The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

I knew Bill Janklow. Bill Janklow was an enemy of mine. And you, sir, seem to be trying to emulate Bill Jankllow.

The following editorial appeared in several So. Dak. periodicals and newspapers in the spring of 1999, including the editorial page of the Rapid City Journal, on 13 March, 1999. No one replied to the Journal with a dispute over the facts.

All events depicted in this account occurred. Attributed quotations are accurate. I saw and heard all the events narrated below. As we review the events of the 2014 So. Dak. legislative session, we can reflect on the hammer-handed regime of the craziest sumbich ever to have settled his mean, fat, ass in the So. Dak. governor's chair.

by Bob Newland

It stormed into town, angry and red-faced. It stomped around the capitol, terrorizing children and the faint of conviction, and coughing up kuchen. A month later, it slunk out, humiliated and red-faced. It was... Senate Bill 210.

Governor Janklow asked the Senate State Affairs Committee to introduce SB210: "Any person who has been convicted of possession, use, or distribution of a controlled substance or marijuana or who has received a suspended imposition of sentence for such possession, use, or distribution, shall, in addition to any other penalties, serve thirty days in the state penitentiary, no part of which may be waived or suspended."

Thirty days in the Pen for a hempseed in your trunk, presuming the court or jury decided you knew it was there.

Senate State Affairs heard testimony from judges and prosecutors that 210 would clog the system. So Senate State Affairs drafted a kinder, gentler, 210 -- reducing the mandatory minimum from 30 to ten days in the custody of the Department of Corrections (instead of specifically the state penitentiary), and allowing judges to depart from the mandatory ten-day sentence if they filed a written explanation. Apparently for balance, though, it set a $1000 bounty on the heads of misdemeanor drug offenders and an open-ended price on felony offenders, appropriating a million dollars for the snitch fund.

Having undergone group therapy, equipped with an attitude adjustment, 210 went to the Senate floor. The whole Senate debated SB210, amended it to make the ten days mandatory for a second offense, removed the $1000 bounty, and sent 210 Lite to the House State Affairs Committee with a disclaimer written under the title; "This bill has been extensively amended (hoghoused) and may no longer be consistent with the original intention of the sponsors."

About this time, some citizens of German extraction from Eureka came to Pierre serving kuchen, in expectation that the legislature would resurrect Eureka from ignominy by declaring kuchen the official State Dessert. Governor Janklow happened by the kuchen table in the capitol rotunda, and sampled. "This is wonderful!" he said. "Let's make Eureka South Dakota's first entirely drug-free town. When the legislature sets up my $1000 bounty, let's make sure the first snitch payment goes to a citizen of Eureka."

The Eurekans looked at each other, then at the floor, and shuffled their feet. The mayor of Eureka offered Janklow another helping of kuchen, having noticed the governor sometimes stopped speaking when his mouth was full.

In anticipation of 210's appearance in House State Affairs, the governor took the House Republicans to the woodshed, threatening dire consequences if they didn't restore the first-offense provision and the bounty. He threatened not to sign the bill in its Senate-amended form. He also threatened to take an active role in defeating Republican defectors in the next election.

The only proponents of 210 to testify were Governor Janklow and his chief-of-staff, Dave Knudson. Janklow said, "I don't have many moral principles, but I get a visceral anger when I think about people giving drugs to young girls and then USING these young girls. That's why we need this bill.

"Now, when I drive over the speed limit, which I do a lot, I take a calculated risk. I know it's gonna cost me $167 if I get caught. I don't mind that. But if I knew I'd go to jail for two days, I wouldn't speed. That's why we need this bill. Everybody knows they've got one free time getting caught with drugs. We've gotta change that."

Knudson said, "We're losing the war on drugs. That's why we need this bill." When asked the goal of the war on drugs, Knudson said, "To eliminate wrecking of lives due to drugs."

First to testify in opposition to 210, I pointed out that no prohibition law has ever worked, and, in fact, has always resulted in an effect exactly opposite the stated goals. Curt Mortenson, the eloquent Stanley County State's Attorney, said, "This bill is the biggest pile of crap I've ever seen." Mike Buenger, speaking for the Unified Judicial System, said, "Enactment of this bill will create a backlog of jury trials which will gridlock the courts."

Tom Barnett, brother of South Dakota Attorney-General Mark Barnett, and lobbyist for the South Dakota State Bar, opposed the bill. Barnett told me, "Alcohol accounts for the vast majority of prematurely-lost virginity in this state, not drugs."

Nick Braune, lobbyist for the South Dakota Peace and Justice Center, opposed the bill, too, as did state senator Frank Kloucek, who, in a moment of weirdness hardly noticed in the context, accused Governor Janklow of making an offensive phone call to Kloucek's daughter last year. Janklow denied the charge.

Janklow then figuratively sank to his knees, "Just give me the bill," he said. "What we're doing isn't working. Just give me the bill. Heck, it won't even go into effect until July 1. You people are all going to be back here in January. You can repeal it then, if you don't like it. Heck, you can even put a sunset on it. Just give me the bill. You can't let these monsters be giving 14-year-old girls drugs and then violating them." He blinked back a tear, staggering a little under the weight of his convictions as he rose.

Representative Dick Brown, member of the State Affairs committee, questioned the governor. "This bill gives judges the option to depart from the minimum sentence as long as they send a note to the clerk, right?" "Yes," said Janklow. "So it really doesn't change anything, right?" continued Brown. "That's right," replied Janklow.

"Look," Janklow said, "it just says we're gonna remand 'em to the custody of the Department of Corrections. They don't have to go to Sioux Falls. They might go to Redfield, or Springfield. They might just clean up the grounds at the State Fair.

"Heck, it won't even cost us much. They're not a threat to escape, so we won't need many more guards. We'll feed 'em a few meals, that's about it. Then we'll send 'em back home with a new, drug-avoiding, outlook."

So what had begun as a get-tough, take no prisoners..., uh..., no, a get-tough, take EVERYBODY prisoner, shock'em straight, no-nonsense thirty days in the Pen was now being touted as a "not really changing anything" bill. And the governor was begging for it.

House State Affairs, swayed by the governor's impeccable logic, and apparently invigorated with new knowledge of their moral righteousness, reinstated the $1000 bounty and the first-offense provision and sent the bill to the House floor.

On Day 37 of the 74th South Dakota Legislature, the House as a whole agreed with Rapid City Senator Mike Wilson that SB210 was ugly, regardless of Dave Knudson's articulate explication of the goal of the war on drugs, and tabled it 40-29, thus killing it. One might extrapolate that dinner in the governor's mansion the evening of March 4, 1999, was punctuated by the sound of plates breaking against the walls.

Oh, the kuchen bill failed also. South Dakota is still without a State Dessert, and Eureka still stands the same chance as it did two months ago of being South Dakota's first drug-free, but snitch-replete, community.

Author's note. I ran into Dick Brown a few months later. He was still picking Janklow's pubic hair out of his teeth.

There were several newspaper reporters in the committee room. None reported Janklow's statements. That's passive fellatio, I guess.