- Associated Press - Thursday, November 17, 2016

Yankton Daily Press & Dakotan, Yankton, Nov. 15, 2016

Political Plans: Coming Home

Rep. Kristi Noem’s announcement Monday that she would be running for governor in 2018 instead of seeking a fifth term in the U.S. House was surprising only in the timing. We have just finished off the 2016 election cycle, and the last thing anyone really wanted to deal with right now is the next round of elections.

Nevertheless, Noem made the announcement, in part perhaps because a new law approved by voters last week wouldn’t let her carry over her campaign war chest as of this coming Jan. 1. So, it seemed practical from a political standpoint to make the move.

But let’s look at something else that may be tied to this move - something that, according to rumor mills that journalists have encountered through the years, apparently isn’t unusual.

There had been some speculation in political circles for quite a while that Noem might be interested in the governor’s job, thus getting back to her home state on a full-time basis and escaping (if that’s the word to use) the beltway of Washington. We aren’t privy to Noem’s precise motives.

Through the years, we’ve heard rumors of various lawmakers who had become fed up with the Washington atmosphere. There have been various permutations of this feeling reported. The word was that Lawmaker A didn’t like being away from his/her family left back here, or that Lawmaker B had been frustrated with the bitter partisan atmosphere and gridlock that dominates the capitol, or that Lawmaker C was unhappy being a small fish in a big pond. Typically, such scuttlebutt usually wound up with the speculation that the lawmaker may be thinking privately about running for governor back home.

It’s always a curious rumor, although it must be noted that, until Noem’s announcement this week, this scenario has rarely been realized in South Dakota. The rumors may often be tied more to wishful thinking, either on the part of the lawmakers or even on the part of reporters.

It’s also worth noting that such rumors appear to circulate every so often about other lawmakers in other states. So, the allure of a governor’s mansion seems to be a tantalizing one - in the realm of speculation, if nothing else.

Meanwhile, Noem’s decision appears to set up what could be an interesting primary battle with current Attorney General Marty Jackley, who has long been speculated as a gubernatorial candidate. Others may jump into the fray on the GOP side. There are also a couple of interesting rumors on the Democratic side, but those need more fleshing out.

Of course, the new wild card in all this is the prospect of a suddenly open House seat. Some names will no doubt emerge, literally any second now - not officially, but again, in the rumor mills that often bear at least a little fruit.

For now, the biggest takeaway from Noem’s decision is that she wanted to come home and serve the people of South Dakota from Pierre, not half a continent away. Based in what we see from D.C. anymore, who could blame her?


Rapid City Journal, Rapid City, Nov. 13, 2016

Legislature should not weaken IM 22

The Republican Party strengthened its hold on power Tuesday in South Dakota. Its candidates for statewide office won by lopsided margins and the party gained four seats in the Legislature, adding to its overwhelming supermajority.

But voters also sent a message to the party in power with the passage of Initiated Measure 22, otherwise known as the anti-corruption act.

The approval of the ballot measure was as shocking to some as Donald Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton on Tuesday night.

Even though ballot measures to change our elections - Amendments T and V - were rejected, more than 180,000 South Dakotans voted for a 34-page proposal that was opposed by Gov. Daugaard, Sens. Thune and Rounds, and Rep. Noem.

The ballot measure calls for:

- The creation of a five-member ethics commission with no elected or state officials and the authority to investigate and punish those who violate the new law;

- Detailed reporting by lobbyists on their spending and other activities, including who they are trying to influence in the Legislature and state government;

- Increasing the wait time from one to two years before state government officials can take private-sector jobs in areas they regulated;

- Lowering limits on campaign contributions and creating a public campaign-finance system that provides two $50 “democracy credits” to each registered voter to donate to candidates each election cycle.

Now that nearly 52 percent of the voters have approved this ballot measure, it will likely be reviewed by the Legislature that does have authority to rewrite it or choose not to fund key aspects of it like the democracy credits, which some lawmakers are already indicating they might not support funding.

We hope that lawmakers resist the urge to nullify or weaken a ballot measure that the majority of voters approved.

Initiated Measure 22 was approved in the wake of the EB-5 and Gear-Up scandals that were brought to the public’s attention after two men committed suicide and five family members were murdered by one of them.

Thanks to diligent reporting by the media we learned that millions of either federal or immigrant-investor dollars that flowed through state-administered programs were either mishandled, misappropriated or even stolen. Now, four people are facing criminal charges as a result.

If it weren’t for these tragedies, we may have never learned that Joop Bollen likely made millions of dollars while running the EB-5 program or that the Gear-Up program enriched two Education Board members and former state education officials but kept no records on how many Native American students they helped actually went on to college.

The lack of effective oversight of these multi-million dollar programs and accountability by state government raised concerns throughout South Dakota that certainly contributed to the passage of the ballot measure.

Lawmakers who seek to weaken this measure also should take note that voters overwhelmingly overturned two laws passed in the 2016 session. Referred Law 19 rejected a law that would have made it illegal for a registered Republican or Democrat to sign an independent’s candidate petition; Referred Law 20 rejected a bill to create a sub-minimum wage for youth.

In both cases, 71 percent of voters disagreed with the Legislature.

The support for Initiated Measure 22 and the referred laws should serve as a warning to lawmakers that there might be consequences if they gut a bill that aims to make state government more accountable to the public.


American News, Aberdeen, Nov. 16, 2016

City chickens have benefits

The Aberdeen City Council has pecked around the issue, but, on Monday, seems likely to approve an ordinance allowing city residents to keep and raise chickens, maybe up to a dozen.

The plan is not without its detractors on the council, as we saw during a long debate at Monday’s meeting.

This is all good discussion. Allowing city folks to keep pens of chickens in their backyards shouldn’t be entered into lightly. This would be allowing something that, for some residents, is unthinkable.

But once the ordinance is passed, we believe city council members and residents will quickly see the benefits of chickens and will wonder, years from now, what all the fuss was about.

And there are great benefits.

Well-maintained chicken flocks naturally provide fresh eggs that promise better nutrition. It’s a more sustainable model than the farm-factory version that uses valuable resources on packaging and transportation.

It’s really much like a backyard garden in those ways.

Then there are the environmental effects. Chickens are natural pest-pickers, taking care of nuisance bugs. Many families feed kitchen scraps to their chickens, that then produce the stuff good fertilizer is made from.

But we like to think that Aberdeen yards featuring chicken coops will create a greater sense of connection and community in our city.

A thriving chicken coop might create good neighbors, as passers-by stop to talk to a caretaker. It’s the ultimate conversation starter.

We would not be surprised if new neighborhood groups crop up around the care and maintenance of urban chickens. A fine, feathered support group and information portal for longtime chicken owners and those who are just getting started.

There is a distinct educational component, too. Our kids, many who are getting further and further away from the farms, will again touch base with where their food comes from. They will see the process at work and, for some, they will be direct caretakers, doing a whole new set of chores not seen inside city limits in decades. (We could see 4-H or South Dakota State University Extension taking a distinct interest in this topic.)

Yes, there will be some problems. But Aberdeen is already in the nuisance business on weeds and junk and noise; it’s not as though chickens are adding a new layer of oversight from compliance or animal control. The threat of avian flu is a concern, but is easily mitigated by responsible ownership and policing.

A smart ordinance - one that is open and encouraging to the concept, while also offering clear and appropriate guidelines - will go a long way to a successful urban chicken movement.

We don’t expect Aberdeen to turn into one big coop. City chickens are not for everyone.

But in this case, passing the ordinance Monday is no harm, some fowl.

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