Saturday's election forum highlights candidates, ballot measures
PHOTOS BY BENJAMIN CHASE/PLAINSMAN Forum moderator Mike Held, center, speaks to the audience as District 22 House candidates Shane Milne, left, Lynn Schneider, near right, and Roger Chase, far right, listen on Saturday at City Hall. Below: Dr. Tom Dean, left, and Lisa Nolen, right, speak to the audience regarding Amendment D.
HURON — The Huron Chamber and Visitor’s Bureau sponsored an election forum on Saturday morning in the commission room at City Hall. Candidates for State House from District 22, representatives from each side of the issue for Amendment D, and an opponent representative for Initiated Measure 27 were present.
The morning opened with the candidates for representative giving an opening statement. Shane Milne, the Democrat candidate for House, opened the discussion by explaining his background as a trucker’s son.
Milne noted his background as a pastor in Huron where he worked part-time as a case manager, which led to his current full time job.
Milne explained his reason for running for State House was balance.
“I believe when one party holds the power for so long, we lose the voice of the people,” Milne expressed. “And I believe the strongest and loudest voice in government should be your voice — the voice of the voter.”
Incumbent Roger Chase explained his background serving as a representative for District 22 for six years. He noted his background growing up on a family farm north of Huron and owning and operating Coldwell Banker Action Realty in Huron as a real estate broker for 34 years as well as farming on the farm he grew up on with his son, Derek.
Lynn Schneider, an incumbent Republican, stated that he had just completed his first full term as a representative for District 22. He discussed his career in agriculture finance and community banking before becoming a representative.
The two incumbents were asked why they both served on the agriculture and natural resources committee and also what bills they’ve been instrumental in pushing together. Chase pointed to the agriculture makeup of District 22. He also noted the importance of the two seats when the DEX building at the State Fair was discussed as the building was initially denied funding, but having multiple representatives on the committee allowed for local representation to push for the building’s funding at the state level.
Schneider addressed the bills, praising Chase’s work on the recent housing and infrastructure bill following a summer study on housing. Schneider admitted that he has not been a “leader” on bills, but that he has followed former District 22 Representative, and Schneider’s brother-in-law Bob Glanzer’s line of thought that his role is not necessarily to add more laws to the books, but to ensure that unnecessary ones are not added.
Milne was asked by moderator Mike Held if he had put thought into committees that he would like to serve on if elected. Milne quickly answered that he would like to be a voice on the education committee, in part to ensure that education standards are being set by educators.
Milne was asked about immigration, based on his previous experience as an ESL educator. He expressed that Huron’s experience with immigration into the work force has shown the need for immigration. Schneider noted the support network in Huron that allowed for the success in Huron that could be an example throughout the state for receiving immigrants, from the city to churches to schools. Chase noted the reliance of the Huron community on the immigrant workforce and the leadership role that Huron has taken to integrating immigrants into workforce and the community.
The candidates were asked about transparency in the recent ethics hearings with Governor Kristi Noem. Rep. Schneider indicated that he wished that all the information would be released because the public should see those travel logs and other information. Milne expressed a similar view that with the money spent being public money, the information should be transparent. Chase recalled a bill proposed previously to force that information to be public that was killed in committee.
He also noted that the recent proceedings closed with a sealed settlement, meaning that information will not likely be public.
The recent announcement by Gov. Noem that the grocery tax would be eliminated brought a question about funding that lost tax revenue and whether the candidates supported the elimination of the grocery tax. Milne expressed that potential recreational marijuana revenue would cover the shortage, and he is in favor of it. Schneider stated that he was in favor of the idea, but how to fund the full amount will be something to consider when doing budget. Chase expressed trepidation that this could be a short-sighted idea based on good times and significant surplus right now, as growth in the state is simply keeping pace with inflation, not surpassing it.
On Amendment D, which addresses Medicaid expansion, Schneider and Chase both expressed their major concern being that the work is being done as a constitutional amendment rather than an initiated measure. Milne expressed that he was in favor of the expansion primarily because that it aids people who are truly in need, with more than 40,000 that will qualify for Medicaid upon expansion.
When asked about Initiated Measure 27, regarding recreational marijuana, Milne stated that he was in favor of the measure, primarily because he feels that the people have already spoken on the issue once, and this is simply re-legislating something the people already spoke on.
After the candidate forum, Held moderated a discussion on Amendment D about the expansion of Medicaid in the state.
Dr. Tom Dean represented the proponent side. He discussed his years working as a physician in Wessington Springs. Dean explained that South Dakota is one of 12 states in the country that has not expanded Medicaid after that option was given to the states. He also explained that after expansion, those who qualify for expanded Medicaid are covered through federal dollars at a 95% rate in the first year and at a 90% cost rate going forward at this point. Right now other Medicaid costs are reimbursed to states at roughly a 50/50 or 55/45 reimbursement to states, so, as Dean stated, this is at a financial benefit to the state for giving coverage to roughly 5% of the state’s population.
Lisa Nolen from Americans for Prosperity spoke on the opponent side of Amendment D. Her discussion focused on expanding a government program incentivizing government reliance by those who were eligible, which could remove those who were given that health care from the work force. Nolen also questioned whether providers accepting Medicaid would become overwhelmed and overbooked due to an increase of people on Medicaid.
The first question from the audience asked Nolen about her final point, a nurse in the audience questioning how people being able to seek out services that they need could be a bad thing for those who cannot afford to seek those services right now. Nolen explained that current shortages in staffing and increase in patients in states that have expanded Medicaid have put additional stress on clinics for appointments.
Dean countered that while that may be true, when those same persons have no medical coverage because they cannot afford it, they typically do not go to the doctor for routine appointments, but they do show up at the emergency room. Dr. Dean explained that many emergency care facilities are struggling now due to medical debt due to serving anyone that comes in with a medical emergency, regardless of insurance coverage.
Another audience member asked about reimbursement rates, inquiring whether the ratio of 90/10 would remain. Dean stated that while he couldn’t speak to the future, right now there is no stated plan for that to change, and no proposals have been brought forth either. Nolen noted that the reimbursement rate for other Medicaid services is significantly more burden on the state, and that there is no guarantee that reimbursement rates will remain in perpetuity.
Finally, only the opponent side of Initiated Measure 27 was present. Jim Kinyon of Protect Our Kids, a nationwide organization opposed to legalizing recreational marijuana, gave a powerpoint presentation. He explained with his background in social work in Rapid City that he has seen marijuana use in children and adults hurt more than help. He also discussed that coming through COVID-19 has presented a mental health crisis, and adding marijuana during a mental health crisis would be the wrong move.
The proponent side for IM 27 had confirmed with the Chamber, but did not make the forum Saturday.