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Congress takes good care of itself

It’s interesting that U.S. Sen.  John Thune and other Republicans are sponsoring a bill targeting state and local government pension plans while ignoring the most wasteful and unearned pension plan in the country — their own.

The congressional pension plan allows lifetime benefits with as little as five years membership in Congress, with payout starting at age 62, while Congress wants the Social Security retirement age raised.

Their annual pension payouts may be as much as 80 percent of their last year’s salary.

Their health care plan is equally nauseating. They have a choice of up to 10 different plans with the taxpayer paying up to 75 percent of the cost of premiums.

They also may receive free treatment and hospitalization at one of the two military hospitals in Washington, D.C. Military hospital treatment is for military personnel or, if expanded, should go to veterans unable to get into overcrowded VA hospitals.

With a minimum salary of $174,000 per year, congressmen should be able to foot their own pension and health care plans like they say we should.

Congressional days in session show the job is part time. How many South Dakotans get pensions and health care for a part time job? Time to walk the walk.

DEAN FLAGE

Sturgis

 

Don’t force dogma on pregnant women

I am a 30-year-old, college educated, professional woman who is terrified by government actions to take away women’s right to choose as well as access to income-based health care for women. I do not have insurance. I simply can’t afford it. Conservative Republicans who won’t allow federally funded health insurance want to also strip me of what little access I have to affordable cervical cancer screening, HIV testing, annual pap smears and birth control. That is what Title X is about. It provides federal funding for health care, not abortions.

Now South Dakota is trying to pass a bill that requires a women to go to a “pregnancy help” center before having an abortion. These centers are usually religiously based, and not everyone in this state adheres to these same religious standards.

So thank you, South Dakota, for taking away my affordable women health centers, for making me realize that my body is not my private business, and that should I ever choose to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, I will be forced to hear the dogmatic statements of a religion that I am not a part of.

It’s so great to live in a free country.

SARAH NICHOLS

Rapid City

Thank state lawmakers  for killing insurance bill

Contrary to the Feb. 24 Rapid City Journal article, “Senate panel rejects insurance change,” the vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on HB1184 would have been harmful to all South Dakota insurance consumers. 

The financial impact of this bill on insurance premiums would have been felt by all residents of South Dakota.

As president of an insurance trade group that represents 84 percent of insurance companies in the state, we applaud the lawmakers  who voted against this bill.

According to the National Association of Subrogation Professionals, South Dakota insurance consumers likely would have seen substantially higher premiums for auto, property, and health insurance if this bill were passed.

Proponents cited isolated and extreme cases  in support of this bill; however, their anecdotes are few and far between. Consumers benefit more often when insurance companies pursue the at fault party and collect their deductibles.

The majority of states allow subrogation. This bill would have benefited a few and punished many by way of increased premiums.

All South Dakota insurance consumers owe the lawmakers who voted against the bill their thanks for keeping this long-standing, well-settled law on the books and keeping premiums low for all South Dakotans in the process. 

MARK HEYDE

S.D. Insurance Alliance

Milbank

Kooiker has makings of a great leader

“A good leader inspires people to have confidence in the leader; a great leader inspires people to have confidence in themselves.”  

— Eleanor Roosevelt. 

Sam Kooiker is a great leader.  Sam has cerebral palsy, which affects his ability to walk. From the beginning of his life, others  have told him about all of the things he could never do, such as walk on his own.

Today, Sam has a master’s in public administration, successfully supervised hundreds of workers, taught business law, is involved in his church and community, has served on the city council with great distinction, and, most importantly, is a good husband and loving father to three beautiful girls. And, he walks on his own.

When I consider the challenges Sam has overcome, I am inspired to have more confidence in myself. Sam is a testament to what can be accomplished through hard work and choosing to believe in one’s self. If Rapid City is looking for a great leader, there is no doubt about it: Sam Kooiker is uniquely qualified.  I will be voting for Sam on June 7.

JOSHUA HOUY

Rapid City  

Politicians reject science on climate

Last year the Geological Society of America issued this position statement: “The GSA concurs with assessments by the National Academies of Science (2005), the National Research Council (2006), and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) that global climate has warmed and that human activities (mainly greenhouse-gas emissions) account for most of the warming since the middle 1900s.”

Many politicians don’t go along with this science. As a presidential candidate, George W. Bush pledged to regulate CO2. But as president he refused to sign the “Kyoto Protocol,” the CO2 emissions-limiting treaty that 187 countries had ratified earlier.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama pledged to cut U.S. emissions 80 percent  by 2050 relative to 1990. But at the Copenhagen negotiations in 2009, he failed to secure a binding treaty on emissions.

The 2010 Congressional elections hint at things to come. Most Republicans who won election to the House and nearly all the new Republican senators have questioned the validity of climate change. It seems the overall American sentiment toward global warming is denial or indifference. It appears that little action will be forthcoming in the U.S. to mitigate global warming.

By this inaction, our image is certainly not enhanced in the eyes of those who live in countries actively pursuing CO2 control. It looks like, by default, future U.S. actions will simply be adaptation to a warming planet.

PERRY H. RAHN

Rapid City

Ditched woman says thanks 

In a world where it seems that people are often unwilling to help others in need, it is refreshing to know that there are exceptions. 

One such man delayed his busy Saturday morning activities to help extract my vehicle from the ditch after I spun out and slid into a ditch on Highway 16.

I do not have a full name to thank him properly. All I can do is say: Thank you, David.

KAREN ABATA

Rapid City

Listen to experts, not GF&P staff

I saw another article about the mountain lion season this morning and could not hold my tongue any longer. Does everybody in this state agree with the potential extinction of this beautiful animal?

Something so serious should at least be brought to a statewide vote. If the seasons continue as they are, the mountain lion will be eradicated in this state once again.

I just wanted to tell the people of South Dakota to open their eyes. For one, all of the numbers that GF&P is throwing out there are not accurate. If you want information from professionals who have studied mountain lions all of their careers, visit www.mountainlion.org and read the information they have about cougars in South Dakota.

What started off five years ago as a “temporary” mountain lion season is getting way too out of control. Every year they are increasing the quota. I hate to even think what it’s going to be for 2012.

JESSICA DAVIES

Sturgis

Who is in the wrong place now?

OK. Let’s see: Men were entering our country learning how to fly airplanes and the parties taking the fees did so unwittingly. We all know that was prior to 9/11.

Now we have a crazy, unpredictable situation in the Middle East threatening basically the whole world and all peace-keeping efforts worldwide.  What do we do about it? I’d say, get to the bottom of everybody’s motives.

Money motivates people, so what? People in Manhattan were supposedly giving the panhandlers their VISA cards when they simply asked for a tiny handout here awhile back.

Geesh, was I in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s it. Who is in the wrong place at this time? That is the ultimate search scope. But I’m sure intelligence can figure this one out.

WANDA ECHOES

Rapid City

Abstinence most effective birth control

Regarding the recent editorial, “Don’t waste time on abortion bills,” and Dr. Marvin Beuhner’s Forum article: I read Dr. Beuhner’s story of “Terry.” She already had a child, and a contraceptive let her down. Abstinence would have worked but that takes discipline.

If Dr. Beuhner truly cared, he would have considered a tubal ligation. Instead, he used her situation to justify his cause.

The Journal editorial talks about “far more important business; flames of polarization;  wasn’t allowed to speak; crisis Pregnancy centers give false information.”

For an unborn child there is no more important business. They are polarized. They aren’t allowed to speak. It is patently false when I hear that unborn children are just a group of cells. 

Crisis Care Centers aren’t supported by our tax dollars to do evil work as has been documented with Planned Parenthood. “Safe Legal and Rare.” The great mantra of the pro-abortionists. The Journal should be concerned about trying to find more customers instead of taking popular but incorrect stands.

Oh, that’s right. There are no more customers because the potential 48,000 customers we could have had in South Dakota in the past 40 years were aborted. Try courage to do what is right.

CLARK SOWERS

Belle Fourche

Faster than speed of bureaucracy

Summing up my support for Sam Kooiker for mayor, it boils down to two things:  income and jobs.

Sam recognizes that workers are underpaid in Rapid City, and he clearly understands the need for more and better jobs here.

Sam is singularly driven to transform Rapid City into a target rich environment for small and big business alike.

How will he accomplish this?

He told me that given the opportunity, he will take a machete to the insufferable red tape that bogs down, and drives out, much of the business development in this city.

Sam operates at the speed of business, not the speed of bureaucracy, while at the same time lending an inquisitive ear to anyone who has ideas about how to improve city government.

Numerous times I watched Sam in his own home drop everything to talk at length to a concerned citizen or city employee.  He is truly committed to us.

Sam, with his optimism, vision, and unwavering focus on the working class, is the perfect man to take the reigns during this very challenging time in our city’s history.

He certainly has my vote.

TOM EADS

Rapid City

There are humane options for horses

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Recently I have listened to several legislative sessions that included discussion of bills and resolutions in support of horse slaughter.

I listened as some of our state representatives and a state senator hid behind phrases like “ for the good of the horses” and “most humane way to deal with the issue,” when someone wishes to dispose of a horse.

Their goal is to bring a horse slaughter plant to South Dakota by convincing people that there are no other end-of-life options for horse owners.

Responsible horse owners know the truth: that there are  other options — humane end-of-life options.

The cost for an equine veterinarian to humanely euthanize a horse by injection and disposal of the body is often less than what it costs to properly care for a horse for one month.

Kaufman, Texas was home to one of the last U.S. slaughter plants that closed in 2007. To find out how horse slaughter affected that town go to http://www.animallawcoalition.com/horse-slaughter/article/686.

To find out more about USA horse slaughter violations and USDA documents and photos go to www.kaufmanzoning.net and click on FOIA.

 

MICKIE HORTNESS

Rapid City

Conductor knows location of graffiti

The Journal’s Feb. 27 story,  “Construction reveals Dakota school history,” shows a picture titled “graffiti on the walls of the orchestra pit.”

Actually, the graffiti was on the walls of the old costume storage room under the stage.

The orchestra pit was in front of the original stage, and was covered up in 1978 when Central High School  moved into its new building.

I conducted many high school  musicals from that pit.

JACK KNOWLES

Rapid City

Don’t take federal employees for granted

The March 2 Journal story, “Shutdown would have wide reach locally,” should be a wake-up call for South Dakota folks —including Sen. John Thune and Rep. Kristi Noem — about the impact a federal government shutdown would have on South Dakota.

The story should also remind us of the essential role that federal employees and federal money play in the daily life of our state.

The story showed how over 8,500 South Dakota residents are federal employees who do everything from making our national forests run, helping national defense at Ellsworth, to helping our state’s veterans.

In my spare time, I do volunteer archives work at the Booth Fish Hatchery in Spearfish.

The Fish and Wildlife Service federal employees I work with could be your friends and family.  They work hard to run a facility that is a tourist attraction and impacts on our wildlife resources. 

 Keep that in mind when your hear some hack on the radio, or in Congress, ranting and raving about “lazy” federal bureaucrats.

 

DAVID NICKEL

Spearfish

Public employees can’t go on strike

There are some major misconceptions about unionized public employees.

The real power a union has in bargaining is its right to strike. Public employees do not have that right.

When management decides they are through negotiating with public unions they simply impose what management wants, as did the Rapid City Council with the firefighters and as the school board has several times with its employees.

 The chief benefit of bargaining is to put in place some rules to which both employees and employers must adhere, such as a probationary period after which employers must show reasonable cause to dismiss.

As for total compensation , a Rutgers University study found when gender, education, and hours of work were factored in,  public employees were no better off than their counterparts in the private sector.

In Wisconsin, the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute found state workers with a bachelor’s degree or better lagged between $20,000 and $82,000 behind their counterparts.

A USA Today study that didn’t consider any of the factors (gender, education, and hours) found that South Dakota public employees compensation ranks 51st nationally, behind the other 49 states and the District of Columbia.

JIM ZEMAN

Deadwood

Don’t let voters decide tax issue

The Senate committee’s decision to allow voters to decide to raise taxes instead of cutting state spending is irresponsible and cowardly.

Gee. How do you think all of the teachers and government employees are going to vote?

They can now decide to give us a pay cut by raising our taxes so they can continue to live immune to the current economic conditions. 

You people in Pierre had better be watching Wisconsin. It’s coming here.

GEORGE KRUSE

Rapid City

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