Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The Candy Tax

Just like April 15th when adults learn about taxation and come to realize how much of their income has been taken away to pay the tax man, October 31st has it's own tax based significance.

Halloween is the day many parents use to teach their children about paying taxes with the well known candy tax. For those that are unfamiliar with the candy tax, it is the day at least in my household, where my children learn what it means to pay taxes. After a long evening of going door to door collecting goodies they are required to empty their take on the kitchen table and pay their tax to the head of the sdmoderate household.

Unlike the IRS, I am usually quite easy to deal with as my tax only consists of any Butterfinger bars that might have been collected and since my kids don't like them anyway it is usually quite painless for them.

So if anyone from Canistota is getting ready to hand out candy, please consider supporting the tax man by dropping a Butterfinger in the bag of the sdmoderate twins when they come to your door.

Happy Halloween!!

UPDATE: Looks like I am going to have to increase my tax rate to include Snickers bars as the tax collection on the Butterfingers was pretty slim...

Text Messaging Campaign

From the Email bag.

Planned Parenthood has just launched a text messaging campaign that will allow you to keep up on the results on Referred Law 6 next Tuesday.

On November 7, South Dakota voters have the chance to overturn their state’s abortion ban. You can be one of the first to know the results! Join our Action Network and we will send an alert to your cell phone when the results of the South Dakota ballot initiative are announced. Just fill out the form at the link below or text “PP” to #75528.

Standard text messaging rates apply. Look for your confirmation message shortly! If you don’t get it text “PP” to #75528


You gotta love the technology these days...

Monday, October 30, 2006

New Project

I have just gone live with a new project for those wanting to get into blogging. The site called BlogShifter is a free blog hosting platform that allows anyone to start their own blog without having to go through the hassle of hosting and setting up their own.

It is based on Wordpress and includes all the same functionality of that popular blogging platform without the hassles of setting it up on your own. It is still in beta but if you always wanted your own blog but were afraid to start why don't you give it a try. Oh and did I mention that it is totally free?

Not The News Democrats Were Hoping For

With only 8 days remaining before the election, a Mason-Dixon poll sponsored by the Argus Leader of 800 likely South Dakota voters shows Governor Mike Rounds with a 22 point lead over challenger Jack Billion.
The incumbent Republican would win 57-35 with 8 percent undecided if the results of the Nov. 7 election mirror the outcome of a recent Mason-Dixon Polling and Research survey of 800 likely South Dakota voters.

The Argus Leader sponsored the poll.

The statewide results of the telephone survey, done Tuesday through Thursday, match almost exactly a late-October poll by the same firm in 2002 when Rounds ran against Democrat Jim Abbott. That poll showed Rounds up 55-36. Rounds won that election by about 15 points.
Rounds has big leads in just about every demographic other than with registered Democrats.

The Democrats finally had a viable candidate to challenge the Republican stranglehold in Pierre but for whatever reason his campaign never really got off the ground and now Billion sits 22 points behind with only 8 days remaining. I guess we can stick a fork in it...

The Wait Is Over

South_Dakota_quarter For those in South Dakota that collect state quarters the 8 year wait to add the South Dakota quarter to your collection is just about over. At 10 am on November 13th the quarter will be officially released during a ceremony at Mt. Rushmore.

The quarter that was engraved by John Mercanti, which depicts our state bird the Chinese ring-necked pheasant flying over Mt. Rushmore, will be initially available at Great Western Bank locations throughout South Dakota which was chosen as the official launch bank for the coin.

The quarter is the 40th in the series of 50 to be released to correspond to South Dakota’s admittance into the United States.

Morning Humor

A little humor to start your week.

A husband wakes up with a huge hangover the night after a business function.

He forces himself to open his eyes and the first thing he sees is a couple of aspirins next to a glass of water on the side table. And, next to them, a single red rose!

The husband sits up in bed and sees his clothing in front of him, all clean and pressed.

He looks around the room and sees that it is in perfect order, spotlessly clean. So is the rest of the house. He takes the aspirins, cringes when he sees a huge black eye staring back at him in the bathroom mirror and notices a note on the table: Honey, breakfast is on the stove, I left early to go shopping. Love you!

He stumbles to the kitchen and sure enough, there is hot breakfast and the morning newspaper. His son is also at the table, eating. The husband asks, Son, what happened last night?

Well, you came home after 3 am, drunk and out of your mind. You broke the coffee table, puked in the hallway and got that black eye when you ran into the door.

The husband asks, So, why is everything in such perfect order, so clean, I have a rose and breakfast is on the table waiting for me?

His son replies, Oh, THAT! . . . Mom dragged you to the bedroom and when she tried to take your pants off, you screamed: Leave me alone, woman, I’m married!!

Broken table--$200

Hot breakfast--$5

Red rose bud--$3

Two aspirins--$.25

Saying the right thing, at the right time . . . PRICELESS!

Sunday, October 29, 2006

10 Points

According to a new poll conducted by the Argus Leader, a 10 point majority would vote against passage of the abortion ban.
According to the statewide poll conducted for the Argus Leader, 52 percent of voters polled would vote to reject the ban; 42 percent would vote to keep it.

Another 6 percent were undecided.
What is really telling and what even many pro-life supporters have been saying all along is the fact that if the authors of this bill weren't so set on trying to have it all at once by not including exceptions for rape and incest, just adding those exceptions would have all but guaranteed that the ban would have passed.
56 percent of those who said they would vote against the ban or were undecided said they would vote for the ban if it had a clear exception for rape and incest, while 32 percent said no and 12 percent were undecided.
Compromise might not have been the best option for ban supporters but their unwillingness to find a middle ground looks like it will be the reason if the ban does indeed fail as this poll suggests.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Quotes Of The Week

Crooks and Liars has the video from Bill O'Reilly's appearance on "Late Night with David Letterman" where Letterman rips O'Reilly on his ratings in which he jokes that he can never find O'Reilly's show because everytime he tunes into Fox all he can find is "The Simpsons" and numerous other items including the following quotes of the week.

In response to O'Reilly's suggesting that Letterman believes "Bush is an evil liar" and that "America is a bad country".

"You're trying to put words in my mouth just the way you put artificial facts in your head."

And finally Letterman closes with the following wise-crack to close the interview.

"I have no idea what I'm talking about but I don't think you do either"

Even throughout the Letterman digs, O'Reilly still found a way to plug his books, priceless...

Back To Work

Well my week long trip to the east coast is over and it is good to be back. It will take me a few days to catch up on what has been happened here over the past 6 days but even with all the issue ads on local TV I must say it is still somewhat calm compared to the negative campaigning I witnessed in Massachusetts. It's almost refreshing to get back to seeing Bruce Whalen harp on Stephanie Herseth's pro-choice record as if it is the only issue South Dakotans face or to read up on whether the special session that has been called on South Dakota's own version of "Pagegate" should be open to the public or not.

On a somewhat politically related note regarding South Dakota's economy, If South Dakota in general and Sioux Falls in particular ever wants to become even remotely more attractive to business, something will have to be done about airfare prices for those wanting to travel in and out of the area. I was involved in training with several other individuals from as far away as San Jose California and in every case, the airfare I paid (company reimbursed, thank goodness) was at least twice as much as others paid. Any business that requires extensive air travel would turn and run away as fast as possible when confronted with those kinds of travel costs and good luck getting back to the area if your scheduled flight is canceled for some reason.

So what else has been happening while I was away?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Adelstein Continues To Piss Off The Big Tenters

Just a real quick drive by tonight from Boston but I found it quite interesting to read the post over at the War College regarding the "esteemed" Republican Senator Stan Adelstein's letter sent out asking Republicans from his home district to vote for the Democrat running in District 32 ,Tom Katus.

Adelstein is going through the same withdrawls many in the South Dakota "big tent" party have been experiencing over the current one dimensional focus in the party and some of the SDWC readers are giving him a hard time about it.

Stan is currently the most visible opponent of the Republican agenda in Pierre, and the reaction to his outspoken opinions just proves how small the Republican tent actually is. It is quite obvious that the Republicans will continue their dominance in state politics through this election cycle but if things don't change pretty soon, his voice is sure to be joined by many others.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Pheasant Hunting And The Land Of The Red Sox And The Kennedy's

ringneck pheasantThis weekend marks several events here in South Dakota and at this blog. At noon today thousands of visiting hunters begin their annual ritual when the out of state pheasant season opens. This annual event brings in tens of thousands of hunters into our state and generates well over $100 million in revenue. Welcome hunters and good hunting as it’s much better for you folks to bag a few birds during your hunt than it is for me to take them out with the windshield of my truck as has been the case several times in the past year.

In other news, posting here will more than likely be quite sparse beginning tomorrow through the end of next week as I am heading off to Boston for a week of training for my day job in the land of "This Old House" and the Kennedy’s. I will try to post on the goings on in South Dakota politics when possible but feel free to discuss the news of the day in our forum.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Billion Vows To Cut His Salary

In a pledge that I would almost be willing to bet my own salary that Governor Rounds doesn't match, Jack Billion has vowed that he would cut his salary to 51st among the other governors in the country until the teachers salaries in South Dakota rise above 51st in the nation.

"Real leadership starts at the top, and I find it unconscionable for the governor of a state with the nation's lowest teacher pay to be paid 37th or 36th among state governors," said Billion. "I will cut my pay to dead last among governors until our state's teachers move up from dead last in teacher pay. And when South Dakota's teacher salaries rank 48th or 42nd, I will consider adjusting my pay to 48th or 42nd among governors."

Any takers?

Mike Rounds' Position On The Ballot Issues

Governor Mike Rounds has posted his positions on the various ballot initiatives on his campaign site.

* Amendment C (Marriage Amendment) - Yes
* Amendment D (Property Assessment) - No
* Amendment E (Judicial Accountability) - No
* Amendment F (State Legislature) - Yes
* Initiated Measure 2 (Cigarette Tax) - Yes
* Initiated Measure 3 (School Start Date) - Undecided
* Initiated Measure 4 (Medical Marijuana) - No
* Initiated Measure 5 (State Aircraft) - No
* Initiated Measure 7 (Video Lottery) - No
* Initiated Measure 8 (Cell Phone Tax) - No
* Referred Law 6 (Abortion Ban) - Yes

No real surprises I guess...

Trying To Have It Both Ways


Exceptions or no exceptions you be the judge, the Argus has an article about complaints lodged about the recent ads being run by the pro-life crowd that touts that the abortion ban does indeed contain exceptions for rape and incest. So with this in mind I thought I would post some information on a couple of prominent pro-lifer's and their take on the exception debate.

Roger Hunt, the primary sponsor of the abortion ban earlier this year from the Washington Post 2/23/2006:

"The momentum for a change in the national policy on abortion is going to come in the not-too-distant future," said Rep. Roger W. Hunt, a Republican who sponsored the bill. To his delight, abortion opponents succeeded in defeating all amendments designed to mitigate the ban, including exceptions in the case of rape or incest or the health of the woman. Hunt said that such "special circumstances" would have diluted the bill and its impact on the national scene

President George Bush from an AP report on 2/28/2006:

WASHINGTON — At a news conference Monday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan suggested that President Bush does not support a South Dakota bill that would ban nearly all abortions in the state.McClellan did not say that Bush opposes the state bill but reiterated the president’s long-standing position on abortion. Bush is “pro-life with three exceptions,” McClellan said.

Those exceptions are rape, incest or when a woman’s life is endangered. The South Dakota bill allows abortion only in the last case.

John Thune from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader on 9/28/2006:

Thune acknowledged his own view differs from the new state law, which makes no provisions for abortions following rape or incest or to protect the health of the mother.Thune says he supports an abortion ban but with those exceptions.

So the author of the bill, the President of the United States, and South Dakota's own Republican Senator have stated that this legislation carries no rape or incest exceptions.

Is this ad deceptive? If you listen to the 3 individuals above it sure looks like it and now it seems that issue has been brought to the attention of South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long. Mt Blogmore has a copy of the letter sent by the South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families.

Dear Attorney General Long:In an effort to allow the voters to hear honest debate over Referred Law 6, I would like to bring your attention to a very serious legal concern.

The Vote Yes for Life ballot committee has run television and radio advertising in which Dr. Mark Rector states Referred Law Six “does provide exception for the life and the health of the mother.” As you know, you describe HB1215/Referred Law 6 in the official ballot question guide as containing only an exception for those abortions performed “to prevent the death of the pregnant woman. ” Dr. Rector erroneously asserts that a health exception exists in the ban.

In a mass mailing paid for and authorized by the Vote Yes for Life ballot committee, the following statement is presented as fact: “under this law women have the option of terminating pregnancies that are the result of rape and incest.” In the official ballot question, however, you state, “1215 would prohibit any person, at any time, from providing any medicine or other substance to a pregnant woman for the specific purpose of terminating her pregnancy.”

Apart from simply misleading the voters, Campaign Manager Leslee Unruh, Campaign Treasurer Jim Miles and ad spokesman Dr. Mark Rector have broken the law. According to South Dakota law: “Any person knowingly printing, publishing, or delivering to any voter of this state a document containing any purported constitutional amendment, question, law, or measure to be submitted to the voters at any election, in which such constitutional amendment, question, law, or measure is misstated, erroneously printed, or by which false or misleading information is given to the voters, is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.” [SDCL 12-13-16]

The people of South Dakota gathered the required number of signatures to refer this law to the ballot and allow the voters to decide whether HB 1215 should remain in effect. The voters expected – and deserve – an honest debate. The Vote Yes for Life ballot committee has failed to do so. They’ve purposefully distorted the truth for political benefit and in the process of lying to the public they have broken the law.

We ask that you take this criminal offense seriously, address it immediately and set the record straight with the voters.

Jan Nicolay

Anyone want to give odds on what will become of this?

Vote you conscious on November 7th, but if the main reason you would vote to pass this is because of the supposed rape and incest exceptions that are touted in the campaign ads, you might want to think twice and you should also read Tim over at Progressive on the Prairie's post on the possible heath implications of the one real exception that covers only cases in which the life of the mother is in danger.

UPDATE: KELO TV breaks down the claims made in this ad and finds several mis-statements and outright falsehoods.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Placing The Blame Where It Belongs

In the face of mounting polling evidence that shows that the Democrats could actually take not only the House but the Senate as well, some on the right are starting to contemplate life with a Democratic Party controlled Congress and it isn’t going over very well.

Ever since they wrestled control of Congress during the Newt Gingrich led "Contract with America" days the GOP has pretty much had free reign on controlling the agenda of this country through the last part of the Clinton Administration and all through the Bush years. With all that history, why all these years later has the GOP suddenly lost it’s charm with the American people?

Of course there is no one reason for the recent loss of popularity but one thing is for sure, the turnaround cannot be blamed on anyone other than the GOP itself. The last few years a number of issues have come to light that have caused great concern among all but the die hard GOP kool-aid drinkers including the steadily worsening situation in Iraq, appearances of deception coming from Congress and the White House, almost daily scandals involving elected officials many of which are members of the Republican party, and an almost total disregard for Constitutional freedoms by many in Washington.

Getting to this point was a slow and gradual process that can probably be traced back to the beginning of the war in Iraq. At the time the Bush administration was at it’s highest popularity and could have gotten just about anything they wanted. Instead of using that popularity to further the war on terror that begun after 9/11, they instead decided to go after a country that had been a thorn in our side since Bush’s fathers days, Iraq. To accomplish this they used very suspect intelligence and what could be argued, outright lies regarding Iraq’s WMD program and ties to terrorism, to sell Congress and the American people on the need to invade.

Once they went forward with the invasion, it became quite apparent that the planning for the war and the subsequent occupation was totally inept and instead of admitting their mistakes and altering their focus they came up with the totally ridiculous "stay the course" agenda. To this day they have yet to figure out that a bad plan isn’t going to get any better the longer you try to carry it out and all we have to show for this agenda is a growing civil war, increasing numbers of terrorists, and over 3000 US casualties with no end in sight.

All throughout his tenure President Bush has taken every opportunity to increase his power by using secret programs to spy on US citizens often bypassing Constitutional controls. Once these programs come to light he attempts to justify his actions by playing the fighting terror card and if worse comes to worse, he uses his allies in Congress to write legislation after the fact to legalize his actions as evidenced by the Spectre bill to legalize the wiretapping program and the recent legislation authorizing the use of torture on terror suspects. Even when Congress tries to reign in his attempts at grabbing more power, he uses the now infamous signing statements to override their attempts.

Of course the GOP led Congress hasn’t been immune in this either. Recent scandals involving numerous members of the House and Senate have many wondering what will happen next plus the fact that Congress has no apparent focus on the issues facing the country and has had a difficult time passing any meaningful legislation. A few hundred national guard troops and a fence as a solution to our porous Mexican border problem? Is that the best you can do?

As the November mid-terms draw closer and the polling continues to worsen you would think that the GOP would focus on addressing these problems. But unlike the agenda they had when the regained Congress that focused on what they planned to do, this time around they instead have tried to scare the public into believing what would happen if they lose. Considering their scare tactics are what got us into the sorry state of affairs in the first place, that argument isn’t passing the smell test anymore and if they do in fact lose control, they only need to look in the mirror to figure out why.

Strange Poster Campaign

In what can be only termed as strange, East St. Louis government officials are using Yankton, South Dakota as a deterrent for gun crimes in their city. The Rapid City Journal/AP is reporting on Senator Tim Johnson's letter sent to US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales requesting that the Justice Department’s Project Safe Neighborhoods program funded poster be pulled because in his words it is derogatory and offensive to Yankton.

“Violent gun crime is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, but not at the expense of a community like Yankton, and not using federal dollars to disparage such a thriving, historic community,” Johnson said.

Being someone that has been to East St. Louis, telling people that if they commit a gun crime they will be sent to Yankton wouldn't seem to be much of a deterrent to me...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

State Senator Being Investigated

Updated below

It looks like the Argus has stolen PP over at the South Dakota War College's thunder as they have come out with details of a scandal involving sexual misconduct between Sen. Dan Sutton of Flandreau and an 18 year old legislative page.

The father of the former page, believed to be a male, has accused Sen. Dan Sutton, D-Flandreau, of misconduct during the last legislative session, said Senate Democratic Leader Garry Moore of Yankton.

The article says that the allegation has sparked both a criminal and requests for a Senate investigation.

South Dakota Senate President Pro Tem Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, confirmed Wednesday that Sutton is the target of both a criminal and state Senate investigation involving an 18-year-old legislative page."As the presiding officer of the Senate, I got a complaint from parents of a page about a senator's conduct towards that page of a sexual nature during the session, and we take those things serious," Schoenbeck said.

"When a formal complaint like that's made, two things are going to happen. The person accused is going to be entitled to a hearing, if they want one, and we're going to take the complaint seriously. We're going to investigate it. It's going to run its course, whatever in the end that is.

"The senators feel very strongly about the page program, and any allegation of any improper conduct towards a page is going to be investigated and dealt with."

Schoenbeck said the allegations against Sutton have been the subject of a criminal investigation for months.

"I believe that what in the end motivated the father to call me was when that national thing broke. He'd been getting people in the community that knew about the investigation calling him and saying, 'Why aren't you doing something?' He's been involved in politics himself, and he understands the process and so he knew that if he called the presiding officer, that would start a process going and he made the decision to do that."

Schoenbeck said he has sent a letter to Senate colleagues about the allegations.

"Under Senate rules, it's my job to be the first one to deal with that," he said.

"I would not express an opinion about the truthfulness of the allegation," Schoenbeck added. "That's why we have a hearing process in the Senate."

The issue is now in the hands of South Dakota Attorney General Larry Long and I am sure much more is on the horizon regarding this matter. Either way, kudos to Pat for breaking the story on his blog.

UPDATE: The usual partisanship rhetoric is already starting in the comments section over at the War College with accusations of coverup by the liberal Argus and questions on why Stephanie Herseth hasn't come out calling for Dan Sutton's resignation as she did with Rep. Mark Foley who resigned under a similar scandal.

Come on folks this story (at least the public knowledge of it) is still in the very early stages and there is some serious questions that still need to be resolved including who knew what and when (sound familiar?) and for those that think the Argus withheld announcing this for political reasons, please ask yourself why they would have waited until 3 weeks before the elections when any option by the Democrats to either get past this issue or at least replace Sutton on the ballot have long since passed? It will quite probably sell more newspapers this way but it definitely won't help Democrats...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Give It A Rest Bruce

Bruce Whalen is out with his latest campaign ad and as usual he continues his assault on Stephanie Herseth. Of course this assault continues to be only about the fact that she is pro-choice and then he goes on to twist the comment she made about South Dakota being a red state. The fact that she never said she was sorry about being from the red state of South Dakota doesn't seem to matter with the Whalen campaign and seems to be their second favorite topic.

Come on Bruce, Herseth has several years worth of voting records in the House, how about talking about that. Give it up! We already know she is pro-choice and wishes there were more Democrats in South Dakota. Time to put another record on the turntable as this one is pretty worn out, if that's all you got you'll be lucky to break the political version of the Mendoza line on November 7th.

Discuss this in our forum

Monday, October 16, 2006

Light Posting Ahead

The next few days will probably be pretty light here as I am going to be on the road to Pierre and Rapid City but for those interested it looks like PP over at the War College has caught wind of something that could burst onto the scene in the South Dakota Democratic ranks in the next few days.

He seems to think that it could result in a Democratic Senator dropping out of the race or even a special session of the legislature being called to sort things out. His information has an October 18th deadline for the Senator in question to respond so something might be made public by as early as the 19th. Stay tuned...

Truly Amazing

Isn't it a coincidence that the verdict and probable sentencing to death of Saddam Hussein has been scheduled for November 5th.
That trial adjourned July 27 to allow its five-judge panel to consider a verdict. The court was to have reconvened Monday to hear a verdict."The Dujail trial will resume Nov. 5 when the presiding judge will announce the verdict and the sentencing," Juhi said.

So the face of the Bush policies in Iraq will conveniently be convicted 2 days before the election that has many in the GOP led House and Senate fighting for their political lives. Wow, who would have thought something like that would happen?

The Argus Explains Their Endorsements

And they say it has nothing to do with a political agenda...
Following a tradition that is both uniquely American and often misunderstood, the editorial board of this newspaper each election season interviews candidates for public office and, after deliberate consideration, publishes its endorsements.

For the six members of the Argus Leader's editorial board, the process is important, enlightening and, at times, frustrating. The concept of determining which of two or three otherwise honest and sincere individuals might better serve the public interest is, at best, imperfect science.

And to bring home their "point"
Reflections of any certain political affiliation or philosophy. When we're finished endorsing in all races this year, our ballot will be roughly half Republican and half Democrat. That's not unusual in any election year.

The article by Randall Beck comes on the heels of their upcoming endorsements for the various legislative seats and after the have already come out endorsing Jack Billion, Stephanie Herseth, and Larry Long.

So the question should be asked, does anyone actually believe that the Argus has no political agenda? Their soon to be announced endorsements should answer that question though for some that question has long since been answered...

Discuss this in our forum

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Sanctity Of Marriage

Amid all the rhetoric here in South Dakota over how Amendment C is aimed at protecting the sanctity of marriage, the New York Times has an interesting piece on what is slowly becoming the norm among American couples.

The American Community Survey, released this month by the Census Bureau, found that 49.7 percent, or 55.2 million, of the nation’s 111.1 million households in 2005 were made up of married couples — with and without children — just shy of a majority and down from more than 52 percent five years earlier.

Of course some of those non-traditional households (776,000) consist of same sex partners, the majority are opposite-sex couples (5.2 million). Even in the face of these figures, many on the far right would like you to believe that allowing gays to marry would cause the sanctity of marriage to somehow be diminished. But according to these numbers, even though few states currently allow gay marriage, the number of "traditional" couples deciding to get married is trending towards becoming the minority among American households.

Maybe instead of trying to blame gays for the declining popularity of marriage even though the vast majority are not even allowed to enter into that institution they should instead look into on the reasons why that for a growing number of heterosexuals, it just isn’t as important to them as the right-winger’s would like you to believe.

I would be willing to bet that if you asked couples that have chosen not to get married they would have a lot of different reasons and very few if any of those reasons would have anything to do with gays being allowed to marry. On the other hand if you ask those same couples if they believe they should be penalized for choosing not to enter into the historically religious institution of marriage, as Amendment C seeks to do, they would say no and I would have to agree...

Discuss this in our forum

Amendment D

By far the most confusing issue on this November's ballot has to be Amendment D which is the proposed Constitutional change to how property in South Dakota will be taxed. The Rapid City Journal has a story this morning that tries to lay out the pros and cons of this amendment.

Currently our taxes are based on 3 different factors, assessed value of your property, city budgets, and the mil levy in your city that funds the budget. Amendment D proposes to change that formula by trying to control the assessed value of your property by initially rolling back property values to 2003 levels and then allowing it to rise a maximum of 3 percent per year.

The confusion comes into play at least in my mind because of the specific factors that are based on where you live and what if anything could cause your taxes to rise. First off the annual rise will be dictated by the legislature and won’t necessarily be based on actual property value increases or decreases and could in theory cause you to pay less taxes based on current property values or in many cases especially for those of us in rural areas, could actually increase our taxes to more than the assessed value of our homes.

An example of this is cited in the RCJ article.
For instance, you and your neighbor each have homes valued at $200,000 for tax purposes. Over 10 years, the market value of your homes could rise by 6 percent per year, but under Amendment D, your assessments could rise only 3 percent a year.

After 10 years, both houses would be worth $358,000. But the assessed value, limited to 3 percent annual increases, would be $269,000. Assuming that the mill levy is the same as it is today in Rapid City - about 17.7 mills - and then you’d both be paying $4,757 in property taxes.

So far, so good. But what if you sell your house after 10 years and move to a new neighborhood? The person who buys your old house will pay about $1,500 a year more in property taxes than his neighbor does.

Meanwhile, in your new neighborhood, you will be paying more than any of your neighbors.

To put a rural twist on the above example, assume just the opposite is the case. Say you live in an area where property values are stagnate like they are here in Canistota. If the legislature raises the tax rate 3 percent a year but your property values increase only 1 percent or not at all which has often been the case, you end up paying more taxes even though your home hasn’t increased in value.

Another consequence of this amendment relates to the already strapped funding of our schools.
For example, Tim Creal, superintendent of the Custer School District, said state law limits the school district’s mill levy. Custer is at the maximum. If Amendment D passes, assessments will roll back to 2003 levels. Unless the Legislature raised the allowable mill levy, his district will lose $350,000 in annual revenue.

“We are maxed out. No matter what happens, we can’t raise more money. The only way is if the Legislature would change the mill levy,” Creal said. “Without legislation, this is not revenue neutral.”

Mr Creal’s statement really gets to the crux of my problem with this amendment. If passed even supporters admit that more legislation will need to be passed to support it.

Amendment D supporter Bill Napoli even addresses these concerns.
Napoli dismisses those arguments as scare tactics. He said all constitutional amendments require legislative changes. He said he has a package of bills already in mind.

This seems to be a common tune among the supporters of the various bills that seek to change revenue sources for state government like this amendment and the initiated measure that seeks to repeal video lottery. Go ahead and pass the legislation and then rely on those in Pierre to tweak it down the road so that it can be revenue neutral. Based on the recent history of our legislature, do we really want to remove state revenue and then leave it up to Pierre to come up with alternate sources later?

If you live in an area where property values consistently rise more than 3 percent and you plan on never remodeling or moving then you would likely benefit from Amendment D’s passage, but for just about anyone else this measure will end up costing you in the long run.

Discuss this in our forum

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Bad Year For The GOP Gets Worse

The 109th Congress will go down for many things including an almost total lack of accomplishment but with the news yesterday of Ohio Republican Bob Ney pleading guilty to influence peddling, the 109th term will most likely become the second most scandal ridden session in recent memory behind the Abscam driven 96th Congress of the late 70’s.

Ney’s plea makes 5 members of Congress that have been involved in one scandal or another and other than Democrat William Jefferson whom so far is still under investigation for bribery, all have been a member of the Denny Hastert led GOP majority House of Representatives.

Ney now joins an "exclusive club" that includes former Majority Leader Tom DeLay who is under indictment for campaign irregularities, Mark Foley and his improper IM’s with underage House Page’s, and Randy Cunningham whom earlier this year plead guilty to accepting bribes from defense contractors.

So with all these examples of GOP leadership, what is on the horizon? Other than the ongoing Jack Abramoff issue that Ney was involved in and another possible scandal brewing with Republican House member Curt Weldon, recent polling shows that it could result in more than just a Democratic takeover in the House as some Senate races originally considered "safe" for the GOP are starting to look as if they aren’t as safe as first thought.

If the GOP does in fact lose their majority in one or both houses of Congress, they can lay the blame not so much with their losing popularity among their base but with their increasing popularity with law enforcement officials. Unfortunately for them, that is one group they didn’t want on their side.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Secretary Of Denial

That might be a necessary cabinet position in the Bush Administration with all the books coming out documenting the extreme lack of leadership currently occupying the White House.

The latest denial coming from the Administration deals with the book written by one of his former aides that I posted about a few days ago in which Karl Rove supposedly called some prominent church leaders "nuts," "ridiculous" and "goofy".

What We Have To Look Forward To?

There has been a lot of rhetoric from supporters of Amendment C on what the actual meaning is behind their attempt to make the state not recognize civil unions, domestic partnerships or other quasi-marital relationships between two or more persons regardless of sex.

Along those lines here are a few examples from the mail bag of what supporters of similar bans in other states said when trying to pass the bans and what they did once the bans did indeed pass.

Organization Backing Amendment Said Purpose Was Only to "Define Marriage" Gary Glenn, head of the American Family Association in Michigan, dismissed fears that the amendment would impact domestic partnerships. According to The Ann Arbor News, "Glenn called that claim a scare tactic and insists public and private employers would continue to offer domestic-partner benefits if they wanted to." When asked about the threat to domestic partner policies, he said, "Under that policy, every single person currently receiving any kind of benefit would continue to do so." (Jackson Citizen Patriot, 10/23/04, Metro Times, 10/20/04)

Amendment Backer Said It Had “Nothing To Do With Taking Benefits
: In 2005, Marlene Elwell of Citizens for the Protection of Marriage,
which supported the Michigan amendment, said, “This has nothing to do with
taking benefits away. This is about marriage between a man and a woman.”
CFPM campaign literature also claimed “This is not about rights or
benefits…It merely settles the question once and for all what marriage is….”
And CFPM’s attorney, Eric Doster, told both the media and in testimony to
the Michigan Board of State Canvassers that the amendment would not impact
domestic partner contracts. (USA Today, 10/15/04; CFPM campaign literature, Associated Press, 8/24/04)

Amendment Backers Sued To Stop University Benefits: In July 2006,
the American Family Association of Michigan filed a lawsuit to stop
Michigan State University from offering health insurance benefits for
domestic partners. The lawsuit argued that the benefits violated the state’s
constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage.
(Detroit Free Press, 6/6/06)

Local Governments In Michigan Prohibited From Granting Domestic
Partner Benefits
: In March 2005, the Michigan state Attorney General
Mike Cox issued an opinion stating that local jurisdictions and
governmental entities, such as school boards, were prohibited from offering
domestic partner benefits to their employees due to the constitutional
amendment passed in 2004. The issue is now before the Michigan Supreme
Court. The American Family Association of Michigan has filed a brief in
support of the attorney general’s position. (Associated Press, 3/16/04)

State Workers In Michigan Denied Domestic Partner Benefits: In
December 2004, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm stripped domestic
partner benefits for same-sex couples for state workers under new union
contracts, citing the “legal cloud” created by the constitutional marriage
amendment. (Detroit Free Press, 12/2/04)

Remember before voting, this Amendment has nothing to do with "protecting the sanctity of marriage" as gay marriage has already been outlawed in South Dakota and what quite possibly could result might have a far greater impact than what the supporters would like you to think.

Discuss this in our forum

New Feature - Visitor Forums

I have added a new feature to the site to allow discussion on current events in South Dakota and national politics.

There is always something going on in the political arena and this is the place to talk about everything and anything in world and local events. Feel free to check it out and let me know what you think or if you would like other categories added.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Latest From the No On E Folks

To continue today’s You Tube parade, the No on Amendment E folks have a new commercial out.

Billion Speech And Latest Campaign Ad

Jack Billion’s speech from the Meet the Candidates event in Brandon earlier this week

Jack talks about education, the economy, and healthcare.

And Jack’s first campaign ad

"The Nuts"

That is what David Kuo, the former second in command in President Bush's Office of Faith Based Initiatives says that Karl Rove called some of the nations most prominent evangelical leaders according to his new book.
He says some of the nation’s most prominent evangelical leaders were known in the office of presidential political strategist Karl Rove as “the nuts.”

“National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ‘ridiculous,’ ‘out of control,’ and just plain ‘goofy,’” Kuo writes.

More seriously, Kuo alleges that then-White House political affairs director Ken Mehlman knowingly participated in a scheme to use the office, and taxpayer funds, to mount ostensibly “nonpartisan” events that were, in reality, designed with the intent of mobilizing religious voters in 20 targeted races.

I am sure President Bush isn't going to be too happy about another "tell all" book that pisses off one of the few remaining groups left in his ever dwindling Conservative base.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

No One Is Safe From The Wrath Of The Religious Right

And that goes even more for religious leaders that don't subscribe to the beliefs of the intolerant right.
I certainly wouldn't send any of these jokers even to pick up some apples at the store for me. If I told them to pick the best, most ripe apples, they'd likely come back with a bunch of rotted mush, if this is the best "moral choice" they can come up with.

Becoming pregnant as a result of a rape would be a terrible thing. Encouraging the woman to kill her own child--a child that is half "her"--simply because the child was conceived in a violent act, is one of the most morally irresponsible recommendations I believe I've ever heard from someone who enjoys the misplaced honor of being a member of the clergy. These people will have a lot to answer for someday when they face their Creator, the Creator of those whom these "pastors" are giving hearty approval to the destruction of.

Is this fire and brimstone rant directed towards leaders from some small unknown splinter religious group? No, actually it is in response to a group of 30 leaders from 5 major denominations including the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Presbyterian Church, the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church that believe that the totally restrictive abortion ban goes too far.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

83 Percent

That's the number of respondents that think that President Bush is either hiding something or outright lying about Iraq.

Mr. Bush clearly faces constraints as he seeks to address the public concerns about Iraq that have shrouded this midterm election: 83 percent of respondents thought that Mr. Bush was either hiding something or mostly lying when he discussed how the war in Iraq was going. Fifty-seven percent of respondents said Mr. Bush was personally aware of pre-9/11 intelligence reports that warned of possible domestic terrorist attacks using airplanes. When the same question was asked in May 2002, 41 percent said they believed Mr. Bush was aware.

Oh and by the way in a time of the year that most in Congress from the party in power are looking for support from the President in their re-election campaigns, the same poll has Bush's popularity at a dismal 34 percent.

Monday, October 9, 2006

The Paranoia Is Setting In

With the Foley scandal, the quagmire in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the nut in North Korea testing nukes, what are the right winger's upset about? It seems some are mad at the writers of the popular sci-fi channel series Battlestar Galactica calling it a "bash America show"

WTF, I watch Battlestar Galactic, it’s a great show or at least I used to think it was. Last night was the season premeire and they seem to have decided to turn it into a bash America show.

The new GOP platform, everyone is out to get us...

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Billion Picks Up Argus Endorsement

In a move that will probably surprise no one given the history between South Dakota's largest newspaper and Governor Mike Rounds, the Argus Leader is officially endorsing Jack Billion for governor.

Their take on Governor Rounds:

Gov. Mike Rounds' engaging smile and personal warmth hide arrogance and secrecy and a lack of understanding, or lack of willingness to accept, that South Dakotans have an inherent right to open government. There's simply a basic disregard for public accountability.

And on Jack Billion:

Billion gets it. A physician and veteran. Former state legislator. Dakota Wesleyan University board member. Deep roots. Outspoken. Open. Willing to try new things. Willing to admit he doesn't have all the answers. Willing to admit when he's wrong.

They closed their endorsement with a real nice dig on Rounds' popularity, "Yes, Rounds is incredibly popular in South Dakota. His popularity, though, is based on his smile - not on his leadership or successes."

They certainly left no doubt on where they stand did they?

They Will Name A Ship After Anyone These Days

The USS George H.W. Bush


Not that George Sr. was a bad president but how does a one term president who pretty much got elected on his former boss, Ronald Reagan’s coattails, and whose legacy includes doing only half the job in Iraq in 1991 and not much else rate getting one of the US’s most feared warships, a Nimitz class carrier, named after him?

What’s next the USS Jimmy Carter?

Buffalo Roundup


Here’s something you won’t see much of in the big city...

This is a photo of the annual buffalo roundup in Custer State Park where the nearly 1300 free roaming buffalo in the park are rounded up each year for vaccinations and disease testing.

Saturday, October 7, 2006

Money Can't Buy You Everything

Just ask the New York Yankees and their almost $200 million payroll. They lost again to the Detroit Tigers 8-3 and have ended their season the same way that Florida Marlins and their $14 million dollar payroll did, without winning a playoff series.

Not one to usually gloat but considering I am a fan of what could be considered a small market team, the Cleveland Indians, it sure is nice for those of us outside of the New York area to see the free-spending Yankees go down again.  I would sure like to be a fly on the wall in Steinbrenner's office during the offseason...

Senseless Thy Name Is Amendment E

From an op-ed in the Washington Post this morning

Speaking of senseless, welcome to South Dakota, where supporters of Amendment E hope a new day will soon dawn where citizens will be able to turn the table upon judges and punish jurists over unpopular decisions. Amendment E would create a "grand jury" of citizens, rotating regularly, that would meet to determine whether a complaint against a judge warranted taking away from that judge long-held "immunity" from lawsuits (right now, and for obvious reasons, you can't sue a judge for failing to rule your way). Amendment E, as in Error, means that a group of citizens who don't like a judge's decision -- remember, judges when interpreting the Bill of Rights are the only checks against the tyranny of the majority -- can take their revenge.

Under Amendment E, judges could lose part of their salary or retirement pay depending upon how much trouble they get into with that runaway grand jury the initiative would create. There is nothing subtle about it Amendment E: vehemently anti-judiciary forces want to diminish the authority of the courts and to destroy the independence of the judiciary. And the worst part? They seem to be winning, if recent polls in South Dakota are accurate. Just imagine what the passage of Amendment E would mean to the practice of law, and the legal system itself, in South Dakota. Just imagine what will happen when the inmates are allowed to run the asylum.

(h/t and more coming out against Amendment E  over at Progressive on the prairie)

Into The Abyss

Newsweek's latest poll shows the party of moral values is in deep trouble.

For the first time since 2001, the NEWSWEEK poll shows that more Americans trust the Democrats than the GOP on moral values and the war on terror. Fully 53 percent of Americans want the Democrats to win control of Congress next month, including 10 percent of Republicans, compared to just 35 percent who want the GOP to retain power. If the election were held today, 51 percent of likely voters would vote for the Democrat in their district versus 39 percent who would vote for the Republican. And while the race is closer among male voters (46 percent for the Democrats vs. 42 percent for the Republicans), the Democrats lead among women voters 56 to 34 percent.

It's not just the House and Senate Republicans that are out of favor as the same poll shows President Bush is now at an historic low in the Newsweek poll.

Meanwhile, the president’s approval rating has fallen to a new all-time low for the Newsweek poll: 33 percent, down from an already anemic 36 percent in August. Only 25 percent of Americans are satisfied with the direction of the country, while 67 percent say they are not.

Ouch! Mission accomplished? For the Democrats maybe...

Friday, October 6, 2006

Now That's Progress!

Our Secretary of State now only needs a bullet proof vest when making a surprise visit to the heavily fortified American controlled Green Zone.

Condee In Iraq
State Department Photo

(h/t KOS)

The Bush Constitutional Interpretation

It has been well documented how badly FEMA screwed up after Hurricane Katrina and much of the blame was heaped onto then FEMA director Michael Brown. Much of the criticism directed towards Brown dealt with the fact that he had no prior emergency experience and was nothing more than a politically connected Bush crony.

Congress pick up on that fact and wrote legislation into the homeland-security bill that would have established new minimum qualifications that any future FEMA director nominee would have to meet.

The law says the president must nominate a candidate who has ``a demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management" and ``not less than five years of executive leadership."

You would think that the above qualifications would be a no-brainer for someone tasked with running the department responsible for our country's emergency responses. But of course, that would be true only if someone other than King George was in the Oval Office.

Using one of his infamous "signing statements", President Bush said that he could ignore these qualifications because he said that it went against his interpretation of the Constitutional powers of the President to make personnel decisions.

The law, Bush wrote, ``purports to limit the qualifications of the pool of persons from whom the president may select the appointee in a manner that rules out a large portion of those persons best qualified by experience and knowledge to fill the office."

Bush's signing statement also challenged much more than the FEMA director appointment.

But Bush's signing statement challenged at least three-dozen laws specified in the bill. Among those he targeted is a provision that empowers the FEMA director to tell Congress about the nation's emergency management needs without White House permission. This law, Bush said, ``purports . . . to limit supervision of an executive branch official in the provision of advice to the Congress." Despite the law, he said, the FEMA director would be required to get clearance from the White House before telling lawmakers anything.

Again Bush shows his true colors when it comes to signing statements and gaining power because as we all know in his case, no amount of power is enough. Why even bother signing the legislation if you are going to not follow it anyway?

Mixed Signals

One of the big issues in this years governors race has to do with the employment picture in South Dakota. A story in today's Argus documents the latest findings released by the federal government that at first glance seems to back up Governor Rounds' claim of employment prosperity in the state.

Highlights include a drop in the unemployment rate from 3.9 percent to 3 percent while the state added 9,600 new jobs which translates into a growth rate over 1 percent higher than the national average. If the report stopped there, the governor's claims would have been dead on when he says his policies have help our employment picture.

Unfortunately the report doesn't end there and here is where the real employment news comes into play. Average salaries were up 2.1 percent, far below the 5.8 percent that was the national average while high wage sectors actually saw lower wages during the last 12 months.

"For South Dakota, the problem isn't so much unemployment, but the problem continues to be low wages," said Reynold Nesiba, an economist at Augustana College. "It is surprising to me how little growth there has been in South Dakota."

The article then wonders if companies are having a hard time finding employees during this current period of low unemployment and the answer they discovered is that even with the low number people in the available job pool, companies outside of the retail sector are not having a difficult time finding people because of the large number of underemployed whom are more than happy to move on to new jobs.

So the next time Governor Rounds starts crowing about the states employment picture, ask him how many of those jobs are actually making a living wage?

As an aside to this story, the author Jonathan Ellis, talked to an HR representative from Premier Bankcard who currently employs over 2800 people in South Dakota. The rep. from the company said they have had no problem filling the 1000 positions yearly that they need, 1000 positions? Does anyone think that the company might have some issues if they need to replace 1/3 of their workforce every year?

Whalen Speaks

For those like me that are wondering what Bruce Whalen's positions are on things other than abortion and campaign staffers spreading falsehoods regarding Stephanie Herseth, Dakota Voice has an interview with the Republican challenger for South Dakota's lone At-Large House seat.

Being that it was the far-right publication asking the questions, issues that really affect South Dakotans like the war in Iraq, farm subsidies, and education were not addressed but if you want to know what Whalen's positions are on stem cells, gay marriage, and the secularization of America, this interview will give you his thoughts on those "pressing" questions.

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Some Much For The Bump

Even with falling gas prices which normally would result in at least a minor bump in the polls, George Bush is down to 38 percent in the most recent AP-Ipsos poll and 37 percent in the just released Pew poll.

How bad are things going when even good news doesn't help?

RNC Gets Hand Slapped In ND

It looks like the Republican National Committee forgot to double check the state law in North Dakota before making pre-recorded calls to contributors.

The Republican National Committee agreed to stop making recorded-voice calls to the homes of North Dakota GOP supporters after the Republican attorney general said the calls were illegal.

North Dakota do-not-call laws ban all pre-recorded calls unless they are prefaced with a live operator. Sounds like a law that would be nice to have here in South Dakota especially with all the pre-recorded calls coming our way this election season...

Crowded Ballot Causing Funding Crunch

An article in today’s Capitol Journal discusses how both parties are having to deal with significantly less contributions than they had to work with in past years.
During the current 2005-2006 election cycle, the Republican Party has received $1,361,300, significantly less than the $7,253,819 it received during the 2003-2004 election cycle. And the Democrats are also dealing with a smaller budget this year.

During the 2003-2004 election cycle the Democrats had $1,881,024 to work with, significantly more than the $489,965 it has received this election cycle. But the important number is the difference between what the Democrats have to work with and what the Republicans have.
Why the big difference? According to the article, the large number of ballot initiatives and proposed amendments have contributors sending their money to fight for or against the various causes instead of contributing to party candidates.

I don’t know what’s worse, wall to wall ads with candidates ripping each other as in previous years or wall to wall issue ads in which one side rips the other. I guess we will find out soon enough...

What’s Not Working In S.D. Power Politics

The following op-ed piece by Sam Kephart, the CEO of Spearfish based Virtual Acumen Corp., was originally printed in the Rapid City Weekly and is being reprinted with his permission.

The 2006 fall election cycle is on. Press conferences are being held, signs are getting planted, political ads have begun to run and words are beginning to fly. Serious faces acting out the same partisan war dance of years past.

What’s missing?

Next time you watch your favorite candidate or listen to their message, ask yourself, am I touched, moved and inspired by this person? It’s a pretty simple and effective litmus test for real leadership ... and I’ll bet your answer is no.

South Dakota has big dreams. It wants to assume its rightful place in the global economy, it wants a living wage and affordable health care access for its residents, and it wants to stop exporting its best future — its young people. What’s slowing down or holding up this process? Quite simply stated, it’s the current power structure.

There’s a significant disconnect between our leadership’s stated agenda and what behaviors they, as a group and as individuals, are willing to change to get there. The GOB (good old boys) are alive, well, and in control. And while right-wing conservative Christian Republicans are running things in our state, my comments are not just directed at them — the Democrats appear to have similar issues within their hierarchy.

First, there is a deep fear, bordering on resentment, of newcomers to our state. Instead of being embraced for what they can intellectually and energetically contribute to advance projects important to our future, they are politely greeted and then mostly ignored, because they are “outsiders” and what they have to say is suspect.

I know several individuals with world-class educations and business credentials who have moved to the Black Hills over the last few years. They have all found it virtually impossible to get integrated into the de facto power structure-politically or business-wise.

This past July, I was quoted in a newspaper article debating the size of the Republican Party “tent.” Over the next few days, I heard from several prominent Republican officials. One told me, point blank, that “you haven’t been here long enough to offer a public opinion.” Another advised “Tsk, tsk, Sam, you just don’t understand how things work here yet.” Yet another said, “You have to start at the bottom and work your way up.”

Help me out here. Is there some time clock I neglected to punch when I relocated my family to Spearfish in January 2004? Is there some secret committee that’s the arbiter of who’s worthy and who isn’t?

Another issue with our leaders, both in politics and in business, is their lack of willingness to try genuinely new approaches to solving problems ... and to be coachable.

If you’ve got a new idea, you can usually get a meeting with them and some polite listening, but forget about quick decisions, risk taking, and pursuing out of the box possibilities. Everything is “handled” and “under control” — read “the spoils are already divvied up, why share?” and “that’s how we’ve always done this, why change now?”

The sad thing is South Dakota’s past is dictating its future.

Any farmer or rancher worth his salt knows about the dangers inherent in in-breeding. In general, hybrid crops are more productive and more resistant to disease and drought. An F1 steer (an offspring between a pure-bred Angus and a pure-bred Hereford) is generally reputed to have greater weight gain and better health.

Why can’t we apply the same openness to experiment with ideas regarding our social, political, and economic future?

We are at a crossroads in South Dakota. Great leaps forward can’t and won’t be generated by the GOB and Depression-era hangover, zero-sum thinking. Suspicion of “outsiders,” fear of unorthodox approaches to dealing with issues, resentment of those who are candid in public, and, in general, fixed ways of being, are not character traits compatible with a world class future, regardless of rhetoric or party affiliation.

In life, context is decisive. As Albert Einstein once said, “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” What’s our leadership pretending not to know ... and why?

Wednesday, October 4, 2006

Tobacco Tax Increase

I have been discussing Initiated Measure 2, the proposed $1 a pack increase on cigarettes that is being voted on in November on a post on the SDWC and via email with a supporter of the increase. The emailer was trying to point out to me the fact that many supporters of the legislation are touting as the reason this bill is a good idea (emphasis added).

We have language in code which sets a tobacco tax and which puts all the money from the tobacco taxes in that chapter of code, into the general fund. That current tobacco tax generates about $30m and puts it all in the general fund.

This initiated measure, this new language increases those same taxes in that chapter. It leaves the general fund revenue neutral, in that the $30m generated currently and which will be generated even if this measure fails still goes to the general fund.

But the increase, the lift if you will in tobacco taxes generated, will be dedicated as the proponents describe. Essentially, the first $5m goes to cessation programs as they’re called, and the rest distributed among the funds.

If you just go by what the emailer discusses, the tax would be a great source of revenue for cessation programs that could be used to stop young people from starting smoking and for getting smokers to quit. What isn’t mentioned is something that I commented on over at PP’s and in response to the email I quoted above.

Under the current tobacco tax, South Dakota received around $30 million last year that goes into the general fund and proponents of this bill say that the next 5 million would go towards prevention programs. The new tax if passed would first and foremost guarantee that the $30 million that the state receives remains in place and any additional revenue would be divided first to the cessation programs and then to other state programs. What isn’t mentioned is how much the revenue from the tobacco tax has been decreasing year after year due to the ever decreasing number of smokers and how that number will continue to decline.

What happens when cigarette sales decrease? For one, the state collects less in tobacco taxes. With less coming in the state loses revenue, that $30 million cut mentioned above, and what this tax actually will do is make sure that even though fewer packs are being sold the state still gets it money.

The proponents like to tout the $5 million for cessation programs but how long will that money be generated if ever? My problem with this legislation has nothing to do with the increase in the tax itself, I am more concerned with the fact that it is being touted as some kind of noble effort to get people to either not start smoking or to quit altogether, that isn’t the purpose. The main reason for this measure is to ensure that South Dakota keeps getting it’s money from smokers and to make it sound more palatable, they threw in the $5 million dollar bone that may or may not ever exist.

One thing you notice is that many would like you to believe that their motive for this is to prevent kids from smoking, but you rarely if ever hear anyone trying to increase the tax on alcohol to prevent underage drinking. Last time I checked, underage drinking results in many more deaths among our youth than smoking does so where is the call for increased taxes on that? Of course there are none because drinking is currently more sociably acceptable and many more people partake of that vice.

So when the state needs to increase or maintain revenue they target a vice that most people wouldn’t have a problem increasing taxes on, hence the real purpose of Initiated Measure 2.

I personally could care less if this measure passes but call it what it is, an increase whose sole purpose is to insure the state gets its money and not some grand gesture to get people to quit smoking. If that were it’s purpose, the $5 million would be guaranteed upfront before any talk of the $30 million for the state’s coffers.

GOP Follies


(h/t - Crooks and Liars)

How does a Conservative media outlet spin a GOP scandal on a subconscious level? They "accidentally" list him as a Democrat, oops!


On the same note, how does the House Leader whom has been accused of covering up the scandal try to distance himself? He goes on the Rush Limbaugh show to get his endorsement on how it is all just a democratic ploy to discredit him.

UPDATE - Crooks and Liars has more on this including how finally after 24 hrs. someone is calling out Faux News for this "oversight" and how the network has yet to comment on the little "mistake".

Janklow Leaves DM&E Fight, Gets A Bit Testy

Former Governor Bill Janklow's buddy at the Argus, Dave Kranz is reporting in today's Argus that Janklow is no longer involved in the Mayo Clinic's fight against DM&E.

But a Mayo official told me Tuesday that the official relationship between Janklow and the clinic is over.

Janklow, like former Senator Tom Daschle, has been catching a lot of heat from many in South Dakota for working with the Mayo Clinic in their fight against the railroad expansion project but actually left the fight 3 months ago with no fanfare.

Even though Janklow's departure took place three months ago, his exit in that official role seemed to be a well-kept secret.

No one from the Mayo Clinic is saying why he left and Janklow seems to be avoiding the media like the plague lately first telling KELO TV that "I don't talk to the news" and more recently responding to inquiries by Kranz for this story by saying "I don't talk to you. I don't know how much clearer I can make it."

Governor Bill seems quite testy with the media lately, if he is so set on avoiding media attention, maybe he should stop doing things that the media feels the need to cover...

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

More From The "Liberal Media"

I wonder if this gentleman has been reading the South Dakota GOP's agenda?

CBS sure wasn't wrong when they named their guest segment "Free Speech". Think Progress has the video from Brian Rohrbough's appearance last night. Rohrbough tragically lost his son during the Columbine shootings and he used his air time to blame all the school shootings recently on the teaching of evolution and abortion.

Transcript from Think Progress:
I’m saddened and shaken by the shooting at an Amish school today, and last week’s school murders.When my son Dan was murdered on the sidewalk at Columbine High School on April 20, 1999, I hoped that would be the last school shooting. Since that day, I’ve tried to answer the question, “Why did this happen?”

This country is in a moral free-fall. For over two generations, the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum, expelling God from the school and from the government, replacing him with evolution, where the strong kill the weak, without moral consequences and life has no inherent value.

We teach there are no absolutes, no right or wrong. And I assure you the murder of innocent children is always wrong, including by abortion. Abortion has diminished the value of children.

Suicide has become an acceptable action and has further emboldened these criminals. And we are seeing an epidemic increase in murder-suicide attacks on our children.

Sadly, our schools are not safe. In fact, we now witness that within our schools. Our children have become a target of terrorists from within the United States.

On a side note, how long before the Yes on 6 folks change their campaign literature to reflect this new "revelation" brought to you by that "liberal media" outlet known as CBS?

1. There are exceptions for rape and incest.
2. Passage will prevent school shootings.
3. Etc.....

If they did, I would be willing to bet they wouldn't put a huge red arrow over it.

Hypocrisy Thy Name Is

I have refrained from making too much of the Mark Foley scandal that seems to be all the rage lately because there is just too much speculation and too little in the way of actual facts to say much more than Foley is one sick individual. One thing that is being reported thought caught my eye, from KOS via Hullabaloo

Tony Perkins of Dobson's Family Research Counsel was on CNN earlier and I think we are hearing the contours of the Christian Right's argument. They are going with Newt Gingrich's formulation: Poor Denny was afraid of being called a gay basher so he didn't say anything.

The idea that anyone from the Christian right would refrain from coming out with the Foley emails and IM's was because they were afraid of being called gay bashers is so full of hypocrisy that it would be funny if it wasn't so ridiculous. The party that loves to legislate against gays at every turn with such bills as the Gay Marriage Amendment was worried about being thought of as anti-gay? I'm sorry guys, I think that ship has long since sailed.

Monday, October 2, 2006

Schmidt Still Facing Questions

As I had mentioned last month, Republican Senate candidate Dennis Schmidt’s "oversight" of being a registered Independent when he declared his candidacy as a Republican in the primary just isn’t going away. At the time I pretty much left the story alone but more information is coming out and the Rapid City Journal picks up on the story this morning with a few more comments on the situation including some from Schmidt himself.

“It was just an oversight,” Schmidt said. “As soon as I discovered it, I ran down and got it taken care of. This is like the last century, and they’re trying to make hay on this thing. And it’s just an oversight.”

Schmidt, who coincidently is now saying he is a lifelong Republican whom has always voted Republican, happens to be running in a district that is 2-1 Republican but for some reason he didn’t feel that it was important enough to be affiliated with the party he says he was supposedly so loyal to until after he decided to run for office.

“This was all before the (June primary) election and all that,” he said. “At the time they voted, I was an absolute Republican. I’ve been a Republican all my life, and I’ve never voted anything other than Republican.”

PP over at SDWC has his perspective on this issue and thinks that even with all the latest on this, Schmidt should still win in November and that it amounts to nothing more than an embarrassing lesson though some of his commentators think that Schmidt should be prosecuted.

On the prosecuting note, the RCJ does touch on the fact that he appears to have actually broken the law by making a false sworn statement.

Schmidt’s sworn statement on the nominating petition appears to violate provisions in South Dakota statute that state, under 12-6-3.2, that “No person may sign a declaration of candidacy or be nominated as a political candidate for a party unless that person is a registered voter with that party affiliation.”

But even though some think he should be prosecuted, the law that Schmidt would
have broken by making the false statement has no penalty listed in the statute so
this issue will likely never see a courthouse

Putting this all into perspective, forgetting to pick up a loaf of bread at the grocery store is an "oversight" but Schmidt would like the District 33 voters to believe that somehow forgetting to change his registration before filing his paperwork is just an honest mistake? I really wonder what else his constituents will discover about him once he does end up in Pierre, like maybe he isn’t as Republican as they might believe? Democrats in our state would know the feeling on that note after what happened during the last legislative session...

Governors Poll


This is the final poll for the Governors race. The previous polls here and over at the now defunct South Dakota Politics and Elections site have ended with Jack Billion in the lead. The September very unscientific poll just concluded was no exception and had Jack Billion beating Governor Rounds 62 percent to 32 percent.

Sunday, October 1, 2006

Sunday Funnies

From the Jeff Foxworthy school of comedy with a political slant...

If you failed to complete your own National Guard service and your Vice President received five deferments to avoid service in Vietnam, but accuse political opponents who challenge your failed foreign policy in Iraq of being cowards, you might be a Republican.

More over at No Quarter