- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

Editors: Please note that The Associated Press welcomes editorial contributions from members for the weekly Editorial Roundup. Three editorials are selected every week. Contributions can be made by email at [email protected]

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Capital Journal, Pierre, Jan. 29, 2015

On balanced budget amendment: Keep your eyes on the road

What doesn’t add up here?

We have a South Dakota Legislature mulling whether to throw its support behind a proposal for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requiring a balanced budget by the federal government.

And at this very same time, we have one of our own state officials, South Dakota Secretary of Transportation Darin Bergquist, telling the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee how desperately our state needs federal cash to keep its roads in shape. Speaking Wednesday in Washington, D.C., Bergquist reminded the panel that South Dakota faces special circumstances, including fewer taxpayers per mile than many states and a shorter construction season. “States cannot do it alone,” Bergquist said. “We need a strong federal program.”

Does anyone see a connection here between the health of our state’s roads and federal spending? Now what about other sectors? Do South Dakota farmers want the federal government to cut off disaster payments in the name of a balanced budget? Does the crop insurance industry want the feds to stop subsidizing farmers’ crop insurance? What about federal grants to college students? Federal grants to rural hospitals? How much would the feds save by closing Ellsworth Air Force Base? How much could we hack from Social Security payments, Medicaid, Medicare?

Our opinion at the Capital Journal is that we should by all means support responsible budgeting and push for a balanced federal budget. It would be great if we could all be less dependent on the federal government. But we should not amend our U.S. Constitution to require a balanced budget without giving careful consideration to what we get from the federal government’s spending.

Our main reason for that is one we haven’t even touched on yet. We think it would be foolish to bind the hands of our federal government to address crises. We should not add a balanced budget amendment unless we have the genius to also end recessions, depressions, wars and Dust Bowls. In any of those situations, we need a federal government that will take the necessary action, whatever the cost.

Second, as we’ve already hinted at above, we think the coffee shop clamor to pass a balanced budget amendment is exactly that - coffee shop talk that ought to stay right there, where it’s harmless.

As some members of our editorial board are telling us this week, South Dakotans who think a balanced budget amendment is common sense fail to realize both the complexity of a national economy and the dependence small states have on the federal government. We cannot know when there is going to be a hurricane or a winter storm Atlas that hits some state unusually hard and throws federal spending out of balance in any given area.

As the economist John Kenneth Galbraith noted, ideas do not have to be deeply right to be deeply influential. This idea of a balanced budget amendment is deeply flawed.

Let’s think twice before we second-guess the Founding Fathers on this one. There was a reason they didn’t include this amendment.

On this issue, it’s time to get out of the coffee shop and take a drive to clear your mind, South Dakota. Keep your eyes on the road.

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Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, Feb. 1, 2015

Does the justice system fail domestic abuse cases?

In a deep look at the criminal and court history of John E. Hemminger, the American News learned that he seemed to be on a path, since age 18 in 2000, that might have led him to the events of early morning Jan. 7.

That’s when prosecutors said Hemminger stabbed Jessica Goebel, the mother of two of his children, so violently that she died five days later.

Hemminger is now charged with premeditated murder.

He has pleaded not guilty.

This is not the first time he has faced very serious charges. In fact, Hemminger’s history includes an attempted murder charge in 2003. He eventually pleaded no contest to a charge of aggravated assault and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

His record also includes a handful of domestic assault charges. Three of those instances involved Jessica Goebel.

Now, Aberdeen, Langford (Goebel’s hometown) and northeast South Dakota are left wondering: How could this have happened?

There are no easy answers, no one failure of the system.

In fact, this case demonstrates how muddled the justice system can be and how many moving parts there are when trying to protect someone like Goebel.

An American News story revealed that about eight hours before police were called to Goebel’s home to find her with multiple stab wounds, Hemminger was apparently in the neighborhood. Goebel’s friends said he was fighting with another man. Police were called.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened after that, but it is clear that Hemminger was not arrested at the time. That happened later at an Aberdeen hospital.

Had he been at Goebel’s house, he should have been arrested immediately because of a no-contact order issued in December by Magistrate Judge Mark Anderson. Hemminger was to have no contact with Goebel - in person, by phone, by email or by text. No contact.

But go back to December in the weeks before Goebel was stabbed. Hemminger found himself in Anderson’s court twice.

On Dec. 9, Hemminger was arrested on domestic simple assault charges, accused of assaulting Goebel. He was released on a $1,000 recognizance bond set by Anderson and ordered not to have contact with Goebel.

Less than two weeks later, he was back in front of Anderson, this time charged with two counts of violating the no-contact orders and a count of vandalism. This time, Hemminger was accused of damaging windows in Goebel’s car.

Again, he was released on a $1,000 recognizance bond and an additional $500 cash bond for violating the no-contact order.

Speaking generally beyond the Hemminger case, Anderson told the American News that judges evaluate each case based on the information relayed from the State’s Attorney’s Office or information gathered from law officers.

He said judges can consider factors such as whether a person has a history of violence or if a case is more violent than a previous one involving the same person.

The consistency with which the court had seen Hemminger going back to a June 2012 charge of domestic simple assault, also against Goebel, could have been one such factor.

Unfortunately, what we are learning is there were several places where breakdowns could have occurred.

While this situation ended with the unthinkable, a death, there are many, many more cases moving through the judicial system now that may also raise such questions. The vast majority will never command public attention or scrutiny.

We expect, as this case continues, more and more will be learned about how domestic abuse incidents are treated in the system.

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Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Jan. 29, 2015

Racism will never disappear entirely. It’s like a virus that lurks deep in a troubled soul, awaiting an easy opportunity to unleash its toxic spew.

It happened on Saturday night in an inexcusable and disturbing incident at the Rush hockey game attended by nearly 5,000 fans at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

According to witnesses, two men were hurling racial slurs and tossing beer at students and chaperones from American Horse School on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Since then, the civic center, the Rush and Eagle Sales, the company that leases the skybox where the men were spotted, have apologized and vowed to make this right for the group of 65 who attended the game.

The Rapid City Police Department, meanwhile, has launched a criminal investigation and many in the community are calling for justice in this case.

While the response has been appropriate and we are confident city officials will do all they can to prevent such an ugly incident from taking place again, one wonders why no one stood up to racism at the hockey game?

It is clear a number of people saw the embarrassing spectacle. One witness told the Rapid City Journal that two men who had gotten into a confrontation with an adult member of the group were apparently “celebrating” when those who were harassed left the game early. He went on to say the men then gave beers to others in what appeared to be a “celebration” and those in the skybox with them “seemed extremely uncomfortable.”

But, apparently, no one said a word to the men who have embarrassed our community. By looking the other way on what amounts to an attack on children, those who witnessed this tacitly endorsed it.

We understand that it is not easy to confront racists who unabashedly show their true colors or that it could be risky to do so depending upon circumstances. But in this case, witnesses could have at least reported what they were seeing to civic center security.

Instead, they let it pass.

By turning a blind eye to behavior that is now seemingly condemned by all, the fans who witnessed this nourished the racism that exists in those souls. The exchange also likely left an unforgettable impression on innocent students who came here to have a good time and then left rather than being forced to endure the indignities that were thrust upon them.

If we are serious about confronting racism in this community, then everyone needs to confront it or take action every time they see it. Apologies, public statements condemning the behavior and promises of a better time at another hockey game should only serve as the starting point in coming to terms with behavior we hope to never see again.


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