Archive for the 'opinion' Category

04
Dec
13

Commentary by Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-Big Stone City)

Can the state authorize a forensic audit of SDRC, Inc?
By Rep. Kathy Tyler (D-Big Stone City)

One of the big questions concerning my request for a forensic audit of South Dakota’s EB-5 Visa program is whether or not the state has the authority to authorize an audit of SDRC, Inc, a privately held company.

The SD Legislature could and should immediately authorize a forensic audit of SDRC, Inc.

The contract outsourcing the administration of the lucrative EB-5 franchise to SDRC, Inc was made effective on December 22, 2009 and was signed by South Dakota Department of Tourism and State Development Secretary Richard Benda and by SDRC, Inc. President Joop Bollen on June 4, 2010.

Under Section 14 of the contract: (Please note that SDRC in this paragraph refers to SDRC, Inc.; DTSD is the Department of Tourism and State Development—now GOED; CIS is Citizen and Immigration Service)

“SDRC shall maintain such books, records, and reports as are currently or in the future required by CIS, 8 CFR 204.6 or other applicable law, or as may otherwise reasonably be required by DTSD. SDRC shall provide true and correct copies of such books, records and reports to DTSD as often as such books, records and reports are required to be provided to CIS, but in no event less than monthly. SDRC shall provide DTSD or its designee reasonable access to SDRC’s original books, records and reports such that DTSD can assure itself of SDRC’s compliance with the record-keeping requirements contained in this paragraph.”

Even though the Administration official claims that South Dakota cannot legally audit SDRC, Inc., the contract language specifically states our right to access the original books, records, and reports. The state can and should authorize an audit of the entire program, starting in 2004 to the present time.

Unless the Administration is going to suggest that the Legislature cannot provide oversight to an Executive Branch Department, there is no reason not to order up a forensic audit of SDRC, Inc. It is our duty and responsibility to the citizens of South Dakota to authorize this audit.  It’s time to do what’s right.

If SDRC, Inc. wants to obstruct justice, they can seek their own private attorneys.  It will illuminate just where guilt truly lies.

And off the record, I’m not asking for an audit of a federal program as some reports are stating. I am asking for an audit of South Dakota’s EB-5 program.

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10
Oct
13

Enough misery to go around

Aircraft of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) took to the skies earlier this week to resume their survey over the highways in western South Dakota that were hard hit by last weekend’s snowstorm. CAP aircrews are pinpointing locations where dead livestock are obstructing state highways or are in highway right-of-ways. This information is relayed to the state’s Department of Public Safety so that crews can be sent to remove the carcasses. This mission, which began Tuesday, Oct. 9, continued through Oct. 10 and may be extended depending on the extent of the area the SDWG aircrews can cover and the weather conditions. In addition, South Dakota Wing has received a mission from Pennington County’s Office of Emergency Management to survey the county’s roads and rights-of-way in the northern part of the county for deceased livestock so that crews can be sent to remove those carcasses. This is one of several photos taken during the CAP aerial survey of state highway rights-of-way. (Courtesy of South Dakota Department of Public Safety)

Aircraft of the Civil Air Patrol (CAP) took to the skies earlier this week to resume their survey over the highways in western South Dakota that were hard hit by last weekend’s snowstorm.
CAP aircrews are pinpointing locations where dead livestock are obstructing state highways or are in highway right-of-ways. This information is relayed to the state’s Department of Public Safety so that crews can be sent to remove the carcasses. This mission, which began Tuesday, Oct. 9, continued through Oct. 10 and may be extended depending on the extent of the area the SDWG aircrews can cover and the weather conditions.
In addition, South Dakota Wing has received a mission from Pennington County’s Office of Emergency Management to survey the county’s roads and rights-of-way in the northern part of the county for deceased livestock so that crews can be sent to remove those carcasses. This is one of several photos taken during the CAP aerial survey of state highway rights-of-way. (Courtesy of South Dakota Department of Public Safety)

By David Lias

It’s been a tough week in South Dakota.

A freak blizzard that moved into western South Dakota dumped up to four feet of snow in some areas of our state. It was followed by the unusually mild weather our part of the Midwest continues to enjoy this autumn, and the scene that is emerging is not pretty.

Some producers lost up to half of their herds and early estimates listed herd losses in western South Dakota to be five percent of the total cattle supply.

New reports Tuesday list cattle losses at 60,000 head. That was the first of a one-two punch ranchers and other ag producers have received recently thanks to Washington’s inability to pass a new farm bill. The Livestock Indemnity Program in place to limit the losses cattle producers incur from natural disasters expired with the 2008 farm bill on Oct.1, the first day of the government shutdown.

I mention this out of fear that South Dakota cattlemen may be forgotten as the nation focuses most of its attention on what it perceives to be a much greater problem: The Badlands (gasp) are closed.

How will we survive, not only as a state, but also as a nation, as this travesty unfolds?

I urge everyone to keep those cattlemen in mind, for they can provide a vital role during these tough times.

You’ve probably seen the photo of a vacationer hurling a traffic cone in the air at the Badlands in an act of great defiance to Ted Cruz John Boehner the mainstream media Fox News President Obama.

I mean, it must be Obama’s fault, right? After all, he signed the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, during his first term in office after Congress passed it. His signature turned the proposal he introduced and Congress approved for health care reform in the United States from an idea into a law that the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld as constitutional.

A major provision of the law kicked in on Oct. 1. In great preparation for this day that will live in infamy, the Republican-run House, in late September, ignored a White House veto threat and used a near party-line 230-189 vote to approve legislation denying money for much of the health care law while keeping the government open through Dec. 15. That measure then moved to the Democratic-led Senate.

That inspired tea party Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and other conservatives to speak on the chamber’s floor for more than 21 consecutive hours against Obamacare. It didn’t really stop what everyone was predicting all along – the Senate voted 79-19 to end conservative efforts to derail the bill preventing a shutdown, with all Democrats and most Republicans opposing the conservatives. The Senate used a party-line 54-44 vote to remove the House-approved provision defunding Obamacare, and an identical 54-44 vote to approve the overall bill. The bill, financing agencies through Nov. 15, went back to the House.

Just after midnight on Sunday morning Sept. 29, the House used a rare and lengthy weekend session to shift its demands for restricting Obamacare. By a near party-line 231-192 vote, the House voted to delay implementation of the health care law by a year. It also voted 248-174 to repeal a tax on many medical devices that helps pay for the health care overhaul. The votes sent the revamped shutdown bill back to the Senate.

On the afternoon of Monday, Sept. 30, the Senate removed the House provisions postponing Obamacare and erasing the medical device tax. The shutdown bill moved back to the House. That night, the House approves a new shutdown bill with different demands on Obamacare. It would delay for a year the requirement that individuals purchase health insurance, and require members of Congress and their staff to pay the full cost of health insurance, without the government paying part of the costs. The measure bounced to the Senate.

Later Monday night, the Senate voted 54-46 to strip the House provisions on individual health insurance and federal health coverage subsidies for lawmakers and staff. The bill returned to the House.

On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the federal government’s new fiscal year began. With no spending legislation enacted, a partial federal shutdown begins to take effect. Early Tuesday morning, the House voted to stand by its earlier decision, and requests formal negotiations with the Senate. Even later that morning, the Senate rejected the House effort for formal bargaining.

And that’s why the national parks are closed.

To review, the House tried to defund Obamacare. When that measure went to the Senate, it was rejected, and replaced with a bill that would fund all government agencies through Nov. 15. That prompted the House to try to delay Obamacare for a year. Which caused the Senate to remove those provisions. The House reacted by approving a new shutdown bill with different demands on Obamacare, those demands were rejected by the Senate, so no new legislation that authorizes spending for this fiscal year is approved by Congress.

I guess that’s why the traffic cones put in place to block access to the Badlands are all Obama’s fault.

I hope the vacationer who smugly threw the traffic cone continued his journey in West River to visit ranch country, and help a livestock producer count his dead cattle and calves as their bodies emerge from the melting snow. I’m certain the rancher, in his friendly South Dakota manner, would commiserate as he hears the vacationer’s tale of woe of being denied access to a park.

Oh, and The Hill, a newspaper that reports on the happenings in Washington, is reporting that a private gym used exclusively by members of the U.S. House is still open, but because of the shutdown, members of Congress have to pick up their own towels. In fact, members not only have to pick up their towels – they have to reuse them for their showers, because there is no more laundering service.

Such hardship. I’m sure West River South Dakotans will provide wide shoulders for House members to cry on.

04
Mar
13

As Sequestration Starts, Americans Unsure of Consequences

PRINCETON, NJ — In the initial days after the budget sequester went into effect, a majority (51%) of Americans say they don’t know enough to judge whether the automatic cuts in the budget put in place last Friday are a good or a bad thing for the country. The remainder tilt toward negative evaluations of the sequestration’s impact on the country, by 30% to 18%. Similarly, the majority of Americans don’t yet have enough information to judge sequestration’s impact on themselves personally, but among those who do, the tilt is negative, by 26% to 17%.

Read more here:

As Sequestration Starts, Americans Unsure of Consequences.

18
Feb
13

God is making fewer farmers

For a second, it was as if home had suddenly popped up, bigger than life, on our television screens.

The Super Bowl was all over except for the confetti and the celebrating on the gridiron, when, instead of a silly Dorito commercial, we were treated to some beautiful words spoken by a voice that has been silent for years.

Dodge’s “God Made a Farmer” Super Bowl commercial, running two minutes long and narrated by the late radio commentator Paul Harvey, struck a chord with much of the nation, especially those of us who live here in the heartland.

The piece consists of still photos of farm scenes – farmhouses and barns, dirt-crusted farmers with beat-up hands and weathered faces, tractors at work in fields. One reason the ad hit home is nearly every image could have been shot here in South Dakota.

The ad is uplifting and a bit discomforting, all at the same time.

Read more here:

http://plaintalk.net/2013/02/between-the-lines-god-is-making-fewer-farmers/

17
Feb
13

Herseth Sandlin: Congress squandered an incredible opportunity

From the South Dakota Farmers Union:

Herseth Sandlin

Herseth Sandlin

ABERDEEN — Congress squandered an incredible opportunity to enhance American agriculture while saving taxpayers billions of dollars when lawmakers failed to pass a comprehensive, long-term farm bill last year. That’s according to former South Dakota Congresswoman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin who spoke Friday evening at the South Dakota Farmers Union’s 98th annual state convention at Aberdeen.

“The reason we didn’t get a multi-year farm bill in the last Congress, five words: John Boehner and Eric Cantor, bottom line,” Herseth Sandlin said, referring to Speaker of the House Boehner and House Majority Leader Cantor. “And it’s because they’re ideologically opposed to many of the programs that are in that bill. The Senate comes up with a product that saves $23 billion in taxpayer money, passes a bipartisan bill, the House Ag Committee passes a bill and John Boehner won’t bring it for a vote.”

“John Boehner had a responsibility as Speaker of the House to bring that bill, whether it was the committee bill or the Senate bill to the floor of the United States House of Representatives to make amendments in order and to let members influence that bill and pass the bill to the benefit of not just everyone in this room and everyone in agriculture but for the entire country that has been supported and sustained by the agriculture sector,” she said.

Herseth Sandlin, a Democrat who served in the U.S. House from 2004-2011, said she gets asked a lot whether she misses being in Congress. She said she misses the opportunity to serve, but said “the answer is a lot more complicated than that” because of the extreme partisan divide she says has engulfed the nation’s capital.

“What’s going on in Washington has gotten to the point where unfortunately the public can’t expect much out of their Congress as an institution given the raw partisan politics that seems to trump any type of common ground that should be advancing smarter public policy,” she said. “As I watched the last Congress unfold, recalling and feeling that the most professionally rewarding experience I had when I had the opportunity to serve was to pass a bipartisan, multi-year farm bill, and to see that an opportunity like no other was squandered because of ideology and partisan politics was incredibly disappointing.”

Herseth Sandlin was a member of the House Agriculture Committee when it passed the 2008 farm bill, and says that legislation is the reason agriculture has seen incredible profitability in recent years and is the reason agriculture was able to weather the economic recession better than other sectors of the economy.

“The ag sector remained strong despite that record drought because of the risk management tools, and the crop insurance, and the safety net that was offered in the 2008 farm bill,” she said. “The reason agriculture was able to weather the economic crisis and slow economic recovery is because of the 2008 farm bill and the predictability of strong policy that was balanced across commodities, conservation, energy, rural development, science, marketing and all of the other titles in the farm bill. I can’t tell you proud I was to represent you at that time, to take your counsel and guidance and to pass a strong bill in a bipartisan way through regular order that served agriculture and America so well,” she told Farmers Union members.

“Thankfully (Senate Agriculture Committee) Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow has convinced (Senate Majority) Leader (Harry) Reid to make the farm bill in 2013 at top priority and I hope that despite what we’ve seen on sequestration and the budget that the farm bill can experience the same kind of momentum, the same kind of bipartisan support, the same kind of commitment to pass it into law as I expect immigration reform will get in this Congress,” Herseth Sandlin said.

Now an attorney and vice president for Raven Industries of Sioux Falls, Herseth Sandlin said her current job keeps her engaged in agriculture because of the company’s commitment to technology and entrance into precision agriculture markets. She discussed the issue of sustainability in agriculture, and using new technologies to work smarter and create a more sustainable future.

“When you look at what we need to do to feed 9 billion people by 2050 we have to do it by continuing to enhance productivity in American agriculture, and we’re doing it. And we need to keep doing it supported by smart, long-term public policy that’s right for American agriculture,” she said. “It’s about incorporating innovative new technologies, and smart, sustainable agricultural practices that use the best science of our land grant universities in partnership with developing countries to make sure we can feed 9 billion people by 2050.”

Herseth Sandlin spoke during the evening session Friday of the South Dakota Farmers Union convention which  concluded Saturday in Aberdeen.

07
Feb
13

Johnson, Noem react to postal service announcement

Johnson statement
Washington, DC—U.S. Senator Tim Johnson today released the following statement on the United States Postal Service’s announcement regarding the elimination of Saturday delivery:I have long said the elimination of Saturday mail delivery should be a last resort option, and I am disappointed with the Postal Service’s decision to end Saturday delivery. Last spring, the Senate passed a bipartisan postal reform bill that would have addressed the Postal Service’s current budget shortfalls and prohibited the agency from eliminating Saturday delivery for at least two years while alternative cost savings are implemented. Unfortunately, the bill was never brought up for a vote in the House, and this inaction prevented postal reform from moving forward.

The elimination of Saturday delivery does not take effect until August 1st, so there is still time for Congress to come together and pass comprehensive postal reform. This is a top priority for me, and I will continue working to preserve the universal service mandate that ensures those in South Dakota and other rural areas continue having access to quality and affordable mail service.

Noem statement
Washington, D.C. – “I strongly believe that the Postal Service needs to focus on making additional internal and structural reforms before it cuts services. I understand that serious changes need to take place to make the USPS financially viable, but I do not support eliminating Saturday delivery. Coming from such a rural state, our postal service is critical to the way families and businesses operate. Before the Postal Service makes decisions that affect South Dakotans and the rest of rural America, I believe the USPS should review all available options in order to establish an efficient and sustainable delivery system.”

25
Jan
13

Thune should look forward

Sen. John Thune chats with a member of the Vermillion Rotary Club after addressing their noon luncheon meeting Jan. 15, 2013 at the Al Neuharth Media Center on the University of South Dakota campus. (Photo by David Lias)

Sen. John Thune chats with a member of the Vermillion Rotary Club after addressing the club’s noon luncheon meeting Jan. 15, 2013 at the Al Neuharth Media Center on the University of South Dakota campus. (Photo by David Lias)

Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman, a Republican, announced earlier this week that he has approved the new route through Nebraska for the Keystone XL pipeline. The pipeline will also run through western South Dakota.

Heineman’s decision more or less clears the way for the U.S. State Department and President Obama to approve the presidential permit required for the project.

In this time of new beginnings – the start of a new year, the inauguration of our president, the opening of a new session of Congress – one can hope that things may change for the better.

It’s already starting to feel like we may be in for a re-run of the last two years, however.

Sen. John Thune (R-SD) issued a press release quickly after the news broke that Heineman had approved the pipeline route. He clearly placed the blame for the Keystone XL delay on President Obama.

Read more here:

Thune should look forward.




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