As they do every year, the hardworking journalists at the Rapid City Journal work tirelessly to capture the life and stories of the Black Hills. They go places and see things that others won't or can't. They take life's moments and turn them into art. Each day the Journal is filled with images of local people and places that make this part of the country so special.
Without photojournalists to capture those moments, they would be only a fleeting memory for the few in attendance. But with much skill and a little luck, our journalists capture, preserve and broadcast the pulse of the Black Hills each day.
Today, we take a look at the best photos taken by the Journal in 2017.
SIOUX FALLS | South Dakota conservatives stymied on recent high-profile measures by Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard are eyeing the end of his last term in early 2019, betting their preferred policies will fare better under either of two Republican front-runners looking to replace him.
Since his 2014 re-election, Daugaard has won a pair of tax increases, supported expanding the Medicaid health program and blocked gun-rights and transgender "bathroom" bills, much to the dismay of conservatives in this heavily GOP state. They're predicting that the top two Republicans vying to succeed Daugaard — Attorney General Marty Jackley and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem — will be more supportive of their ideas.
"There are a number of conservative legislators in South Dakota that are frustrated right now, that are saying we just have to ride out Gov. Daugaard's last remaining year," said state Rep. Lynne DiSanto, who this year sponsored a bill that would have loosened restrictions on carrying concealed handguns. "I think that Gov. Daugaard has pretty clearly shown his colors — especially during his second term."
Daugaard vetoed DiSanto's proposal that would have let people carry concealed handguns without a permit shortly before neighboring North Dakota's governor signed a "constitutional carry" law; Daugaard also rejected such a measure in 2012. In 2016, Daugaard vetoed a bill that would have restricted which bathrooms transgender students could use at school, saying it didn't address "any pressing issue" and that such decisions were best left to local schools. Supporters scuttled a similar proposal this year after he threatened to do it again.
Jackley and Noem have already offered support for both ideas. Backers have said they plan to wait until 2019 before pushing them again.
"I certainly think they recognize that the hill has been too high for them and probably still remains so for at least another year," Daugaard said. "Whether it remains so afterwards — time will tell."
The 64-year-old Daugaard's final legislative session as governor starts Jan. 9; he can't run again next year because of term limits.
Ed Randazzo, director of political operations at Family Heritage Alliance Action, an influential nonprofit that supports bathroom legislation, said he thinks both Jackley and Noem are generally friendlier to what he called "faith, family and freedom" issues.
"Generally speaking, we think the governor's office will be more receptive to our issues," he said.
That wouldn't be the case if state Sen. Billie Sutton becomes the first Democratic governor elected in South Dakota since 1974. The Senate Democratic leader has said he could serve as a check on the Republican-controlled Legislature and opposes the bathroom legislation.
Terri Bruce, a transgender man who fought against the bathroom bill last year, said he's worried about what's to come after Daugaard leaves office. Critics say that such measures are discriminatory; supporters insist they're trying to protect students' privacy.
"I think Daugaard is a moderate Republican," Bruce said. "I hope that by that time rolls around, that it will be such a non-issue that we don't even go there."
Jackley's campaign earlier this year hired the founder of the Family Heritage Alliance to work as state political director for the campaign, likely a move to court conservative voters ahead of the June 2018 primary for governor.
Daugaard, whose 45-point margin of victory in 2014 was the largest of any governor in state history, takes pride in South Dakota's financial health. The same governor who orchestrated a massive cut in state spending to eliminate a budget deficit early in his first term has since championed tax hikes to fund roads and wage hikes for teachers.
Spokesmen for both Jackley and Noem say they would oppose tax increases if elected governor.
But Daugaard has supported some ideas backed by conservative lawmakers. This year, he signed a bill to give legal protections to faith-based organizations that refuse based on their religious beliefs to place children in certain households. In 2016, he signed into law a 20-week abortion ban.
"I'm sure there are some who see me as too conservative and some who see me as too liberal, and maybe that isn't a bad spot to be in," Daugaard said.
The woman credited with facilitating an upcoming sexual-harassment training session for legislators, state Sen. Deb Peters, told the Journal that recent sexual misconduct scandals in state government are isolated incidents and are not indicative of a cultural problem.
“It’s not acceptable behavior and never should be acceptable behavior,” said Peters, a Republican from Hartford. “But do I think it’s systematic of the system? No, absolutely not. It’s an anomaly.”
Peters said she has never suffered nor personally heard of any sexual discrimination, harassment or other sexual misconduct during her nearly 14 years in the Legislature.
“But I also I don’t put myself into situations where that becomes a problem,” she said. “Like my dad used to say, ‘Nothing good ever happens after midnight.’ I’m not at a bar after midnight, you know what I mean? So I don’t know where all of these other issues occurred. I don’t know, and I don’t know enough about each of the individual scenarios, but I don’t put myself in those positions, and if I do, I usually extricate myself before anything happens.”
Peters was interviewed by phone Thursday for a 20-minute episode of the Journal’s Mount Podmore political podcast. The episode is available today on the Journal’s website, and on iTunes and other podcast apps.
A Dec. 18 news release from the majority and minority leaders of the state Senate and state House of Representatives highlighted the role Peters played in arranging training for legislators on the topics of ethics, professionalism and sexual harassment. The training will be offered to all legislators Jan. 17 during the upcoming 2018 legislative session.
In the release, Senate Majority Leader Blake Curd, R-Sioux Falls, said Peters used her position as president of the National Conference of State Legislatures to garner resources for the training and to facilitate access to authorities and presenters.
Thursday, Peters answered a broad range of questions from the Journal about sexual misconduct. One topic was Mathew Wollmann, who resigned from the Legislature last January after admitting he had relationships with college-age interns during the 2015 legislative session, when he was 24 years old, and during the 2016 session, when he was 25.
Peters said Wollmann was “sent out to the wolves.”
“Should he have been in the Legislature and having a relationship with somebody of his own age? That’s a tough line when you’re that age,” Peters said. “I’m not making excuses for him, but I also don’t believe that the whole story was told. I believe that half the story was told, and I don’t think he got a chance to tell his entire story, because he was immediately persecuted in the press, and that was that.”
The Journal asked Peters about several other allegations of sexual misconduct in state government, including a recent allegation from lobbyist Tiffany Campbell that she was subjected to a lewd comment by then-Rep. Gene Abdallah in 2012. Campbell came forward with the allegation recently after Abdallah, who is no longer in the Legislature, was nominated for appointment to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles by Attorney General Marty Jackley.
Abdallah’s nomination is due for a confirmation vote in the state Senate during the upcoming legislative session. Peters said she has not decided if she will vote to confirm Abdallah, because she wants more information about Campbell’s allegation.
When asked how the Legislature should obtain more information, Peters said Campbell should provide it.
“I would expect if Miss Campbell wants to testify, she should,” Peters said. “If she truly believes that he shouldn’t be appointed and she has reasons and just cause for that, she should come forward and testify against the appointment in the committee hearing.”