If the Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee needs a project, here’s an idea …

I picked up the glass shards and the rusty nail pictured here during a recent visit to Mitchell's Sandy Beach.

My wife and two kids and I visited Lake Mitchell’s Sandy Beach on Saturday.

Immediately upon our arrival, I noticed glass shards in the sand. That was concerning, because we were all barefoot. Looking around a little more, I realized the shards were not isolated to where we were standing. They were everywhere.

In a span of about five minutes, I collected all of the glass shards pictured above — plus the rusty nail — in an area no bigger than 10 feet in diameter.

Not wanting our kids to end up with cuts in their feet, we left right away.

The Lake Mitchell Advisory Committee has been very active and has done some great things since its creation a few years ago. I hope the committee will see this post and take some action to clean up Sandy Beach.

Are you conflicted about video lottery?

The following sentence jumped out at me today from a story by our state Capitol reporter, Bob Mercer:

Video lottery is the second-largest single source of general revenue for state government after the sales tax.

The story is about the decision to allow lineup games, similar to those found on slot machines, on video lottery machines throughout the state. The mention of video lottery’s status as our state’s second-largest single source of revenue is just an aside, a kind of did-you-know. But it hits with a thud.

When I think of video lottery, I think of a particular place in Mitchell where I often stop to grab breakfast. Many mornings, people are there playing video lottery. This is happening around 8 a.m. Perhaps those people are not addicted, but I suspect they may have a serious problem if they’re gambling that early in the morning and doing so on a regular basis.

Scenes like that make me a little squeamish. I have no problem with video lottery being legal, but I do feel conflicted when I consider the extent to which our state has become dependent on gamblers and casino operators. I suppose I should be happy, because with all of those video lottery players helping to fund state government, I’m shouldering a far lighter burden than I otherwise would.

Still, I can’t help but feel uncomfortable when I see people hunched in front of a screen in a darkened video lottery parlor at 8 a.m. And when I hear that the money those people lose on gambling is the second-largest single source of our state’s general fund revenue, it makes me even more uncomfortable.

Herseth Sandlin says thank you

We received the following op-ed submission from Stephanie Herseth Sandlin this week.

Thank You
By Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

Over the last six and a half years, I have had the privilege of serving you in Congress. Now that my time in office is coming to a close, I want to express my enormous gratitude to the people of South Dakota for giving me the opportunity to serve.  It has been the honor of my lifetime to serve the state that I love  and work on behalf of South Dakota families, communities and businesses.

In addition to being grateful for the trust you placed in me, I am also proud of the progress we made, working together, on behalf of our state since I was first elected in 2004.

While each and every day included proud moments of helping a constituent in need or voting on behalf of South Dakota’s priorities in the U.S. House, a few milestones stand out.

•       Helping to write and pass the last Farm Bill, which does right by South Dakota in our agriculture economy.
•       Passing my bill, the Tribal Law and Order Act, to help ensure a better sense of safety and security in Indian Country.
•       Helping to write and pass a new GI Bill to invest in our veterans’ education, and passing legislative provisions I authored to better meet the needs of women veterans.
•       Working with South Dakota Ag producers and leaders in the biofuels industry to see not one but two historic Renewable Fuel Standards become law.
•       Collaborating with the delegation and local leaders in a bipartisan effort to save Ellsworth Air Force base and add new missions there.
•       Reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program so that more kids in South Dakota can have better health care.

But it’s the personal relationships I’ve made with countless South Dakotans that matter most: our servicemen and women and their families; the small business owners who put everything they have into their endeavors to create jobs and contribute to our economy; the students and teachers I met in South Dakota classrooms and in Washington when they came to visit our nation’s capital; the farmers and ranchers who weather both natural disasters and market fluctuations year after year.

The enduring spirit and basic goodness of South Dakotans is what has always inspired my desire to serve, and I am forever grateful for the opportunity to do so.  Max, Zachary and I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas, and a safe, happy and blessed new year.

N.Y. Times: Thune blasts spending bill, yet inserts millions in earmarks

From the N.Y. Times:

WASHINGTON — Dozens of senators who voted to ban the practice of earmarking nevertheless requested nearly $1 billion for pet projects in the spending bill released Tuesday.

… Mr. Thune requested nearly $38.5 million, most of it with his fellow South Dakota senator, Tim Johnson, a Democrat. About $25 million was for construction at military installations.

Asked about the earmarks, Mr. Thune said he supported the projects, but opposed the spending bill.

Click here for the full article.

Thune talks to Roll Call about 2012 presidential prospects

Roll Call has a story about our own Sen. John Thune’s presidential aspirations. The best part is this quote from Sen. John McCain:

“I’ve said a thousand times: If I looked like John Thune, I’d be president of the United States,” McCain quipped, before adding: “I certainly think he’s a viable candidate, but it’s way too early to start handicapping.”

To read the whole story, click here.