SD State Legislative Candidate Survey: Michael Rohl
Aberdeen, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Incumbent State Senator Michael Rohl (R-Aberdeen) is running in the District 1 State Senate race. The district includes portions of Brown, Day, Marshall, and Roberts counties. He faces one primary challenger, Joe Donnell.
1. Tell us about yourself?
I was born and raised in Brown County. I grew up working in an entrepreneurial family. This gave me an amazing background in multiple industries at a young age. I obtained my Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Accounting, Entrepreneurial Management, and Marketing from Drake University in 2013. I live in rural Brown County with my three dogs: Howard, Jack-Jack, and Teddy. I’ve spent the last six years running our family-owned businesses, and the last two years serving in the State Senate. I was appointed and served on the Midwest Council of State Governments Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee, the 2021 South Dakota Cannabis Legislative Taskforce, and the 2022 South Dakota Regional Jail Taskforce. I also serve on 2 of the top 3 most powerful committees in the state (Senate State Affairs and Senate Judiciary) which is usually reserved for Senate leadership and extremely rare for a freshman legislator. This has given our district a true voice in Pierre instead of just a vote. This year alone I personally wrote 7 bills that were enacted into law while also obtaining hundreds of millions of infrastructure dollars and educational funding for NE SD.
2. Why are you running for this office?
As a 31-year-old incumbent Senator that just finished my first term, I feel there is still a lot of good I can get done for my district and our State. NE SD has been my family’s home for the past 100+ years, and they have supported our family and businesses the entire time. This allowed me great advantages in life, and I owe the people of NE SD a debt that I am trying to repay. Being a complete political outsider that was able to get elected in 2020, I believe it is healthy for democracy and good governance to have educated normal citizens in government. I was also frustrated with the good intentioned, but sloppy legislation coming out of Pierre.
3. What would be your top three priorities if elected?
Workforce Solutions: It’s the largest problem across our state in almost every industry. Our education system is severely understaffed, and small businesses are struggling to survive with the cost of inflation and the lack of workforce availability. Problems this large aren’t solved by one bill and need to be attacked on multiple fronts with careful government intervention. We have already taken big steps to help start this process including: $200 million to partner with municipalities for physical housing infrastructure (water, gas, electrical, sewage), spending $50 million to create a $200 million needs-based education scholarship for SD families, $600 million for new water infrastructure, and $60 million for water/sewer projects. I’ve also successfully passed SB 101 this year into law, which deregulated government to help our mom-and-pop gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, and community centers hire the workers they need. I will continue to create pro-education and pro-small business policies for our communities.
Property Tax Relief: The pressure of inflation is squeezing families to the point where we need to fix a broken property tax system. I advocated for the summer study this summer to do just that. We need to create a better formula for SD Families that also doesn’t just put the burden on the counties to enforce state laws. I believe the best strategy is again to take multiple approaches at such a big problem. First, we are going to study county and state jail systems to create a better synergy between the state and counties. This will relieve some pressure on the state and county budgets if done properly. It can also be used to allow nonviolent, low-level offenders to continue to be productive members of society while focusing our prison resources on violent, high-level offenders. Secondly, we need to recreate our formula requirements to allow counties the flexibility they need on the local level, including flooded agricultural land.
Meth and Opioid Addiction: This is a passion project for me. I have seen too many times what meth and opioid addictions have done to people, families, and communities. It is a major problem in rural South Dakota that is rarely addressed with meaningful legislation. I have worked these last two years to support emergency crisis centers, enhance dealer penalties, funding teen court, and rehabilitation programs, but more needs to be done and I will continue to fiercely work on it. We need to get our friends, family, and neighbors out of the “black market” where they are exposed to these life changing drugs. Users of these drugs are far more likely to commit other crimes to pay for their habits. A frequent target of these drug addicts is South Dakota’s video lottery system because it is all cash based. I successfully passed legislation this year to revise our video lottery program
that was written in the 1980′s with updated language to allow retailers to use better technology to decrease their cash on hand, lowering the risk for robbery and the amount of money that could be taken into the black market, while improving our accounting processes. I will continue to work every angle I can to make our communities have less meth and addictive opioids.
4. What relevant experience would you bring to the office?
Having grown up in a business family, I was able to learn several industries at a young age. This gave me a strong foundation in business, work ethic, and personal responsibility. These skills have allowed me to succeed multiple times in my first term in the Senate. In fact, this year alone I put 8 bills on the Governor’s Desk. I have built strong working relationships with my legislative colleagues and consistently garner the support needed. I was also on Senate State Affairs and Senate Judiciary, giving my district a powerful voice in Pierre.
5. Do you support tax relief for South Dakotans? If so, what type and how would you make it happen?
Yes – I believe there are three steps that should be taken. Firstly, by supporting a smart policy on our regional and state prison systems will alleviate some pressure for the counties budgets. This will allow counties to be less aggressive on their property taxes. Secondly, I believe we need to reformulate our property tax formula and create a better solution for flooded agricultural lands. Thirdly, when cannabis becomes taxed in the legal market, I believe the tax money should predominately go to the counties and some to the townships. This will be a double win for a county budget as it will create a revenue stream while also canceling out a revenue expense. While some may argue that will create more social costs – I would argue we are already experiencing those social costs without any of the benefit and we should work to pull as much money out of the black market as possible.
6. Housing availability has become an issue for many South Dakotans. How would you seek to make housing more affordable?
We have already taken some steps this past session to fund physical infrastructure to assist municipalities and private industry in facilitating more housing (and broadband access). We certainly can do a better job as a legislature going through the government regulations on the home buying and building processes. I also believe it is important to continue to keep regulations you see in other areas out of SD, like regulations requiring houses built in brick or a specific product that over inflates the cost of materials, etc.
7. South Dakota correctional facilities have been dealing with several issues, most prominent among them overcrowding and staffing shortages. What would you do to help combat these issues?
I am a part of a summer study this year to work on this very issue with regional jails. I believe we have a great opportunity for a strong synergy between our county jails and our state prison system that can financially benefit both parties; and provide a better path forward for the inmates. It would reduce the needed staff, decrease the traveling done transporting inmates, and allow for better rehabilitation opportunities.
8. What steps should the legislature take to entice young people to remain in the state?
We have already started this process. Our Freedom Scholarship and the investments in our colleges (specifically Northern, SDSU, and DSU) will pay dividends by providing the needed workforce for high paying jobs. We also need to do more. Our quality of life is great in SD, but we can always do more to reduce government control of our lives and promote true freedom of choice and personal responsibility. This coupled with smart economic development will ensure a bright future.
9. Do you support any changes to the way elections are run in South Dakota?
Yes – I would like to take smart steps to make our election processes safer, more transparent, and make sure our election results are reflective of our community’s desires. I was a proud co-sponsor of a bill this year that banned companies, like Facebook, from using private funds to pay for public elections. While most of the population would assume that was already illegal, it wasn’t and happed in 2020. We put a stop to that this year, private companies shouldn’t be selectively funding certain elections; that is a clear governmental role.
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 am a pro-life Senator that will protect the lives of the unborn. I also support IVF and family surrogacy. I believe we must honor, cherish, and promote life. I have a strong record protecting the unborn, as evident by my A rating with SD Right to Life.
11. What is your stance on legalized, recreational marijuana in South Dakota?
South Dakota has a broken policy on cannabis that isn’t working. This broken system is building a bridge for individuals into a far more dangerous black market that we need to stop. I believe the voters told us this in 2020, and I have supported their decision. It will go back to the voters this fall and I will again honor the people’s vote.
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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