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Legislative candidates square off in Sturgis

May 10, 2018 GMT

STURGIS — License plate renewal, private property rights, Marsy’s Law, and illegal aliens were among the topics addressed by candidates for the South Dakota Legislature at a forum Tuesday in Sturgis.

The event, sponsored by the Meade County Republican Women, included Republican candidates for Legislative Districts 29 and 33. District 29 encompasses nearly all of Meade County and a tiny portion of Butte County. District 33 follows Interstate 90 south to Rapid City then east of the city near the Meade County border.

For District 29 House, Republicans Tom Brunner, Newell, and Larry Rhoden, Union Center, are unopposed in the primary race and will face Democrat Michael McManus, Sturgis, in the general election. The top two will be elected.

In the District 29 Senate race, Republicans Gary Cammack, Union Center, and Billy D. Kluck, Mud Butte, face off in the primary. The winner will go up against Democrat Matt Kammerer, Rapid City, in the general election.

In the District 33 House race, Republicans Taffy Howard, Rapid City, David Johnson, Rapid City, and Melanie Torno, Summerset, face off in the primary. The top two will advance to face Democrats Lilias Jarding and Ian Keegan, both of Rapid City, and Independent Nick Reid, Black Hawk, in the general election. The top two in general election will be elected.

In the District 33 Senate race, Republicans Phil Jensen and Amanda Scott, both of Rapid City, will face off in the primary. The winner of the race between Jensen and Scott will face Democrat Ryan Ryder, Black Hawk.

Rancher and retired legislator Dean Wink served as the moderator.

The forum began with opening statements, followed by questions that had been submitted by the public on notecards from the approximately 25 people in attendance, and finally, closing statements. Each candidate had one minute to make statements and respond to each question.

Candidates were asked if they would support a bill introduced, but defeated during the 2018 Legislative session, which would change designs every 10 years instead of five years as has been the norm.

Rep. Julie Frye-Mueller, R-Rapid City, submitted the question about the license plate renewal. She was at the forum.

Her question actually listed the bill number, which confused some of the candidates, so she was asked to explain the bill. She said the difference of changing the design every 10 years instead of five years could save the state about $6.2 million. She wanted the savings put in the road and bridge fund for counties.

House members voted 41-27 for her change, but it died in the Senate Transportation Committee. Lobbyists representing 3M and South Dakota Auto Dealers Association tried to stop the change during the session.

“I’m all for saving money, but that’s the conservative side of me,” Kluck said. “I’ve got some vehicles and as far as I’m concerned the license plates could be on there forever.”

Cammack said he couldn’t really recall the bill, but was reminded by Frye-Mueller that he voted against it in senate committee.

Jensen said he, too, was in favor of saving taxpayer money.

“I would have voted for it had it not died in committee,” he said.

Howard was a co-sponsor on the bill and voted for it. She said that in many states once a license plate is issued, the owner of the vehicle uses it indefinitely; they are not issued new plates periodically.

South Dakota also has laws on the books that if a license becomes illegible or defaced or law enforcement can’t read it, that is against the law. It costs $10 to replace it.

Johnson also was a co-sponsor of the bill and voted in favor of it on the house floor.

Candidates also were asked if they supported illegal aliens in the state.

Torno said she doesn’t believe taxpayers should pay for services for anyone who is in our country illegally.

“We have an immigration process, and if people would like to come here to our country, I believe that is how they need to come here,” she said.

Jensen concurred.

“We need to take care of our people first; it’s that simple in my book,” he said.

Cammack said the answer lies in the term “illegal.”

“As long as they are documented, and they come in with legal status, I see no problem with that,” he said. “But, if you have some folks who broke the law to be able to get here … then, I don’t support it.”

Kluck characterized illegals as a broad issue.

“I think we need to look closely at some of our immigration laws,” he said.

Kluck said he has worked with Mexicans who came into the country with their green cards and has no problem with them being here.

“I think they are an asset to our country, but when we start providing them with services and so forth, then I think we are stepping beyond what we should be doing,” he said.

Johnson said as a citizen of the United States he has to obey the laws and support himself.

“If you are illegally in this country then you shouldn’t be here,” he said.

Howard said: “We need to take care of our citizens. It’s not our responsibility or job to take care of illegals. We need to prosecute the ones who are here illegally. We have to be a nation of laws or we are going to fall apart.”

The primary election is June 5.

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