- Associated Press - Friday, January 12, 2018

American News, Aberdeen, Jan. 11

City should not ban driverless vehicles

Life is full of examples in which a gut reaction to ban something unknown and scary usually turns out to be a punch in the gut to those who are doing the banning.

That’s what could happen to Aberdeen if the city council goes too far down the road of banning driverless vehicles.

The topic came up at a recent meeting during which the councilors were trying to level the playing field between Aberdeen’s taxicab companies and transportation network companies such as Lyft.

A transportation network company is one in which customers can use an app to schedule a ride and drivers use the app to accept the fare. Payments and tips are handled electronically.

No problem working toward fairness to all involved.

During the discussion, Councilman Rob Ronayne proposed an ordinance amendment defining a “driverless vehicle,” and including language that prohibits their use by both cab companies and transportation network companies.

Councilwoman Jennifer Slaight-Hansen lobbied for the removal of the language, calling it unnecessary.

“I don’t think anyone is dealing with driverless vehicles,” Slaight-Hansen said.

“They’re not on the road. There’s no reason to be afraid of them before they’re out there,” she said.

Ronayne disagreed, saying driverless vehicles are in use and, to date, they don’t have a good safety record.

Any such a ban that would be passed in 2018 is short-sighted.

How do we know what the future of driverless vehicles might look like? Today, they seem like something from science fiction.

The fact that companies are aggressively testing this concept should intrigue city leaders, not scare them off.

What if a major company like Google or Amazon starts looking for cities to test driverless vehicles or delivery systems?

Do we really want to keep a major company from dipping its toe into Aberdeen’s water? Such a dip could lead to an economic splash.

And what happens when companies already here - say maybe a Walmart - start to invest in driverless vehicles to haul freight? So Aberdeen is not going to allow such vehicles into its city limits?

This is a bad decision that can be corrected.

The council rejected the motion to remove the language about driverless vehicles. The council also approved the first reading of that ordinance that included other new rules involving transportation companies.

We urge the council not to ban driverless vehicles. Situations, opportunities and products change all the time.

Such a ban might mean a missed opportunity for our city, one that we just cannot predict today.


Madison Daily Leader, Madison, Jan. 10

Proposal brings back discussion of 1996

In his State of the State address Tuesday, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said South Dakota asked the Trump administration to allow the state to require some Medicaid recipients to work to qualify for the government-funded health coverage for the poor.

Daugaard said the change would apply to about 4,500 low-income, able-bodied parents who are not caring for a child under the age of 1. The governor proposed piloting the new requirement in Minnehaha and Pennington counties.

Many observers will say this is a common-sense idea. If a person is receiving government benefits, and is healthy and able to do work, that person should work to help support his/her family.

Some critics will say that the government should not require any citizen to work, regardless of whether they receive government payments or benefits.

The topic reminds us of 1996, when President Bill Clinton and Congress successfully passed welfare reform through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. Clinton had pledged during the 1992 presidential campaign to “end welfare as we know it,” and congressional Republicans had included welfare reform as part of “Contract with America” that same year.

Americans had grown to believe the welfare-receiving poor had become too dependent upon public assistance, thinking that those who were on welfare for many years lost any initiative to find jobs. Those on welfare realized that taking up a job would mean not only losing benefits but also incurring child care, transportation and clothing costs.

Overall, the Act was considered a success, increasing employment and bringing down welfare costs, although some criticism remained.

Daugaard’s words sound familiar to the 1990s debate. “Work is an important part of personal fulfillment,” he said. “By making this adjustment to our Medicaid program, we can continue to help those who need it the most and start to connect those who can work with jobs that give them that sense of self-worth and accomplishment.”

We’re eager to see how far this proposal progresses. It requires approval by the federal government and successful implementation in South Dakota. We believe it deserves the chance to be put in place and monitored.


Argus Leader, Sioux Falls, Jan. 12

Don’t let intolerance carry the day

Each year, it seems, there’s an issue at the South Dakota State Legislature that epitomizes our state’s tug-of-war between constructive conservatism and outright intolerance.

The latest example came Wednesday in Pierre, when Republican state senator Neal Tapio confronted members of an interfaith prayer group at the Capitol and accused them of calling him a racist in the press.

The Watertown businessman and former state director for President Trump then called into question the concept of Interfaith Day, which brought together leaders from different religions and faith groups in the face of heated political rhetoric regarding immigrants and refugees.

They sang “America the Beautiful” as Tapio launched into familiar themes, advocating heightened restrictions on Muslim travel and immigration to the United States and calling for a legislative panel to evaluate South Dakota’s refugee resettlement programs.

As a likely U.S. House candidate, Tapio appears to be boosting his Trumpist bona fides while playing upon anti-Muslim and other xenophobic sentiments that have darkened the presidency at times.

Other than playing upon fears and raising his profile, it’s unclear what Tapio hopes to accomplish with his crusade. The extent to which immigrants from Muslim-majority countries can relocate to the U.S. is decided at the federal level, with the constitutionality of Trump’s travel ban currently being weighed in the courts.

The refugee resettlement program in South Dakota, spearheaded by Lutheran Social Services, works within parameters also set at the federal executive level, with 270 individuals in Sioux Falls and 46 in Huron resettled in the 2017 fiscal year.

While vetting procedures are crucial, Tapio’s anti-Muslim proposals - including implementation of a national registration system - run counter to the constitutional principle of equal protection and also represent an “establishment” of religion in violation of the First Amendment.

Just as it’s unconstitutional to use religious affiliation as a basis to deny services or status, it’s also unlawful to craft policy from the perspective of Christianity as a state religion - a common theme of sloppy legislation in Pierre over the years.

At last year’s session, Tapio called for lawmakers to commend Trump’s policies while condemning South Dakota’s resettlement system, aiming to block refugees whose beliefs could be seen as “diametrically opposed to freedom.”

That effort was tabled in the Senate, and Gov. Dennis Daugaard doesn’t sound eager to revisit an issue that could reflect poorly on the state’s religious and racial tolerance, as well as the constitutional competence of its legislative body.

“People that seize the refugee issue and try to paint it as a threatening immigrant issue misunderstand that situation,” Daugaard said this week. “I don’t think that’s necessary.”

There’s a big difference between campaigning and legislating. If Tapio wants to take his agenda to the people as a declared candidate for U.S. House, that’s one thing. But carrying it into the Capitol as a state senator comes off as a grandstanding ploy that doesn’t serve his constituents well.

When faith leaders from around the state feel compelled to sing patriotic songs to drown out hateful rhetoric from one of our legislators, the notion of who is “diametrically opposed to freedom” takes on a different meaning indeed.

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