Younger earth haters warming to cannabis

Does anyone call it recreational alchohol? Of course not.
Pew poll data shows 63 percent of Millennial Republicans -- those born between 1981 and 1996 -- support legalized marijuana. But it's a divisive topic if the applause during Thursday's pot debate at CPAC, an annual gathering of conservatives, is any indication. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson argued for its legalization, casting it as a safer alternative to alcohol; "Having a debate right now over whether or not to legalize marijuana is kind of like having a debate over whether the sun is going to come up tomorrow," Johnson said. On that same panel, Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle (N.Y.) said marijuana today is stronger and more dangerous than in the past. [Hunter Schwarz]


"The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one"

According to the New York Times actor Leonard Nimoy has passed at age 83.

My little sister was born on this day in 1956. Before she was killed in 1995 she had a poster in the kitchen that read: All I Need To Know About Life I Learned From Star Trek.

Although it wouldn't have saved her life as she was hit by a car while riding her bicycle with her six-year-old on a Moody County road, South Dakota HB 1030, which gives cyclists a 3 foot buffer, passed in the legislature today.

SDSU going smoke-free?

South Dakota State University is the only Board of Regents school to allow their students to smoke on campus, provided they do it responsibly. Currently, our rules dictate that those who wish to exercise their right to smoke must do so 25 feet from any air intake of any building on campus. Some wish to see this rule replaced with a more restrictive policy that would ban smoking on campus property all together. According to Rethink Tobacco, smoke-free policies have been shown to “minimize the exposure to secondhand smoke.” Thus, having a smoke-free campus at South Dakota State University would be beneficial in many ways. [SDSU Collegian]
Smoking in Rotunda D, the Student Union and anywhere else in 1976 was common-place.

Take the poll.


The Revolution comes to Rapid City; Ellsworth's last gasp?

Well, let's see: Oglala leaders want the Lakota Nation Invitational out of Rapid City, a march against racism there has gathered American Indian activists, South Dakota's 'small government' GOP congressional delegation is begging for federal cash, the Federal Communications Commission voted to make the internet a utility; and, the commander of Ellsworth Air Force Base is warning of budget cuts.

My day is made.

LCV flunks Thune, Noem

The League of Conservation Voters has released their 2014 environment scorecard. It doesn't look good for South Dakota's GOP congressional delegation.

Johnson, Tim P. D-SD 2014: 100%  lifetime: 73%
Thune, John R. R-SD   2014: 20%    lifetime: 13%
Noem, Kristi R-SD       2014: 3%     lifetime: 7%

Counties reeling from Daugaard's failing leadership

As South Dakota recovers from the embarrassment from the lack of executive leadership measles still remains a priority for local governments.
Schools in Custer County are preparing for an outbreak of measles, which hit South Dakota last month. While there has been no case or outbreak of measles in the Custer School District, the administration still wants to let patrons know how to prepare themselves, just in case. The South Dakota Department of Health (DOH) is investigating an outbreak of measles in Mitchell. A case of measles has also been reported in Sioux Falls, bringing the total number of cases reported to 14. [Custer Country Chronicle]
Counties take the biggest hits from stubborn GOP governors who refuse to expand Medicaid.

Daugaard seizes absolute power

Democracy deferred:
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard has signed into law a measure that would limit the authority of a constitutional convention delegate from the state. The bill serves as a companion measure to a proposal that calls for a convention to amend the U.S. Constitution to require a balanced federal budget. The bill would also require convention delegates from the state to take an oath affirming they wouldn't support a rogue amendment. [KNBN]
Like Bill Janklow, Dennis Daugaard loves being an autocrat.

South Dakota's 'small government' GOP congressional delegation is on full tilt that President Barack Obama wants to streamline government.

Pierre's GOP mayor has been caught with her panty hose around her ankles as the city commission regroups after failing to vet the bankrupt air carrier chosen to receive subsidies from the federal government.

Like a bolt out of the blue, South Dakota has realized that the King's roads and bridges are crumbling. Only the federal government can fix them.

As race relations continue to slide under Dennis Daugaard's failed leadership American Indian leader, Dennis Banks will speak in Rapid City today.


Dayton showing Midwest how to govern

Governor Daugaard: take a memo.
When Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton took office in 2011, Minnesota had more than a $6 billion dollar deficit and an unemployment rate of 7%. Today, Minnesota's unemployment rate is now below 4% and they have a budget surplus of over $1.2 billion dollars. Mark Dayton's approach of making people who can afford to pay, pay, helped eliminate the deficit. Raising the minimum wage gave more people money to spend. Businesses like money and they like people who have money to spend. [Walter Einenkel]

USD to offer gender neutral housing

The South Dakota Democratic Party supports the human rights of the LBGTQ community.
A person who is non-binary identifies with neither the male nor female gender. This population is one that Todd Tucker, director of university housing, said has been previously neglected in the housing application process. Jordan Catlett, a fifth-year senior and the president of SPECTRUM, said gender neutral housing is a great campus improvement. After attending the Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender Ally College Conference (MBLGTACC) at Illinois State University from Feb. 13 to 15, Catlett said SPECTRUM plans to speak with administration about some of the topics it covered, including non-binary issues. Using the wrong pronoun can be offensive to anyone, but it is especially detrimental to those who are “working so hard to be who they are,” Catlett said. Non-binary pronouns include ‘they,’ ‘them’ and ‘zed.’ [Ally Krupinski, The Volante]


"It has earned my veto." President Obama moves to save South Dakota from Keystone pipeline

As the South Dakota Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club drop out of the permitting process for TransCanada's Keystone pipeline route through South Dakota, President Obama has stopped the climate-killing project...for now.
Defying the Republican-run Congress, President Barack Obama rejected a bill Tuesday to approve construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline, wielding his veto power for only the third time in his presidency. The president has said he won't approve Keystone if it's found to significantly increase U.S. emissions of carbon dioxide, the chief greenhouse gas blamed for global warming. A State Department analysis found that the tar sands would be developed one way or another, meaning construction of the pipeline wouldn't necessarily affect emissions. The Environmental Protection Agency earlier this month called for that analysis to be revisited, arguing that a drop in oil prices may have altered the equation. [Associated Press]
TransCanada's permit is up for certification in South Dakota because of inaction for four years.

The statement from the White House linked here.

NPR: unlikely enough votes in Congress to overturn the president's veto.

SD falling further behind other red states in well being index

As GOP Governor Dennis Daugaard continues to fail key leadership tests South Dakota stumbles again on access to affordable medical care.
A new Gallup survey has found that the two states with the most dramatic drop in their respective rates of uninsured are Kentucky and Arkansas, both deeply red in presidential years. Red states that did not expand Medicaid or embrace a state-run exchange, however, continue to have brutally high rates of uninsured. All 10 of the states with the highest uninsured rates have refused to carry out those two key parts of Obamacare. "States that have implemented two of the law's core mechanisms -- Medicaid expansion and state health exchanges -- are seeing a substantially larger drop in the uninsured rate than states that did not take both of these actions," Gallup announced. "Consequently, the gap in uninsured rates that existed between these two groups in 2013 nearly doubled in 2014." [Ryan Grim]

Bear Butte State Park should be remanded to tribes

A proposed bypass road near Mato Paha is the subject of contention to those who hold the mountain sacred.
Bear Butte, rich in history and religious significance to dozens of tribes, is administered as a state park and is under consideration for federal protection, due in part to its continued importance as a place of worship and celebration of Native American ceremonies. The Prairie Hills Audubon Society Chapter is among detractors of the proposed by-pass road. “It will bring more development and traffic to the area east of Sturgis, near the junction of highways 79 and 34, near where Bear Butte and Bear Butte Lake are located,” said chapter President Nancy Hilding. The butte is not fully held in state, tribal or federal trust, so private properties here could be developed to the detriment of the traditional cultural use of the area, she said. [Talli Nauman, Native Sun News]
Nauman reported on a previous Meade County commission meeting. Here is an excerpt from her piece at Native Sun News via indianz.com:
At a June 8 hearing on the matter, commissioners stopped short of approving a lawsuit. Instead, they voted unanimously to send a letter to state regulators, disputing the decision to hold oil drilling to five wells, instead of 24 initially permitted near the prayer site sacred to dozens of Native American tribes. The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment decided on May 18 to reduce Nakota Energy LLC’s 2010 permit for oil drilling in the sacred butte area from 24 to five initial wells, after three public comment periods revealed substantial opposition on religious grounds. “People are tired of coming in here. A lot of people don’t want to talk anymore,” United Urban Warrior Society organizer James Swan testified to county commissioners at their most recent meeting. “They just want to take over the mountain.” Mato Paha, as the mountain is called in Lakota, was noted and reserved as a traditional council site in the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie treaties with the U.S. government.

A 1986 amendment to federal law allows tribes to acquire off-reservation land to serve the needs of its peoples. A recent court case upheld these tribal rights. The Arizona Republic explains:

Luis Plascencia, an assistant professor at Arizona State University, questioned the states-rights argument. "When states joined the union, they agreed to be a state, political entities authorized by the federal government," Plascencia said. "States are given power but it doesn't make them independent of the United States of America the same way cities are not independent.
Arizona Republicans have continued to block tribal efforts to build a casino on off-reservation land.

The Northern Cheyenne, a Montana tribe, is just one tribal nation that owns land near Bear Butte in western South Dakota considered "non-contiguous" reservation land.

April 20 is the deadline for thousands of owners of fractional interests on tribal lands to accept land buyback offers from the feds.

It's time for the State of South Dakota to abandon this land it claimed through colonization and remand it to the tribes for governance.

ip photo.


Beresford student: liberty and justice for all except in South Dakota

South Dakota isn’t the only place seeing the movement towards marriage equality. Thirty-seven out of the fifty states now grant same-sex couples the right to marry, and 72 percent of the U.S. population lives in a state with marriage equality. FreedomToMarry.org states, “In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in several marriage legal cases. A favorable outcome could bring the freedom to marry to same-sex couples nationwide.” The Marriage Equality Movement is gaining momentum, and hopefully this year will be the year that all couples will have the right to marry whom they wish. When that day comes, I’ll be able to recite the Pledge of Allegiance and feel it to be true. [Elizabeth Petersen, Beresford High School]

Sen. Hunhoff: institute corporate income tax to fund education

Saturday marked the year’s second Yankton Area Chamber of Commerce legislative cracker barrel at the Avera Pavilion. District 18 state representatives Mike Stevens and Jean Hunhoff and Sen. Bernie Hunhoff used the event as an opportunity to update the public on the session’s efforts in dealing with education and Medicaid expansion. Sen. Bernie Hunhoff said much more work needs to be done on funding education in South Dakota. He suggested that South Dakota institute a corporate income tax in order to raise the funds for education. Sen. Hunhoff said the state’s expansion may not take on as many people as previously thought. “We’ve been working out numbers that indicates there are about 48,000 people who would access Medicaid services if they were able to,” he said. “North Dakota has already done this and they’ve only got 12-16,000, so it looks like the numbers might be quite a bit lower than we’ve been talking about, thus making the program much more affordable.” The final District 18 forum of the 2015 session is set for March 7 at 10 a.m. at the Avera Professional Pavilion in Yankton. [Rob Nielsen, Yankton Press and Dakotan]

Montana's Tester, Bullock raising cash for Dems

Montana is the water tower for parts of two countries essential to reintroducing bison and critical habitat in efforts to rewild the western Missouri River basin. She hates the proposed Powder River Training Complex airspace grab, too.

Following policy and politics there is a necessary part of understanding the Eastern slope of the Rocky Mountains. Since the GOP has chosen to plunder the West we have to support Democrats working to preserve her for future generations.

Montana's Democratic US Senator and governor have been elected to key fundraising posts: Sen. Jon Tester is chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and Gov. Steve Bullock was recently elected to lead the Democratic Governors Association.
For his part, Bullock is unapologetic about his role as DGA chair. “When it comes to the spending of corporate dollars, look, I don’t think there’s any governor in the country that’s fought harder to make sure our elections didn’t have corporate dollars in them. I took it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Bullock said. “But this is going to be the law of our land, at least until we get a new Supreme Court. That doesn’t mean Democrats should just roll over.” [John S. Adams, Bullock criticizes, is criticized over ‘dark money’]
Of course, the GOP is raising a stink: they're being outraised.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised more than its Republican counterpart in January, bringing in $4.5 million as it begins its efforts to take control of the Senate in 2016. Despite being in the minority, the DSCC said this haul is its best ever in the January of a non-election year. The committee had more than $2.6 million in cash on hand and had $15 million in operating debt at the end of the month. [Alexis Levinson]
Montana and the legislature is being flooded with cash from Koch-backed 'Americans For Prosperity' in a state where the far right-wing is pushing the legislature to seize federal lands to mine, log, graze, whatever to pay back their benefactors.

It's been said countless times that The Last Best Place is not Oregon (even though the states show commonality in the white nationalist bloc) and elects Democrats with Blue Dog credentials: both Tester and Bullock believe that with vigilant environmental oversight they would support TransCanada's tarsands enema beginning in Montana.

Montana's Left has a hard-on for what it perceives as Democrats being GOP-lite who have deserted progressive ideals just to woo centrist voters.

We can stand for that: practical choices beat Democrats in the 2014 because our candidates ran away from President Obama, marriage equality and cannabis rights. But unless money is raised the earth haters of the GOP will keep defining our priorities and buying elections.

Democrats still enjoy overwhelming campaign support from Hollywood: interesting intersection as University of Montana grad JK Simmons wins an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the 87th Academy Awards and Jeff Bridges once toyed with running for a Senate seat there.


New Mexico yardbirds enchant

Okay, here is some kinder, gentler kurtz for your weekend especially if you're trapped in the frozen tundra somewhere. Click on any image for a better look:


Saturday crackerbarrels, coffees galore

Update, 21 February, 0900 MST: Aberdeen crackerbarrel live linked here.

Head out to support your Democratic lawmakers and jack up the GOP legislators:

• The Huron Area Crackerbarrel/Coffee with the Legislators (District 22) meets in the Huron City Hall community room: it starts at 0900 CST.

• The LawCo Crackerbarrel (District 31) kicks off at 0900 MST in Deadwood City Hall.

• The Rapid City Area Legislative Coffee/Crackerbarrel (Districts 32-35) at the SD School of Mines and Technology Classroom Building assembles from 0900 to 1100 MST.

• Hilton Garden Inn hosts the Sioux Falls Legislative Coffees/Crackerbarrel (Districts 6, 9, 11-15, 25) from 0900 until 1145 CST.

• Yankton Area Crackerbarrel (District 18) gathers at the Avera Pavilion Amphitheatre at 409 Summit from 1000 to 1100 CST.

SD Dems driving Medicaid debate

The South Dakota Senate Appropriations Committee today (Friday) debated a bill that would call for expanded Medicaid coverage in the state. Bill sponsor, Senator Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton says the arguments pro and con are still being made. Scott Duke, the President and CEO of the South Dakota Association of Health Care Organizations says expansion would lead to better health for more citizens.
Listen to more at WNAX.

Republic view: GOP plan to change minimum wage voter betrayal

We can see both viewpoints on setting this new minimum wage for workers younger than 18, as all 26 Republican senators voted in favor of the law and all seven Democrats opposed it. Last November, voters decided that the overall minimum wage would be $8.50. The majority decided to pass minimum wage increase by a 55-45 margin. Sen. Billie Sutton, a Democrat from Burke, argued Wednesday that SB 177 overturns a decision made by voters in November. Sutton explained there was nothing on the ballot about lower minimum wages for workers who are younger than 18. It was simply for anyone earning minimum wage. "That vote is a betrayal of the public's vote to improve the minimum wage," he said Wednesday. [editorial, Mitchell Daily Republic]


New poll: where will Trace O'Connell serve his jail sentence?

Will Trace O'Connell serve any sentence, be incarcerated in the Pennington County jail, languish in friendly surroundings at the Haakon County jail, or something else?

Vote on the new poll.

GOP legislators vote to move local control to state; fetus beheading bill turns to fairy dust

John Hult of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader covered South Dakota Legislature testimony today a bill that would change language governing rules for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations. [political affiliations have been added]

Included with tweets from Dakota Rural Action the following is copied from his live-tweeting the session:

Up now in House Local Government Committee: House Bill 1201, which would change the zoning rules for CAFOs, other developments.

Mickelson [R] talking about John Morrell plant in SD: 18,000 hogs a day slaughtered there, and 80 percent come from Iowa or Minnesota.

Rep. Mark Mickelson's bill would make it possible to grant conditional use permits on simple majorities if the county chooses to.

"This is not local control at all," Tyler [D] says of HB 1201.

There are 412 CAFOs permitted in SD. "Of those 412, there were six appeals," Tyler said.

Tyler appealed a permit for a 6,200-head dairy in her neighborhood (it was a half mile from her house).

The judge ruled in Tyler's favor, CAFO owner took the case to the Supreme Court.

"We need to look at what true local control here," Tyler said.

@DakotaRural · 4h 4 hours ago

Bill is clearly about promoting CAFOs despite the bill sponsors statement that CAFOs are only 1% of conditional use apps in Sd. #SDLeg

Chicoine: 'We were told that basically, we have no recourse," if chicken farm is approved. "If you want to appeal, you go to court."

Chicoine: "If the state is intent on bringing in corporate animal factories, the state is going to have to address the concerns of ruralSD."

Sabrina King of @DakotaRural up now. Says the debate is not pro-ag vs. anti-ag.

"This bill is a part of a comprehensive plan to make it easier to permit these (CAFOs)," King said.

King: Cows and pigs don't vote, they don't shop. Farmers do. The state should stop trying to pick winners and losers, she said.

King's done. Up now is Debra Barta of Hand County. She's fought a CAFO in her county.

Mickelson says there are 7,800 CAFO permits in Iowa. "You don't know what you're missing out on," in SD, he said.

Mickelson: "I'll tell you what's driving people out of the small counties: People who won't let in the next generation of agriculture."

Rep. Paula Hawks [D] has a question: Could somebody clarify for me who's put on a board of adjustment? Can they be elected official.

B of A decisions have to be appealed to circuit court (can't be referred), Tyler says

Mickelson weighs in on EPA question: "Most of the SD citizens, most of the legislators don't like the EPA."

@DakotaRural · 3h 3 hours ago

Brunner: I'd rather live next to a cafo than a small farmer because small farmers do things wrong. Unbelievable. #SDLeg

Soli [D] says she's opposed to the bill. "We should hear from at least one opponent up here."

Again: Bill to allow conditional use permits (read: big feedlots) on a simple majority passes through House committee on 10-3 vote.

SD legislature leaves door cracked for therapeutic cannabis

A Senate committee approved a measure Wednesday that would allow terminally ill patients access to treatments that aren't FDA approved but have undergone some testing. Rep. Leslie Heinemann, R-Flandreau, is the prime sponsor of House Bill 1080. The bill is written to waive liability and also makes participation voluntary for patients, doctors and drug companies, Heinemann says. "When patients come see us as physicians, they're not only looking for ways to get better, they're also looking for hope," Sen. Blake Curd, R-Sioux Falls, said.
Read more at KELO teevee linked here.

The South Dakota Democratic Party supports:
10. Ongoing evidence-based research into the use of alternative medical therapies for specific patient populations.
11. The patient’s right to privacy and confidentiality and the resources to make an informed decision in one’s health care.


Jackson: BHSU would be honored to host LNI

You read it here first!

Boasting the highest American Indian enrollment among the regental institutions Black Hills State University is making "strategic changes" in efforts to address a revenue shortfall.
“Our first priority continues to be our students. The budget adjustments are designed to have minimal impact on students,” BHSU President Tom Jackson, Jr., said. “Across the nation, higher education institutions are being challenged to shift the way we operate to meet budgetary limitations while continuing to provide exceptional educational experiences. By taking a proactive and strategic approach, BHSU is meeting that challenge.” [BHSU Communications]
Dr. Jackson's comment comes after repeated calls to move the LNI after numerous racially-charged episodes at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. The President of the Oglala Lakota Nation is under intense pressure to urge organizers of the Lakota Nation Invitational to move the event.

USAs Brendan Johnson, Tim Purdon resigning, opening law offices

Update, 1315 MST:


Update, 1055 MST: Associated Press. Video of press conference linked here.


Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation who were not authorized to discuss it confirmed to The Associated Press that Brendan Johnson will announce his resignation Wednesday at a news conference. He plans to open an office for Minneapolis-based Robins Kaplan, which also hired North Dakota's U.S. attorney, Tim Purdon, to practice in Bismarck, according to the sources. [KSFY]
One source said the press conference will be at 1100 CST.

Last week this blogger tweeted news that Purdon was resigning. A source confirmed he will also be working for Robins Kaplan.

In another nod to tribes as the 51st State, Attorney General Eric Holder signaled to American Indian nations that they could begin building cannabis industries.
The new guidance, released in a memorandum (pdf), will be implemented on a case-by-case basis and tribes must still follow federal guidelines, said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney for North Dakota and the chairman of the Attorney General's Subcommittee on Native American Issues. "The tribes have the sovereign right to set the code on their reservations," Purdon said. The policy is likely to be criticized in states opposed to marijuana sales, particularly those with Native American reservations. [Timothy M. Phelps, LA Times,] links mine.
Johnson and Purdon attended a law enforcement summit in Rapid City seeking solutions to entrenched racism there.

As a replacement for Johnson President Barack Obama could appoint JR LaPlante, the inaugural Secretary of Tribal Relations, who left that post under the current South Dakota governor to take a job as a prosecutor for the US Attorney.

Johnson and Purdon, both Obama appointees, are considered strong contenders for future careers in politics. Last year Purdon accompanied Obama on a visit to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation.


Minnesota edges closer to legal cannabis

Public Policy Polling has released a survey commissioned by Minnesota NORML from January 18-21, 2015. 49% of Minnesotans want legal cannabis ala Colorado and Washington, 44% are opposed; men embrace legalization 51/43. 76% of respondents condone therapeutic access. Even Republicans showed support at 61% and American Indians showed overwhelming approval at 93%. 54% believe cannabis prohibition is not more effective than alcohol prohibition, 51% think Minnesota’s economy would benefit from market legalization.

Read more from High Times.

A bill in Montana's legislature adding post-traumatic stress to that state's medical cannabis list of debilitating conditions passed without opposition.
Beginning on July 1, 2015, Measure 91 will legalize the possession, private use, and cultivation of marijuana by adults 21 and older. It also requires the liquor commission to license and regulate four types of marijuana businesses to produce, process, wholesale, and sell marijuana for adults’ use. For more information, please see our summary of the new law. [Marijuana Policy Project: Oregon]
Lawmakers in North Dakota are considering House Bill 1430 that would allow people with debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV or post-traumatic stress to receive a prescription for cannabis, up to 2.5 ounces in processed form or up to six plants.

According to Huffington Post, Vermont could legalize cannabis with Senate Bill 95 submitted Tuesday. If passed the bill would legalize the possession, use and sale for those 21 and older.
Adult residents could possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow up to nine plants (two mature, seven immature) for personal use, including any additional marijuana produced by those plants. Personal cultivation would be limited to secure indoor facilities.

Dems dine; drainage districts developing

The Hughes and Stanley County Democrats host their legislative dinner at the Fort Pierre Senior Center. Ann Tornberg, chairperson of the state Democratic Party, is the Mistress of Ceremonies. Legislators will provide updates on the session. The Democratic event starts at 6 p.m. with dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are available at the door. [KCCR]
And from WNAX:
A bill that would set up nine river basin districts in South Dakota survived a hoghouse attempt in the Senate Ag & Natural Resources Committee today. The bill (SB3) came out of a yearlong study of the state’s drainage laws and current watershed management. Senator Jason Frerichs of Wilmot, one of the prime sponsors, said it is too early in the process to rewrite the bill. Frerichs says the bill is pretty complete in setting up those river basins. The bill received a do pass recommendation on a six to three vote. [WNAX Radio]


Colorado border church preaching to Wyoming cannabis choir

Chris Christian is director of the Wyoming chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).
Shortly before 4:20 p.m. Saturday, a dozen people gathered in a semi-circle inside a garage furnished with a couch and a coffee table covered in brownies, sunflower seeds and apple slices. They distributed joints. The group ignited their lighters and inhaled. The garage, home to a cannabis sacramental church called Greenfaith Ministries, began to fill with smoke. They were getting high, said the ministries' Rev. Brandon Baker, to demonstrate for marijuana legalization in Wyoming. A recent University of Wyoming poll found 72 percent of Wyomingites support medical marijuana. Thirty-five percent support recreational use. While NORML has rallied and started online petitions, the Cannabis Activists, while regularly rallying outside Casper's Wyoming Medical Center in the summer, can also be seen at political events, gauging candidates’ views on marijuana policy. Members also regularly talk to politicians about sponsoring and supporting bills. The groups don’t always speak of each other in flattering terms. There are personality conflicts, Christian said. [Laura Hancock, Casper Star-Tribune]
Cannabis is the fastest growing industry in the US: Houston Chronicle.

Daugaard caving on Medicaid expansion

Democrats in the South Dakota legislature care about the 48,000 residents living without access to affordable health care and insurance while the Republican Party cares only about killing it.
As part of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government will fund over ninety percent of the expansion, which would extend health coverage to about forty eight thousand low income adults. While generally opposed to that expansion, Governor Dennis Daugaard says they are having continued discussions with Medicaid service providers. Daugaard says part of the discussion centers on helping several thousand people manage their chronic health conditions. Daugaard says providing health care to those in rural areas is one of the major challenges for providers. Daugaard says the state continues to talk to the federal government about possible Medicaid waivers. [WNAX]
Deadlines are looming as the legislature reaches the halfway point in the 2015 session.

Brookings is expected to spend at least $46 million on the city's hospital asking property owners to fund $30 million of the improvements as GOP lawmakers stop Democratic efforts to remove the cap on property taxes set by the Janklow administration.

As revenues from coal, oil and gas plummet Wyoming's GOP governor wants to expand Medicaid but the state's GOP-dominated Senate voted to kill affordable medical insurance yet the House remains hopeful.
Medicaid expansion is a cornerstone of the federal Affordable Care Act. Supporters of expansion in Wyoming said accepting it would provide health care coverage to 17,600 people, bring more than $100 million a year in new federal funds and create about 800 jobs. [Casper Star-Tribune]
Funding for school nurses in Wyoming hangs in the Medicaid balance.

North Dakota has accepted the Affordable Care Act and Montana is debating expansion for that state's working class.


SDGFP buys cougar food, kills cougars

Update, 1943 MST: 26 cougars slaughtered in state-sponsored derby.


Okay, this is a head-scratcher: South Dakota's wildlife-killing agency just bought some cougar food and released them onto federal land.

The Grizzly Gulch Fire opened nearly 13,000 acres of overgrown and beetle-killed ponderosa pine but invasive weeds and cheatgrass moved in because cars and hunters have killed off the elk, white-tailed and mule deer. Now, the US Forest Service has allowed a state agency known for ecocide to introduce a species prone to disease.
GF&P released 26 head of bighorns trapped and transferred from the Hinton, Alberta, Canada area, somewhere east of Jasper National Park, then hauled them down for release at a high-country place near Deadwood left open by the burn in 2002. Sheep like open country more than dense forest. The project was helped along by the $82,000 raised last year by the auction of one of three bighorn hunting tags authorized by the state Game, Fish & Parks Commission. To say nothing of mountain lions, which of course they would have known up in Canada. They’ll know them here, too. And depending on who you talk to, lions could be a major or relatively minor threat to the well being and growth of the new herd. [Kevin Woster, KELO]
So, Game, Fish and Plunder has learned nothing from Arizona?
In 2013, Arizona Game and Fish began its on-going program to reintroduce bighorn sheep to the Santa Catalina Mountains. At the time, 31 of them were relocated to the area from Yuma. More than half of that herd were killed by mountain lions a few months later - causing the department to eliminate three of them for preying on the sheep. They've been largely criticized for that move, and for the reintroduction as a whole by groups like Friends of Wild Animals. The release gives some background, saying lion killings in the Catalinas were up to a couple of dozen by 2012, then when the bighorns were introduced, this leveled off, and last year the deaths dropped to 12 by hunters, 1 by bighorn program and 1 by a rancher as of December 2014. [Tucson Weekly]
Hunting cougars with dogs has been blessed by South Dakota but not within the Black Hills district.
In 2005 the harvest quota was 25 lions or five breeding-age females. The sub quota was reached in 24 days, faster than anyone anticipated. Today there is a 75-lion quota and a sub quota of 50 female lions. So far this season, 17 lions have been killed including nine female lions. [Black Hills Pioneer]
Is Forest Service Supervisor Craig Bobzien on the dole from the hunting industry like he is from the timber industry? He is continuing the fake pine beetle war for the Niemans, too by telling residents that large diameter trees should be cut for free to stop the bug.

Red state failure on parade.

"Thinking outside the box:" guns, roads, education; education, guns, roads

The joint District 29/33 Foothills crackerbarrel in Piedmont brought the GOP super majority together to reconcile the rights of Black Hills residents to arm teachers, fix roads and fund nothing.
The funding formula, salaries, cuts and how well the students are being educated were all addressed, and Representative Jacqueline Sly says they are still looking for solutions. Representative Jacqueline Sly says, "We have to start thinking outside the box. If we want our small schools, and most communities, they want their small schools, but then we have to be willing to look at some of the possibilities to deliver that education so that kids are getting the best education, that they have a strong Chemistry teacher or a strong physics teacher or a higher level math teacher, so big discussions." Representative Dean Wink says that the funding system for roads is behind and this is the first year he feels the legislation sees the need for funding. [Jaclyn Seymour, Black Hills Fox]
In other Black Hills news: the fake pine beetle war continues while rewarding GOP donors.
GOP Governor Dennis Daugaard didn't announce free money for loggers in his budget, but GOP legislators who got campaign contributions from the timber industry are planning on making it an issue this session.


Crackerbarrels scheduled for Valentine's Day

Hey, West River Democrats: head to Piedmont and jack up your GOP legislators! Districts 29 and 33 meet 2:00 pm - 4:30 pm at the American Legion Post 311.

Also: Watertown Area (District 5) 9:00am at the Watertown Winter Farm Show at the Codington County Extension Complex and Brandon Area (District 10) 9:00 am - Bethany Meadows Community Room.

The Chiesman Center for Democracy has a list of legislative meets with voters linked here.

White House announces tribal youth gathering

Today, Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council Cecilia Muñoz announced the launch of the Generation Indigenous Native Youth Challenge at the 2015 United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY) Midyear Conference. This challenge invites Native youth and organizations across the country to become a part of the Administration’s Generation Indigenous (Gen-I) initiative by joining the National Native Youth Network — a White House effort in partnership with the Aspen Institute’s Center for Native American Youth and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
President Obama launched the Gen-I Initiative at the 2014 White House Tribal Nations Conference to focus on improving the lives of Native youth by removing the barriers that stand between Native youth and their opportunity to succeed. Through new investments and increased engagement, this initiative takes a comprehensive, culturally appropriate approach to ensure all young Native people can reach their full potential.
Who: Individuals, youth councils, and youth groups can participate as Challenge Acceptors. Non-profit organizations, Colleges, Universities, and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) can become acceptors by helping their youth and students complete the Gen-I Challenge! [Jodi Gillette and Raina Thiele]

Grijalva launches reform of 1872 Mining Act

The Black Hills of South Dakota and Wyoming are not the only public lands plundered by foreign companies under cover of The General Mining Act of 1872.
House Natural Resources Committee Ranking Member Raul Grijalva (D-AZ-3) today introduced the Hardrock Mining Reform and Reclamation Act of 2015 that would rewrite the 19th century law governing the mining of gold, copper, uranium and other hardrock minerals on federally managed lands. "Representative Grijalva’s bill would bring 19th century mining law into the 21st century," said Aaron Mintzes, Policy Advocate of the Washington, D.C.-based conservation group Earthworks. "If it becomes law it would bring badly needed reforms that work for western communities, taxpayers, the environment, and responsible mining companies." [press release, Earthworks]

SDGOP-owned SDBOR dropped student insurance because ObamaCare

The deadline to enroll in health insurance is approaching and students not covered on a health plan in 2015 are going to have a hefty fine on this year’s taxes. People not insured must enroll in a health insurance plan by Feb. 15 to be covered for 2015. After the deadline, there is not an opportunity to enroll in the health insurance marketplace until next year. The other options HHS recommends for young adults are not applicable for USD students. The South Dakota Board of Regents discontinued its Avera MyHealth Insurance Plan at the beginning of this school year. The SDBOR said “due to the significant increase in the proposed premiums” they were discontinuing the plan. Medicaid coverage could also be an option for students, but it’s difficult to get. South Dakota chose not to expand Medicaid with the Affordable Care Act, which gives residents limited opportunities for eligibility. [Michael Geheren, The Volante]
South Dakota Democrats are working in the legislature to expand Medicaid: WNAX.


TransCanada suspends Nebraska KXL efforts

A Holt County District judge issued a temporary injunction Thursday, keeping TransCanada from invoking eminent domain along the proposed Keystone Pipeline route in northern Nebraska. TransCanada agreed to the order, hoping to get an accelerated trial schedule. Landowners have sued over the project. TransCanada filed legal papers in nine Nebraska counties three weeks ago to invoke eminent domain for the land that's needed to construct, operate and maintain the pipeline. The Keystone Pipeline would carry an estimated 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines headed for Gulf Coast refineries. [Associated Press]

Rep. Killer enjoys educating legislators

A legislative panel has passed a resolution to change the name of Shannon County to Oglala Lakota County after voters overwhelmingly approved the new name in the November election. The House State Affairs Committee voted on Wednesday to send the resolution to the chamber's floor. Democratic Rep. Kevin Killer of Pine Ridge says his measure is part of the process to finalize the name change, which roughly 80 percent of the county's voters approved. Killer says he enjoys educating lawmakers about why the county was renamed. [KSFY]
Read more at Indian Country Today.


Off-reservation Bear Butte properties continue to be Rally battleground; LNI to BHSU?

Update, 17 February, 1512 MST:
The Meade County Commission has scheduled public forums to answer questions about the proposed TIF district to pay for construction of Fort Meade Way, a bypass road connecting Interstate 90 to highways 34 and 79. [Rapid City Journal]

Update, 13 February, 0540 MST: Buffalo Chip taking their incorporation case to the people.


Update, 12 February, 1120 MST: City of Sturgis® likely putting the kibosh on The Chip being a town.


Rod Woodruff could soon be owner of a town. Yep, the Buffalo Chip is taking it to the Meade County Commission and could be a municipality in time for the 75th Sturgis Rally.

Taxation is the latest Meade County stunt to compel tribes to relinquish lucrative Rally properties.
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe owns and operates the Bear Butte Lodge and about 120 surrounding acres acquired in several different transactions over the past decade. Corey Hairy Shirt, Lodge operator and property caretaker for four years explained that the Rosebud property is used primarily to support tribal member spiritual activities. Northern Cheyenne also own Bear Butte properties. The first, a home-site was acquired under the Eugene Little Coyote administration in 2005. Tribal member Eugene Limpy is custodian, assisting tribal members who go there for spiritual reasons. The Tribe acquired the “Free Spirit” campground in 2013, a forty acre parcel. Until tribal Bear Butte properties are put into federal trust, both Tribes must continue to pay taxes. “We’ve had previous experience with the fee-to-trust process” said William Walksalong, Northern Cheyenne tribal administrator. “And will do whatever it might take to get the tribal Bear Butte properties placed into trust so that this sacred area will be protected for generations to come.” [Clara Caufield, Native Sun News, Tribes battle to protect sacred Bear Butte land]
Here is an excerpt from Talli Nauman's piece covering a previous Meade County proceeding:
At a June 8 hearing on the matter, commissioners stopped short of approving a lawsuit. Instead, they voted unanimously to send a letter to state regulators, disputing the decision to hold oil drilling to five wells, instead of 24 initially permitted near the prayer site sacred to dozens of Native American tribes. The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment decided on May 18 to reduce Nakota Energy LLC’s 2010 permit for oil drilling in the sacred butte area from 24 to five initial wells, after three public comment periods revealed substantial opposition on religious grounds. “People are tired of coming in here. A lot of people don’t want to talk anymore,” United Urban Warrior Society organizer James Swan testified to county commissioners at their most recent meeting. “They just want to take over the mountain.” Mato Paha, as the mountain is called in Lakota, was noted and reserved as a traditional council site in the 1851 and 1868 Ft. Laramie treaties with the U.S. government. [Nauman, Native Sun News posted at indianz]
After numerous racially-charged episodes at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City the President of the Oglala Lakota Nation is under intense pressure to urge organizers of the Lakota Nation Invitational to move the event.

Dr. Tom Jackson, Jr. is President of Black Hills State University: urge him to offer to host the Lakota Nation Invitational. He is on twitter @tomjackjr

Noem tweets about risks to women's health but votes against insurance

There’s a lot of talk about inequality between men and women, but one area in particular where women are leading in record numbers: heart disease. It’s the No. 1 killer of women and is more deadly than all forms of cancer. But there’s a leadership role just waiting for women like you to pounce on: Leading the charge to end this deadly foe once and for all. [Go Red For Women]

Volante: USD education majors ponder SD's pathetic teacher salaries

According to the National Education Association, the average starting teaching salary for South Dakota is $29,851 and the average public school teacher salary is $39,018. Senior Taylor Jones, of Harrisburg, S.D., is planning to leave the state after graduation to be closer to her father’s side of the family in Arizona. She said salary plays a big part in deciding where she wants to end up after graduating since she is not devoted to staying in one comfort zone for an extended amount of time early on in her career. [Josie Flatgard, Education students weigh career options]


Carroll: give Joe Lowe a crack at it

It is outrageous that a straightforward simple assault at a hockey game should proceed at the glacial pace reserved for homicide when the despicable act itself swept the community like wildfire. We need firefighters, not bureaucrats. Give Joe Lowe a crack at it. I agree with Indian Country Today’s view that had fortunes been reversed, Native perpetrators would be prominently seen on local TV news marching to county jail for swift justice. The only defense the current police chief has rests in finding some process transparency. It is frustrating in the extreme to live in state where hate crimes and race issues still dominate the news. Our Legislature appears content to agonize over issues like the 75 mile per hour passing rule and 600 other mostly minor bills with the integrity of the state at risk. It is hard to imagine our tepid response to these continuing assaults on human dignity. [Frank Carroll, A lack of leadership on tough issues]