Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Kristi Noem Wants to Fight Fraud Unless It Benefits Her

We all know that Kristi Noem hates waste and fraud when it comes to the farm bill.  She said it herself after claiming victory for the first failed attempt at a farm bill in 2013:
 It’s important to examine the food stamp program and close loopholes in order to crack down on waste, fraud and abuse so we can keep the integrity of the program intact and ensure assistance goes to those who need it most. I believe we need to hold the federal government accountable to the taxpayers, and this bill is a step in the right direction.
It turns out that the one area that Mrs. Noem pushed for in a Farm Bill she claimed had her fingers all over was insurance subsidies:
Yet most of the estimated $50 billion that might have been saved on direct payments over 10 years — and perhaps far more, depending on commodity prices — was plowed back into other subsidy programs. As the Cato Institute’s Sallie James put it, what the proposed bills “offer with one hand, they take with the other” for programs that “are even more likely to distort markets.”
These include increased crop insurance and increased target prices for crops that guarantee farm incomes. According to the Environmental Working Group, crop insurance subsidies already cost taxpayers $9 billion a year, and flow overwhelmingly to the wealthiest farmers and agribusinesses. While the wealthiest farmers collect over $1 million a year each in insurance subsidies, and 10,000 get over $100,000, the lowest 80 percent of policy holders collect on average just $5,000 each, according to the group. 
Okay, but at least Noem fights rampant waste right?  It turns out the one area in the farm bill that Noem made sure would increase is one of the worst areas for abuse is crop insurance fraud
Federal auditors who poured through the USDA’s crop insurance, disaster assistance and conservation programs have found that $36.6 million were disbursed to deceased recipients, according to the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO). 

The GAO report points to the biggest offender as the USDA’s Risk Management Agency, which disburses crop insurance, as having issued $22 million in subsidies one or two years after a recipient’s death. 

The report has been released ahead of meetings in the House and Senate to hammer out a farm bill that may expand subsidies like crop insurance, and casts doubts on the Agriculture Department’s ability to weed out waste, fraud and abuse. 

The GAO itself states that findings "may call into question whether these farm safety net programs are benefiting the agricultural sector as intended." 
If you are poor and hungry, you are a fraud and a waste, but if you are a dead farmer: Here is your check!  Thanks for looking out for the people of South Dakota. 

What the Report Cards Will Really Mean.

South Dakota DOE has released the 2013 "report cards" for schools across the state.  The idea is that it will provide copious amounts of data for the schools to pour through.
"With the new accountability system, we are providing educators, parents and policy makers with a wealth of data," said Secretary of Education Dr. Melody Schopp. "That's the purpose of this process: to provide rich data to schools as they prepare our students for the challenges of college and careers in the 21st century."
 My predictions for how this data will be used by the states:

1. Governor Daugaard will come out and argue that we need cut school funding even more since the data proves that giving education any increase does not lead to an increase in test scores.

2. The majority of the Republican legislature will want to know how these scores will help the business sector and may encourage arming teachers during the testing phase.

3. Parents that care about their student's education will be confused as to what this information actually means, and parents that don't care will still not care but will use this to complain about the wages teachers get.

The scoring method is a bit interesting:
High schools get 50 percent of their scores from student test results, 25 percent from high school completion rates and 25 percent from student scores on college-entrance tests. The Dakota STEP test is the basis for 80 percent of elementary and middle school scores, with the remaining 20 percent from attendance.
I feel bad for our elementary and middle school after we had an outbreak that took out about 25% of the school population for a few days.   In the end, the only prediction I can fill comfortable about predicting  what these test scores will bring is several hours of inservice going over what they mean and that next year everything will be different.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Other Reasons that Daugaard Lied on His Education Plan

When Governor Daugaard first ran for election in South Dakota, he offered his plan toward education.  While he has followed through with some of his promises in the documents (the ones that were always a problem and more on this later), he has missed the boat on promises that most South Dakota voters would have upheld.  One of the biggest lies was the idea that he would commit to schools getting the first dollars and the last dollars in the budget.
I am committed to the principle of “first dollar and last dollar” for funding our schools. The idea is not complicated. Schools are the only area of government that, by statute, receive an automatic funding increase each year. Before the budget discussion even begins, our schools get the “first dollars” through this automatic increase....
I also believe schools should get the “last dollar” each year. This means that, when times are good, and when the state’s other needs are met, any leftover funds should be allocated to improving our schools. Near-term budget challenges may frustrate this intention in the immediate future, but I am confident that we will emerge from this recession. When we do, our schools will be the first beneficiaries. 
Instead the Governor is happy to stash away the dollars away from education.  The state has had a record surplus the last two years and the Governor plans on keeping it that way!
South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard says he intends to continue using a cautious budgeting approach that has led to state surpluses in the last two years.
It also turns out the there was even more money available that was stashed away beyond the budget reserves:
The Legislature with the governor’s approval stashed extra money into budgets throughout state government so it wouldn’t qualify as surplus.
Many of those actions took effect by law June 26, four days before the June 30 end of the 2013 budget year. 
In many instances the money was placed into 2013 budgets as supplementary increases. Those moves were coupled with protection clauses. 
The result was departments and agencies could carry forward unspent amounts to use in the 2014 budget year that began July 1, rather than have money revert to the reserve fund after June 30. 
This is when the state continues to fall behind in education funding
State fiscal year 2013 investment in K-12 schools is 13.6 percent below 2008 inflation adjusted levels. That means South Dakota has made deeper state funding cuts than 32 other states, according to areport released September 2012 by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a nonpartisan policy research organization, based in Washington, D.C. 
The Canton Superintendent puts it into perspective for their school district when the Governor holds back on his funding for education:
If the state would have followed the funding law, schools would be receiving $496 more per student than what the Governor is currently proposing. To put that in perspective, the Canton School District has roughly 850 students in grades k-12 which means that our school district would be receiving $421,600 more per year than what the Governor is currently proposing. Can you imagine the additional programs/ services that we could offer our students had we followed the law?
We need to hold Daugaard accountable to education first and last and not building budget reserves first, second, third, fourth, and last! 

Monday, July 29, 2013

To Governor Daugaard: We Need To Take Care of Maintenance and Repair of Education and Healthcare

Daugaard wants to make sure that state buildings get the industry recommended 2% spending on building maintenance, but there should be no focus on the people that would be in those buildings.  
The industry standard is to spend 2 percent of the total value of all buildings on maintenance and repair. South Dakota typically has spent less than half that, Kinsman said. 
Gov. Dennis Daugaard has pushed to increase maintenance and repair spending to the 2 percent figure — about $11.5 million annually — and the Legislature has committed to gradually reaching that figure.
The problem is that this governor that once claimed that education should get top billing when it comes to budgets once again shows his priorities.

I think Senator Sutton says it best:
Some lawmakers say there are higher priorities for any extra money the state has. 
"I do value maintenance and repair, and I do think it's important," said Sen. Billie Sutton, D-Burke, a member of the Appropriations Committee. "But we need to fund education and health care. Not to sound too clichéd, we're not taking care of our 'maintenance and repair' with education and health care."

Read more here:

Read more here:

The Open Carry March Is a Simple Distraction From the Real Issue

This past weekend several avid gun owners felt it was necessary to strap on their weapons and march several blocks through Sioux Falls to defend a "right" that is not in jeopardy of being taken away.  The damn liberal media jumped on the event calling this crazy and demanding that the government come and take away everyones weapons, right?  Nope.

KELO had this to say:
It is a sight many do not often see while driving across Sioux Falls, guns, swung behind the back or strapped to the hip. The South Dakota Open Carry, Sioux Falls' Chapter, is bringing awareness to the open carry laws in our state.
The Argus Leader reported:
Rierson organized a Sioux Falls chapter of South Dakota Open Carry event that saw about 60 people carrying handguns, semi-automatic rifles and a few shotguns, plus a handful of children and a dog, march from near Yankton Trails Park to Starbucks at 418 S. Minnesota Ave. After stopping for coffee, many planned to walk back. 
“We’re trying to change the public perception of firearms,” Rierson said. 
There was mention about some counter-protestors, but overall everyone played nice during the walk, and it was pretty much a non-event other than free publicity for a cause without a real concern.  I see thousands of people walking around with firearms every year in South Dakota:  I call them hunters.

The problem with the whole "event" is what Jesse Rierson said in the last line I quoted from the Argus Leader: "We're trying to change the public perception of firearms."  Many gun owners claim "Guns don't kill people, people kill people."  The only problem in this country is that a lot of people kill people with guns.  The problems is that trying to encourage everyone to run around packing heat because you believe they can may in fact cause some serious problems.  

Rev. Kristi McLaughlin from Mitchell was going to host a counter rally to change the perception on guns in this country, but felt a need to cancel it after receiving threatening messages
McLaughlin says she did not intend to question the constitutional right to bear arms, and only wanted to question the need for guns in people's daily lives. But she says it's not worth getting hurt. 
This is the problem with the idea that everyone should run around packing.  No one wants to prevent a responsible person from being a gun owner, but anytime any form of restrictions are placed on gun ownership to reduce the chances of the irresponsible and potentially dangerous from owning guns, groups like Open Carry scream bloody murder.  

Just yesterday, a report in the news of another young person that was shot.  This time in Rapid City while there was a lot of drinking going on:
Authorities say police were called to an apartment building in Rapid City about 3:30 a.m. and found a 17-year-old girl with one gunshot wound to the head. 
Police say two 17-year-old girls and a 22-year-old man had been drinking and handling a .22-caliber rifle. One of the girls was holding the rifle when it fired at the other girl.
I think that the real right that should be our primary concern is the right of life.  Instead of parading around with your guns, why not think of ways to reduce the number of our children being shot and injured.  
In 2010, 15,576 children and teenagers were injured by firearms — three times more than the number of U.S. soldiers injured in the war in Afghanistan, according to the defense fund. 
Nationally, guns still kill twice as many children and young people than cancer, five times as many than heart disease and 15 times more than infection, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. 
We should have universal background checks,  we should encourage the use of more "smart" guns, and we should register all weapons (not for the purpose of taking them) to help track down weapons used in a crime.  These actions are the beginning of making sure that smart and responsible people are the ones most likely to own a gun.  Those people can do all the parading around Sioux Falls they want.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Will Dan Lederman Tell Steve King That He Is Wrong On Immigration!

Steve King seems to hate people that are new to this country.  It seems that everyone knows it after his sad comments about moving the country forward with immigrants that are here a responsible pathway to citizenship.  The people of the 4th district in Iowa know it, John Boehner and Eric Cantor know it, the nation knows, but does Dan Lederman (R-Senate majority-whip of South Dakota from North Sioux City) know it?
"For everyone who's a valedictorian, there's another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds — and they've got calves the size of cantaloupes because they're hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert," he said. "Those people would be legalized with the same act." 
King’s comments on illegal immigrant children being drug mules were quickly condemned by House GOP leaders, with Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Tuesday calling them “wrong” and Majority Leader Eric Cantor saying the remarks were “inexcusable.”
You might expect King to pull back some of comments, but he backs them 100%.  
"This isn't something made up in thin air," he said. "I've seen it with my eyes and watched the data and video that support what I say, and the longer this dialogue goes, the more the American people will understand what I'm saying is factually correct."
The Democrats in Iowa have condemned this type of thinking:
Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, and a candidate in next year's U.S. Senate race in the state, emphasized the bipartisan nature of the criticism before adding his own. 
"I agree that these (comments) are offensive and damaging to Iowa's reputation as a welcoming, inclusive land of opportunity where the American Dream is still alive," he said. "Sadly, Steve got exactly what he wanted, and that is attention."...
Also adding her voice to the controversy was Anesa Kajtazovic, a state representative from Waterloo and 2014 candidate for Iowa's 1st Congressional District. 
Kajtazovic, a Democrat, immigrated to Iowa as a child after living in a refugee camp in Bosnia. Coming to America gave her family "a second shot at life," she wrote in a Facebook message on Wednesday morning. 
"As an immigrant myself I find Rep. King's comments offensive and ignorant, and as a proud Iowan I find them nothing short of shameful," she wrote. "He's a prime example of what's wrong with Washington." 
Who hasn't said anything about this....Dan Lederman.  Dan Lederman, the Senate Majority-whip in South Dakota is a huge ally and supporter of King:
That, by the way, pits Ben in a roundabout way against state Sen. Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes, who’s a big supporter of King in the Sioux City area.  
What did Mr. Lederman have to say?

Shooting a HK MR 556 with @ChaddGoosmann @ Hawkeye Gun Club Outdoor Pistol Range http://

Nothing from Thune and nothing from Noem, his fellow house member.

SD War College says nothing about King, but tries to copy and paste some PR from the NRSC about Schumer not condemning Weiner and his sexting problems.  It runs out that Schumer is more then willing to let Anthony hang out to dry....
But nearly 15 years after Weiner was elected to Congress with Schumer’s blessing, their relationship is frayed, strained by years of conflicts — most especially over the sexting scandal that forced Weiner to resign in disgrace. 
On the campaign trail, Weiner barely mentions Schumer. And Schumer refuses to talk publicly about Weiner. 
Running without any support from Democratic powerbrokers or elected officials, Weiner’s campaign is, in some way, a lonely affair. Schumer’s distance from his protégé underscores just how politically isolated Weiner is.
Maybe the SD GOP doesn't really care about the South Dakota immigrant, but maybe they should.
1.3% (or 5,742) of registered voters in South Dakota were “New Americans”—naturalized citizens or the U.S.-born children of immigrants who were raised during the current era of immigration from Latin America and Asia which began in 1965—according to an analysis of 2008 Census Bureau data by Rob Paral & Associates.7   
The Latino share of South Dakota’s population grew from 0.8% in 19908 to 1.4% in 2000,9 to 2.8% (or 22,899 people) in 2011.10 The Asian share of the population grew 0.4% in 1990,11 to 0.6% in 2000,12 to 1% (or 7,855 people) in 2011,13 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.   
If all unauthorized immigrants were removed from South Dakota, the state would lose $190.5 million in economic activity, $84.6 million in gross state product, and approximately 1,440 jobs, even accounting for adequate market adjustment time, according to a report by the Perryman Group.21

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I Am Sure the GOP Will Blame Obama For This Too

This is sad, unfortunate news for Aberdeen families.  It appears that more than 250 workers at Northern Beef Packers are out of work and may need to start collecting unemployment.  It seems that there are only six employees left in the factory.  The workers that lost their jobs are still waiting for a check.

"I'm just upset with the way the plant handled the situation. I think they could have been a little bit more professional about it, kind of given us a heads up," Marco Morales said. 
The plant didn't pay its hourly employees Friday. Laid off workers say they're still waiting for that check. 
Tanya Glodrey was a supervisor and found out shortly before noon she didn't have a job anymore either. 
"Management and supervisors on a salaried basis have not been paid the full month of July," Glodrey said.
 In 2012 third quarter, Northern Beef Packers LTD Partners received 1,116,000 in a federal loan from the Rural Business Cooperative Service.  

That wasn't the only government money that the company received.  It has relied for a long time on state and federal support.

Northern Beef Packers meanwhile used EB-5 to attract investors and spur the start of construction, and concrete was poured for the roads and basement. But by 2008, the company began falling behind on its property taxes, mechanics' liens started piling up and the economic downturn dried up financing options. 
Hellwig stepped down as general partner when the Korean investors asked to buy out his shares. The new owners recruited another round of EB-5 investors, but the new investment fund provided loan money instead of equity shares in the company. 
After the plant starts processing cattle, the company will be able to tap into a state economic development finance authority and a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development guaranteed loan.
Remember it was Daugaard's administration that provided 2,000,000 in grant money to NBP.
Remember it was Mike Rounds that fought like heck to us special funding to back a program that never quite showed any stability.

Unfortunately, this appears to be a money-pit that no one in the state could get away from.  It brings up some interesting issues of the EB-5 program and how it was used
In December, five South Korean investors and their families sued USCIS claiming the agency wrongly denied them permanent residency. They received temporary resident visas, moved to the U.S. and faced deportation because of the agency’s “refusal to recognize normal business practices,” according to the complaint in federal court in Los Angeles
They put $2.5 million into a South Dakota dairy farm that went out of business while their funds were in escrow, and reinvested in another dairy farm marketed by the same regional center, now called SDRC Inc., according to the suit. USCIS denied their green cards, saying they should have reapplied before giving the second farm money. 
USCIS has agreed to reopen their cases and they’ve put their complaint on hold, their Miami-based lawyer, Ira Kurzban, said. USCIS officials declined to comment on the suit. 
Joop Bollen, president of Aberdeen, South Dakota-based SDRC, is a defendant in a civil case filed in federal court in Sioux Falls in October. It claims he provided “inaccurate and incomplete information” to Chinese citizens who put $500,000 each into the Northern Beef Packers cattle processing plant in Aberdeen in 2009 and 2010. He failed to disclose there were liens against the plant and that it was then about two years behind schedule, according to the suit.

 It seems that a lot of people will not be getting a return on Mike Rounds grand plan and what Daugaard called great news for Aberdeen.  I hope Daugaard goes out to Aberdeen to explain what he plans to do next.

List of to 20 unsecured creditors.

  1. Oshik Song; Eden Prairie, Minn.; note payable: $1.04 million
  2. Hanul Law; Santa Ana, Calif.; note payable: $1.025 million
  3. U.S. Treasury; Cincinnati; payroll taxes: $903,028
  4. Cryovac Inc.; Chicago; equipment lease: $800,373
  5. DXP Enterprises; Dallas; Vendor: $538,496
  6. Woo Song International; Seoul, South Korea; note payable: $515,000
  7. Dakota Farm Raised High Quality Beef LP; Aberdeen; money loaned: $500,000
  8. Polarway Investment Limited c/o Hanul Law; Santa Ana, Calif.; promissory notes: $500,000
  9. Daesung Kyungkido-Hwasungsi; vendor: $478,924
  10. Quality Value Excellent Sanitation Team; Greeley, Colo.; vendor: $342,572
  11. Farnam Street Financial; Minnetonka, Minn.; lease/services provided: $266,764
  12. Moss & Barnett; Minneapolis; legal services: $198,202
  13. C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc.; Minneapolis; vendor: $185,896
  14. City treasurer; Aberdeen; vendor: $182,263
  15. IEH Laboratories & Consulting Group; Seattle; vendor: $145,065
  16. Lift Solutions; Omaha, Neb.; vendor: $101,315
  17. NorthWestern Energy; Butte, Mont.; services provided/gas and electric: $101,315
  18. Avera Health Plans; Sioux Falls; Vendor: $94,812
  19. Rock Tenn; Orlando, Fla.; vendor: $88,230
  20. Avera St. Luke's Hospital; Aberdeen; vendor: $81,695

I Promise Not To Lie (Sort Of)

It appears that South Dakotans are not always honest, but we are pretty, darn close.  The Rapid City Journal reported a pseudo-study by Honest Tea.

South Dakota clocked in at 36th on a state-by-state ranking of the "most honest" — at least when it comes to paying for drinks at an unmanned kiosk. 
The Honest Tea company provided the set-up as part of its National Honesty Index. The index was an unscientific way and promotional campaign to measure which state residents act the most honestly based on whether they decided to pay for the $1 beverages....
The experiment in South Dakota consisted of a tea stand that appeared on the corner at Main Street Square on July 12. Alongside a cash box, shelves of cool bottles of tea and fizz drinks sat unattended. Passers-by decided on their own whether to pay. 
South Dakota tied with four other states — Idaho, Kansas, New Mexico and North Carolina — at 90 percent. North Dakota came in at a 96 percent honest level. 
It turns out that the most dishonest place was Washington D.C. which came in at 80%.  I don't know if anyone would find that a shocker.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

A Few Great Palinisms

I heard today the news that Sarah Palin will be in Baltic to speak at the AG PhD Field Day on Thursday, July 25.  Sarah Palin was always good for a few head shakes.  It would be interesting to hear what she has to say about sub-soil irrigation and new ag products; however, we can always go back and look at some of the memorable quotations!

"Polls are for strippers and cross-country skiers" –Sarah Palin, speaking at a Tea Party rally in Iowa, Sept. 3, 2011 
"I'm the mayor, I can do whatever I want until the courts tell me I can't.'" --Sarah Palin, as quoted by former City Council Member Nick Carney, after he raised objections about the $50,000 she spent renovating the mayor's office without approval of the city council. 
"But obviously, we've got to stand with our North Korean allies." --Sarah Palin, after being asked how she would handle the current hostilities between the two Koreas, interview on Glenn Beck's radio show, Nov. 24, 2010 
"Dr. Laura: don't retreat...reload! (Steps aside bc her 1st Amend.rights ceased 2exist thx 2activists trying 2silence "isn't American,not fair")" --Sarah Palin, in a Twitter message coming to the defense of Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the talk radio host who apologized and decided to retire from her highly-rated program after using the N-word on the air 11 times in 5 minutes, Aug. 18, 2010 
"Unless government appropriately regulates oil developments and holds oil executives accountable, the public will not trust them to drill, baby, drill. And we must!" --Sarah Palin, Facebook note, June 8, 2010 
"What the federal government should have done is accept the assistance of foreign countries, of entrepreneurial Americans who have had solution that they wanted presented ... The Dutch and the Norwegians, they are known for dikes and for cleaning up water and for dealing with spills." --Sarah Palin, on solving the Gulf oil spill crisis, Fox News, June 15, 2010 
"I think all our energy subsidies need to be re-looked at and eliminated,” Palin told reporters in response to a question about ethanol subsidies.  May 31, 2013

Oh, wait, that last one might not be too funny for the people attending the Baltic farm.  I hope someone asks her if she still supports ending ethanol subsidies.

Monday, July 22, 2013

This Is Truly Sad. I Thought We Had Moved Beyond This.

I can remember one of my first years coaching we had a LD case that talked about eugenics and my students and I had a lot of discussion about how we need to treat people that have a disability and how that we have improved since the 1950s.  It appears that the state of Florida did not.
Florida health care regulators have acted with "deliberate indifference to the suffering" of frail and disabled children by offering parents no "meaningful" choice but to warehouse their children in nursing homes along with elders, the U.S. Department of Justice says in a lawsuit against the state filed Monday morning. 
The Justice Department's civil rights division accused the state of violating the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act — which forbids discrimination against people with special needs — by funding and managing its community programs so poorly that hundreds of children have been forced to live — and sometimes grow up — in institutions for the elderly.... 
It adds: "Many of the institutionalized children remain in facilities for very long periods of time, even when it is apparent that their medical conditions would permit return to the community with appropriate supports." 
The lawsuit, aimed primarily at the state's Agency for Health Care Administration, the Department of Health and the Department of Children & Families, follows several months of in-depth reporting on the children's plight by the Miami Herald....

How could something like this happen.  The article continues
To a large degree, the controversy is over money: Even as Florida health administrators have increased the payment for pediatric nursing-home beds by close to 30 percent — the state will now pay about $550 per day for a child in a nursing home — the state has relentlessly cut services for families struggling to care for a severely disabled child at home. 
Reimbursement rates for service providers in the community have remained stagnant since 1987, the suit says, resulting "in shortages of nursing services in certain parts of the state." 
And three years ago, lawmakers simply cut $6 million from a program that pays for private-duty nursing care for Floridians who wish to remain outside institutions.
This is a disgrace.  A shameful, shameful disgrace.  I have no idea how anyone can defend such practices.

SD Gets a Little Closer To Offer Insurance To More People

No, this is not news that the Governor has changed his mind about expanding medicaid, despite the fact that it would save the state millions of dollars that the Governor could add to his rainy day fund.  

The South Dakota insurance regulators have approved three insurance companies to be a part of the SD insurance exchange: Sanford Health Plan, Avera Health Plan, and DAKOTACARE.  I am sure that these won't be the only companies on the exchange (I least I hope not).  The more competition between the companies means better rates for the public.  

I do find it interesting that South Dakota's leader in the market, Wellmark (Blue Cross and Blue Shield), has not been approved.  The currently have over 58% of the market share in South Dakota.  It is dangerous when one company can have so much of the market share because it destroys the basic concept of the free market, and that is bad for South Dakota.

When a firm has more than a 42 percent share of a single market, the U.S. Justice Department considers that market to be “highly concentrated.” This means that an insurer could raise premiums and/or reduce the variety of plans or quality of services offered to customers with impunity. 
As for the cost of the plans, we will have to wait until Saturday to see what they are
Melissa Klemann, assistant director of life and health insurance, said rates for the approved insurance plans would be available Saturday on the state’s Insurance Division’s website, .
Even then it could be hard to directly compare prices out of the gate, we have seen in states that have plenty of competition, rates are kept lower.

Now if we could get the Governor to listen to the doctors and expand Medicaid.  
Heinemann, a chief medical officer at Sanford Health, said the need to expand is clear.
“What’s an able-bodied individual? Those are the working poor in South Dakota,” Heinemann said. “I think our members are concerned about their patients’ access to health care. In this country that’s how we’ve chosen to pay for health care — through insurance or programs like Medicaid.”

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Minimum Wage Increase Proven to Have No Real Negative Impact on Employment

SD Democrats are making a push with the labor unions to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour and then tie the increase to the cost of living adjustment (COLA).  It also raises the wages for people that are tipped employees (which is currently $2.13 an hour) to half of the minimum wage.  Moments after the news was released, the right started the "WHY DO YOU HATE BUSINESSES!" scream.  In fact, Daugaard  came out against it with a common cry of it being a job killer:
"The issue should be based on economics, not politics," Daugaard said in a statement to the Argus Leader. "There needs to be an analysis of how many jobs would be lost."
The shocker is that this has been studied and we actually have several examples of states that have done exactly this proposal.  It turns out that increasing the minimum wage has little to no negative impact on the economy and may actually make the economy stronger in the long run.

A report released in February 2013 examined several studies, including several meta-analysis studies, on the impact of minimum wage increases through out the United States and the impact on employment.
Economists have conducted hundreds of studies of the employment impact of the minimum wage. Summarizing those studies is a daunting task, but two recent meta-studies analyzing the research conducted since the early 1990s concludes that the minimum wage has little or no discernible effect on the employment prospects of low-wage workers. (the bolding and underlining are all me)
 The most likely reasons given the article for why you don't see employment factors getting hit include things like lower turnover of employees which saves employers a lot of money and workers improving efficiency due to appreciation for higher pay.  In fact South Dakota business owners agree.  (Smoragiewicz owns Dakota Thyme)

"There will be good things that come from it but a lot of the business owners are going to have to take a close look because it could affect prices and what not,"said Smoragiewicz. 
In the end Smoragiewicz says it will be better off because workers will be happier and work harder. 
 "If people are making a little more they will be happier and work a lot harder,"said Smoragiewicz.

You don't have to rely on studies for proof because there are empirical examples.  Oregon has increased its minimum wage from $8.80 to $8.95 in 2013 because of the COLA established in law when they increased the minimum wage to $8.50 in 2002 by an initiated measure.  It runs out that the law has not destroyed the economy in Oregon.  Poltifact examined a claim made by the National Restaurant Association in March that the minimum wage increase had hurt hiring in the sector.  There response was the claim is FALSE!

But when we looked at data from other states, the correlation just didn’t work. And putting employment and the number of restaurants into context, as Lehner did, we can see that restaurant jobs rise and fall with the health of the national economy, not the state’s minimum wage. Oregon’s per capita restaurant employment is higher than the national average, in spite of having a higher minimum wage. 
We rate the statement False.
Another example of how this is working in a small state like South Dakota is Vermont.  It seems that most small business personal are not too concerned with the yearly increases in wages when adjusted to COLA.  

In Vermont, where the minimum wage is currently $8.60 and has been above the federal level and indexed to inflation since 2007, small business owners don't think much about the annual wage increases anymore, says Betsy Bishop, president of the Vermont Chamber of Commerce. 
"This has created a level of certainty about wage rates both for employees who know they will be getting this particular wage increase, and for employers, who can plan for the increases," Bishop says.
 You can look to Vermont for even more data to support raising the minimum wage:
In Nevada, where the national minimum of $7.25 an hour applies, the jobless rate is 10.2 per cent. In Vermont, where the minimum wage is $8.60 an hour, the unemployment rate is 5.1 per cent. What these figures tell us is that other factors, such as the overall state of the economy and how local industries are doing, matter a lot more for employment than the level of the minimum wage does.
There is so much more empirical data and evidence that raising the minimum wage to the level suggested by the Democrats will not kill jobs.  Mr. Daugaard, I don't think we need to wait anymore.  Based on the economics, it is the right thing to do for this state.  Don't let fear rule the day.  That is all that people against this minimum wage increase have.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Daugaard's Solyndra?

Todays news showed that Northern Beef Packers in Aberdeen is unable to pay its employees.  The industry was able to raise 150 million dollars six months ago (wait, they went through 150 million dollars in six months, wow).  The city, smartly, has no money tied up into the company (except probably road enhancements and water and sewage, but that can be turned over to another company if this fails).  Madville Times' Cory Heidelberger blogged today that the company survived based on EB-5 visas:
Aberdeen attorney Rory King, who represents the Northern Beef Packers limited partnership, says EB-5 has “been the whole financing for the beef plant.”
It turns out that is not the only government money that the company has received.  This time it is South Dakota funds.  Governor Daugaard bragged about the economic expansion going on in South Dakota in 2011 and Northern Beef Packers was one of the bragging points.  

I’m pleased that our mainstream media is paying attention to South Dakota’s economic success stories. Doing so helps spread positive business news, buoying consumer confidence and encouraging further economic growth in our state. 
Editorials from our state’s newspapers recently have discussed the positive impact Northern Beef Packers at Aberdeen will have on South Dakota. While we are enjoying this great news out of Aberdeen, it is a perfect time to showcase some of South Dakota’s other recent economic development success stories. 
 It turns out Daugaard's Administration use of Future Funds included $2,000,000 to Northern Beef Packers.  

Some of the other big winners in 2011 included the following companies:
TM 1 Stop in Spearfish with $825,000
PharmaCline in Sioux Falls with $500,000
Lehman Trikes in Sturgis for $400,000 (went out of business but has reopened with different owners) 
Elutian Technologies Inc. in Spearfish, Winner, Rapid City with $400,000
AKG in Mitchell for $325,000
Vintek Nutrition in Sioux Falls for $150,000
Angus Palm in Watertown for $140,000
Adams Thermal in Canton for $103,500
Trail King in Mitchell for $85,806
Daugaard bragged about increased jobs from Elutian Technologies and Adams Thermal in Canton.

2012 big winners were
Bel Brands in Brookings for 3,400,000
CHR solutions in Mitchell for $500,000
TCF Banks in Sioux Falls for $200,000
Custom Touch Homes in Madison for $175,000 (they were bragged about in the 2011 release)
Angus Palm in Watertown for $109,000 (awards two years in a row)
Brookings Area Development Corp. in Brookings for $100,000 (wonder how much of that went to Bel Brands?)

I am not against the idea of using some funds to help business establish themselves in cities.  I think if they can be clearly vetted and then there should be accountability for the funds given.  Accountability is very important with government funds, at at least that is what I am reminded when it comes Dakota STEP test time.

Daugaard vigorously defends this program.  I hope that we can get some transparency about why these were deserved.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Making the Teaching of Math Work

I don't teach math.  The last math class I had was my freshman pre-calc class in college that fulfilled all of my math requirements.  I never had the urge to study it, so I just stayed with my humanities classes.  Many people that study math tend to run away from teaching it.  I salute those that teach the subject because I know that geometry is not everyone's favorite thing to do.  I came across an interesting article on Edutopia about how colleges need to change the approach to the teaching of math.  The idea is to make relevant to students again.

This is just one of many interesting points made in the article and this is coming from an English guy:
Math teachers in the U.S. have the world's hardest job, because opinions about the subject are already stacked against it. Over the years, the humanness and relevancy of math have been squeezed out, and students no longer see its significance. To get students engaged in math again, we have to add the human element back.
That is at times the way that I feel about trying to teach grammar.   The article has many good ideas and I found that the idea of teaching math poorly is one of the main drivers preventing people from getting into STEM fields.

Oops, SD Republicans passed another flawed bill.

The school sentinel bill was a classic example of how politics operates in South Dakota when it comes to education.  Step 1: find a wedge issue to force on school districts without really getting any input before writing the bill.  Step 2: ignore the people that the law would impact (teachers, students, parents of students, principals, superintendents, school boards).  Step 3: pass the bill with flaws in it.  Step 4:  Pat yourself on the back for a "job well done."  Step 5: Wonder why people are upset and not taking advantage of the great opportunity that you offered.

Other than the fact not a single school district has taken the state up on the offer of letting teachers carry loaded weapons and that other state's schools can't get insurance if they do arm (Kansas, Indiana, and Oregon), it appears that the law was written incorrectly when it comes to the training of gun-toting teachers.  

South Dakota commission delayed a vote Thursday on proposed rules for training teachers, other school staff members or volunteers to carry guns to improve security in school buildings.
The Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training Commission originally planned to certify the so-called sentinels — essentially a license similar to the certification process the commission uses for law enforcement officers. Upon learning that the Legislature authorized the panel to train sentinels but not certify them, the commission changed the proposed rules so it will merely tell a school district when someone completes training.
What is the problem with just training and not certification?  A fairly significant one according to AG Jackely:
South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said the change is significant because it gives the commission less ability to immediately disqualify sentinels for misconduct indicating they should no longer be allowed to carry guns in schools. A school board could still decide if a sentinel no longer should carry guns in schools, officials said.  
It appears that if information came out on a person that should not be armed, the commission might have their hands tied.  I think that the best solution is for school districts to avoid the risk of liability and avoid arming your teachers.  

Pogany, the only person to testify at Thursday's commission hearing, said he is worried that the program could expose school districts to legal liability if something goes wrong.
"Our concern is about what happens when a civilian is armed and the danger just bringing that weapon into a school causes," he told the commission.
May be it is time to actual LISTEN to those involved on the ground and do away with the whole BAD idea.

(ALL 3 Representatives from District 6 voted for the bill.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

WHAT A JOKE! (But more importantly, I joined the Twitterverse!)

I saw today that Kristi Noem would be holding a Twitter Town hall yesterday afternoon.  I thought, I always wanted to try the whole Twitter thing, so I actually got an account (@LarsonTizzle) and thought I would check it out.  Wow!  A whole lot of nothing, which I think is summing up Kristi's time in Washington.  There were a total of 15 tweets using the hashtag #AskKristi.  8 of them were questions (I posed two tweeted questions).  The questions ranged from GOP supporters asking about bringing justice to people in the IRS and if the Senate will take up the Student Loan issue or will Reid just block it, to Matt McGovern asking about support for the Shehaan-Portman bill, to a simple question with no real partisan bent to it all "What's the latest on Student Loans and Farm Bill?"

Kristi had a total of four posts during that time:

I'll be hosting a Twitter townhall today at 4pm EDT/3pm CDT. Use the hashtag to ask a question! Talk to you later today!

Looking for the Real Daugaard Education Plan

Governor Daugaard released "The Daugaard Plan for Education"when he ran in 2010.  I would love to know what happened to the plan, and why he decided to ignore so many components.  Several of the promises he claimed that he would follow if elected governor simply were ignored.  You be the judge if the Governor followed through with the promises.

Here is one little nugget from his "plan":
Repeal unnecessary laws and regulationsI strongly believe that state government regulations should be simple, predictable and consistent. They should also not be over-burdensome or over-intrusive. A commitment to local control means that state leaders need to respect the decisions of local leaders – even if we don’t agree with those decisions.
Any one else remember the plan of the governor to force down the throat of the schools his plan to "make schools better" by forcing state standards on the districts and controlling how they handle personal.  Jim Bolin (R-Canton) had this to say about the Governor's approach:
Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, called it a "blunder" and a "classic example of a new big government spending program wrapped in a conservative package.""This plan does not and will not measure up to its claims," Bolin said. "It will not increase student achievement ... and cannot be sustained financially over time."
This is just the tip of the deviation from the promised Plan for Education offered by Daugaard.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is Mr. Burns in charge in Pierre?

You may remember Mr. Burns from The Simpsons.  He is the old curmudgeon that runs the nuclear power plant in town.  He has massive amounts of money and enjoys lording it over the little people in the town and that work for him.  Despite all the money he continues to make, he ignores that basics of keeping the plant functioning safely. 

This morning I read an article that pointed out that South Dakota has developed a record level "rainy-day" fund of $159 million dollars thanks to adding another 24.2 million at the end of June 2013.  It may seem wonderful to have all this coin sitting in the bank, but isn't the government supposed to use that money to provide for the tax payers who gave it in the first place?  Aren't there services in South Dakota that have been gutted because, according to Daugaard, apocalypse was going to happen.  Why can't they get things figured out?  Is it because Daugaard enjoys sitting in his office swimming in the extra millions he keeps lying around?  

Mr. Burns hates the riffraff of the town and enjoys releasing the hounds to hear the scream of agony of all the little people.  Remember that massive cut promised by Daugaard when he ran for governor? (Me neither)  That is what he gave South Dakota instead of using some of the reserves that were sitting in the bank.  The impact has been lasting for several districts.  Of course this is exactly what he promised when he became governor.  I encourage you to read from his stance on education (please try not to laugh or cry too loud):

I am committed to the principle of “first dollar and last dollar” for funding our schools. The idea is not complicated. Schools are the only area of government that, by statute, receive an automatic funding increase each year. Before the budget discussion even begins, our schools get the “first dollars” through this automatic increase. I recognize that in a difficult budget year, when there is no new money, we have needed to forego even this automatic increase. But as we seek to balance our budget without raising taxes, our highest priority should be to allocate these annual increases to our schools.
I also believe schools should get the “last dollar” each year. This means that, when times are good, and when the state’s other needs are met, any leftover funds should be allocated to improving our schools. Near-term budget challenges may frustrate this intention in the immediate future, but I am confident that we will emerge from this recession. When we do, our schools will be the first beneficiaries.  (There is no date listed on the document, so I can only assume that it is from 2010.)

First and last, right?  What happened?  Okay, so 2010 and 2011 were recovery years from the recession.  How about 2012 when we knew that it never got as bad as predicted in SD?  We got a 3 percent increase (sort of).  As pointed out the actual increase was only .8 percent in the ongoing funding.  Instead, the Governor never really wanted to talk about education funding, but Bernie Hunhoff clarified the real vision of Daugaard has for education:

“We never really got to the heart of the matter, which is how do we fund K-12 education in South Dakota?” said Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, D-Yankton and the house minority leader. “We’ve dug a huge hole for our schools ... I would have thought it would be the major issue of the budget address, and it never came up.”
Does that sound like first dollar and last dollar to you?  The more money he can rake into the rainy day fund allows him to fund programs for his business buddies.  Instead of using money to help educate and train South Dakota's future, he gives money to outside agencies hoping to bring people into South Dakota.  (It turns out that is not working.)  Remember that we can't expand healthcare to 44,000 to uninsured working poor in South Dakota because we can't afford it. (even though it would increase work productivity and jobs)  We can afford to bring Big Dairy into the state, but we can't afford helping colleges like SDSU and the students that go there keep costs down.  ("Kids graduate from college in South Dakota and go into a debt load-- 75 percent, go into job market paying lowest wages in the nation," Susan Randall said.-- South Dakota Voices for Children)

My prediction is that since this is running up to an election year, you will hear grand gestures for helping education.  Then again, if the Democrats can't find a viable opponent for Daugaard, he might once again announce "release the hounds!" and allow the legislature to leave all the little people trapped under a dome hopping the Governor doesn't block out the sun.