- Associated Press - Friday, March 11, 2016

Watertown Public Opinion, Watertown, March 5, 2016

True conservatives vs. just all talk

Back in the heyday of radio, Art Linkletter’s “House Party” program featured a segment called “Kids say the darndest things.” Linkletter would pose questions to youngsters and marvel at their cute, often hilarious, responses.

We’ve noticed a similar dynamic during the current South Dakota Legislature and have been contemplating an updated version of Linkletter’s work: “Legislators say the darndest things.”

There’s just one problem: Much of what is being spewed by our elected officials is neither cute nor hilarious.

At best it is juvenile, and at worst, it’s dangerous.

The Associated Press wrote a story for Thursday’s edition about how several of Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s actions this session have upset some of the more supposed “conservative” members of the Legislature. Daugaard supported a state sales tax increase to raise more money for teacher salaries and reduce property taxes, vetoed a bill that would have regulated bathroom use by transgender students, and considered expanding Medicaid to give more poor South Dakotans access to quality health care.

The story quoted Dist. 2 Sen. Brock Greenfield (R-Clark) as saying: “He (Daugaard) always held himself out as a pillar of the conservative cause, and then after getting re-elected, he’s embraced an entirely different philosophy.”

One can forgive and even chuckle at Linkletter’s kids for their juvenile, simple-minded musings, but we should not accept such tripe from our elected officials.

The way we see it, the “philosophy” Daugaard has “embraced” is doing what needs to be done for the benefit of all South Dakotans, not blindly clinging to an ideology and ignoring the consequences.

When Daugaard first took office, the state budget was in trouble. There was a “structural deficit” that needed to be corrected, so the governor ordered 10 percent across-the-board spending cuts. It was painful, but necessary.

Once the budget was back in balance, Daugaard’s administration tackled another big problem: the condition of our roads and bridges. Everybody knew fixing this problem would require more cash, so a series of tax and fee increases was approved.

And then a perennial problem came to the forefront: South Dakota’s rock-bottom teacher pay. Daugaard appointed a Blue Ribbon Task Force to examine the problem and come up with a solution. That group’s hard work determined the problem was real, the effects detrimental to the state, and any solution would require new state money.

The governor led the way to see a small increase in the state sales tax to solve the problem.

Greenfield may call those moves a “change in philosophy,” but we see them as a continuation of the governor’s philosophy of doing whatever is necessary to make the state a better place to live and work. And not caring what negative comments may be tossed his way by those who would rather see problems fester than take bold action to correct them.

It’s called “leadership.”

We applaud Gov. Daugaard for having the courage to do the right thing in support of his conservative ways.

More of our elected officials should try it. If they did, perhaps our young college graduates would stay in South Dakota rather than fleeing to other, more enlightened, places.

Sen. Bill Van Gerpen of Tyndall, another lawmaker who puts ideology over results, said he would not vote for any solution to the teacher crisis because, he says, “When you increase tax, you decrease freedom.”

Last we checked, our armed forces are funded with tax dollars, but apparently Van Gerpen believes our fighting men and women have little to do with preserving our freedom.

Legislators really do say the darndest things.


Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan, Yankton, March 7, 2016

Transgender issues move to forefront

South Dakota’s legislative battles over transgender issues this winter have drawn a lot of negative publicity to the state, but they may have also opened some eyes within the borders.

That’s what transgender-rights advocates believe as the tumultuous session in Pierre nears an end.

In recent days, Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a bill that would have limited transgender students to using only the restrooms that match their gender at birth. The veto was a mild surprise, given that Daugaard had earlier expressed a willingness to sign the measure. The veto was sustained when the state House couldn’t come up with enough votes to override the measure.

Also, a bill that sought to override the South Dakota High School Activities Association’s rules on transgender participation in events died, as did a broad, reckless measure that would have allowed businesses and organizations to discriminate against transgender people (among others) based on religious beliefs.

In the meantime, the travails of the winter appear to have bonded transgender advocates together into a more cohesive and visible group.

These are all definite victories for transgender people and their advocates.

But for them, the biggest triumph may be that the transgender issue has been brought into the daylight here more than it ever has.

As has been stated on this page before, there are many of us who truly do not know a lot about transgender issues. Many of us don’t necessarily have negative views on the issue, although others do. Overall, there is only a vague acknowledgement in some minds of the matter’s existence.

This legislative session has certainly changed that simply by bringing these issues to the forefront in a way they never have before. As such, it has heightened awareness.

This is a good thing overall.

However, that doesn’t mean more efforts to address the transgender matters will not happen in the future. Indeed, proponents of the failed transgender legislation are already vowing to come back with stronger legislation, and there is even talk of perhaps putting an initiative on the ballot.

So, this is a season of triumph for transgender rights in South Dakota, but it is only one season. The matter will come up again and again.

At least now there is a somewhat broader understanding of the issue in general.


Capital Journal, Pierre, March 4, 2016

There’s something to be said about slow and steady

Over the years, South Dakota has stayed in the background when economic growth is discussed at the national level.

We don’t have the dynamism found in the crude oil or natural gas game, we don’t rely overly much on the financial sector and technology isn’t a huge factor either. It should be noted, however, that we do have all three of those industries here.

Agriculture dominates our economy. According to a recently released U.S. Commerce Department report the agriculture industry alone accounted for 6.9 percent of the state’s total 9.2 percent growth in the third quarter of last year. That was a higher rate of growth than any other state.

This really isn’t much more than a snapshot in the grand scheme of things and our economy still is one of the smaller ones in the nation. Growing our Gross Domestic Product at a rate of 9.2 percent for three months or so isn’t going to change much, but it does highlight some of the things we’ve got going for us.

We’re actually a pretty diverse economy. While Agriculture may be the big dog, our healthcare, retail and construction sectors also logged solid growth. Tourism factors in there too. Diversity, as our economic fortunes indicate, is a good thing.

Just ask North Dakota what happens when one industry grows too fast, comes to dominate the economy and inevitably deflates. Our neighbors to the north saw their economy contract by 3.4 percent in the third quarter of 2015. They’re facing a $1 billion budget deficit by some estimates.

While it would have been nice to have the extra revenue the oil boom in North Dakota generated, it’s great not dealing with the aftermath too.

Steady growth with an eye toward diversity may be slow at times but in the long run we’re better off for it.

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