Wind Power Contributing To South Dakota’s Economy

Photo: Avangrid

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:
November 22, 2017

As most people in rural South Dakota can tell you, the wind is almost always blowing. Living on the prairie, windy days are inevitable. It just comes with the territory – which is why it only makes sense for us to develop this fast resource and put it to good use.

Over the past decade South Dakota has been doing just that. Wind power has contributed more than $2 billion in capital investment to our state for the construction and maintenance of the 14 wind projects now in operation. These projects, along with the South Dakota businesses that supply goods and services to the wind industry, support nearly 2,000 good-paying jobs in our state. Better yet, there are numerous wind power projects being planned across our state and, if built, these wind farms will attract billions of dollars of new private investment, millions of dollars of new revenue for farmers and rural communities, and thousands of new jobs.

Today, I am proud to say that South Dakota is one of only two states where wind power provides over 30 percent of in-state power generation. That’s power that the whole region can count on. In fact, the regional operator of our energy system has noted they can reliably meet over 50 percent of the current demand for our 13-state region with wind power alone, and that’s not even the limit.

The growth in wind power in our state and region did not happen overnight or without careful planning and advances in technology. Wind works well with South Dakota’s other major power resources such as hydroelectric, coal-fired, and natural gas power plants, adding to our fuel diversity and reducing our reliance on imports. That diversity helps protect our businesses and homeowners from price and supply volatility, as well as changing national and global policies.

Beyond helping keep electricity prices stable, wind power can also benefit the families and communities who host the projects on their land. Wind farms now pay approximately $5 million each year in lease payments, creating a new, drought-resistant revenue stream that can help family farmers and ranchers expand their operations or withstand market fluctuations in crop prices.

We have seen success with wind power development to date, and the future remains bright with prospects for more economic opportunity for South Dakotans. South Dakota’s wide open spaces and high quality wind resource can potentially provide affordable and reliable electricity to those living beyond our borders. By continuing to expand and modernize our electricity grid, we can deliver more of South Dakota’s wind resource to high demand areas, just as we deliver other commodities like soybeans and corn to other parts of the nation.

Renewable power is proving its worth throughout the Great Plains, and South Dakota is committed to keeping our state open for more wind development. The renewable energy sector is one of the fastest growing in the nation, and renewable energy will continue to play a crucial role in creating new jobs and growing our state’s economy. As wind power has grown to be nearly a third of our energy production, our grid is as reliable as ever. With this experience in mind, I will continue to support the expansion of renewable energy in South Dakota. I hope you will too.

Those Who Administer The Law

A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard
November 3, 2017

This week, it was my honor to participate in the investiture of Steven R. Jensen as the newest member of the South Dakota Supreme Court. Justice Jensen is a native of Wakonda and has been a circuit judge in Elk Point for the last 14 years. Rather than come to Pierre, he held his swearing-in ceremony at the USD Law School in Vermillion, so that he could be near to his family, friends and peers in the legal community.

It doesn’t get much attention, but one of the governor’s most important responsibilities is to appoint Supreme Court justices and circuit court judges. Supreme Court justices are always appointed by the governor. Periodic statewide “retention elections” ask voters to choose “yes” or “no” on retaining each justice. Circuit judges are elected to eight-year terms, but very often they retire mid-term, in which case the governor appoints a successor.

For appointments, a screening committee called the Judicial Qualifications Commission screens applicants to ensure that they are qualified. A governor may appoint only from the list of candidates submitted by the Commission. I typically interview between three and five listed candidates for each open position.

Appointing judges has kept me pretty busy over the years. In South Dakota, judges must retire when they turn 70, and they sometimes retire earlier. As in many other professions, the “baby boomers” are reaching retirement age, and many judges have stepped down in recent years. As of today, 28 of South Dakota’s 43 circuit court judges are new since I took office in 2011, and still three more circuit judge positions are soon to be filled.

I have also made three appointments to the South Dakota Supreme Court. My first appointee, Judge Lori Wilbur, was the second woman to serve on the Court when I appointed her in 2011. My second appointee was Janine Kern, who had been a longtime circuit judge in Rapid City.  Justice Wilbur retired earlier this year, and Justice Jensen replaced her. Justice Jensen is the 50th justice to serve on our five-member court.

In addition to justices Wilbur and Kern, a new generation of younger judges has also brought more women to the circuit court bench. Since 2011, the 28 new circuit judges have included 11 women. Women today make up more than one-quarter of the circuit judge positions in the state, and their number continues to increase.

South Dakota’s judges don’t often get much attention, and they don’t seek it. But they play an important role in our society. Whether it is a high-profile murder trial, a child custody case, a million-dollar contract dispute, or a small claim, we look to our judges to administer the law in a fair and speedy manner. South Dakota is fortunate to have so many attorneys who are willing to serve the public in this important role.

2017 Custer State Park Buffalo Roundup

2016 Buffalo Roundup. Photo: Herb Ryan/Custer Free Press

By Gov. Dennis Daugaard
September 15, 02017

On Friday morning, Sept. 29, a few dozen cowboys will put on their boots and saddle their horses. Custer State Park employees will arise before dawn. And thousands from across the state, country and world will gather, all to continue a 52-year tradition.

The Buffalo Roundup is an experience unlike any other. You can feel the ground shake as over 1,000 half-ton creatures stampede across the prairie. Watching the brave riders drive the beasts to their destination is quite incredible. Witnessing the buffalo’s power and speed from such a short distance creates a feeling of being back in the Old West.

At one time, there were about 60 million buffalo roaming North America, but that number fell to fewer than 2,000 in the early twentieth century. Although population levels are nowhere near the historical peak, South Dakota buffalo have made a comeback from near extinction, thanks in part to Custer State Park.

Riders will round-up a herd of 1,300 buffalo on Sept. 29, after which about four days are needed to work the herd. Volunteers will vaccinate and brand the calves, check the cows for pregnancy and identify 250 buffalo for November’s sale.

After the Friday morning Roundup, visitors can stay for lunch and watch the volunteers work the herd. There will be plenty of things to do for those who decide to stay for the weekend.  The Arts Festival will continue through Saturday, the exhibits at the newly renovated Peter Norbeck Education Center will be open, and Crazy Horse Memorial visitors will be permitted to hike to the arm of the mountain carving during an organized Volksmarch on Sunday.

The Roundup is something every South Dakotan should see at least once. People from all over the world come for this one-of-a-kind experience because there’s nothing like it anywhere else. Consider making this worthwhile journey. I hope to see you there!

Pursuing Constitutional Reforms – A column by South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard

Pursuing Constitutional Reforms
By Governor Dennis Daugaard

 February 3, 2017

Being governor is a serious responsibility, and I’ve never taken it lightly. Sometimes, it means making a difficult decision that is necessary, but unpopular to some. 

In my first year in office, our state faced a large budget deficit. There was not an easy or popular solution. As a new governor, I proposed ten percent cuts to eliminate the deficit. Many legislators supported me in making that tough decision. There were also those who criticized aspects of the plan, without proposing a workable alternative. That is the luxury of being in opposition – one can rely on the majority to make the difficult decisions.

We have faced a similar dilemma this year, because of the passage of Initiated Measure 22. Elected officials have an obligation to respect the will of the voters, but we also have a duty to defend our state constitution. Unfortunately, Initiated Measure 22 has numerous constitutional defects – so numerous, in fact, that a circuit judge held it was unconstitutional “beyond a reasonable doubt” and suspended it from staying in effect. In addition, the law was poorly drafted; even its supporters agreed it had problems that needed to be fixed.

There was no perfect answer in this situation. Leaving Initiated Measure 22 in place was not a viable option, due to its constitutional issues and other problems. It could not be enforced as written.

Another option was to repeal Initiated Measure 22, and return to the old laws. That was also not a good option, because it would have ignored the will of the voters.

The best option, in my opinion, is to replace Initiated Measure 22 with new pieces of legislation that are constitutional and workable, and that meet the same goals as those the voters had in mind. It’s not a perfect option, but it balances our need to respect the voters with our need to follow the state constitution.

I am joining with legislators to follow that middle path. Bills have already been introduced to address the important aspects of Initiated Measure 22. One bill will regulate gifts from lobbyists to state officials. A number of bills offer processes to deal with ethics complaints, and I am working with legislators to decide which bill would work best, or if we should combine the best ideas from several bills. The Secretary of State also has a bill to revise campaign finance laws, and there are ideas to improve that bill as well.

My commitment this session is that we will develop a constitutional, workable, responsible plan to respond to the will of the voters. If opponents disagree with that plan, I hope they will propose an alternative that is also comprehensive, constitutional and workable.