Gov. Dennis Daugaard today called for reforms to strengthen the ability of South Dakota’s insurance regulators to crack down on wrongdoing by insurance companies in the state.
He credits an Argus Leader story by Jonathan Ellis on South Dakotans being abused by the company for inspiring the reform. Here’s that story. Here’s a follow-up on Daugaard’s task force recommending reforms.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard today appointed Alan Solano, CEO of Rapid City’s Behavior Management Solutions, to replace Stan Adelstein in the South Dakota Senate.
Adelstein resigned suddenly two weeks ago, citing complications from a recent surgery.
Solano has worked in the mental health care field since at least 1991. He’s on the board of the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce, the South Dakota Council of Community Mental Health Centers and the South Dakota Council of Substance Abuse Directors. Last year, Solano served on Daugaard’s Employment Works Task Force.
In his resignation letter, Adelstein asked Daugaard to “select someone who represents the mainstream of Republican thinking, someone who is devoted to improving our schools and universities, and someone who is committed to protecting the civil liberties of all Americans.”
It’s unclear what Solano’s actual politics are.
On the secretary of state’s website, Solano is not listed as having made any political donations since 2011, when a searchable campaign finance system went online. Nor does Solano appear in any of Daugaard’s campaign finance reports in 2010.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Attorney General Marty Jackley won’t be making a second push this year on behalf of a slate of open government reforms.
Despite backing from Daugaard and Jackley, South Dakota lawmakers shot down five of the eight open government bills pushed by the duo in 2013, including the most significant reforms.
This year, neither man is including those failed bills in their legislative agendas.
“When legislation is brought that doesn’t make it, you need to make a judgement about what’s politically feasible,” said Tony Venhuizen, Daugaard’s senior adviser. “We’re dealing with largely the same legislative membership we had a year ago. It probably doesn’t make sense to try again right away.”
Jackley agreed, but said he’d support any of those bills if individual lawmakers bring them back.
That might happen. The South Dakota Newspaper Association wants to bring one back one failed reform, a change to make police arrest logs public information. Those logs currently can be released at the discretion of sheriffs or police chiefs.
“What we’ve seen, from the news media standpoint, is times when a reporter’s access to those logs is dependent on your relationship with local law enforcement,” said David Bordewyk, general manager of the newspaper association. “If it’s a good relationship, you generally have access to those logs, (but not if it’s a bad relationship)… That doesn’t seem balanced or fair to do it that way.”
Last year, the police log change was attached to another reform, which would have made police mug shots also public. At the combined bill’s legislative hearing, most of the criticism was directed at the mug shot proposal.
Jackley said he’d probably support a standalone bill to make police logs public records.
“We reached a good solution and a compromise on the police logs that was generally accepted,” Jackley said.
Venhuizen said Daugaard would examine such a bill and consider supporting it as well if an individual lawmaker takes the lead.
Last year’s open government bills were produced by a task force of lawmakers, media members and government officials that Daugaard and Jackley assembled. Three of them became law: making electronic databases more accessible to the public, exempting some three-member boards from open meetings laws, and clarifying that exemptions to open records laws can’t be used to retroactively seal information that’s already public.
Five bills were defeated. In addition to the police logs and mug shots bill, the killed bills would have applied open meetings laws to subcommittees of public bodies, repealed the five-year period after which pardons become sealed documents, applied open records law to text messages and emails exchanged by public officials, and removed a clause that let accusations be sealed if they contained “derogatory information.”
Gov. Dennis Daugaard appointed Chuck Jones, a casino manager from Flandreau, to replace Russell Olson in the state senate Tuesday.
Jones, 42, is the former city administrator of Flandreau, a Gulf War veteran, an an enrolled member of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe.
Olson, then the Senate Majority Leader, resigned in August to accept a promotion as CEO of Madison’s Heartland Consumer Power District. Daugaard’s appointment of Jones came more than four months after Olson announced he would step down.
Jones is the manager of Flandreau’s Royal River Casino. In addition to his active duty service in the Gulf War, he was in the National Guard from 1991 to 2001 and the U.S. Army Reserve from 2001 to 2012. Born and raised in Flandreau, he’s
also lived in Minnesota and Iowa served in the Iowa and Minnesota National Guard while living in South Dakota.
Jones is registered to vote as a member of the Republican Party. All of Daugaard’s six legislative appointments have been Republicans appointed to Republican-held seats.
He’ll represent District 8 in the South Dakota Legislature, which includes Lake, Miner, Moody and Sanborn counties.
A joke I saw this morning that some South Dakota policy observers may enjoy:
Bostonians still tell the story of the respectable society matron who was crossing the Common one day and ran into an old college chum she hadn’t seen for years. The matron was dismayed to see that her friend was obviously engaged in the world’s oldest profession. “My dear,” she said, “whatever has happened to you?” “Well,” said her friend, “it was either this or dip into capital.”
Felix Salmon, who flagged the joke, tells it as a parable of the “the deeply Scottish/Presbyterian idea that saving is something you do in perpetuity — an idea which lies at the heart of the thousands of endowments which dominate the non-profit sector in the US.”
Dennis Daugaard, for the record, is a Scandinavian Lutheran.
In Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s Wednesday budget address, he repeatedly talked about instances where he was recommending extra money for maintenance and repair of state buildings — $1.6 million for Board of Regents buildings and $3.4 million for general maintenance. There was also reference of shooting for a target of “2 percent.”
What was that about?
I wrote about this back in July:
As the man overseeing maintenance of South Dakota state buildings, Paul Kinsman is in a good-news, bad-news situation.
On the one hand, he’s got a maintenance and repair backlog of around $50 million — and only $4.7 million in annual funding to take care of it.
But that $4.7 million is a big improvement from years when the state’s maintenance and repair budget might be $1 million or $2 million a year. And state legislators recently decided to gradually increase that amount to $11.5 million a year, in line with national upkeep standards.
“It’s always been kind of a struggle to get those dollars for maintenance and repair,” said Kinsman, commissioner of the state Bureau of Administration. “As a general rule, I think it’s been underfunded.”
Kinsman said the industry standard is to spend 2 percent of the total value of all buildings on maintenance and repair. In practice, South Dakota usually has spent much less than half that.
“It’s hard for me to complain because I’ve never had $4.7 (million) before,” Kinsman said.
Read the rest of the story here.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s budget speech underway proposes 3 percent increases in K-12 education, Medicaid provider rates and state employee salary.
This is surprising because Daugaard’s public statements had strongly suggested South Dakota only had money to pay a 1.6 percent inflationary increase to these areas, though he mentioned he’d offer options to do somewhat better than that.
The extra money comes from Daugaard proposing to use one-time money to free up ongoing money, by pre-paying and paying off future expenses. It’s a budget maneuver or gimmick to get around Daugaard’s line in the sand about not using one-time revenue for ongoing expenses.
Daugaard is proposing spending $90 million in one-time expenses to free up $25 million in ongoing money.
More to come.
Gov. Dennis Daugaard will not support covering tens of thousands of low-income South Dakotans through a Medicaid expansion Tuesday.
But the Republican governor will also pointedly not rule out a future Medicaid expansion under the controversial Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. Instead, South Dakota will continue to work with the federal government to seek flexibility to cover people through other means than a straight Medicaid expansion.
“It sounds like the governor may decide not to expand this year due to the uncertainty at the federal level (and mediocre state revenue),” said Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “But we don’t want to shut the door on the discussion… We’re going to continue to pursue other options.”
Peters said her information came from discussions with top leaders in the executive branch. Tony Venhuizen, a senior advisor to Daugaard, wouldn’t directly confirm Peters’ report but said she “has been very involved throughout the decision-making process and is in a good position to know what’s in the works.”
Daugaard will formally announce his Medicaid decision Tuesday afternoon in his annual budget address. Earlier this year, he convened a task force to study the issue, and later said he was leaning against expansion.
In South Dakota, Medicaid currently covers a wide range of children, pregnant women and disabled adults. But very few non-disabled adults, no matter how poor, are covered.
The Affordable Care Act calls for states to expand Medicaid eligibility to everyone earning less than 133 percent of the federal poverty line, or $31,322 for a family of four. The federal government will pay for 100 percent of the cost for the first few years, then around 90 percent after that.
In South Dakota, that would mean about 48,000 uninsured adults could get coverage. But due to a quirk in the law, around half of those 48,000 could get health coverage anyway, even if South Dakota doesn’t expand Medicaid. Around 22,000 people, the less-poor half with incomes above 100 percent of the poverty level, could purchase subsidized private health insurance on the Affordable Care Act’s online exchanges.
That means around 26,000 stand to be left out if South Dakota doesn’t act.
Hospitals have urged South Dakota to expand Medicaid, saying right now uninsured people go to the emergency room, relying on charity care that drives up other peoples’ insurance rates. Opponents include people fiercely opposed to the Affordable Care Act as a whole, as well as people concerned about the cost to South Dakota of covering more people.
Daugaard and other Republicans have said they want more flexibility than Medicaid offers. They’ve watched states like Iowa and Arkansas, which have sought and received waivers from the federal government to pursue alternate models.
“They’ve purchased these folks’ health insurance on the market,” Peters said of Arkansas. “It’s cheaper than administering a completely new program. You only have to worry about the eligibility requirements.”
Daugaard’s office has been in contact with federal officials about these options, but hasn’t come to any agreement yet for a similar system.
State Sen. Billie Sutton, D-Burke, said he’s disappointed Daugaard won’t expand Medicaid right away. But Sutton said he’s encouraged the governor remains open.
“I was kind of under the assumption it was a closed door, in his opinion. But that’s a good sign that at least he’s considering further discussions.”
Peters said some lawmakers are resolutely opposed to any expansion, and others are passionately in favor of it.
The rest, she said, are in “the squishy middle.”
“I think we could expand Medicaid if the right opportunities exist, and if we organized it in a way that covers the people who need it the most,” she said.