Legislative term limits and the rise of social media have had corrosive effects on civility in South Dakota government and politics, according to former Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
In response, Daugaard said, it’s incumbent upon each politician and government official to make an individual commitment to civil behavior.
“Try to set an example and not fall into the trap of grandstanding and posturing,” Daugaard said.
He made the comments in an interview with the Rapid City Journal, which presented its Craig Tieszen Award for Civility in Lawmaking to Daugaard on Thursday at the Ramkota Hotel and Conference Center in Pierre, during the South Dakota Newspaper Association’s Newspaper Day in the capital city.
Daugaard, a Republican, is the second person to receive the award, after former state Rep. Julie Bartling, D-Gregory, received it last year.
The award’s namesake, Tieszen, was a widely respected state representative and former Rapid City police chief who died in a November 2017 kayaking accident in the Cook Islands. In the days and weeks following his death, Tieszen was eulogized across the state and across the political spectrum by constituents and colleagues who described him as a thoughtful and effective public servant with an uncommon devotion to civility.
The Journal’s mission for the Craig Tieszen Award for Civility in Lawmaking, as stated on the plaque given to Daugaard, is to honor the legacy and encourage the emulation of Tieszen’s civil and effective conduct as a lawmaker.
Daugaard, 65, of Garretson, served in the Legislature and then as lieutenant governor before serving his limit of two terms as governor. He left office earlier this month and was succeeded by new Gov. Kristi Noem.
During Daugaard’s time in public office, he earned a reputation as a thoughtful and civil leader, much like Tieszen. The approach worked well for Daugaard, who won his two elections for governor by margins of 24 and 45 percentage points and was consistently ranked by pollsters as one of the most popular governors in the nation.
“I think I’ve tried to be dispassionate about things,” Daugaard said. “You can be passionate and have strong feelings, but you can’t let that passion turn into revenge-seeking, and you can’t personalize things, even if others do.
“In the end, any rational person will recognize that it may be emotionally satisfying to tell someone off or call someone out, but it’s not the sensible thing to do if you’re a policymaker. You’ll regret it sometime in the future.”
Daugaard said those pangs of regret will most likely strike when the offending policymaker needs support on a different matter from the policymaker who was offended.
“The problem with being uncivil is that you make enemies who are less likely to consider your position in the future,” he said.
Uncivil behavior increased during his time in public life, Daugaard said, and he identified legislative term limits and social media as contributing factors.
Before legislative term limits were implemented, Daugaard said, legislative leaders held their positions longer and many leadership elections were not contentious. He said term limits have led to shorter leadership tenures and more contentious leadership elections, causing more hard feelings to linger among legislators. Daugaard said the problem could be counteracted by making term limits longer in duration; since voters approved term limits in 1992, legislators have been limited to eight consecutive years in either chamber.
Daugaard also thinks legislators could lessen the hard feelings among themselves if they elected only the top leadership positions, such as speaker of the house and majority and minority leaders, while allowing those top leaders to appoint lower-tier leadership positions, such as whips.
“You would have more of a sense of team among leaders, as opposed to an eclectic mix, and that model would contribute to more collegiality,” Daugaard said.
Regarding social media, he encouraged politicians and government officials to be cognizant that online discussions may negatively affect civility.
“When you develop your own Twitter following or your own Facebook group, that tends to be an echo chamber where your attitude is reflected back to you and that tends to polarize people more frequently,” Daugaard said.
Daugaard remembers Tieszen as the opposite of polarizing.
“I can’t remember him saying a harsh word about anyone ever, and when you’re in the Legislature, you always have those who disagree with you, and people you disagree with,” Daugaard said. “Yet I never remember him being disagreeable. He would state his opinion without rancor and without personalizing things, so I think people respected him for that. They didn’t see him as speaking from emotion, but from thoughtful logic.”
And that’s why Daugaard said the award he accepted Thursday was so special.
“To receive something that carries the Tieszen name is very much an honor,” he said.
During the four-day event that wrapped up Thursday, guides helped teach blind or visually-impaired and mobility-impaired individuals to participate in downhill or cross country skiing activities.
Renovations of Rapid City Regional Airport have been finished for months, but there’s one last cost to cover.
On Thursday morning, the airport’s board of directors unanimously agreed to extend Mount Rushmore Society, which operates a gift shop near the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint, a $20,000 reduction in rent for 2018 due to the loss of business during the airport's seven-week long renovation last summer. The rent reduction means the Mount Rushmore Society now owes the airport $46,863 in rent from May through December 2018.
Rent payments from the society to the airport are based on a percentage of the gift shop’s gross revenue. In 2017, the society paid about $80,000 in rent. In 2016, it was around $76,000.
“They’re a great tenant, and we’ve got a good business relationship with them,” Airport Director Patrick Dame said after the meeting. “It’s a partnership to make sure that we’re all being successful out here.”
During this past summer’s renovations, the shop’s main entrance was enlarged and its office space was relocated. The old office was converted into a kitchen to serve the airport’s new restaurant/bar area, which was previously more akin to a concession area. During the work, the front of the gift shop was shuttered.
The shop demonstrated the impact to its business to airport leadership, Dame said. Per the agreement approved Thursday, the airport and city cannot be held liable for any other impact to the society shop’s business due to the renovations.
Dame noted that since the work was completed, the shop had experienced between 5 and 25 percent growth in its monthly business.
“We do see success in that area, and we anticipate that will go forward in the future,” he said.
Numbers are up
The past two years at Rapid City Regional Airport have been record ones.
In 2018, the airport welcomed 625,918 passengers, a 5 percent increase over 2017, which was the previous record year for passengers with 595,936. The total number of passengers boarding aircraft at the airport also rose 5.3 percent in 2018 compared with 2017, from 295,215 to 310,810.
Dame believes the airport is now spending pending more money on marketing than ever before, which is part of the reason for the increase although he added it’s difficult to accurately gauge the impact.
On Thursday, the board agreed to pay Sioux Falls-based marketing and advertising firm Lawrence & Schiller $198,886 in 2019 for marketing. The airport and Lawrence & Schiller have been working together since the start of 2017. Of those funds, Schiller representatives said at the meeting that 76 percent would be spent on digital marketing and ads, with the remainder going to social media marketing and ads.
Ads on Facebook, Pinterest, and local news sites in targeted markets and in-article videos in other markets will comprise much of the firm’s efforts.
Schiller representatives said all audiences would be targeted, but specific groups would include families interested in outdoor recreation, young, active and affluent professionals, and active “empty-nesters.”
Deputy Airport Director Toni Broom noted the airport would be running a contest for free airfare beginning this spring to reward Rapid City residents for the airport’s recent successes.
PIERRE | A South Dakota Senate panel on Thursday voted to leave in place an activities association policy that lets transgender students play on the athletic team that matches their gender identity.
The Senate Education Committee voted 5-2 against a bill that would have voided the policy. It would have required a student's sex to be determined by their birth certificate or a South Dakota High School Activities Association physical exam form.
Association Executive Director Dan Swartos said the change wouldn't be fair to schools or transgender youth. Family Heritage Alliance Action Executive Director Norman Woods called the vote "disappointing," saying supporters don't view the bill as discriminatory.
Libby Skarin, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, said the group opposed the measure because it harms transgender students and they say it would violate Title IX in federal law and the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause.
"The more our leaders get to know the stories of these families and these kids, the more they realize the real impact of this kind of legislation," Skarin said. "They see the pain and the turmoil that it causes."
But Republican Sen. Jim Bolin, the sponsor, said the legislation was necessary to ensure fair competition.
"This bill is brought forward to elevate the concept of fair competition in sex-segregated sports to a higher level and to keep that goal as paramount," Bolin said. "All other goals and agendas should be subservient to that perspective."
The association's 2015 policy requires a student and parent to notify their school that the student wants to play on the sports team that matches their gender identity.
The school submits an application and documentation to the association for review by an independent hearing officer who must be a licensed attorney and a member of the State Bar of South Dakota. The student or the student's school can appeal the hearing officer's decision to the association's board of directors for a final decision. The rules say that gender identity can't be used to gain an unfair competitive advantage.
Swartos said the association in part opposed the measure because it wouldn't have held harmless the association or member schools in resulting litigation. A "very small number" of transgender students participate with the exemption, he said.
At least two dozen other states have such policies, according to the ACLU of South Dakota. The group says South Dakota's Legislature would have been the first to override one.
Similar bills to end the policy failed in the 2015 and 2016 sessions.