SD State Legislative Candidate Survey: Jim Mehlhaff
PIERRE, S.D. - Jim Mehlhaff is running in the District 24 State Senate race. The district includes the cities of Pierre, Fort Pierre, Philip, Onida, and Highmore in it. He faces one primary challenger, current State Sen. Mary Duvall (R-Pierre).
1. Tell us about yourself?
I was raised in Eureka, SD. I am the 10th of eleven children in my family. When I got out of HS I moved to Redfield and joined the workforce until I moved to Aberdeen to attend NSU. When I got out of college, I moved to Pierre in August of 94. I have made my home here ever since. I met my wife Annie here, got married and raised a family. I have been very involved in the community serving on a number of non-profit boards and 12 years on the Pierre City Commission.
2. Why are you running for this office?
I am running for District 24 Senate because I have been bothered by the slow drift to the left that has been going on for so many years. I don’t believe my views and values have been represented by our current Senator. I want to stand for traditional family values, limited government and taxes and individual freedom. I also believe state government is being outsourced to other communities in the state. I want to make the case that a vibrant and growing capitol city is important to all of district 24 and to the entire state.
3. What would be your top three priorities if elected?
My top priority each day will be District 24. With each vote, I will determine how this bill will impact the people of central South Dakota.
I will work hard to strengthen families and the rights of parents. Each policy decision can have an impact on the family. I will oppose any bill the marginalizes good parents in favor of institutions and/or government.
Good effective government. I have been disturbed by many of the antics that have taken place in the legislature over the years. I will work to find common ground for the benefit of Dist. 24 and South Dakota. I will also work with our dedicated state employees to craft legislation that serves the public interest.
4. What relevant experience would you bring to the office?
I have experience as a private business owner, as a civic leader and as a state regulator. I also have significant community involvement experience serving in leadership positions with Oahe Habitat for Humanity, Pierre Players and Saint Joseph’s School Board. I believe this background gives me a very broad understanding of how government can impact the public, private and non-profit sectors.
5. Do you support tax relief for South Dakotans? If so, what type and how would you make it happen?
I do support tax relief for South Dakotans. Since 2012 the states budget reserves have increased from around $70 million to around $170 million. I believe it is prudent and responsible to keep a reasonable budget reserve, but I think it is clear we are taxing more than is necessary to perform our state duties. I would also be very interested in reviewing programs to see if some could be performed more efficiently by entities other than government. As far as crafting a tax relief package goes, I would want to take some time to engage other legislators and state employees to come up with a successful tax relief plan.
6. Housing availability has become an issue for many South Dakotans. How would you seek to make housing more affordable?
The legislature just completed a study and put a plan in place utilizing about $200 million in general fund and Covid relief dollars. I am in no position to start Monday morning quarterbacking the work that has been done. I think we should allow the plans that have been put in place begin to play out. If we find adjustments are needed, they can be addressed as they come up. Having said all this, I believe the free-market system is the best tool for solving these types of issues. Government involvement often leads to unintended consequences that requires additional intervention and adds to the costs for everybody.
7. South Dakota correctional facilities have been dealing with a number of issues, most prominent among them overcrowding and staffing shortages. What would you do to help combat these issues?
Addressing correctional officer compensation would be step one. Having a well-trained work force with the proper equipment and a high level of job satisfaction and morale would go a long way towards solving the staffing issues. With respect to overcrowding, I think the solution to this issue goes well beyond the department of corrections. In 2018 North Dakota had 1551 people in their prison system; about 5% of state population. South Dakota had 3856, about 9% of our population. Clearly, we could learn something from our neighbors to the North. I know it has been talked about for years, but thus far we have not been able to incorporate the reforms necessary to drive down our prison population. It’s time we did.
8. What steps should the legislature take to entice young people to remain in the state?
I don’t know that there is anything the legislature can or should do with the specific intent of enticing young people to stay in the state. Young people have desires to go out and explore. They like to try new things and have different experiences. I think we would do better to focus on making sure we have a vibrant economy, personal freedom and a lifestyle second to none. If we work towards this goal our young people will explore their options and eventually will reach the conclusion that South Dakota is the best place on earth. Young people from other areas of the country may reach the same conclusion and join us here in South Dakota.
9. Do you support any changes to the way elections are run in South Dakota?
I think we do elections pretty well here.
10. A U.S. Supreme Court decision is looming on a landmark abortion case that could ultimately overturn Roe v. Wade. Governor Kristi Noem has indicated she would like to ban abortion outright, and a “trigger law” already on the books would so, with only an exception in place when the mother’s life is at risk. Do you support banning abortion to this extent? If not, what exceptions would you like to see made?
I support Governor Noem’s position on abortion and I am grateful for her leadership on this very important issue. I am pro-life and it is at the top of my priorities list.
11. What is your stance on legalized, recreational marijuana in South Dakota?
I think my opinion is not very important on this issue. It will be on the ballot; I will vote no and it will very likely pass. If I am in the Senate, I will accept the will of the people and go about the business of putting effective and reasonable regulations in place. I would support regulating it as we do distilled spirits. The municipalities should control the licenses to dispense marijuana. I think it would also be prudent to allow counties to get a portion of any tax revenue that is generated, as it will very likely lead to increased law enforcement and judicial costs that are born by county governments.
State legislative candidates in contested districts this primary season were emailed the same survey to complete for Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory News. Candidates were asked to keep their responses limited to roughly 4-5 sentences for each question. With the exception of a quick spelling and grammar check, answers were not edited by the poster. Those who responded to the survey questions had their results posted.
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