The Legislature was off Monday for the President’s Day holiday, but the House and Senate  worked hard Tuesday and Wednesday as they face the deadline for getting bills out of the chamber in which they originated. That deadline, called crossover day, was Wednesday. All Senate bills must be dealt with by the Senate — either passed and sent to the House or killed — and the House must finish work on its own bills.

The school sentinels proposal passed a key Senate committee 5-4 on Friday and needs only approval from the Senate to head to Gov. Dennis Daugaard to be signed into law. Under the proposal, school boards could vote to arm sentinels provided local law enforcement approved and the sentinels underwent training with the state. Rural schools, located far from local law enforcement and without police resource officers, want the proposal’s flexibility. As I said early,  I support the bill because of our neighbors to the north that are seeing influx of oil drilling activity. Across the boarder in Montana last year two men that came from the oil fields raped and murdered a teacher on her way to school. Harding County is the largest county in the state with vast land and very few residents. My concern is the school sets right on HWY 85 which is the main through-way for the oil boom. Harding County itself takes in part of the Red River Formation.  Unlike our area they have one sheriff and one deputy sheriff to cover 2600 square miles.

The South Dakota Legislature has given final approval to a measure that would allow 1-cent bets in video lottery games. The House voted 39-28 Thursday to approve the measure, which was passed earlier by the Senate. The bill, which was proposed by the state Lottery Commission, now goes to Gov. Dennis Daugaard for his signature.The law currently allows a minimum bet of five cents. The measure would allow players to bet as little as one cent. Supporters say penny bets are needed for new machines that offer line-up games similar to slot machines. They say the bill is part of an effort to make the games fresh and entertaining. I voted for the bill reluctantly, but the fact is the State of South Dakota and local economies have become addicted to gambling revenue. Until we find other ways to curb that addition I’m afraid we have limited alternatives.

HB 1204  An Act to require the Board of Education to obtain legislative approval before adopting any further Common Core standards, and to repeal a provision requiring the board to conduct certain public hearings was brought to the floor by Rep. Bolin. After considerable debate on both sides the House of Representatives passed HB 1204 with YEAS 36, NAYS 32. Intent to reconsider after the bill passed was brought by Rep. Hajek. Several lobbying groups were behind the scene’s encouraging the intent to reconsider, but it failed 28-41. It now goes to the Senate Ed. Committee.

HB 1089 that would require a statewide livestock ownership inspection reached the floor late Wednesday night. Following is the floor speech I delivered on behalf of HB 1089.

HB 1089 is long over due. In March of 2012 the SD Ag. Connection interviewed Mr. Zilverberg who is the special assistant attorney general for the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation regarding cattle rustling in South Dakota. In the 1800’s, Mr. Zilverberg would have been called a range detective.When asked about cattle rustling he was quoted as saying “It’s been steady. Exact figures are difficult to determine, since reports of missing cattle aren’t matched with notices that the animals have been found or recovered. Still, more than 1300 head of cattle have been reported missing from South Dakota ranches and farms in the past years, according to the South Dakota Brand Board. Exact figures are difficult to determine, since reports of missing cattle aren’t matched with notices that the animals have been found or recovered. “You don’t know if they’re stolen or missing or running around,” said Zilverberg, who has been an investigator since 1990. But he said, “There’s no doubt rustling still occurs, and the losses run into the thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars. In most cases, thieves take cattle from West River ranches and bring them to sale barns in eastern South Dakota and sell them according. The main reason is that West River cattle must be branded. On the East side of the state there are no such restrictions. Many cattle on the East side of the state have ear tags. I’d like to see the law changed so all cattle in the state are branded. Thieves can bring cattle to a sale-barn and get paid for them in a matter of a few hours. They can give whatever name you like, and there is little chance to catch the rustlers. Rustling is just one way livestock crime occurs, there are a lot of ways. Physically stealing them out of a pasture, theft by embezzlement and cattle cared for by people are taken. Some people agree to watch cattle for someone else and then sell the cattle and pocket the money. Some thieves double-mortgage cattle and commit fraud in other ways.”

Also, co-owner of Mitchell Livestock Auction, told The Daily Republic that cattle rustling is still a concern in the industry. Kimball Livestock Exchange owner said as the price of beef rises, so do concerns about rustling. He also goes on to say that cattle theft seems to be a bigger problem than it was before.

In 2010, Joe Varner, a North Dakota man who owned several sale barns in the region, pleaded no contest to a charge of grand theft after 188 head of yearling heifers that were under U.S. Bankruptcy Court control went missing from Watertown Livestock Auction in 2009.

Jerry Derr also served as Director of Investigations for the South Dakota State Brand Board for six years. He was quoted as saying,” South Dakota is unique because the western part of the state requires branding, while the eastern part does not and that is where the loophole lies. Let’s say we’re here in western South Dakota, somebody could come out here on the prairie and steal a load of cattle. They could take them to Sioux Falls and sell them because they have nobody looking at the brand to determine ownership.”  Derr also goes on to say, “The State Brand Board was created in 1937 to provide livestock owners with a system of animal identification through brand registration and to ensure proper ownership of stock.” Derr believes branding is the best method because it can’t be ripped off or cut out like ear tags can. Brands are permanent.

In 2004 Iowa Public Television interviewed rancher, Ron Ragsdale from Rapid City area. Mr. Ragsdale explains, “You live in continual fear that instead of one truckload being stolen there may be four or five truckloads. And, you get to the point with any operation where it’s not big  enough to support you and the thieves both.” From 1999 to 2004 he had been a target of cattle thieves, costing him over $250,000.

And finally, we need to consider the impact that cattle rustling has on our local economies. Start with the banks that are making the loans. They have no reassurance that the State has consistency in brand laws that protects the interest of the bank. We also have to consider the impact that this might have on the ability for young peple to obtain a loan. A local sheriff said, “Most of the calls about livestock theft come from the banks.” We need to take into consideration the implications of our vote on our local economies, the young rancher and the viability of our livestock industry.

  • Beef: In South Dakota there are approximately 17,000 ranchers and cattlemen that produce 3.7 million head of cattle–we have more cattle than people! In South Dakota, the cattle industry is a family business with nearly all of the cattle businesses having been in the same families for more than 25 years.

    Today, there are more than 26,000 registered brands in the state.

    The Brand and Mark Committee was dissolved in 1925 and The State Band Board was created in 1937.

    The board operates entirely on user fees generated from livestock brand registration, renewals, transfers and inspections. No general fund money is used by the board.

    I’m sorry to report that this bill failed with a vote of 47 Nays, 22 Yeas and 1 excused. Nine west river Representative’s voted against this bill, Rep. Cammack, Rep. Craig,  Rep. Dryden, Rep. Johns, Rep. Lust, Rep. Schaefer, Rep. Sy, Rep. Wink and Rep. Gosch. We saw strong lobbying from SD Dept of Agriculture, NCBA, Farm Bureau, SD Feedlots and SD Livestock Markets all in opposition.

HB 1135 was the highly contentious bill that caused a lot of debate on the floor. I wrote about it in my Feb. 11-15 column. It regulates access to and use of non-meandered waters on private property. If you would like to see how this turned out go to the following site. It will amaze you to see how your State Government works! It’s well worth the read. http://www.capjournal.com/news/legislators-force-truce-between-sportsmen-and-owners-on-use-of/article_4132c37a-7be4-11e2-ae2b-001a4bcf887a.html

As always you can contact me at the House Chamber number 773-3851. Leave a phone number and I’ll call you back. The fax number is 773-6806. If you send a fax, address it to Rep. Elizabeth May. You can also email me at rep.may@state.sd.us during session. You can keep track of bills and committee meetings at this link: http://legis.state.sd.us/ You can also use this link to find the legislators, see what committees they are on, read all the bills and track the status of each bill, listen to committee hearings, and contact the legislators.

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