March 20, 2014

SD Racism and Kumbaya in the Capitol

The anti-racism sanctimonium is high right now in South Dakota. Senator Phil Jenson made comments that weren't hard to construe as racist. They quickly went viral as sloppy, unhelpful and irresponsible journalists outside our state pounced on him while entirely ignoring the fact that Jenson also said: "the majority of us would find it detestable that they refuse to serve blacks."

Some of my comments so far include the following…

Though he’s further to the right than me, and many are, I know Phil and he is a good guy. Not for a moment do I think he’s a racist though these comments open the door to that assessment – that he wants blacks to be discriminated against. Last year the national media freaked out over my MMA comments and never actually listened to what I was trying to say. The same is going on right now with those of us who see religious liberty as a casualty of the gay rights movement. There is no manual on how to fight back the gay advance and what you have are everyday people in public office who are trying to make a case that religious conviction is a central freedom in this country. I didn’t sign on to Phil’s bill but I did bring a couple of my own. I found it near impossible to make my point without people hearing something altogether different.

I also tweeted yesterday: @stevehickey It's really hard to talk to people who are only able to hear what they want to hear and react irrationally against things you never said.

Then the Governor distanced himself from Phil's comments which prompted me to say this:

Every Republican and South Dakotan who throws a stone at Phil Jenson needs to make sure they have no animosities toward Native Americans. Some days I think I live in the deep South with what gets said about natives here. Democrats use them and Republicans abuse them. If we are going to expunge every hint of racism from our state, and I’m all for it, let’s deal with it in ourselves first.

Twenty years ago I moved here and soon thereafter attended a meeting in Sioux Falls with the US Commission on Civil Rights. If memory serves me correctly the report concluded racial tension in this state was greater than in Los Angeles. I've found that to be true.

My assessment is that South Dakota presently has two main forms of bigotry; racial bigotry and religious bigotry. The former is far more severe and long standing than the latter. The former is mainly toward native Americans but it's increasing toward immigrants. Seeking to get all of society to legitimize and celebrate them, our homosexual community has succeeded in claiming discrimination too. The only sector of society yet to embrace them unequivocally is the Church and that's what has prompted all these stretched accusations of bigotry. The irony is gay advocates here are just as guilty of religious bigotry as anyone else is guilty of bigotry against them.

And in all this, our states biggest racism issue is lost - animosities toward natives. Here in this 125th Celebration Year of our Statehood I've tried to make a case we need to deal with these lingering racial animosities - and they go both ways. It falls on deaf ears.

At the conclusion of our legislative session late last week, the lobbyists do a roast and those of us in the legislature all come, including the Governor and his Cabinet. Lots of humor to go around and it's "all in fun." The sole Native American lobbyist stood up to joke about HB 1213 which was a bill to get a work group working on economic development on the Rez. The lobbyist was commenting on the unusual kumbaya moment in the Capitol as the House vote was 68-0 and 35-0 in the Senate… ON AN INDIAN BILL!! He acted shocked and speechless because as he said, usually all they can say is…. "Hey Bro, don't taze me."

Laughs all the way around.

Kumbaya.

Here's an article from Kevin Woster at KELO related to my post here.

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March 12, 2014

My two terms through the rear view mirror

Two more days and I come to the unofficial end of my second term in the state legislature. I'm running again and expect a primary. In making that decision I spent some moments reflecting on the good and bad (from my vantage point) of my first two terms and thought to share some of that here. The list of things I'm proud of is far longer than the list of things I'm not proud of.

I'm proud that my yes means yes and my no means no. Ask any lobbyist or legislative colleague on either side of the aisle and they will tell you I keep my word. My first term we were told we all come to this House and are given a block of wood that represents our integrity. Every time we do something jerky or slimy some of that wood is shaved off our block. Some guys leave Pierre with only a toothpick of integrity.

I'm proud of friendships across the aisle, in industry, in our district, city and across the state. I'm proud that no one owns me, that I didn't lose my soul or sell it (as some say happens to everyone in public office - not true) and that people on the right and left find me frustrating at times; even in my party, the partisans, the libertarians or the corporatists/bankers or whomever. I'm not the poster boy for any of them.

I'm proud that we balance our budget despite the fact that our FMAP obligations have risen 98 million since I was elected. We've been able to grow the economy and make dollars go further to come up with nearly 20 million more a year. I'm proud that I've been able to champion some things that help the poor in our state.

I'm proud of how we've held back video lottery expansion and for my early (2011) opposition to Common Core Standards. Also, I'm proud of taking a stand against societal violence and cage fighting. I'm proud of the progress we've made against predatory lending. With regard to my death penalty repeal effort I'm proud that many minds were changed. There are pro-aborts AND pro-lifers who have woken up to their inconsistencies and have changed their minds. It's a multi-year effort for a number of the big issues I'm involved in.

I'm proud to have stood up for natives in Republican circles such that the jokes and deep animosities I heard in my first term are rare in my presence these days.

I'm proud to have trumpeted the warning that a long economic winter is coming on our state. At a public forum recently I said…… "if you are like those in our state leadership then what I'm about to say will go in your one ear and out the other." It would be much, much easier to go along with the "we're in a recovery" crowd but I haven't.

I proud that my campaigns have remained positive, people-focused and that I've kept in touch with voters about my views on issues and vote rationales. I'm proud that I steered clear of some fights and maintained the balance between justice and righteousness. The Bible says the "foundation of His throne is justice AND righteousness." Politically the left claims a justice without righteousness and the right seems disinterested in justice - those are stereotypes for sure. But there is a balance between the two and you don't make either political party happy when you seek that balance.

I'm not proud of the times I've let myself get pulled into the weeds on blogs and in email exchanges. I'm frequently guilty of saying too much and those who are more seasoned politically than I certainly shake their head when I step into it when I say things that don't need to be said. I'm not proud of some of my email replies. I'm not proud of my tone in my first term - calling some people/groups names.

I'm not proud of a few of my cavalier protest votes like yesterday when I voted against a many million dollar football stadium being built at SDSU. I get that it was private funds and the benefit to enrollment is enormous. I deserved this morning to have the morning after calls from multi-millionaires who gave private money to make this happen. It's a great project and using my vote to show my distain for our society's fixation on sports was irresponsible.

I'm not proud of my role in the whole school sentinel bill that consumed so much energy last year. I wish I would have led the way on the mental health aspects of school shootings but instead we brought yet another controversial gun bill that no district wants. These experiences have taught me to really pick my battles. Sometimes the juice isn't worth the squeeze.

I've been a part of some losers but in case you wonder, I don't regret voting for HB1234 (The Ed Reform Bill) a few years ago or for supporting the increase in vehicle registration fees.

There are probably other things I'll think of to add here but this is long enough. You get the idea. I welcome your comments and I look forward to a third term. Voters ultimately decide if that will happen.

If you like the job I've done, I'm gearing up for the June primary and your support is really needed: Steve Hickey for State House, 4501 N. Ellis Rd., Sioux Falls, SD 57107

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January 24, 2014

What would MLK Jr. say to South Dakota?

Since Martin Luther King Jr. day earlier in the week I've been thinking about his dream and what his dream means for us here in South Dakota.

I think of his niece Dr. Alvida King and how she speaks against black genocide via abortion. She is still fighting for her uncles dream against people who still believe some are more human than others. I think of how Bernice King, the daughter of MLK Jr., says "my father did not take a bullet for same sex marriage."

So what would Martin Luther King Jr say to South Dakota? I think he might shake us awake from a nightmare and that nightmare is that we have third world living conditions a short drive away from all of us who live here. Of course I speak of our Indian reservations.

Sitting through the State of the State address least week I was conflicted. It was a great speech and we have tons of things to celebrate in our state. Yet there wasn't one word spoken that related to a significant sector of our population, our native population. As I said in an earlier post on this topic,

It’s hard to throw a party when some in the room don’t share your excitement, or worse, when they resent the occasion or even your very existence. There is so much to celebrate in South Dakota’s 125 year state history and yet there are painful atrocities in our past and lingering present issues we ought not ignore. Revisiting them can facilitate healing. If not this year, when?

If you follow my twitter feed you saw this from me earlier this week: "SD official unemployment rate is an impressive 3.6%. If unemployed Indians in our state were counted our unemployment rate is 14%." In a tweet the previous week I responded to a challenge to focus on reconcilation with this comment: "Let's do it. One of these years I just may run for governor for this reason alone. It's SD's sore spot."

Is anyone listening? In previous years I've stirred it up with an article on the topic of giving the Black Hills back. Earlier this year I took a beating for tossing out the suggestion that letting Leonard Peltier go might be a meaningful gesture on our part that we want to move out of the past and into a brighter future together.

Last year I was in conversation with the Department of Tourism trying to think through how our reservations can benefit from sharing their rich culture with the world. It's a touchy topic because we certainly don't want to run busses through full of people with cameras taking pictures of "how they live" like they are animals in a zoo. (Side note: did you know historically BIA is under the Dept of Interior which is the branch of government that oversees national parks and wildlife????!!! We need to change that and repent.)

Today I suggest a state-sponsored "Beyond Charity" conference similar to one I did for churches in our state a dozen years ago. I know the native situation has seemingly impossible tribal sovereignty and corruption obstacles and that it's been a black hole for millions of dollars over many years with conditions never improving. I have a dream that good people can navigate all that and change the future. If you care about people it's worth spending your life trying.

Earlier this fall I suggested forming a State Truth and Reconciliation Commission similar to the one that helped South Africa heal. Today I suggest we start a sister city program where Sioux Falls links up with Rosebud and Rapid City with Pine Ridge. There are twenty-two communities that make up the Rosebud reservation spread over one hundred some miles. Partnerships can be fostered with every community. Our school kids can get to know their school kids. Our businesses can be a blessing to their businesses. We can get kids to college, improve living conditions, share hope.

It's time to dream about ending the nightmare. Last night I attended the SD Tourism banquet. It was exciting. The theme was "Think BIG, BOLD and BEYOND." That's the dream!

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January 2, 2014

Hickey letter on Death Penalty Repeal bill

Regrettably I missed a radio interview this morning on the Greg Belfrage show because I thought it was tomorrow and today I have a tube hanging out of my nose. The tube will come out tomorrow but lots of feedback coming to me right now about our death penalty repeal attempt in the upcoming 2014 South Dakota legislative session. I've even been nicely threatened that my political career will be cut short if I don't drop the matter. Like I care about that. Is it not clear by now what makes me tick?

Below is a letter I sent to my colleagues in the legislature a few weeks ago. This is long but it will give a sense of the reasoning behind my interest in a repeal. If you haven't heard my religious arguments against it you can find those here. As you'll see in the letter, I won't be making religious arguments to the legislature. My blog software is quite old so I'm not sure how to paste it here but hopefully this link will allow you to view it: (pdf alert) Hickey letter on Death Penalty Repeal bill

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October 28, 2013

Celebrate South Dakota statehood by letting Leonard Peltier go

It’s hard to throw a party when some in the room don’t share your excitement, or worse, when they resent the occasion or even your very existence.

There is so much to celebrate in South Dakota’s 125 year state history and yet there are painful atrocities in our past and lingering present issues we ought not ignore. Revisiting them can facilitate healing. If not this year, when?

We share this state with Native Americans who have a very legitimate historical and ongoing beef with us wasi'chus. When Governor Daugaard announced he was setting up a commission to plan our statehood celebrations, he asked for public input to solicit ideas of things we could include. It provoked this September 18 tweet from me:

@stevehickey

SD seeks ideas to celebrate statehood. Giving the Black Hills back ain't happning but how about a meaningful reparation gesture of some sort. 

For the last number of weeks I’ve given prayerful thought as to what might constitute a meaningful gesture. Since the offenses are by and large justice-related, key pardons come to mind. What if we let Leonard Peltier go free? In native circles here and far abroad, Leonard Peltier has become a modern symbol of a couple centuries of horrific Indian injustices by our government.

Sick and now just shy of seventy, he’s not hurting anyone and since his kangaroo trial nearly forty years ago, reasonable doubt has surfaced that he ever did. At best he was convicted on circumstantial evidence and since his incarceration several decades ago, the case against him has been seriously compromised. In 1986, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals acknowledged there had been the fabrication of evidence, withholding of exculpatory evidence, coercion of witnesses, improper conduct by the FBI and willful illegality on the part of the government. His trial is certainly one of the lower moments in American justice.

Even if you are of the opinion this guy killed two FBI agents (and there is no evidence he pulled the trigger or even had the gun), my suggestion to let him go is an appeal to the fact that these murders were in the midst of a civil war-like situation aggravated by FBI agents terrorizing the Pine Ridge reservation in the wake of Wounded Knee II. Certainly, as a judge stated in 1992, the government is “equally responsible” for the death of its own agents.

My appeal is also in consideration of that fact that there were more than a couple hundred natives mysteriously murdered during this period of time in hits and drive-bys—- some would say plausibly committed by U.S. Marshalls, tribal police, state-sanctioned paramilitary GOON squads, white vigilantes and government agents. If we are judging people on circumstantial evidence as we did with Peltier, why stop with him?

Letting Peltier go is not about what he did or didn’t do or whether he is innocent or guilty, it’s an acknowledgment and admission of so much that “we did do” and so much that we have done.

Recently I've floated this idea with elected officials in our state. I'd like to think Senators Johnson and Thune, Congresswoman Noem, Governor Daugaard and my colleagues in the South Dakota legislature would join me in formally seeking Presidential clemency for Leonard Peltier. Only President Obama can make this happen and he could do it today. If our Great Chief in Washington is truly empathetic toward the plight of the "REDSKINS," he will do it.

We can’t go back and fix Wounded Knee I, but it’s still not too late to redress Wounded Knee II. If we want to move into a new era, we need to let go of some things from the previous one. Time to let Leonard Peltier go and let that wound heal.

_____________________________________

An addendum for my conservative friends: Every ammo-stocking, liberty-loving conservative in South Dakota fearing the Federal government (NSA overreaches, enemy lists, infringements by law enforcement and the like) needs to look past their Indian animosities for a moment and take a long hard look at what happened to Leonard Peltier. Martin Niemöller’s line comes to mind and so I’ll redact it for use here… first they came for [Leonard Peltier] and I did not speak out… then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me. Yes, the genocide of American Indians does warrant a likening to the eradication of the Jews.

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October 10, 2013

The cattle on a thousand (South Dakota) hills

I'm cross posting here an article I wrote over on my church blog: The cattle on a thousand (South Dakota) hills. Check it out.

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October 8, 2013

Hickey statement on Common Core

I'm reposting this from my Facebook page from last month because people continue to ask me for a comment and I need a better way to link to it…

Steve Hickey

September 18

Lot's of inquiries today on my view of the Common Core meeting last night here in Sioux Falls. Here you go… I thought the pro CC people clearly prevailed and debunked some of the misinformation floating around. Those who want to hold these forums around the state and not invite the Dept of Ed are not doing the public any service. It is my understanding that the Dept of Ed has not been invited except last night. They want to be there and they should be there. We need to hear what they are saying and they need to hear us. That being said I'm very glad the department is NOT adopting the science standards because of what is there on climate change and evolution. I encourage people to go here: commoncore.sd.gov and read the standards themselves and be very careful with all the internet chatter. People are criticizing the standards and they've never looked at them. Rep. Ecklund and I had dinner with Secretary Schopp before the meeting. She knows I've consistently voted against CC but I can't stand alongside people who spread misinformation about what is going on here- data mining, UN driven, federal control of schools, I've not seen evidence any of this is true in our state and I've asked directly about each of these. I hear bills are in the works to toss CC out of SD. Not sure how I'll land on that at this point. Certainly I don't want to adopt the additional standards especially science, but I'm not sure we need to undo all the work we've done and money spent on math and English. How much will our course reversal cost if we toss out the standards we've already adopted and is it really worth in as it relates to the math/English standards?? I do not see a loss in local control here. Parents can still go to school board meetings. School boards still make curriculum decisions and for example, they can and should do a reading list that parents and teachers are happy with. The best thing about all this is that it may have woken parents up to pay attention and participate.

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Neighborliness: A SD response to our devastated ranchers

Not sure how to give an idea traction except to put it out there. Yesterday I fired off a tweet that I quickly regretted. This morning I wrote our Secretary of Agriculture and some friends in the Governor's office my apologies and tossed out a suggestion. I'd love to hear what others think of it.  Here's the note I sent…

______________________________________

Lucas,

Again sorry for my insensitive tweet - insensitivity was not my intention - I deleted it. Certainly ill-timed and somewhat or maybe substantially uninformed. Generally, I shared with you my angst about the farm subsidy / ag policy situation in America which drove my comment in part. Maybe there is an idea that can emerge from my angst that can help someone. When a neighbor is devastated as we are seeing in our state, these are great times for Americans to do what Americans do best - be generous. The government is broke and philosophically I'd think you agree with me that the government is not the first place we turn when times get tough.

If we have farms devastated by this, I'd donate one of my cows to replenish my neighbors herd. If this were to be encouraged statewide - wow - it'd be incredible. The state would really come together and be an example. We do this on a small scale when neighbors help harvest for the widow of neighbor who dies. What about on a larger scale? I don't have any cows to donate but I'd give $1000 to a farmer who lost cattle.

I'm cc'ing Dusty/Tony here because I know they are aware of my concern that SD is not ready for a long economic winter where we'd see a substantial reduction in Fed funds coming into our state. LRC tells me a 20% reduction would put our state back in the stone age. Forgive my pessimism but it's only a matter of time before our sins of consumption and spending/borrowing nationally catch up with us. And theologically I can make a case that this nation deserves a great economic shaking [hard to "pray for rain" when we reject God in so many many ways]. During days such as those we'd need to return to neighborliness. That's what I'm suggesting we practice here.

Let me know when/where to write my check or if you think there is a way to rally the state behind this devastation. Since I'm not collecting signatures to drive out the payday lenders from the state this month :-) I have some time to focus on this if needed.

Rep. Steve Hickey - District 9

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September 10, 2013

Sanford and MMA Cage Fighting; Money or Medicine?

Here's a comment from me in yesterday's Argus Leader that bears explaining…

Not everyone is thrilled about the relationship. State representative and Sioux Falls pastor Steve Hickey is the most vocal elected opponent of MMA in South Dakota. “Sanford follows the money, so this is it,” he said. “(Three-billion) dollar industry, fastest growing sport in the world.”

Why would I make such a statement? My friends tell me this kind of thing is political suicide - to smack one of our largest employers in the state, and most generous, one that does a ton of good, etc..  Here's why…

Non-profit Sanford Health is all about multi-million dollar sports venues and high dollar corporate sponsorships. Frankly, in light of that it would be odd for Sanford not to be right in the middle of the mix in bringing high dollar cage fights to town. The possibility of bringing some huge UFC matches here to their venues, televised nationally and via pay-per-view is, how shall I say, exactly what the doctor ordered.

If it were about medicine not money they would be joining me in resisting cage fighting in South Dakota. (My issue is actually the violence not so much the safety factor.)  A leading neurologist in our town tells me "the magic number of micro-traumas the head can recover from is anyones guess- two, four, five?" There is no safe way to knee or elbow someone in the head and any doctor who tells you differently needs to have his head checked. My neurologist friend tells me there are ex-high school wrestlers in our area now in their forties with early stage dementia. We would expect our medical community to be the first to resist this, not the first to get in on the green.

They are a hospital for goodness sake, why are they the first to throw in with the UFC cage fighting promoters? Obviously I felt like someone should say something.

Here are the results of the poll the Argus took online on Sunday. Not a large sampling but the results are interesting. Should Mixed Martial Arts be legal in Sioux Falls?  31% say no. 68% say yes. 373 voting.

I think the no vote would have been even stronger if they would have said "cage fighting" in the question instead of Mixed Martial Arts.  I've talked to people who say they are for mixed martial arts but they are against cage fighting. Of course they are the same thing. The MMA folks want me to stop calling it cage fighting which I've said I will do when they remove the cage - cages are for animals. Obviously calling it a martial art wipes away some of the stigma and gives it some superficial legitimacy which is essential to sell the rest of the public on tolerating it.

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June 23, 2013

Hickey changes mind on death penalty, drafts repeal bill for South Dakota

As I tweeted yesterday, this morning I gave a message in my Hot Potatoes series explaining why I changed my mind on the death penalty and why I have asked the Legislative Research Council to draft a bill repealing the death penalty in South Dakota.

Regular readers here and those who know me know that for many, many years I have been quite settled in my pro-death penalty stance and was able to defend it, even Biblically. Obviously, I have done an about face on the issue and for good reason. If you are interested to hear what changed my mind and you have 48 minutes, you can listen to that message here. I talk about the repeal bill at the very end. If that mp3 file doesn't come up, it's available here for streaming or downloading: 2013-06-23 Hot Potatoes: If God Relents, Why Wouldn't We?

I'm heading out of town today but will turn on the comments without moderation and hope for some thoughtful dialog. It's time to revisit this issue in our state and there is ample time between now and the January 2014 session to do so.

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