- Associated Press - Thursday, January 30, 2014

Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Jan. 28, 2014

Making police logs public a start

Gov. Dennis Daugaard has pledged to make state government more open to the public and last year his Open Government Task Force submitted eight bills in the 2013 legislative session. The Legislature rejected five of the proposed laws.

One of the proposed laws was one that would make police logs and criminal booking photos public. Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-S.D., has introduced a revised bill this year that would change state law to require law enforcement agencies to release police logs to the public.

Senate Bill 85 maintains the confidentiality of criminal justice information and criminal histories, while allowing legal entities to release the information. However, the bill states: “Information about calls for service revealing the date, time, and general location and general subject matter of the call is not confidential criminal justice information and shall be released to the public” unless the information would jeopardize an ongoing investigation.

We support Tieszen’s bill. Police logs should be available to the public, as they are in most other states. The public wants to know what calls police are answering, especially when it’s in their own neighborhood.

We are disappointed that making criminal booking photos public is not included in Tieszen’s bill. Again, most states already allow the release of police mug shots.

The failure of most of the Open Government Task Force bills to pass the 2013 Legislature was discouraging. Gov. Daugaard, however, told the Journal editorial board that he still supports the task force’s recommendations.

We would like to see the administration or one or more lawmakers to reintroduce some of the failed open government bills this year. For instance: making emails and text messages sent by public officials during meetings to be open records, requiring that minutes be kept during executive sessions and making committees and subcommittees of public bodies subject to open meetings laws.

The Legislature should pass Tieszen’s police logs bill, but there are still a lot of government records and meetings in South Dakota that remain hidden from the public.

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Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Jan. 25, 2014

Legislature must protect insurance consumers

Momentum seems to be building for some needed changes in consumer protection laws regarding insurance providers.

The changes would increase the power of the Division of Insurance to deal with companies that use unfair practices and would allow the agency to penalize the firms found to be “bad actors.”

To most of us, those responsibilities seem like common sense. The proposed law changes would:

- Allow the Division of Insurance to fine companies for unfair practices without first seeking agreement on the fine from the company.

- Permit the division to disclose to policyholders any actions taken against a company after an investigation.

- Enable the state to adopt model legislation from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners prohibiting unfair claims practices. Forty-six states already have a version of the NAIC legislation in place.

The proposals are supported by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who made the issue of consumer protection a part of his State of the State address.

Previous governors have attempted to make these changes, but failed. The insurance lobby convinced legislators that more regulation was not needed.

But Argus Leader reporting last year on South Dakota families fighting to get insurance firms to pay claims for the care of their elderly parents brought these issues to light.

Ability Insurance, an Omaha company selling long-term care policies in South Dakota, repeatedly refused a Flandreau woman’s claim for assisted-living care, even though she suffered from several health problems and had a doctor’s recommendation that she get the additional care. Her family sued to force Ability to pay the claims.

Other families reported similar problems dealing with Ability.

After the stories were published, Daugaard ordered a review of the state’s handling of consumer claims against insurance companies. In the end, the state fined Ability Insurance and the push for law changes began.

Sometimes it takes an extreme case to get the attention of the Legislature. This is one of those times.

The House Judiciary Committee last week voted to send the proposed legislation on to the House floor for debate. We urge legislators to pass these measures.

It’s way past time for South Dakotans to get better, more reliable consumer protections from the state agencies charged with regulating business practices.

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Madison Daily Leader, Madison, Jan. 27, 2014

Who would have guessed S.D. is growing so fast?

At the moment, with the temperature below zero, it’s hard to imagine there being a rush to move to South Dakota.

Yet new figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that South Dakota is one of the sixth fastest-growing states in the nation, and our state’s growth rate is exceeded by even colder North Dakota.

South Dakota’s population grew by 3.5 percent over the past three years to 844,877 people. The national population grew by 2.2 percent.

Our population growth has mostly come through people moving here from other states and a higher birth rate among Native Americans in South Dakota. North Dakota’s 7.3 percent growth is almost entirely from migration to work in the oil fields.

So why are people moving to South Dakota?

Most of us who live here know why, despite the recent frigid temperatures. Statistically, jobs are available, the cost of living is more affordable, the crime rate is lower than the national average in most parts of the state, and taxes are modestly lower.

We would add, of course, that it’s the non-statistical “quality of life” that appeals to people moving here, and to those of us who choose to stay. That quality of life includes recreation opportunities, friendly neighbors, good schools and much more.

Most states excel in at least one of the “statistical” or “quality of life” areas, but South Dakota perhaps has the best package of all of them.

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