February 25th Cracker Barrel
The Chamber of Commerce Hosted Cracker Barrel once again required attendees to write their questions ahead of time. Staff then sorted the questions by topic and the moderator selected the question on the topic, to ask of the representatives. The result of this was the creation of two cracker barrels, located across the hall from each other. In addition to the Chamber hosted event, several representatives attended the “Free Speech” Cracker Barrel. The argument for the writing requirement was that more questions could be asked. What I noted was that there was no limitation on the time that a representative could speak and that really cut down on the number of questions asked.
The Free Speech room included representatives Lance Russel, Tim Goodwin, Julie Fryemuller and Senator Phil Jensen. I believe that Chips Campbell attended that event also but there was enough shuffling of name tags from room to room, that I’m not sure he was there. Those attending the Chamber side of the barrel included Kristen Conzet, Sean McPherson, Taffy Howard, David Johnson, David Lust and Craig Tieszen. Sadly, Sean McPherson announced that this would be his last event as he has been diagnosed with cancer and was starting chemo treatments on Monday.
SB114: Spearfish Land Grab – I wrote a question which began by stating that even though the governor had pulled the bill from appropriations and it was technically dead for this legislative session, that we all know that the governor insists that this is going to happen. I asked what he could do to make it happen without appropriations, and what we could do to stop it. Most of the representatives were against the land swap. Taffy Howard, however, gave the best response. She mentioned that we all need to keep a close eye on this project because we are still paying the consulting firm to continue working on plans for the park. The governor is sponsoring private focus groups to comment on the plan and to garner more support. She expected to see a slick television ad campaign about the new park proposal which would likely be focused on the Sioux Falls area. She mentioned that this really is one of those east/river west/river issues since the Sioux Falls folks don’t have national forests and don’t know that they offer more varieties of recreational activity than parks. Since they have no forests, the east river folks are grateful for their parks, for good reason.
I believe the plan is going to be to transfer funds to GFP when the Star Academy is sold, transfer funds from other environmental agencies (SB 70?) and make the funds available for the land swap. This is all speculation on my part, however.
She did not really suggest what we could do other than keep an eye on them. But I think one of the steps that we may be able to take is to work closely with our Sioux Falls chapters of the Sierra Club and DRA (when I was at the environmental justice session they all seemed against the swap, but wanted more information. I gave out some of our chapters documentation on the swap.) They may be able to influence the thinking of east river folks – in spite of whatever advertising the governor’s office creates.
IM22: Interestingly, it seemed that most of the representatives, in discussing the issue of ethics, were “personally offended” (Kristen Conzet) by the suggestion that representatives were receiving cash under the table, and behaving unethically. Interestingly enough, after denying any corruption on their part, in a later discussion they acknowledged that when corruption occurs they don’t have systems in place to find out about it “fast enough.” They didn’t connect the dots on this one.
Other notes: The representatives seem to be against the SB176 – they seemed to agree the suggestion of martial law and extreme penalties was too much. The were wishy/washy on SB149 – the “faith based adoption” contracts. They seemed to be against the current usage of the “emergency” clause on most of the bills and against the use of empty (smoke house) bills.
I popped my head into the Free Speech session for just a few minutes. Senator Jensen was arguing that 30,000 scientists had signed some sort of statement saying there is no global warming/climate change going on, which prompted an involuntary and relatively quiet “well, that’s a lie” from me. The woman trying to be rational with Jensen mentioned that she was from Florida and Florida was sinking, but he was having none of it. I retreated back across the hall.