What Would Bill Do Now?

By: Rolly Samp

           State Government has always been proactive in pandemics.  I remember reading of the effort to get rid of tuberculosis which included building a sanitarium in Custer. And the Spanish Flu of 1918 that even sickened Governor Norbeck.

           The Governor frequently mentions she would like to lead more like Governor Bill Janklow.  Since I was involved for all 20 plus years of working on disaster issues with Governor Bill, along with other initiatives, I have pondered, "What would Governor Bill do Now?" 

           Bill had a unique understanding of politics: how it is as much about perception as reality.  Secondly, he never let a crisis go wasted.  It was his moment to show leadership and help people. 

           From the Budget Crisis of 1980 to Hutterite Fire to Tornado's to forest fires to blizzards and more, Bill saw these as an opportunity to help people, not problems.

           If he were Governor, these are somethings I think he would be doing right now: 

  1.         Call the legislature into session for Coronavirus Disaster Laws. Do it by teleconference.
  2.          I believe Bill would survey all the state agencies asking for any needs they have that could be addressed legislatively or in rules.  This would be the basis for his disaster bill and extended emergency powers. He would call select advisers outside of Pierre and argue for hours on ideas.
  3.          Bill would order the Tourism Division to develop a campaign with the general message "Relax in South Dakota after the Coronavirus disaster." He would think “People are sitting at home, so it's an excellent time to get their attention” and he would get the tourist industry involved in ways to promote South Dakota post-virus.
  4.          I believe Bill would temporarily allow for home delivery of alcoholic beverages from licensees.  He never missed a chance to plug a hole in revenue losses while giving consumer benefits.
  5.          Bill would freeze new hiring of State employees and cut the budget across the board by a fixed percentage; a tactic he used several times.  
  6.          I believe Bill would be doing a master plan for online education that could be implemented not only in this disaster but also in school closings of any kind.
  7.          Bill would urge the South Dakota Activities Association to temporarily extend the eligibility of seniors' spring sports to be played throughout the summer should the virus threat end. 
  8.          Bill would utilize the media to be clear on the extent of the threat and bring hope for the future. He would be both compelling and hopeful
  9.          I'm sure Bill would put a moratorium on farm and ranch foreclosures by banks.  He would make the case that we are going to have a flurry of financial stress in the ag community; given low cattle and commodity prices and banks under pressure to foreclose on loans. 
  10.          Each time Bill talked to the President, he would have a press conference on what he told the President.  So instead of reporting what the President is telling Governors, he would be able to say that, either by letter or in person, he told the President X, Y, Z. Or he would give an exclusive interview for his favorite reporter of the day.

            And that would just be a warm up!

About the Author:

Rollyn H. Samp, a Flandreau native, is a practicing attorney in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Samp was a close friend and political adviser to the late Bill Janklow while Attorney General, Four Term Governor and U.S Representative.