he entered politics. He refused, and he thinks other male politicians should do the same. When told of Nelson’s capitulation to razor-wielding advisers, Roberts offered this wisecrack: “Next if they want him to cut his right foot off, is he?” [Seth Tupper, "To Shave or Not to Shave: That's the Question Facing Mustachioed Politicans," Mitchell Daily Republic, 2010.01.30]

I'm with Roberts: growing that mustache back mid-campaign would boost Nelson in my book. Of course, I'm now sporting four months' worth of winter warmth around my muzzle.

Roberts shares no comment on Curd, but Tupper does:

...in the current U.S. House race, Nelson’s opponent, state Rep. Blake Curd, shaved off a goatee before the campaign. Curd’s decision seemed to draw less attention, perhaps because people were distracted by the gleam of his fully shaven dome [Tupper, 2010.01.30].

Whoa! Who says blogs have the monopoly on snark?

City Commission Notes: Refunding Taxes, Moving Snow, Using Less Electricity

Notes from the Madison City Commission agenda packet for their February 1 meeting:
  1. Jon Hunter doesn't want to pay a fourth-penny sales tax. Heck, he doesn't even want to pay the second-penny sales tax: he's asking the commission for a rebate of $675 on tax paid on equipment purchased from International Graphics Associates in 2008.
  2. Mark Weismantel and Stacey Budahl are also asking the city to knock a chunk off their taxes. Someone evidently hit the wrong button and applied the wrong button to their levies, overcharging Weismantel $905 and Budahl $405.
  3. Mayor Hexom reports three complaints about snow removal (one of those would have been from my folks, who found the city pushed snow out of an alley into a solid six-foot wall on one of their driveways). But put on a happy face: Mayor Hexom says there were "MANY!!" compliments on snow removal.
  4. Arguably in the green field, Madison's electricity demand for 2009 hit a five-year low of 187 megawatts, down 3% from 2008 and down 7% from the 2007 peak of 202 MW. The biggest savings came in that darned cool July we had. By megawatt-hours, Madison's energy purchases were the lowest since 2000.

U.S. Economy Grows 5.7% -- Stimulus Still Working

A recession is two consecutive quarters of gross domestic product (GDP) shrinkage. A depression is GDP shrinkage of 10%. President Obama's ongoing stimulus package and Ben Bernanke's management of the Federal Reserve have apparently reversed the former and averted the latter... if you believe statistics. The Bureau of Economic Analysis says our GDP grew 5.7% in Q4 2009.

That growth may yet be revised down—BEA's latest report revises their Q3 2009 figure down from 4.2% to 2.2%. But remember: a year ago, we were in economic free fall, suffering contractions of –5.4% in Q4 2008 and –6.4% in Q1 2009. In one year, we reverse the trend and post the highest quarterly growth in six years.

The Bush II economy beat that growth rate once, growing at 6.9% as we went to war in Iraq in Q1 2003.

This is why the market-rattling Bernanke-bashing fizzled: even Tennessee Republican Senator Bob Corker acknowledges that the Fed chairman has prevented a worse economic collapse. This is also why we need to learn that the federal budget is not like a family budget: as Robert Reich explains, when the economy goes down, it's government's job to fill the gap and boost the economy, as it appears to have done in Q4 2009.

Update 20:03 CST: But when it comes to jobs, we're still up a creek... maybe through 2015.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Republicans Vote to Keep South Dakota Income Tax

Here's another legislative note to turn the conventional wisdom upside down: On Thursday, six South Dakota Democrats voted to eliminate South Dakota's income tax. Eight Republicans voted to keep imposing that tax on our banks and financial corporations.

The Republicans tell us that an income tax would kill business in South Dakota. My neighbor Gerald Lange offers them an opportunity to kill our state's income tax. Those same Republicans forget the slogans they use to get elected and vote to keep the income tax.

I guess Republicans don't really believe income tax is bad for business, even in the midst of a recession. Remember: the financial sector employs nearly 30,000 people in South Dakota. The finance and insurance sector (we hit insurers with a special premium and annuity tax, too) are South Dakota's leading industry, cranking out 19% of our GDP.

Read that again: South Dakota's leading industry pays a state income tax.

The 8–6 House Taxation Committee vote killed HB 1123. For the record: the following Republicans—Republicans!—voted to keep the income tax:
  1. Brock Greenfield (R-6/Clark)
  2. Kent Juhnke (R-21/Vivian)
  3. Mark Kirkeby (R-35/Rapid City)
  4. Dan Lederman (R-16/Dakota Dunes)
  5. Kristi Noem (R-6 Castlewood)
  6. Ryan Olson (R-24/Onida)
  7. Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs)
  8. Roger Solum (R-5/Watertown)
And the Democrats voting to eliminate the income tax:
  1. Dennis Feickert (D-3/Aberdeen)
  2. Peggy Gibson (D-22/Huron)
  3. Bernie Hunhoff (D-18/Yankton)
  4. Patrick Kirschman (D-15/Sioux Falls)
  5. Gerald Lange (D-8/Madison)
  6. Bill Thompson (D-13-Sioux Falls)
Use the links above to contact your favorite representatives and let them know what you think of their vote on repealing South Dakota's income tax.

Help Launch New South Dakota Science Blog

Doug Wiken has a cool idea: a science blog for South Dakota! Think of it as a "third place" for techies, eggheads, mad scientists, and other folks who like to know how stuff works. With a range of scientists from range and wildlife specialists at SDSU to us Web dudes at DSU to the neutrino hunters coming to the Homestake lab in the Hills, the SD Science Café could bring together an intersting mix of ideas!

Wiken has some science background, but he doesn't plan to be the main writer. (He's probably too busy designing a homemade tower to replace the fallen KPLO transmitter!) So if you have some science you'd like to share, give Doug a shout and become a co-editor of the South Dakota Science Café!

Friday, January 29, 2010

HB 1087 to Come Back, Fight Septic Tank Inspections

I get the straight poop on HB 1087 from Barb Lindberg, president of Citizens for Liberty. The way the bill was worded, HB 1087 appeared to represent a drastic expansion of county government power. Turns out the conservative backers of this legislation actually wanted to use it to curb government power, specifically the power Pennington County wants to exert to regulate septic tanks in the Black Hills.

Lindberg tells me her group has asked Rep. Mike Verchio of Hill City to reintroduce the bill in amended form to simply ban all retroactive application of county ordinances, without exception for immediate threats to public health and safety. Why we need this law, I'm still not sure, since the Constitution itself says ex post facto laws can't happen. And even reworded, this proposed law probably cannot stop a county from acting to inspect and shut down faulty septic systems or other sources of water pollution.

Lindberg's explanation acknowledges one of the key lessons of modern politics: if you're going to introduce a bill, get out in front of the message and let people know what it's about before misconcpetions can drive the debate.

Below is Lindberg's explanation of what Citizens for Liberty is up to with HB 1087:

Hey Cory,
Not quite sure where all the mis leading information on our 1087 Bill that was "quietly trash" came from. But the foundation and true intent of this Bill has surely been largely mis read and deceived. I know.... as I was part of those who drafted and offered the Bill to be submitted. Want the real skinny?

This Bill was meant for a "people friendly amendment to 7-18A-2 It's purpose was to RESTRICT and END the abusive authority that Pennington County Commissioners have been using against the rural citizens involving septic systems. Although State law already states that counties cannot make ordinances that are retroactive. Pennington County appears to be above the law restrictions. In a proposed septic system ordinances that the residence have been fighting over for 6 years, Pennington County Commissioners in the last 10 months have moved forward with a County Ordinance that retroactively effects every private septic system in the County, of course under the safe water cloak. The proposed ordinance will make all private septic systems under the jurisdiction of Pennington County "new" installation and supervision regulations. The City has already implemented such ordinance.
All residence will have to submit request to have their septic systems "permitted" and approved. Any flaws or concerns the County Planners "see" in our septic systems will have to be brought up to their standards before permits to operate your system is allowed.

There will be a $500 fine and 30 days in jail are the consequences for violating their retrospective ordinance on "ALREADY Operable" septic systems. However the more concerning fact is in a recent waste water meeting the Board laughed and stated that if residence did not comply with this excessive government policing, they would shut private water sources off. I didn't think it was funny. Now I'm not the most bright color crayon in the box..... but tell me Cory, how does the County come in and shut off a private landowners well? You got it - they'll put locking devises on our well heads.

Plus under the proposed section 200 they also are demanding the rights to come onto your property and test ground soil, all water sources, including in house water facets, site ect - all under their fraudulent cloaking of safe water. Absolutely NO evidence has been given by the Pennington County or Rapid City Officials - however, extreme environmentalist have presented agenda that states septic systems are "probably the problem source" of contaminating Rapid City's water sources.

Yet after extensive research and data pulled from all operating municipal wells in Rapid City, along with water samples from many subdivisions, no contaminate threats are evident. In fact the EPA states 10 milligram of nitrates per liter are allowed and over 90% of all ground and surface sources show levels BELOW 1.0 milligrams. Average is .54 milligrams per liter.

The real Truth of the matter is that water flowing down Rapid Creek and going INTO Rapid City's Waste Water Treatment Plant is less than 1.0, HOWEVER when this water comes out of the Waste Water Treatment Plant the nitrate levels have been at 14.6 milligrams per liter. You can do the assumptions there. Please see www.TheVoice316.com for all info and data researched. The REAL story is a massive "The Sky is falling - the Sky is falling" conspiracy by Rapid City Officials and Pennington County Commissioners.

We the people are presently having open town hall meetings informing residents of this hoax both the County and City is attempting. Out of these battle fields, We,presented Mike Verchio a proposed amendment to title 7 of county provision that we felt we could live with.

IT WAS NOT to give the County more jurisdiction - but prevent them from doing what they are already doing! Pennington County and Rapid City Officials are already passing ordinances that ARE retrospective. That is WRONG!

We the people, on line 14 stated: "No ordinance or amendment thereto may have a retrospective application unless:"

The "unless" was added because that is what the state already provides under the Statute. We added that it would also take 2/3 vote of commissioners AND that clear and convincing EVIDENCE would have to be proven as an imminent threat to either health or safety or both.

Right now they have neither, but are moving forward because they say they have the right to do so because they "believe" there is a threat.

The people should not have to sue in Court to get the County to adhere to Statute. Our attempt was to clarify Title 7, that any County COULD NOT make ordiances or amendments that was retroactive unless it was absolutely proven with evidence there WAS an imminent threat- not just because they "thought" there was.

I do not know of what "non legislation resolve" has been reached that pulled the Bill, other than the non clarification of what the Bill was meant to resolve. Seems we failed at both.

As a tea party president of over 1,500 members, we'll follow MA 's lead. My opinion is: "They closed a chapter in politics as usual.... now we'll close the book!" ..... come election they might as well "Pack it up- these County Commissioners and City Officals are DONE!" We'll be replacing their seats with or without a Bill.

Out of the chute - we could have done better at verbiage. For that I apologies and take full responsibility. I promise we'll do better in the future. As for all the political garb and campaign usage? Sorry I imposed a black eye for Mike Verchio. I take my hat off to him that he at least moved in our behalf and did what his constituents requested. I apologies earnestly that he took heat for my verbiage error. Please note though - that his efforts to do so sealed all his votes for "yes" by his constituents. He at least had the backbone to run with us and not shoot us down.

This was about regular citizens. We may have missed the boat on this round - but we'll be back ... better adverse and ready.

If there's any questions I can assist in to bring a clear perspective - please give me a call. I'm new on the court- but sincerely don't believe I'll be going away anytime soon. Thanks for your time and soften ears to hear.

Just thought you might want to know "the rest of the story".
Barb Lindberg
CFL President

Hunhoff: Get State Money Out of International Evil

Senate Bill 134 is up. This legislation from Senator Stan Adelstein and Representative Dan Lederman would divest South Dakota investment funds from companies doing business with Iran.

Yanking our money from Iran is a good idea. But if we're going to engage in social investing, we should be concerned about any evil our money supports, whether it kills our soldiers in Iraq or women and children in Sudan.

With that in mind, I reprint a letter from Rep. Bernie Hunhoff to the Yankton County Observer, in which he discusses the need for a broader view on social investing that goes beyond the specific politics of Iran, as embodied in Senate Bill 21.

For The Observer


By Rep. Bernie Hunhoff

Chol Atem of Yankton spoke to state legislators last year about the evil regime that continues to terrify the people of his native Sudan. The Mount Marty College student joined others who pleaded with the 2009 state legislature to stop investment of state monies in companies that support the Sudanese government. Chol is one of the "Lost Boys of Sudan" who had to flee their homes to avoid been killed or abducted by government-sponsored gangs of terrorists who have now murdered more than 300,000 people and caused two million to abandon their villages.

While the divestment bill did not pass last year, Chol's testimony still rings in the ears of many who heard him. And last week — in the opening days of the 2010 legislative session — we were able to pass a bill through a Senate committee that addresses our state's responsibility in foreign affairs. Hopefully the compromise language will continue to find support as it winds its way through the Senate and House.

The bill requires the State Investment Council (SIC) to establish a Social Activism Policy to deal with problem companies. Once the U.S. Congress identifies such companies, the state legislature would advise the SIC to apply the policy.

The SIC staff in Sioux Falls would then begin a process of "engagement," meaning they would alert the companies that South Dakotans won't tolerate such behavior and that they must end their relationships with certain governments. Engagement is considered an important step by many foreign affairs experts, and hopefully it will have an impact. If it does not, then the Social Activism Policy requires that the SIC apply a risk-factor to the targeted companies which would eventually lead to the divestment of that stock.

The SIC would report to the legislature annually on the success of the policy.

The compromise bill (Senate Bill 21) doesn't act quickly enough for some in the legislature, especially a group of lawmakers who want immediate divestment from three companies that do business with the dictators in Iran. But overnight divestment gives away the opportunity for engagement as a major stockholder. Some experts think engagement can be more effective than divestment, so long as there is a threat of divestment. Immediate divestment may garner big headlines, but does it change corporate behavior?

The compromise also addresses the opponents' concerns that states shouldn't dabble in foreign affairs. South Dakota legislators and our State Investment Council will only apply the Social Activism Policy when the U.S. Congress acts to identify problem companies. The Congress has already done so for both iran and Sudan.

The SIC board and staff are rightfully worried that any engagement and divestment law may eventually lead to other proposals. Should we invest more in value added agriculture plants or renewable energy companies that locate in South Dakota? Should we cease investments with tobacco companies?

Our proposed bill would prohibit those types of social investment initiatives, but establish a procedure that seeks to keep your state dollars from being used to murder, maim, terrorize and oppress people in other parts of the world.

If the bill passes we can thank Chol, who is now working at Hy-Vee in Yankton and hoping to attend law school. His trip to Pierre made a difference.

Lake County Clean Water Committee Holds First Meeting

Lake County did a little trendsetting last night, convening the first meeting of its new official clean water committee. We are one of the first counties in South Dakota (if not the first) to create such an official committee to focus on protecting our local watersheds.

I attended as an appointed member. Fifteen of my neighbors were there as well (see roster below). Don't worry: we didn't impose a 50% water tax or hire a county septic tank inspector. Our committee doesn't have authority to impose anything, only propose.

Right now the committee is in planning stage. We need to get clear on our mission before we start lining up projects and resources to accomplish that mission. Defining that mission won't be too hard, since we have the prior work of the volunteer Interlakes Water Quality Committee on which to build. That group gathered years of data, identified nearly a hundred problem areas, and sketched perhaps a dozen projects that would benefit water quality around Lake County. Rather than reinvent the waterwheel, our committee plans to pick up as much as possible where IWQC left off.

What will we focus on? Martin Jarrett, committee chair, offered several goals: reduce phosphorus, nitrogen, and sediment run-off; reduce algae blooms and bacteria contamination; and increase water clarity. We'll draw up a mission statement next month that will likely revolve around those goals. Then be ready to hear a lot about grasy waterways and buffer zones.

We didn't spend much money last night: the county might reimburse us for mileage, but that's it so far (Commissioner Pedersen didn't mention whether they'll discount my mileage if I bike in). But the committee did discuss the need for a paid employee. Some folks on the committee would prefer the job be handled by interns or other part-timers to save money. Others see a need for a full-time person who can stick around and build a little institutional memory. Some members of the old IWQC said their group ran out of steam in part because there's only so much one can ask of volunteers, and that water quality work requires a regular, long-term commitment worth a salary.

Should the committee decide (and the county commission agree) to hire a water quality employee, the cost would not come entirely from the county coffers. During the meeting, Jay Gilbertson said his organization, East Dakota Water Development District, could make matchin funds available. Martin Jarrett noted the Lake Madison Development Association had planned to offer $5000 to the IWQC to support an employee for the water project district that voters on Lakes Madison and Brant defeated last summer. Jarrett suggested the LMDA might consider offering a similar amount to support a county water official.

But before we try hiring someone, we need to define exactly what work we want to do. That work is pretty clear: there are too much nutrients, too much sediment, and too much fecal bacteria in our lakes and streams. Our lakes get too green and too silty. We need to protect our watercourses and wetlands to improve everyone's quality of life in Lake County.

We'll define that mission at next month's meeting. The Lake County Water Quality Committee plans to meet the fourth Thursday of every month. So next meeting will be Thursday, February 25, at 7 p.m. (site to be determined—stay tuned!).

In attendance at last night's meeting:
  • Martin Jarrett, chair
  • Chuck Robbins
  • Charlie Stoneback
  • Dale Droge
  • Kent Petersen
  • Craig Johanssen
  • Scott Pedersen, representing the county commission
  • Linda Hilde
  • Michelle Goodale, district manager, Lake County Conservation District
  • Brian Schultz, representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service district office headquartered here in Lake County
  • Jan Nicolay
  • Jay Gilbertson, manager of East Dakota Water Development District
  • Charlie Johnson
  • Walt Schaefer
  • Larry Kotten
  • Cory Allen Heidelberger

Clay Rural Water Says No to Hyperion

I went to bed last night with an extra spring in my snore: Rebecca Terk of Flying Tomato Farms had just broken the news that Clay Rural Water System voted unanimously to reject Hyperion's request that CRWS supply up to 12 million gallons of water per day to Hyperion's proposed oil refinery near Elk Point. Supplying Hyperion would have required CRWS to tentuple its current 1.2 million gallon/day capacity. The dealbreaker, however, was Hyperion's Wimpy request that CRWS pay for the new water infrastructure today, with the promise that Hyperion would pay them back several Tuesdays from now.

Clay Rural Water's vote is an encouraging sign that not all South Dakotans can be driven to crazy, unsustainable actions by the wild promises of Big Oil. But it does not leave Hyperion high and dry. CRWS's nay may actually be just what Hyperion wanted. Hyperion didn't bother to send a rep to last night's meeting. The company actually provided CRWS with a model "Form of Intent Not to Serve"—when a corporation pays its lawyers to take time to write up a legal document for you, beware.

The denial statement, adopted by the CRWS board, says CRWS consents to Hyperion seeking water from other suppliers. This negates the possibility that CRWS could use federal regs to stop other suppliers from seeking Hyperion's water business. It could well be that Hyperion knew all along that CRWS lacked the resources to become a heavy industrial water supplier and just wanted to play a little CYA before it went seeking a biger aquifer-draining supplier.

But for now, Clay Rural Water customers can be happy that they won't experience a sudden drop in pressure in the shower if the Hyperion refinery ever fires up.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Clay Rural Water Considers Hyperion Water Request Tonight

Thirsty? Hyperion is. They are asking Clay Rural Water Systems to agree to provide 10–12 million gallons of water per day to their proposed oil refinery near Elk Point.

The intrepid Rebecca Terk of Flying Tomato Farms reminds us that Clay Rural Water meets tonight, Thursday, Jan. 28, at 7:30 p.m. She gives directions (30376 SD Hwy 19, 11 miles north of Vermillion) and offers to arrange rides to this really important public meeting.

Why is this meeting important? Terk notes that CRWS has six reservoirs with a total capacity of 1.04 million gallons. Hyperion could drain those reservoirs before morning coffee and still be thirsty for more.

So if you're thirsty... or if you just want to keep your taps running in Clay and Union County, you might want to drop by the Clay Rural Water meeting tonight and ask the directors how they plan to water a big slurping oil refinery and their current customers.

Kloucek: Have a Kolache... and a Comptroller!

O.K., if Russ gets his wish and the LAIC can throw a bingo fest, can they at least serve complimentary kolaches?

In the midst of proposing some good ideas (e.g., his Chicoine-Monsanto bill, his fight for small-town drivers license stations), Senator Frank Kloucek still has time for a light and flaky bill, SB 117, which would make the kolache South Dakota's state pastry. My vote: Do Pass... the raspberry jam!

Of course, Senator Kloucek has a plan to make those kolaches go farther at the Capitol: he has proposed SJR 4 to shrink state government by one FTE: namely, he would combine the state treasurer and state auditor into one position, state comptroller.

Legislature Notes: Lange & Kloucek Advocate Income Tax Repeal...

Yes, you read that right. That and more excitement from the South Dakota State Legislature:
  • South Dakota has an income tax... but maybe not for long! My neighbor Rep. Gerry Lange wants to repeal South Dakota's income tax on banks and financial corporations. To that end, he and Senator Kloucek have floated HB 1123. They also want to repeal insurance taxes with HB 1124. I think Gerry's messing with us....
  • Thank you, Reps. Bernie Hunhoff, Marc Feinstein, and Larry Lucas for voting against HB 1095, Senator Russell Olson's silly bill to allow economic development corporations to play bingo. Unfortunately, 10 reps voted yesterday to move this bill forward to the full House.
  • Bigger thanks to the House Judiciary Committee, which gave a 41st-day thumping to HB 1068, Rep. Verchio's ill-conceived bill to cap medical malpractice awards at $100,000.
  • HB 1133 would ban kids with learners' permits from using cell phones while driving. Funny: we don't apply DUI penalties only to teenagers... but it's o.k. to let adults choose to drive while texting and sextuple their risk of a wreck? I move to amend!
  • HB 1135: Some of our legislators don't want a Constitutional Convention. Call off the Tea Party....
  • HB 1140 bans red-light cameras and photo radar for law enforcement! Back to the beat, copper!

HB 1144: Expand Protection Against Discrimination to Old Folks, Gays, and Veterans

If you enjoyed the fracas in Rapid City over their anti-bullying policy, then let's get ready to rumble on the state level. Mr. Price at Robbinsdale Radical alerts us to the welcome entry of HB 1144 into the Legislature's agenda. HB1144 adds age, sexual orientation, gender identity, and veteran or military status to the classes of persons protected from discrimination under South Dakota's Human Rights laws.

HB 1144 does not add corporations to the list of protected persons. It does, however, replace salesman with salesperson in the statute prohibiting business discrimination. Landladies, your window of opportunity to discriminate is about to close.

Local legislator Mitch Fargen (D-8/Flandreau) has the guts to put his name on this bill—Russ, Gerry, where are you? Some of my other favorite Dems are also sponsors (e.g. Pam Merchant, Bernie Hunhoff, Ben Nesselhuf). They are joined in sponsorship by some prominent Republicans, including Senator Abdallah and Representative Krebs. Let's see who starts trotting out the anti-political correctness meme against Grandma and veterans....

Gee, who's Gordon Howie going to threaten if this bill passes?

Third Places: Key Component of Rural Community Development

Mike Knutson at Reimagine Rural posts a great summary of why "third places" are essential to rural community development. Third places—you know, the coffee shop, the cafĂ©, the counter at Madison's NAPA store (?)... the place in town where folks gather and swap stories and people-watch. The place that feels like your whole town's living room. The public space outside your home, outside work, where you are free to claim a seat, be seen, and connect with your community.

The kind of space to which our Chamber of Commerce and LAIC have paid little attention in their quest to make Madison better. Julie, Dwaine, Jenny and Shaun Bader, everybody else with a stake in making small towns better, read Mike's list of what third places can do for Madison, Howard, and all small towns:
  1. Third places are cool…and rural places could stand a little cool.
  2. Third places introduce new people to the community.
  3. Third Places improve the quality of life in a community.
  4. Third Places are good for tourism.
  5. Third places can help improve the business climate in your small town.
  6. Third places stimulate creativity.
  7. Third Places help people age in place.
  8. Third Places can help create jobs. (Jobs, Dwaine! Jobs!!!)
  9. Third Places will never be replaced by social networking sites like Facebook.
  10. Third Places help build conversation …. and conversation leads to trust.
Brilliant! Read Mike's explanations on each of these points, then come out swinging for third places in your town!

p.s.: Jenny and Shaun, as you get ready to enter the third-place business with Mochavino, Mike and I recommend you read some Ray Oldenburg.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

DENR Releases Draft Report on Water Quality: Improved Ag Practices Needed

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources wants your input on the 2010 Integrated Report on surface water quality in South Dakota. The draft report (available in here in big honkin' 7-megabyte PDF glory) details water quality conditions in lakes and streams across the state. The big picture (click to enlarge):

Figure 7: 2010 South Dakota Water Body Status
(DENR draft 2010IR, p. 56)

Blue is good—i.e., the stream or lake meets the environmental standards for all of the activities the state's scientists say it should support (swimming, breeding fish, irrigation, etc.). Red is bad—the stream or lake exceeds the total maximum daily load (TMDL) of nitrates, phosphates, sediment, coliform bacteria, or other pollutants that the water body can handle safely and naturally.

Lake County sits atop a nicely blue spur of the Lower Big Sioux watershed. Lakes Herman, Madison, and Brant all check out, Category 1, good for all designated uses. Our lakes got rated for high "Trophic State Index" (that's high nutrients, high algae) back in 1999, and the DENR assigned us TMDL to work toward. Sounds like we're doing o.k.... so light work at our first county water quality committee meeting Thursday, right? ;-)

Actually, no. The majority of lakes in the state are still classified as eutrophic or hypereutrophic, thanks to ag runoff and soil erosion into our shallow lakes. Plus, the east fork of the Vermillion River isn't in such good shape; the stream that drains the county line between Lake and McCook has high fecal coliform concentrations—i.e., cooties from cow poop. Maybe I'll wait on that kayak trip....

Statewide, the draft report says two thirds of our streams fail to meet water quality standards for all of their designated uses. Lakes are in better shape, with one in five lake assessed failing to meet standards for all designated uses. In all, DENR plans to list 45 lakes as impaired and requiring TMDL development.

So where does this pollution come from? Well, in the lakes, as the Farm Bureau likes to say, Thank a Farmer™:

The major problems of South Dakota lakes continue to be excessive nutrients, algae, and siltation due to nonpoint source pollution (primarily agricultural). Although land-use practices have improved in many agricultural watersheds, internal phosphorus recycling continues to negatively impact the trophic state of many lakes. Aging reservoirs have also become more eutrophic as many are now approaching their expected life spans. Water quality degradation due to acid precipitation, acid mine drainage, or toxic pollutants, is presently not a problem in South Dakota lakes [DENR, draft 2010 Integrated Report, p. 50].

Fecal coliform bacteria from ag operations and from wildlife cause problems in the largest portion of impaired South Dakota streams, followed by suspended solids (silt from erosion) and E. coli.

So on the good side, we don't have a lot of chemical industrial pollution, although I suspect frequent reader Mr. Kurtz can tell us a thing or two about the impacts of mining in the Black Hills. The draft report also notes that DENR has started water monitoring in Union County to get baseline data that will allow us to assess the impact of the Hyperion oil refinery (or the Hyperion landfill, or whatever comes first).

But we've got plenty of work to do to address the problems caused by our #1 industry, agriculture. More grassy waterways, more conservation acres, more erosion control—let's keep working to turn more of that map blue!

Blame Deficit on Recession, Russ Olson, LAIC, You, Me....

David Montgomery earns his pay this week with a great blog post on how much of the 2009 deficit can be attributed to Bush and how much to Obama. The short breakdown: Bush is responsible for $600 billion, Obama $350 billion, and the recession $420 billion (economy slowed down, government received less revenue). Montgomery's post gives some useful numbers to deflate Senator Thune's facetiously false claim that Bush's final budget "ran a deficit of just over $400 billion."

Meanwhile, Madison's own Jon Hunter grumbled a bit last week about the proposed (and now rejected) bipartisan deficit commission. Hunter grumbled that we don't need a committee to study a problem that we all recognize and know how to solve. Hunter also expressed his pessimism about the prospect of the Administration or Congress actually doing anything about that problem.

Missing from Hunter's grumbling was any mention of the plank in our own eye. Certainly deficits will continue as long as politicians keep promising pork and subsidizing corn and taking us to war without passing taxes to pay for them. but our politicians will keep doing that as long as we keep asking them to. Among the local deficit drivers among us whom Hunter neglected to include in his complaint:
Go ahead, wag your finger at the people responsible for our deficit. Just be sure to do it while looking in the mirror.

Wind Turbines Bring Noise, Sleepless Nights in Maine

Shout-out to Joelie—Everything has externalities... even wind power:

Cheryl Lindgren was excited when the three wind turbines down the road began turning in November, but within days her excitement turned to disbelief. The sound at her house, a half-mile or so away, wasn't what she had expected. As she sat reading in her quiet living room, she could detect a repetitive "whump, whump" coming from outside.

"I can feel this sound," she recalled thinking. "It's going right through me. I thought, 'Is this what's it's going to be like for the rest of my life?'"

Dedicated two months ago with great fanfare, the Fox Islands Wind Project is producing plenty of power, but also, a sense of shock among some neighbors. They say the noise, which varies with wind speed and direction, ranges from mildly annoying to so intrusive that it disturbs their sleep. And they say they lament losing the subtle silence they cherish living in the middle of Penobscot Bay -- the muffled crash of surf on the ledges and the whisper of falling snow [Tux Turkel, "Turbines Turn into Headache for Vinalhaven," Portland Press Herald, 2010.01.24].

Noise pollution can disrupt a community or an ecosystem, just as smog or chemicals dumped in groundwater can. Wind power will make some problems go away (like dependence on carbon-emitting fuel sources that will disappear within 1500 years... or 86 years... or less!). But, like any energy system, wind power will promote its own forms of entropy with which we will have to contend.

Perhaps this news from Maine will light a fire under the folks considering an initiated measure to restrict wind turbine locations.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

HB 1087: Big County Power Grab Killed in Committee

I'm still not sure what Verchio et al. were thinking with HB 1087, which appeared to grant counties power to pass ex post facto ordinances and unlimited fines and sentences. Whatever HB 1087 was about, Rep. Verchio's colleagues weren't buying it. The House Local Government Committee kicked that can to the 41st legislative day, effectively killing the bill. Tea Party fave and goob candidate Dr. R. Blake Curd joined ten fellow representatives in a unanimous vote against expanding local government power.

Side note: Our state legislature uses that non-existent 41st legislative day as the synonym for oblivion. But I wonder: since even-numbered years have only 35 day sessions, is there any chance such bill-killing votes need to be phrased as deferral to the 36th legislative day? Or is deferring a bill to the sixth non-existent day of the session a way of saying we really want this bill dead?

SJR 2: Whacky Terms and Term Limits for State Legislature

The latest bad idea from Pierre: Senate Joint Resolution 2, a proposed constitutional amendment changing term length and term limits for our state legislators. Don't be fooled: the resolution says "term limits," but it actually extends the time any given legislator can hold the same seat in Pierre.

Right now, our legislators serve two-year terms. They can serve four consecutive terms—eight years—before they have to step aside. (A four-term senator can run for the state House, and vice versa.)

SJR 2 creates a new wonky schedule: in 2012, we would elect senators and representatives to serve four-year terms. Same in 2016. Then in 2020 we'd elect legislators for just two-year terms. And so on, with legislative elections in 2022, 2026, 2030.... (Hmm... does this scheme have anything to do with decennial redistricting?)

SJR 2 would then limit legislators to three consecutive terms in either house.

SJR 2 would thus reduce by 40% the opportunities you and I have to "throw the bums out!" It would also increase by two years the amount of time successful, well-known, well-funded incumbents can hold onto their seats.

If you like term limits, SJR 2 is not your bill. If you like regular accountability at the ballot box, SJR 2 is not your bill. Maybe when Senate State Affairs takes up this resolution, we'll hear just who might want to vote for such a wonky system besides sponsors Senator Tom Hansen (R-22/Huron) and Rep. Dan Feinstein (D-14/Sioux Falls).

Of course, during the committee hearing, witnesses who begin speaking at odd-numbered minutes will be allowed to speak for 11 minutes each, while witnesses speaking at even-numbered minutes will be allowed to speak for 5 minutes each. And every 45 minutes, the committee will have to recess and reconvene in a different room....

Pastor Hickey on Lakota and Black Hills: Reconciliation? Try Reparations

There are numerous reasons Pastor Steve Hickey should blog about something other than abortion. One big reason: when he talks about issues like justice for Native Americans, he makes a lot of sense:

Personally, at this point, I support more listening, more conversation, and some creativity toward a mutually acceptable accord which may or may not include some kind of Lakota Makoce Wakan (sacred place/land, Sioux sanctuary or sacred memorial grounds) in the Black Hills National Forest. Should the Black Hills be given back? Not today. But today is the day to come together and look at every conceivable angle of how best to right this national wrong. It will take more patience on behalf of the Sioux, and more remorse on behalf of the United States. The Resolution of Apology to Native American Peoples is merely the starting place for a better life together and my hope is that South Dakotans genuinely support this and that native South Dakotans receive it sincerely. Mutually acceptable reparations must follow and, since the issue is land, I’m not sure anything short of some form of land settlement will receive mutual support [Pastor Steve Hickey, "Should We Give the Black Hills Back?" Voices Carry, 2010.01.25].

I double-dog-dare Governor Rounds to offer straight talk like that as he spearheads the "Year of Unity." I also hope Pastor Hickey's voice will carry as we try to restart Euro-Lakota reconciliation.

p.s.: Props to Pastor Hickey on being the first radical conservative I've heard to decry the IRS seizure and auction of tribal land on Crow Creek. Pay attention to his comment that the United States had better hope China doesn't take the same tack over our red ink.

No Change from Obama on Fourth Amendment

If President Obama wants to keep the excited young activists who got him elected, he'd better knock off foolishness like letting the FBI seize our phone records without a warrant. Mr. President, do not make me go to a Tea Party (but if I do, I wonder if I can Skype my RSVP...).

HB 1116: Chicoine-Monsanto Bill Filed in SD Legislature

SDSU President David Chicoine caused a fuss last spring when he accepted a high-paying position on Monsanto's corporate board. Senator Frank Kloucek (D-19/Scotland) promised to lead a discussion of this seeming conflict of interest on the floor of the Legislature.

Senator Kloucek has his chance now with House Bill 1116, which would restrict Dr. Chicoine and any other executive officer of any Regental institution making over $100,000 from almost any serious moonlighting. If HB 1116 passes, university execs could only take outside jobs that pay less than $10,000 a year. (Dr. Chicoine's total annual salary and benefits from Monsanto: $400,000.)

Now before you chuckling Republicans start cranking up the ad hominem against Senator Kloucek, take a look at HB 1116's sponsor list. Primary sponsors are Republican Rep. Jacqueline Sly (33/Rapid City) and Democrat Senator Ryan Maher (28/Isabel). Our man Frank has his name on the bill, right next to GOP colleague Senator Gene Abdallah (10/Sioux Falls). Throw in a couple more West River conservatives like Reps. Brunner and Kopp, and Sen. Kloucek has some bipartisan backing for a really interesting discussion of conflict of interest in the highest offices of the Regental system.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Congress, Listen Up! Voters Want Action on Climate Change

...and no, John, "action" does not include "filibuster."

When we finally clear health care reform from the table, what should Congress take up next? Climate change and energy security. No, not just because I say so (although the world would be a better place of legislation passed through the Madville Times first). Congress should act on climate and energy because the voters want them to.

A new poll by Benenson Strategy Group finds cap-and-trade legislation would win a popular vote 58% to 37% (ah, so that's why my conservative friends get so excited about saying America's a republic and not a democracy: they don't want the people's will to be done). Dems and Republicans split as you might expect... although Dems are much more strongly for it than Republicans are against it. But the big point: the ever desirable middle, all those Independents who think this partisan bickering is silly and just don't want to have to grow gills, support legislation including cap-and-trade 52% to 41%.

Even when asked about cap and trade as a measure to address climate change, with no added info about job creation or other economic benefits of not turning Earth into Venus, only a minority of voters say cap and trade would hurt the economy.

And remember GOP pollster Frank Luntz? He advised President Bush in 2002 to focus people's attention on the "lack of scientific certainty" about global warming. Luntz's latest research finds that the climate change deniers are becoming irrelevant: a majority of Americans (Obama voters and McCain voters) believe the climate is changing, but even more agree that we should pass climate change legislation for national security. Luntz's research also finds majorities of Obama and McCain voters want cap-and-trade legislation that "will limit the amount of pollution companies can emit, giving companies incentives to reduce emissions—and holding those who don't accountable…" (Tony! People understand externalities! We're winning!)

Read Luntz's full report (in PDF) here.

I often get nervous when my thinking matches that of a majority of Americans. But that's just me. Senator Thune, Representative Herseth Sandlin, you should get nervous when your thinking doesn't.

Lake County Unemployment (and Jobs) Drop Again

Chuck Clement beats me to the unemployment numbers for December, but you can see for yourself: Lake County saw its unemployment rate drop for the second straight month, from 5.9% in November to 5.5% in December. But then we also saw the number of jobs and members of the workforce decline for the second straight month as well. Lake County lost 105 jobs in December, but it also saw 140 prospective workers quit prospecting.

Lake County finished 2009 with 155 fewer jobs than it had at the end of 2008. That's a 2.4% drop. For those of you keeping score: the LAIC now has 820 jobs to create over the next 24 months to meet its Forward Madison job creation goal.

Our neighbors in Brookings didn't end the year on a labor high note. Their unemployment went up another couple ticks in December to 3.7%, their second-highest rate of 2009. They ended the year with 18,665 jobs, a 5.7% drop from the 19,785 jobs Brookings County had at the end of 2008.

In the septa-county area, Lake is in the middle of the unemployment pack. Brookings is still the area jobs leader, followed by Minnehaha (4.8% unemployed) and McCook (5.3%). We're doing a litle better than miner and Kingsbury (each at 5.6%). Moody brings up the rear, with 6.7% unemployment.

New Local Foods Website for South Dakota

It's hard to imagine green when all I can see out my rattling window is white and grey. But Mike Knudson puts some spring in my green step with the announcement that Buy Fresh Buy Local South Dakota has a new website. Mmm... local food! (And best of all, Mr. Mercer, the farmers markets still pay sales tax!)

Buy Fresh Buy Local's upcoming events: a screening of Food Inc. at SDSU on Feb. 2 and a farmers market seminar in Rapid City on Feb. 5. Time to start those seeds... of local food revolution!

SCOTUS: Money Not Root of Political Evil

The Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission includes this howler:

...independent expenditures, including those made by corporations, do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption. That speakers may have influence over or access to elected officials does not mean that those officials are corrupt. And the appearance of influence or access will not cause the electorate to lose faith in this democracy [U.S. Supreme Court, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 2010.01.21, Syllabus, pp. 5–6].

Dang. Maybe Rep. Herseth Sandlin was right when she said supposing a connection between campaign contributions and undue influence is "ridiculous." Not that I take much heart from our Democratic Congresswoman sounding like a small group of conservatives.

But that last line, about the electorate losing faith... how do my Tea Party friends feel about that?

The conservative justices do make their case (read the full opinion), but I'm still shaking off the effects of a failed laugh test.

Mercer Chooses Incomplete Math on Renewable Energy/Sales Tax Equation

Bob Mercer throws Senator Russell Olson (R-8/Madison) a lifeline to defend his vote against renewable energy and tax breaks. Mercer blogs about the "hidden costs" of Senate Bill 58:

Every kilowatt-hour produced by one of these small generators for personal or business consumption is a kilowatt-hour of electricity that isn’t purchased. And every kilowatt-hour of electricity not purchased is a kilowatt-hour on which no sales tax is collected. The purpose of the PUC’s exemption is to encourage small-renewable systems. The unintended effect however is a permanent erosion of sales tax revenues that could eventually grow to the millions of dollars annually [Bob Mercer, "Hidden Costs to State Treasury of PUC's Exemption Plan," Pure Pierre Politics, 2010.01.24].

Mercer carefully avoids saying this cost is a reason to vote the bill down... but his language makes pretty clear he doesn't think highly of SB 58 and the seemingly "inevitable" conversion to renewable energy.

Mercer's logic is short-sighted. All he's looking at is the electric meters of folks who will take advantage of the PUC's Small Renewable Energy Initiative to install wind and geothermal and hydrogen units to produce some of their own energy. His calculus doesn't include...
  • increased sales of renewable energy equipment;
  • increased purchasing power from employees of new renewable energy sales and service companies;
  • savings to consumers and electric companies who don't have to build new peak-load facilities as quickly (meaning more purchasing power for other goods, and more sales tax revenue).
Mercer also declines to acknowledge the social and environmental benefits of small renewable energy. South Dakotans will make more of their own energy. We'll be less dependent on the grid. When snow and ice knock out power for 10,000 South Dakotans, more of those folks will have affordable back-up power. We'll reduce pollution from coal-burning power plants.

By Mercer's logic, my electric co-op, Sioux Valley, is doing the state wrong by shifting its focus from growth to energy efficiency. The same logic would discourage rummage sales and do-it-yourself carpentry (how much lumber and equipment do woodworkers buy?). The same logic would say our Department of Health shouldn't fight obesity: after all, how would we replace all the sales tax we get from fat people ordering seconds?

Mercer's argument indicates the foolishness of the sales tax. The state becomes wedded to ever-increasing consumption. When faced with a good bill like SB 58, short-sighted conservatives like Senator Olson can argue, "But people will buy less stuff!" A state taxing food and energy purchases has a motive to encourage gluttony and waste. A state taxing income has a motive to encourage industry and wealth.

SB 58 will indeed cause a reduction in sales tax revenue—or at least in the growth thereof—if all you look at is the electric meters. But if our legislators look at more than the back of Bob Mercer's envelope, they'll see an increase in jobs, purchasing power, and energy self-sufficiency.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Pastor Nussbaum Ashamed of Anti-Gay SD Family Policy Council

Curtis Price has provided excellent blog coverage of the anti-gay bullying the Rapid City School Board faced from gubernatorial candidate Gordon Howie and other religious fundamentalists for restoring a policy specifically addressing discrimination against homosexual students.

Price reminds us that we must not equate Christianity with prejudice. He cites the example set by Pastor Martin Nussbaum:

The other day at the school board meeting I met the wonderful Pastor Martin Nussbaum of Rapid City, who told the assembled at the Jan 7 Rapid City School Board meeting that he felt "ashamed" when he received an invitation from the South Dakota Family Policy Council urging him to push the school board to NOT protect LGBT people.

He's been a long time voice in support of Christians that don't agree with Focus On The Family's contention that The Gay™ is a threat to their faith!

Anyway, the news is that Martin is interested in help start a LGBT-friendly church -- they may meet at the BHCFE, it's still in the drawing-board stages. But it's a good thing since the Met Church in Rapid City folded more than five years ago now, and this was a big loss [Curtis Price, "A New LGBT Ministry in Rapid City?" Robbinsdale Radical, 2010.01.23].

Long time voice... indeed! Martin graduated a year ahead of me from Madison HS. He was a fellow debater and thespian. Even in high school, he was an outspoken advocate of strong and tolerant Christianity. I still remember his letter to the editor telling off the local fundagelicals who were busy striking poses over Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ. The West Twin Theater had advertised with a whiff of self-righteousness that it would not be showing Scorcese's film. Martin scolded his fellow believers, noting that his God was strong enough to withstand any piece of celluloid. Martin's example back then helped me move away from my juvenile rejection of religion to a recognition that believers can be intelligent and compassionate allies in the fight for justice (not to mention good company at breakfast).

An intriguing Google twist: Do not confuse Pastor Martin Nussbaum with L. Martin Nussbaum, who was the lawyer for New Life Church in Colorado Springs when Ted Haggard revealed his own tolerance for homosexuality.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Legislative Roundup: Toothless Legislation, Jail Bait, Beavers...

This week in the South Dakota State Legislature:

Genocide Concerns Us, But Keep Investing in Iran: The Senate Retirement Laws Committee stamped SB 21 "Do Pass." They did amend the state's request for unfettered investment in terrorist states. The amendment calls on the State Investment Council to "engage and promote compliance" with federal divestiture laws and authorizes the Legislature to "express its concerns" about state investments that may fund evildoers. In other words, more toothless paperwork. No sign yet of Rep. Lederman's promised legislation to outright ban the state from investing in Iran. Stay tuned....

Sex Sex Sex...: And you thought the budget would be all our legislators had on their minds. There are a slew of proposals relating to sex offenders and the life sentences our state imposes on them. There's also HB 1110, which eases the penalty for statutory rape for certain young and restless penetrators fondlers.

[Update 2010.01.24: HB 1110 primary sponsor Rep. Rich Engels drops by the comment section to clarify! See below! This bill is about sexual contact, not sexual penetration! Errors from the original post are corrected below—sorry for the mess!]

(Read carefully: this is tricky!) Right now, sex with someone under 16 is a Class 3 felony. However, if you're less than three years older than the victim, it's only a Class 1 misdemeanor.

HB 1110 changes the law to read thus:

If the victim is at least thirteen years of age and the actor is less than five years older than the victim, the actor is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Let's try to clarify, kids:

Under HB 1110, if you are this old......[correction] serious necking is a felony if she/he's this old (or younger)
..but a misdemeanor if she/he's this old

Correction: The rules on rape remain the same. basically, kids, don't go all the way! If either party is under 16, it may be rape... and it's probably stupid. And for pete's sake, don't do it a second time: HB 1110 makes second offense a Class 2 felony.

So under HB 1110, two legal adults, one 19, one 18, could perform the same act, sex heavy petting with a 14-year-old. The 19-year-old could get 15 years in the pen and a $30K fine. The 18-year-old could get a year in the county jail and a $2K fine.

Hmm... could we just issue stainless steel underpants to everyone and hand out keys with high school diplomas? (Now that would cut the drop-out rate.)

Darn You Beavers!: In the unnecessary legislation department, HB 1113 adds prairie dogs, raccoons, skunks, and beavers to list of critters GF&P can target on the animal damage control list. Thing is, current statute already says that list can include "other wild animals" deemed injurious to the general welfare. I guess certain legislators just want to say, "Skunks! Coons! Beavers! We mean you!"

Update 13:05 CST: But wait, there's more!

Tightening the Auto Insurance Noose: Driving without insurance could get harder: SB 87 would require folks registering any noncommercial motor vehicle to show their proof of insurance to the county treasurer.

Make Your Own Gun, Dodge Federal Rules!: A majority of the Legislature has already signed on to sponsor SB 89, which will exempt firearms, firearm accessories, and ammo made and used exclusively in South Dakota from federal regulations. Do whatever you want with your weapons, as long as you don't invade Minnesota.

Sure enough, the "Firearms Freedom Act" is a coordinated national effort. SB 89 copies language used in a "Firearms Freedom Act" proposed in Minnesota last year. Montana led the way, passing the first version of said law last year and now fighting Uncle Sam in court to keep it. Interestingly, the NRA may not be supporting this law.

Anti-Abortion Crusaders Incur Wrath of God?

No, it's just raining and snowing.

Last night's pro-life march in Sioux Falls was cancelled due to bad weather. Northern Plains Anglican, an eminently more reliable theologian than I, notes with what sounds like a chuckle that you probably shouldn't attribute the storm to any of the following:
  • Perhaps the marchers had a bad attitude, and were not going to represent God well.
  • Perhaps the marchers were in danger from abortion zealots or just plain crazy folks, and God wanted to protect them.
  • I suppose one can argue that demonic forces called out the storm to stop the march, although what that says about God gets interesting.
  • &c &c &c [Father Timothy Logan Fountain, "Another reason to refrain from putting a moral judgment on natural phenomena," Northern Plains Anglican, 2010.01.22]
For those of you still taking your Haiti cues from Pat Robertson, see also Matthew 5:45 (sun and rain, righteous and not).

Another Opponent of the Cadillac Tax...

...or maybe the cow-methane tax?

Seen around town, some truckular humor from Kvernevig Trucking of Webster (click pix to enlarge):

Truck labelled 'Cattle-lac'
And then, on the back of the sleeper, a note for the oxymoron file:

truck logo: Haulin' Ass with a Touch of Class...with a touch of class? That might be about as logically coherent as Gordon Howie's campaign slogan.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Blog Heaven: Obama Admin Releases Huge Database to Public

You want government transparency? President Obama's got your transparency right here, with a huge upload of public data to the Web:

The Transportation Department will post ratings for 2,400 lines of tires for consumer safety based on tire tread wear, traction performance and temperature resistance. The Labor Department will release the names of 80,000 workplaces where injuries and illness have occurred over the past 10 years.

The Medicare database has previously been available for a fee of $100 on CD ROM. Under the Obama initiative, it can be downloaded free, providing detailed breakdowns of payments for Medicare services. The Medicare data will be sortable by the type of medical service provided.

A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration database rates car seats for ease of use, evaluating the simplicity of instruction sheets, labels, vehicle installation features and securing the child.

"We're democratizing data," White House Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra said Thursday in an interview [Pete Yost, "Government Posting Wealth of Data to Internet," AP via Miami Herald, 2010.01.22].

The Medicare database—once $100, now free, and in Excel and Google-Maps-ready format (well, only csv/txt for now, but they're working on it)! And the LAIC wanted $250 for its measly one-binder housing study? Take a transparency memo, Dwaine!

The Obama Administration still has a long way to go on improving government openness (expect the comment section to fill with the right's favorite talking points). But making these gobs of government data so freely available is a huge step forward. Full and easy access to government data is a necessary step toward full and easy participation in government.

Update 2010.01.28: But the President still needs to crack some skulls down through the bureaucracy. His people are still fighting more FOIA lawsuits than his predecessor did.

Free Speech for Corporations: What Proper Constraints?

A just society would be one in which liberty for one person is constrained only by the demands created by equal liberty for another.

Ivan Illich, Tools for Conviviality, 1973, p. 41

A corporation is not a person. The law and a majority of the current Supreme Court say it is, but they are wrong. As Justice John Paul Stevens said from the bench in dissent yesterday, "corporations have no consciences, no beliefs, no feelings, no thoughts, no desires."

But let's set that argument aside (as does the Roberts-Scalia wing of the Court). While I read the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission allowing corporations to donate to political campaigns, consider this scenario:

Suppose I, a person, amass a vast sum of money (through hard work and wise investing). I run for state senate against Russ Olson. Two weeks before the election, I offer the Madison Daily Leader, KJAM, and every other media outlet that reaches our district four times their going rate to buy every available ad space. Good capitalists all, they accept. I even buy up Pat Powers's whole sidebar (and send his seven kids to college). For two weeks before the election, my disproportionate wealth drowns out the message of my opponent.

Wealth is power. When is my power to "speak" so great that it threatens the liberty of others? What proper constraints may society place upon my use of my wealth to "speak" in the public sphere?

While we think about that, here's some more reading on yesterday's remarkable Supreme Court ruling:
  1. Dahlia Lithwick, "The Pinocchio Project," Slate, 2010.01.21.
  2. What's next: voting rights for corporations? Lyle Denniston, "Analysis: The Personhood of Corporations," SCOTUSBlog, 2010.01.21.
  3. See also Erin Miller's great SCOTUSBlog round-up of first-day reaction to Citizens United v. FEC.—beaucoup links!
Update 2010.01.28: Dr. Newquist understands the question of disproportionate power at which I'm driving.

Wind Juices Local Economies in Nebraska & Dakotas

More folks across the Great Plains are figuring out that wind power is a key part of economic future. Today's notes:
  • Thanks to a $5-million tax credit from Uncle Sam, TPI Composites will open a wind turbine blade factory in Grand Island, Nebraska. What does Grand Island get out of the deal? More than 200 jobs.
  • As reported here earlier, Iberdrola is building enough wind power in Brookings and Deuel counties to replace more than half of the capacity of the canceled Big Stone II coal plant... and doing it for less cost per megawatt. The Brookings County Commission is taking its time to make sure the Buffalo Ridge wind developments don't cause interference with ITC's phone lines. Tuesday, the commission got a reminder that Buffalo Ridge is good for local business: local concrete contractor Winter, Inc. is pouring concrete bases for towers that may be 484 feet tall.
  • Every little bit helps: Art Mariner started GR-8 Country Wind Power about a year ago. He's sold a handful of small turbines for home and farm use. His wind company employs himself and two others. Thre jobs here, three jobs there... that's exactly the kind of rural job creation SB 58 and the other components of the PUC's Small Renewable Energy Initiative will support.

Sen. Olson: Forget Renewable Energy; Let's Play Bingo!

Another note from the "I can't make stuff like this up" department:

Senator Russell Olson (R-8/Madison) has a vision for rural economic development in South Dakota. That vision does not include small renewable energy projects or tax breaks for those who build them. His employer, Heartland Consumer Power District, probably loathes the thought of individuals producing their own power, becoming more energhy independent, and messing up their pretty little grid. Senator Olson voted against Senate Bill 58 in the State Affairs Committee yesterday.

What is Senator Olson's vision for rural economic development? Our man Russ is a prime sponsor of House Bill 1095. This legislation permits local industrial development corporations to conduct bingo games and lotteries.

Bingo. Lotteries.

So that's how Senator Olson's previous employer, the Lake Area Improvement Corporation, is going to fulfill the Forward Madison goals: they're going to hire 400 people to sell lottery tickets and run a bingo hall in the renovated depot. (I assume the LAIC is one of the "industrial development corporations" created by SDCL 5-14-23.)

To review: Olson is a Republican voting against (1) business opportunities and (2) tax breaks, but promoting games of chance as an economic development strategy.

I want to use renewable energy for economic development. Russ wants to use bingo.

Ah, vision.

Of course, if HB 1103 passes, you'll be able to drive your golf cart to the bingo hall. Say, couldn't we charge those carts with wind turbines?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

SDGOP Mud Wrestling Begins; Dark Horses, Keep Riding!

The Dave Knudson for Governor campaign sends me its fun little press release tweaking Dennis Daugaard for his apparent flip-flop on Governor Rounds's budget.

Part of me goes Tee-hee! at the prospect of Republican mud-wrestling. But part of me thinks of 2002 and gets a little antsy. Daugaard and Knudson have their differences, but they are cut of similar pragmatist cloth. They'll lead the fight for the mainstream Republican vote.

But as they start fighting—and they will, they have to, that's a primary reality—they may find themselves rolling down the same road as Steve Kirby and Mark Barnett in 2002: the road to defeat at the hands of a dark horse challenger.

And who are our dark horses this year?

Well, there's rancher Ken Knuppe, who's probably going to Wasson out on us any day now.

There's Scott Munsterman, whose events calendar does look distressingly empty this month. I wouldn't go so far as to say the wheels are coming off the Munsterman campaign, although his campaign manager has certainly been making a push to supplement his income with more blog ads.* I find it hard to believe that Munsterman would bail on the campaign after selling his business and driving all over kingdom come last year. If the two big guys are fighting, why not stay and fight to be the Mike Rounds surprise of 2010?

Because, as Badlands Blue points out, there's another dark horse who may have an even better shot at gobbling up the remnants of a GOP electorate split by a Knudson–Daugaard bloodbath: Gordon Howie. Yes, he's a nut, but he might be the right kind of nut.

Daugaard and Knudson can split the sensible GOP–Chamber of Commerce vote. Munsterman has that good-old fundagelical Wesleyanism in him, but for all his signals to the theocracy crowd, he's still a relatively practical policy wonk (read the briefs, read the book). The radical right knows Munsterman isn't quite the rabid anti-abortion crusader of their dreams.

The great non-wonk right that votes on nothing but fetuses and fags† knows Gordon Howie is their man. He's built his reputation in the crusade for theocracy. The moment he submits his petitions for governor, he has a lock on the Unruh block of the GOP. Munsterman will be left playing for the scraps of the sensible Republicans, and unless he and Knudson roll over to save the party, Howie could be the nominee.

...at which point, Heidepriem wins.

Gee, I guess all of me is saying, Tee-hee!

*Powers's latest ads include the Pothole Fairy! Hmmm... conservative blogger advertises for lobby supporting more government spending—wrap your brain around that one!.

†I apologize now to my friends on the left who may be offended by my use of the term. I use it for alliteration and to capture the homophobic thinking the Howie crowd's bullying and bias demonstrate. As always, the comment section is open.

I'm a Marxist Voodoo Priest, Sibby's a Nut...

...and no one else cares.

Because Steve Sibson is so far off topic on my post about the state GOP's mud-wrestling and the window of opportunity for the Gordon Howie theocrats, I'm deleting his whole nutty thread from that comment section. Lest Steve think he has scored some victory by driving me to censorship, I reprint (against my better judgment, but I'm a sucker for lost causes like Sibby) the entire whacky discussion here. Steve, feel free to continue your crush on me on this post.

Anonymous Steve Sibson said...


To you believe in:

"Under God the people rule"?

1/21/2010 3:43 PM

Steve Sibson said...

There I go hitting the publish button too soon.

"Do you believe in:"

1/21/2010 3:45 PM

caheidelberger said...

Steve, you know I'm an atheist. How could I believe in that statement? Or is there some other meaning to your question?

1/21/2010 6:54 PM

Steve Sibson said...


That is South Dakota's state motto and is found on the state seal and in the South Dakota Constitution. So I can add anti-South Dakotan to the anti-American Christian hating Neo-Marxist agenda you are a part of as described in this excerpt I copied and pasted on my web site five days ago with a title that included your name regarding attacks at Brett Hume for expressing his Christian beliefs:

"This is the way Jon Stewart and his staff operates: Take a deliberately truncated clip from the person you want to attack, then self-righteously mock and ridicule him and the statement whose meaning you have just distorted.

This tactic is straight out from the playbook of Neo-Marxist humbug Saul Alinsky, the author of "Rules for Radicals," one of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's favorite books."

Thanks for your post as it proves the point made five days ago. Your distortion was this:

"He's built his reputation in the crusade for theocracy."

1/21/2010 7:11 PM

caheidelberger said...

[Steve, you are hilarious! Because I disagree with on the existence of a supreme being, I hate South Dakota? Wow! With logical acrobatics like that, who needs Cirque du Soleil? (Besides, their name is French, and Marx lived in France; therefore, Cirque du Soleil are Marxists!)]

[Or try this: I haven't eaten pheasant or walleye lately. Pheasant and walleye are the state bird and fish of South Dakota. Therefore, I'm anti-South Dakota! Yaaarrr!]

[Steve and I could play nutty playground non-logic all day long. But I'm not news. Neither is Steve's crush on me. I'd rather hear comments about the actual substance of the post.]

1/21/2010 7:25 PM

Steve Sibson said...

"Steve, you are hilarious! Because I disagree with on the existence of a supreme being, I hate South Dakota?"

No Cory! There you go with the distortions directed at Christians. The truth is that you rejected South Dakota's state motto. Again you prove my point about your Neo-Marxist tactics. And if you are up to it, research John Locke's positon regarding the role of atheists.

1/21/2010 9:02 PM

caheidelberger said...

[No, Steve, it's voodoo tactics: I'm trying to make an earthquake happen! (So far, only my heat pump is rumbling. I should have that looked at.) ]

[I am desperately writhing in the crushing grip of Steve's cleverly sprung bear-trap logic... oh, wait, sorry: that's actually just writhing with laughter. Steve makes it so easy to confuse the two. 8-D ]

[If I delete this thread, it will only be because Steve is totally off topic.]

1/21/2010 9:34 PM