South Dakota’s only hope, and other gubernatorial jokes

Thursday night at the South Dakota Conference on Tourism banquet, both Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels broke out some comedy routines to entertain the crowd. Here’s some samplings:

Michels, on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s “Bridgegate" scandal, involving alleged punitive closing of access lanes to a bridge by Christie’s aides:

I said, “You know, that would never happen in South Dakota.”

(Quoting someone else) “Really?”

I said, “No, we would drive around the barricades.” 

And then I said, “We wouldn’t send any emails — that could be found.”

Daugaard, talking about the Macy’s parade/Joan Jett controversy:

To avoid further controversy, there’s only really one answer, one performer who can keep both the cattlemen and the music fans happy, and that performer is… Meat Loaf. He’s got hit records, he’s a carnivore, and he’s really, really available.

Michels, on Daugaard’s charity skydive last year:

The governor is always sort of concerned that I’m trying to move up to the number one spot. Okay, I did buy a freezer full of those Dairy Queen Blizzards… just to ensure he would actually jump out of that airplane.

Michels, on being the lieutenant governor:

I wonder, if the governor was indisposed for some reason, what kind of person would we need to have in that big chair leading us?

(Michels flashed a photo of South Dakota’s Teddy Roosevelt mascot character on the screen)

I think we’d need somebody like this, rough and tough, a leader, brimming with vim and vigor, don’t you think? Eyes gleaming with incredible intelligence behind these spectacles, delivering fiery speeches, framed with the manliest of mustaches.

Remind you of anybody?

I’m just saying.

Daugaard, discussing the new trend of “weight-loss vacations”:

You maybe have heard, on the global scale that this new trend, weight-loss vacations. Have you heard this? … These trips combine exercise in scenic locations with healthy eating to help visitors shed pounds.

I understand you can do at least one of those vacations right here in South Dakota.

The Wind Cave Weight Loss Weekend seals visitors underground for several days. They wander in the dark without food or water, until they reach their weight loss goals, or require medical emergency attention.

It’s traditional for the governor to tell a few jokes for the tourism banquet. My favorite of the several I’ve attended was Mike Rounds’ 2010 list of the “Top 10 Changes I’ll Face As A Former Governor.”

Photos of Gov. Dennis Daugaard giving his State of the State speech today, by Argus Leader staff photographer Joe Ahlquist.

Daugaard focuses on career and tech ed in State of the State

Gov. Dennis Daugaard will spend millions of dollars to boost career and technical education in South Dakota’s high schools, he announced Tuesday in his State of the State speech.

The support includes $5 million in grants from the state’s Future Fund, which normally gives grants to support businesses.

Already, 26 school districts around the state have filed requests totaling more than $20 million. The state is narrowing down the requests and will announce winners later.

Daugaard also said he’d provide support to help high school students afford fees for dual-credit courses that also give college credit. Right now, the fees for courses a high school student takes at a college are more than seven times higher than if they took that course at a high school. Daugaard proposes using “a combination of state funds and discounts” from colleges and tech schools to make entry-level courses more affordable.

Career and technical education “is at the intersection of education and economic development,” Daugaard said Tuesday. “I can’t overstate the importance of these programs.”

The career education programs were part of a focus on the workforce in Daugaard’s speech. He also announced extra support for the state’s tech schools, plans to bring more doctors and nurses to rural areas, and recruit new workers to the state.

He said he’d focus on working with communities and businesses across the state to meet their particular workforce needs.

Also in his State of the State speech, Daugaard:

• Called to strengthen the state’s ability to regulate insurance companies, after an Argus Leader report exposed shortcomings in the state’s power to do so

• Proposed a permanent funding mechanism for a new state economic development fund, by directing part of state budget surpluses there each year.

• Asked for reforms to the state’s bank tax laws, affecting how nine large interstate banks calculate how much tax they owe. Daugaard said the change wouldn’t increase the taxes those banks pay, but would make the volatile tax steadier.

• Unveiled a plan to make the “Governor’s House” program, where inmates build affordable homes for South Dakotans to buy, more energy efficient.

More updates coming.

Two word clouds of Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s State of the State speech Tuesday, as prepared for delivery. The bottom word cloud is every word in the speech, while the top cloud subtracts “south,” “dakota” and “state.” Those three words alone were 4.4 percent of the more than 10,000 words Daugaard said in the address.

Daugaard calls for insurance reform

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 and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels pose with retiring senior adviser Deb Bowman, following a group portrait Tuesday.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Lt. Gov. Matt Michels pose with retiring senior adviser Deb Bowman, following a group portrait Tuesday.

Daugaard picks mental health care exec for Adelstein seat

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.

Daugaard, Jackley won’t bring back last year’s open government bills

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.”

Daugaard appoints Jones to Olson Senate seat

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.

Saving in perpetuity

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.

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