Wine by mail? Maybe

A bill that would make it legal for South Dakotans to order wine by mail cleared its first hurdle on Tuesday. Barely.

Senate Bill 114 establishes a licensing system through which in and out-of-state wineries can legally send residents wine by mail. South Dakota is one of 10 states that do not allow direct shipping of wine, according to the Wine Institute.

The bill deadlocked on a 3-3 vote in the Senate Commerce Committee with one senator, Dan Lederman, excused. The committee then voted 4-2 to send it to the Senate floor without a recommendation.

Similar bills have come up in past legislative sessions, only to be voted down amid fierce opposition from alcohol distributors, retailers and others. The opposition showed up again Tuesday.

Jeremiah M. Murphy, a lobbyist for Republic National Distributing Co., said the bill discriminates against existing South Dakota businesses that sell alcohol in the way that they are taxed and pay taxes. He said the bill would “stick it to South Dakota businesses” in favor of California wineries.

Brett Kooima, the chief financial officer for Cask & Cork Distributing, said his company already works with nearly 400 businesses statewide to identify unique wines and then bring them to the state.

“This is why we exist,” he said.

Heather Taylor Boysen, the owner of Good Spirits Fine Wine & Liquor, said that direct shipment of wine to consumers would harm her business because wineries would sell at a lower price than she could sell at retail. She also said that some wineries are already shipping into the state, despite that being illegal.

But supporters of the bill, including its sponsor, Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, noted that South Dakota is the only state in the Midwest that doesn’t allow wine to be shipped directly to consumers.

The bill would require wineries to ensure that people making purchases are 21 or older at the point of sale, and it requires them to show ID when the product is delivered. Jeff Carroll, a vice president of software firm ShipCompliant, testified that his company helps hundreds of wineries verify the addresses and ages of people buying wines that are shipped to forty states and the District of Columbia.

Matt Keck, the owner of Prairie Berry Winery in Hill City, said his winery can ship to customers in other states, but not in South Dakota. He also said that he wouldn’t support a bill that hurt alcohol distributors, because distributors are critical to his winery.

Dianna Miller, who represented South Dakotans for Better Wine Laws, said the bills would give consumers a choice over a monopoly system run by wholesalers.

“I’m asking you to weigh the individual citizens and the choice they would like to make,” she said.

Statewide texting ban advances

The House Judiciary Committee has advanced a bill that would strip local governments of the authority to impose texting-while-driving bans.

Instead, House Bill 1177 would replace local texting bans in seven South Dakota cities with a statewide ban. However, unlike the bans that already exist in the cities, the statewide ban would be a secondary offense, and not a primary offense. That means under the legislation, motorists couldn’t be ticketed for texting and driving unless they are pulled over for some other offense.

The most controversial section of the bill would no longer allow local governments to impose harsher bans. Rep. Christine Erickson, a Sioux Falls Republican, attempted to have that provision removed from the law, which would have allowed cities to have texting bans that were primary offenses. She was supported by another Sioux Falls Republican, Rep. Anne Hajek.

"If the cities don’t want to have it as a primary offense, they don’t have to," she said.

But the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brian Gosch, argued that motorists need uniformity when they travel from one community to the next.

"We don’t allow local governments to change the helmet law," he said. "We don’t allow local governments to change the seat belt law."

Erickson’s amendment failed.

Rep. Timothy Johns, R-Lead, supported the bill, equating the issue to seat belt use. At first, Johns said he fought the seat belt requirement.

"I just didn’t like the government telling me what to do," he said. "But now, I don’t feel safe getting into a vehicle without putting one on."

Yvonne Taylor, the executive director of the South Dakota Municipal League, supported, most of the bill, but she asked lawmakers to remove the section that stripped cities of authority to enact tougher bans, calling it a “terrible precedent.”

Lawmakers move to stop locals from enacting texting/driving bans

A bill that would strip local governments of their authority to enact distracted driving ordinances, including bans on texting and driving, was deferred until next week after emotional testimony Wednesday.

House Bill 1177, which was heavily amended during a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, would replace local bans on texting and driving with a statewide ban. But critics say the statewide ban would be far weaker than those bans adopted in seven cities, including Sioux Falls.

Rapid City Police Chief Steve Allender testified against the bill, saying it created a “low standard” when it comes to making texting and driving illegal. The bill would make texting and driving a secondary offense, meaning that police could only ticket drivers for the offense if they were pulled over for something else.

Allender criticized the bill because it deprives more than 270,000 residents of local control in seven cities with stronger bans.

“If this bill passes, it will give them a texting ban, but less of a ban than they have now,” Allender said. “It will water it down quite a bit.”

Shared parenting measure advances; emotions high

The Senate Judiciary Committee this morning passed a bill that establishes statewide guidelines for judges to consider in awarding joint physical custody of children in divorce proceedings.

For years, so-called shared parenting bills have been among the most contentious that lawmakers face. This year’s effort, Senate Bill 74, is an attempt to bring compromise between the fierce shared-parenting lobby – many of whom are parents who feel the court system has alienated them from their children – and others who oppose a requirement that all child custody cases should start with a presumption that parents get a 50-50 split with their children.

How emotional is the issue? While there were no opponents to the bill, there were more than a dozen people who testified that the current custody arrangements in which one parent is often awarded only four nights a month during the school year creates conflict among the divorcing parents.

Bill sponsor Sen. Dan Lederman, R-Dakota Dunes, acknowledged Tuesday that shared-parenting supporters might be “bitter sweet” about the bill, because it doesn’t establish a presumption of equal parenting. But he said the bill provides language that can be built on in subsequent legislative sessions.

Tom Barnett, the executive director of the South Dakota Bar Association, presented the bill. That’s significant because the Bar has opposed shared parenting bills in previous years that included a 50-50 presumption.

The Bar, Barnett said, still opposes a requirement that custody cases start with a presumption of a 50-50 split. But he said judges can, and do, make such custodial arrangement when they’re deemed in the best interest of children, and he said statewide guidelines would ensure uniformity in such cases.

“We ought to have some standards so that litigants get the same treatment, and they get it no matter where they are,” he said.

The bill, which passed on an 8-0 vote, next goes to the full Senate.

Jackley quotes MLK Jr. to support capital punishment

Attorney General Marty Jackley’s office sent out a press release this morning noting that the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal from death-row inmate Charles Rhines, Rhines is on death row for the 1992 murder of Donnivan Schaeffer.

Jackley is quoted in the release, which includes a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.

“The United States Supreme Court’s order today affirms that South Dakota has taken proper precautions in drafting and implementing its death penalty statutes to assure that they meet constitutional requirements. Donnivan Schaeffer’s family has waited 22 years in their search for justice. In the wake of yesterday’s day of remembrance, it is well to recall what Martin Luther King Jr. recognized in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail: ‘Justice too long delayed is justice denied.’”

What’s odd about that is Martin Luther King opposed capital punishment. Here’s a column about that from David A. Love, the executive director of Witness to Innocence. Love attributes this quote to King:

"I do not think that God approves the death penalty for any crime, rape and murder included. Capital punishment is against the better judgment of modern criminology, and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God."

Push-ups and Pink Floyd

It’s not every day that a political candidate starts off a press conference with 20 push-ups, but that’s how Mike Myers did it Wednesday.

While listening to Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick in the Wall.”

Myers, an independent candidate for governor, introduced his running mate at the press conference, Vermillion attorney and former state Lawmaker Caitlin Collier. The 77-year-old Myers did the push-ups to prove that while he might be old, he’s in shape.

"When I come back when I’m 82," he said, referring to a possible re-election campaign, "I’m going to do 30 push-ups."

State law requires that independent governor candidates name a running mate before collecting nominating signatures. To qualify for the ballot, Myers needs at least 3,171 to qualify for the ballot by April 29. It’s an amount more than double what Democratic candidates need and more than a thousand signatures more than Republicans.

Myers and Collier acknowledged that getting the signatures — they estimated they need 5,000 to be safe — will be tough.

The quirky Myers, who is a former health care executive and law professor at the University of South Dakota, said that he and Collier don’t agree on a lot of topics. He’s pro-life, and he said she is pro-choice.

"I’ve had shooting ranges in my God dang basement for 40 years," Myers said. "I don’t think she likes guns as much as I do."

Collier, a mother of three, turns 58 this month. Her husband is a retired professor at the University of South Dakota, and besides practicing law, she has also been an ordained minister.

She served one term in the state House as a Democrat. She said she will register as an Independent.

While the two of them disagree on some topics, Collier said they agree on others.

"We share a deep concern, as he said, for the working stiffs," Collier said.

They struck a populist theme. Myers has been critical of the vertical integration of the health systems, models used by Avera and Sanford. Collier said that they want to wrest government and health care away from corporations and give them back to the people.

The two would also advocate for old people, teachers, the working class and the disadvantaged, they said. And Myers said he would promote industrial hemp and open government in Pierre, alluding to the closed investigation surrounding the suicide of former cabinet Secretary Richard Benda.

"You want that God dang autopsy report? I’m going to give it to you," he said.

Collier also proposed an “infrastructure core” project to rebuild roads, bridges and other necessities as a method to put people to work.

SoDak gets high marks for fiscal health

A new study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University says that South Dakota’s state government has the second-best fiscal health in the nation, behind only Alaska.

The study graded the states in four key areas to determine each state’s overall ranking.

Here are the top 10:

1. Alaska
2. South Dakota
3. North Dakota
4. Nebraska
5. Wyoming
6. Florida
7. Ohio
8. Tennessee
9. Montana
10. Alabama

Note that four of the top five are in the upper Midwest. As we know here in South Dakota, a strong agriculture industry helped shield the state from the worst of the Great Recession. North Dakota also has its energy boom.

Now, on the other end of the spectrum, here are the bottom 10:

50. New Jersey
49. Connecticut
48. Illinois
46. California
45. New York
44. Maryland
43. Hawaii
42. Pennsylvania
41. West Virginia
40. Kentucky

According to the study’s author, Sarah Arnett, the states at the bottom of the index “have had years of poor financial management.”

Now, an aside: New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has his problems with the Bridgegate scandal, casting doubts on his ability to run and win the GOP presidential nomination in 2016. But even if he shrugs that off, rankings like the one above will be another major problem for Christie.

Details on the Walmart poll

Here’s more on the poll that Sioux Falls residents have been taking. Information provided by someone who took it last night.

She says the call came in on her parents’ land line, and the pollster asked to speak to the “youngest female in the household who was a registered voter.”

"I found it oddly specific," she said. The poll was 15-20 minutes long.

Here are questions/observations, as she remembers them:

—Whether I’m likely to vote in the 2014 city election; what issues are most important to me (economic development, jobs, housing, etc)

—Do you believe Sioux Falls is moving in the right direction?

—Does Sioux Falls offer enough shopping choices?

—Asked if I had a favorable/unfavorable opinion of a bunch of different groups/people. Included Target, Walmart, HyVee, a labor union, Huether, Jamison, City Council, Save our Neighborhood

—Do you support the proposal to build a Walmart at 85th and Minnesota?

—Listed various statements by supporters and opponents of Walmart and asked if I disagreed/agreed with each statement.

—Asked how likely I shop at Walmart and if I was likely to shop there in the future.

—Asked an open ended question about my support for Walmart (give two reasons why you support this proposal)

—Do you think it’s a waste of taxpayer dollar and time to vote on an issue that’s already been decided by the City Council?

—How important is this issue to you as you consider who to vote for in the 2014 election?

 It was sponsored by Voter Consumer Research and fairly repetitive. The pollster also kept mispronouncing Huether, so that’d probably be a disappointment if he sponsored the poll. 

Voter Consumer Research is a company based in Houston. Here’s a link.

Polling Walmart

I got an email last night from somebody reporting a “lengthy” poll being done on Walmart, Mayor Mike Huether and the City Council. All of those are issues in the upcoming election: Voters will decide on a land-use issue that will determine whether a south-side Walmart can be built; Huether and four City Council seats are up for re-election.

South DaCola blogger Scott Ehrisman has more details about the poll here.

So the question is, who is behind the poll? Is it a candidate? Maybe the retailing giant? Or is it a public relations company hoping to find baseline data in order to win the business of Walmart or the candidates?

UPDATED: Adelstein makes surprise resignation

A longtime state lawmaker from Rapid City announced his resignation from the state Senate today following complications from hip replacement surgery.

Stan Adelstein had hip surgery on Oct. 4, according to a release announcing his retirement. Because of complications and infections, he’s had to undergo additional surgeries, and because he won’t be 100 percent by the time the legislative session starts next month, he decided to resign.

Adelstein, 82, first won a seat in the state House in 2000. He considered himself a mainstream Republican and often clashed with more conservative factions of GOP. He also called on the Legislature to impeach Secretary of State Jason Gant.

In a letter to Gov. Dennis Daugaard announcing his resignation, Adelstein said he hoped Daugaard would choose a replacement from “the mainstream of Republican thinking.”

I know that you have many capable people from whom to choose your appointment to fill out the remainder of my term.  I hope that you will select someone who represents the mainstream of Republican thinking, someone who is devoted to improving our schools and universities, and someone who is committed to protecting the civil liberties of all Americans.

Can a replacement be found in time for the start of the legislative session? Tony Venhuizen, the governor’s director of policy and communications, said this:

We certainly hope to have a replacement named before session, but obviously it will be pretty short notice for whomever is appointed.