CEO’s Report: Legislative Outlook

The American Public Power Association recently published an article, Making a difference: Advocating for public power. It provides a concise account of why building relationships with legislators is vital to the future of public power.

Heartland has long advocated for customers both on the state and federal levels. It is important to be involved in the legislature so decisions impacting our future aren’t made without our knowledge.

APPA CEO Joy Ditto also penned an editorial worth reading, Everyone is an advocate.

Having served in the South Dakota Legislature for many years, I have a natural passion for the legislative process. Now, we have another advocate in with boots on the ground in Pierre. Heartland Director of Economic Development Casey Crabtree serves in the Senate representing District 8.

Heartland also engages with lobbyists to keep an ear to the ground for bills that may impact any of our customers. We keep an eye on legislatures in each state we serve.

South Dakota

The last few years have been quite hectic during the legislative session. We saw bills aimed to restrict a municipality’s right to serve electric load in annexed areas. Heartland and our customers lobbied extensively against these proposals.

Fortunately, those bills never came to fruition as they would have been harmful to economic development in the state and hurt our customers.

This year, we aren’t seeing any bills of that extreme, but are still watching a few.

One bill the South Dakota Municipal League is keeping a close eye is HB 1050.

The bill would put in place an automatic increase for newspaper rates for publishing legal notices. It would also set up a statewide website through the South Dakota Newspaper Association.

The bill was put on hold after a fiscal note was requested on the House floor. Since the state also makes public notices, legislators would like to determine the cost to the state general fund before moving further.

An alternative bill, HB 1120, would have the state set up a website where meeting agendas, minutes and links to live meetings could be placed. SDML supports this bill.

A bill has also been introduced, HB 1117, to make permanent the ability for public meetings to take place virtually or via conference call if the entire governing body is meeting remotely. Notice provisions would apply as usual and information would be given to the public on how to participate.

Senate Bill 34 would appropriate $100 million to expand rural access to broadband services. It passed out of the Join Committee on Appropriations on a vote of 8 to 0.

If you don’t subscribe to SDML’s weekly legislative updates, I would encourage you to do so. Good information is provided, feedback is sought and concrete points give to communicate with your legislators.


In Minnesota, clean energy continues to be a hot button issue. Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association offers insight into the 2021 Legislative Session.

Clean Energy First (CEF) legislation seeks to increase non-carbon-emitting or “clean” energy in each utility’s resource mix through the Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) process.

MMUA believes a well-designed CEF approach will steer utilities towards the continued increase in the use of clean energy without artificial deadlines that fail to recognize technological limits and physical obstacles. Minnesota utilities have already made changes that have resulted in significant reductions in CO2 emissions below 2005 levels.

The Conservation Improvement Program (CIP) continues to require modernization to allow utilities flexibility at the local level. The current CIP has exhausted much of its benefit in many communities. MMUA believes it needs to be re-energized to enable utilities to achieve conservation goals, enhance low-income customers’ access to energy-saving resources, and foster the development of emerging and evolving technologies more effectively.

MMUA also opposes any effort to impose the mandated use of 100% renewable sources of energy, or any similar legislation that creates an artificial threshold without addressing the need to maintain local and system-wide reliability. Massive improvements to the transmission system, and substantial advances in storage technology will be necessary before Minnesota can approach a 100% renewable system.

More information about these and other issues important to Minnesota utilities can be found by visiting MMUA’s website.


Legislative priorities for the Iowa Association of Municipal Utilities on the energy side include transmission cost control and a digital services sales tax exemption.

Most of Iowa’s municipal utilities are distribution only utilities and are dependent on transmission owned by much larger, interstate public utilities. Municipal utilities are sensitive to the need to provide the lowest possible rates. IAMU supports costs controls for transmission projects to insulate municipal utilities from increasing transmission costs.

IAMU also supports tax exemptions for municipally owned electric and natural gas utilities who obtain digital products and services for their own internal use. Iowa law gives for-profit investor-owned utilities and non-profit financial institutions an exemption from paying the 6% sales tax on various electronic services used for commercial purposes. IAMU supports efforts to grant municipal utilities the same exemptions.

IAMU issues emails a legislative update title Capitol Links. Contact IAMU to subscribe.


The League of Nebraska Municipalities has voted to support several bills so far during their state legislative session.

LB 178 would establish a turnback of state sales tax revenue to provide funds to municipalities to pay for infrastructure improvements. The state would pay back a portion of the state sales tax imposed on fees associated with infrastructure.

LB 83 is a top priority bill for the league. Like South Dakota’s bill, it would allow public bodies to meet by teleconference or virtual conference, subject to the Open Meetings Act.

As always, we encourage you to reach out to your legislators. It’s always important to maintain a good rapport with those representing you. Invite them to coffee, attend a cracker barrel or invite them to tour your community. The better relationship you have, the easier it is to talk to them when an important issue arises.

We will keep you apprised of any major developments we see out of state legislatures within our customer base.

We will also be watching federal policy and participating in the APPA virtual Legislative Rally next month. I would encourage you to sign up as it is free this year to all APPA members. A new administration will certainly bring new priorities and it is important to stay abreast of the issues.

I hope you all are staying healthy and look forward to seeing everyone at our Annual Meeting in May.

Making the most of the SDML Conference

By South Dakota Municipal League; Originally appeared in the September 2018 issue of South Dakota Municipalities; reprinted with permission


The 85th South Dakota Municipal League Annual Conference kicks off October 2, 2018 at the Ramkota Hotel and Conference Center in Pierre, SD. SDML offers the following tips to ensure you get the most out of your conference experience.

Before you go

Bring a good idea from home to share and a supply of business cards. If your city has promotional stickers or pins, bring a supply to share to make your hometown visible and help you make connections.

Make a plan

When you arrive, review the full program of sessions. Mapout the sessions you will attend. If others from your community are attending, decide together who will go to what. Your municipality will gain the most when attendees divide and conquer. ALL MEETINGS ARE OPEN TO ALL ATTENDEES.


If you are a first time attendee, plan on going to the “Orientation for New Attendees” session on Wednesday morning so you can learn more about the conference and the League, as well as meet other first-timers.

Attend the sessions

All sessions listed on the conference program are open to ALL conference attendees – you do not have to be a member of the affiliate group to attend their meeting.

For the Elected Officials

While you are welcome to attend any of the meetings you see in the program, the elected officials are especially invited to join the SD Finance Officers’Association to hear about dealing with both planned events and natural disasters. The Incident Command System will be discussed, along with the significance of the local officials’ roles and responsibilities. On Thursday, Elected Officials have their own session dealing with the local impact of methamphetamine’s; project management, technology, and federal postal services.

Take notes

Good session notes – complete with notations of who you want to share the information with after the conference and ideas the information generates – will be invaluable when you prepare a summary. Plan to share it with other municipal officials, citizens and appropriate staff.

Daily review

Each evening as you wind down from the day of sensory overload, review your session notes and jot down the top three discoveries. What were the most important, pertinent, useful or amazing discoveries that day? How are they significant to your municipality? Write them down. And – on a specific day in your calendar – note an idea you want to pursue.


Make it a habit to introduce yourself to others around you at session and events. Have plenty of business cards to share. You can start conversations by asking questions. What part of the  conference have they enjoyed most so far? How long has he/she held his/her position? What are the biggest issues the community faces? You may have common concerns to explore, or  solutions that your community has developed.

Visit the exhibits

Exhibitors have a lot of experience with municipalities and are experts in their field. They can be great sources of information and solutions for municipal concerns. Exhibits are open 8 a.m. to 4  p.m. on Wednesday and 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Thursday.

Policy Committees

If you serve on a Policy Committee, those meet on Wednesday afternoon. If you are not on a policy committee, this is an excellent opportunity to sit in on one that is of interest to you. Policy Committees shape the Statement of Policy that guides the League’s legislative agenda for the coming session.


Make sure your municipality has a voting delegate at the business meeting on Friday morning so your voice is counted in the election of League board members and the adoption of the Policy Statement.


Know what it costs your municipality to send you to the conference and be prepared to talk about the benefits your local government receives as a result. Municipal government is a lot like parenthood. It is impossible to know all about it until you are in the thick of it. There is a lot of on-the-job learning – and the SDML Conference is the single best forum for learning about municipal governance in South Dakota.


Relax and enjoy the sights and delights of Pierre. Take time to renew yourself every evening to be refreshed the next day. Return home with your notes, contacts, resources, ideas, and dreams – and the commitment to make a difference with what you have learned!

City employees given awards

Article originally appeared in the October 26, 2017 issue of the Volga Tribune. Reprinted with permission.

The employees of the city of Volga were presented Gold Level and Platinum Level Loss Control/Safety Achievement awards at the annual South Dakota Municipal League Conference in Sioux Falls earlier in October.

The awards honor employees for their efforts in protecting the assets of the city of Volga by making the workplace safer, reducing liability exposures and saving the taxpayers’ dollars through loss control.

The city was one of 27 utilities that received a gold in recognition for the loss control/safety efforts. This was the employees’ eighth year to receive this award.

The city was also one of 16 entities to receive a platinum level award. The South Dakota Public Assurance Alliance and the SDML Workers’ Compensation Fund presented the awards in recognition of their outstanding and comprehensive loss control/safety program, also for the eighth time.

City employees honored were Jameson Berreth, city administrator; Ashley Rentsch, city finance officer; Mary Ries, deputy finance officer; Chad Collins, electric superintendent; Kevin Steen, public works supervisor; and Jon Hauge, water/wastewater department.

SDMEA seeking Director of Municipal Electric Services

South Dakota Municipal Electric Association is seeking applicants for the position of Director of Municipal Electric Services. Duties include providing association director services to SD municipalities which own and operate their electric utilities.

The ideal candidate will possess excellent organizational skills, excellent oral and written communication skills, interest in lobbying, and demonstrate an enthusiasm for topics related to municipal electric utilities. Candidates should possess a bachelor’s degree in political science, public or business administration, communications or a related field, or an equivalent combination of education and experience.

The position offers in and out of state travel, a pleasant working environment with offices in Ft. Pierre, SD, and an excellent benefits package. Salary DOQ. EOE. Full job description and application HERE.

Applicants should send a resume, letter of interest, and application postmarked by Wednesday, August 1, 2016 to:  Executive Director, SDML, 208 Island Drive, Ft. Pierre, SD 57532.

South Dakota finance officers eligible for “Finance Officer of the Year” award

South Dakota Municipal League is now accepting nominations for the 2016-2017 Finance Officer of the Year award. All nominations must be submitted in writing by May 1, 2016. The award will be presented during the 2016 Finance Officers’ School, held June 8-10 in Spearfish, SD.

Finance Officer of the Year is sponsored by the South Dakota Governmental Finance Officers’ Association. It recognizes individuals who serve as finance officer and have made personal and professional contributions to their municipality and community.

The nomination form can be found at or downloaded here: Nomination Form (PDF).

Please submit the forms to South Dakota Municipal League, 208 Island Drive, Ft. Pierre, SD 57532.

McLaughlin officials inducted into Municipal Hall of Fame

Congratulations to McLaughlin Finance Officer Della Hauck and Utility Manager Lornie Hach for their recent inductions into the South Dakota Municipal League Hall of Fame. The SDML Hall of Fame honors elected and appointed officials and employees who have served municipalities in South Dakota for 20 or more years. Hauck and Hach were recognized as inductees at SDML’s Annual Conference in October.

Della Hauck, McLaughlin, 31 Years
Della Hauck started with the city of McLaughlin in 1984 as the assistant finance officer. In 1995 she became the finance officer and still holds this position. Della has served as the president of the McLaughlin Fun Day Committee and secretary and treasurer for the Centennial Celebration in 2009. She is a member of the Redeemer Lutheran Church where she is known for her cheese buttons. Della enjoys decorating and has decorated for church dinners, celebration dinners, weddings and yes, even funerals.

Lornie Hach, McLaughlin, 36 Years
Lornie Hach is the utility manager for the city of McLaughlin. He started working for the city in 1979 and has been involved with most aspects of the water, sewer, street, electrical, and airport projects since then. Lornie has been a journeyman lineman for over 20 years and is a certified Class I in water and sewer. He has served as an EMT, Jaycee member, and school board member. He has been a member of the fire department since 1979.

The SDML Hall of Fame is ongoing. If 20 years of service is completed by September 30, 2016, you are eligible to be inducted into the Hall of Fame at the 2016 Annual conference in Rapid City. Nomination forms will be available with conference information in 2016 at

The South Dakota Municipal League (SDML) was organized in 1934 as a nonpartisan, nonprofit association of incorporated municipalities in South Dakota. The League’s mission is the cooperative improvement of municipal government in South Dakota.

Parker Finance Officer retiring

After 15 years serving as finance officer for the city of Parker, SD, Jeanne Duchscher will retire December 31.

“Jeanne has been a great asset for the city of Parker,” said Heartland CEO Russell Olson. “She brought a wealth of knowledge and positive energy to her position and she will be missed.”

Jeanne DuchscherDuring her tenure in Parker, Duchscher has been a strong advocate for her community. She is a board member of the Parker Development Corporation and is involved with Parker’s planning and zoning commission. She has also been active in multiple industry organizations and taken on various leadership roles. She is a member of the South Dakota Governmental Finance Officer Association and served as president from 2009-2010. She is a past board member of the South Dakota Municipal League (SDML), serving as the association’s 1st vice president in 2013 and president in 2014, and has been a member of SDML’s policy committee.

In 2013 she was recognized for her achievements by SDML with the Excellence in Municipal Government Award. South Dakota Senator Corey Brown presented the award to Duchscher, saying she  was “instrumental in gaining recognition and economic development projects for her city.”

In 2015, Duchscher attended the National League of Cities Convention in Washington, D.C. and was asked to participate in a special task force committee with others from across the country to discuss water and wastewater funding.

A native of Rugby, ND, Duchscher attended Minot State College in Minot, ND. Prior to her position in Parker, Duchscher was the business manager for the Wall, SD School District for eight years and for the Northwest School District in Lodgepole, SD for  seven years.

Upon her retirement, Duchscher plans to spend more time with her family. She and her husband of 44 years, Tim, have two children and one grandson. She will enjoy the peace and quiet, but will certainly miss at least one aspect of her job.

“I will miss the people–the residents, city of Parker employees and all the people I have met related to government financing,” Duchscher said. “There are good people in Parker who care about their community and help each other when someone is in need.”

Congratulations Jeanne!


Long-time Madison electric superintendent retires

After 40 years of service to the city of Madison, SD, Dennis Poppen retired as electric superintendent May 1. Colleagues, friends and family celebrated his retirement in late April with an open house.

“Dennis has been a dedicated employee with a lot of knowledge and passion for the job,” said Madison Load Management Operator Tess Nelson. “He will be missed.”

Originially from Howard, SD, Poppen was hired by the city of Madison in November 1974 as an apprentice lineman. During his tenure, he also served as a foreman before taking over as electric superintendent in 2001.

From left to right: Heartland Communications Manager Ann Hyland and Lake Area Improvement Corporation Executive Director Julie Gross celebrate with Dennis Poppen at his retirement open house.
From left to right: Heartland Communications Manager Ann Hyland and Lake Area Improvement Corporation Executive Director Julie Gross celebrate with Dennis Poppen at his retirement open house.

Looking back on his career, Poppen notes the integration of technology and switching from overhead to underground power lines as some of the biggest changes he’s witnessed. He recalls the flood of 1993 as the biggest obstacle he helped overcome, when a large portion of the city was under water and many residents were without power for an extended period of time. He also remembers helping to build a new generation plant and substation in 1994 and 1995 as one of the more significant projects from his tenure. 

Throughout his career, Poppen served on a variety of boards and committees, including the South Dakota Municipal Electric Association Board of Trustees and Heartland’s Customer Connections Committee. He also served on safety committees for the Health Pool of SD and the South Dakota Municipal League (SDML), and helped plan SDML’s annual superintendent conference.

Poppen and his wife Rosie live in Madison. They have two children and one grandchild. His plans for retirement include spending more time with his family as well as hunting and fishing.

Congratulations Dennis!

Recognize outstanding city officials and programs with special awards

Every day, city officials throughout our customer communities do outstanding work that promotes and improves the local quality of life. Each year, state municipal associations in South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa present special awards to recognize these outstanding individuals and showcase their accomplishments.

South Dakota Municipal League

Residents in South Dakota can recognize their local finance officer for their significant contributions with the Finance Officer of the Year award, presented by the SD Governmental Finance Officers’ Association and the SD Municpal League. Nominees are honored for the personal and professional accomplishments as well as the number of years of service to their municipality. Previous recipients include Marcia Thompson from the city of Volga and Jeff Heinemeyer from the city of Madison.

Nomination forms are available at and the deadline is May 15. The winner will be announced during the 2015 Finance Officers’ School, scheduled for June 10-12 in Pierre, SD. Nominations are kept confidential and multiple entries are accepted.

SDML also presents an annual Excellence in Municipal Government Award, given to elected officials and municipal employees who have made an outstanding contribution to the further improvement of municipal government in the state. Nominations are made by SDML members and the Past Presidents’ Committee recommends the recipient. Parker Finance Officer Jeanne Duchscher won the award in 2013. Nominations are accepted every summer and presented every fall during the SDML Annual Conference.

League of Minnesota Cities

The League of Minnesota Cities (LMC) honors the special achievements of cities and city leaders with their annual City of Excellence, C.C. Ludwig and Leadership Awards.

The City of Excellence Award recognizes cities for programs that have helped their cities progress in some way. Awards are given in three different population categories and by one special topic, which varies year to year. The 2015 topical category is “Parks & Recreation Programs and Topics.”

The city of Madelia, MN received the 2014 City of Excellence Award for populations less than 5,000. The city was recognized for its efforts in establishing the Younger Brothers State Wildlife Management Area on approximately 40 acres of previously decommissioned, unusable land. A portion of the area was specifically designed to be accessible to people with disabilities while the remaining land was graded and seeded to promote habitat for pheasants, water fowl and deer.

The C.C. Ludwig Award recognizes elected officials who have made significant contributions to Minnesota city government. Similarly, the Leadership Award honors appointed city officials who have gone above and beyond the call of duty for their city and all Minnesota cities.

More information about all three awards and entry forms are available at The entry deadline is May 1. The awards will be presented during the LMC Annual Conference in Duluth June 24-26.

Iowa League of Cities

Share the great things your city is doing by applying for the Iowa League of Cities’ All-Star Community Award, which acknowledges and encourages excellence in local government. The All-Star Community Award provides an opportunity for officials and staff of member cities to receive recognition for their superior and impactful efforts. In addition, the program provides a means for sharing Iowa’s best public service ideas and demonstrates that those involved with local government are progressive, caring and committed to their communities. The city of Auburn, IA is a past recipient.

In 2015, the League is adding an interactive, social media component to the program, introducing a bracket-style competition on Facebook that will engage cities and their citizens in the awards process. Learn more or download the application at Applications are due April 6. The winner of the People’s All-Star award will be announced at the League’s Annual Conference & Exhibit September 24.