SD Legislative candidate survey: Michael Rohl

The South Dakota State Capitol Building in Pierre at sunrise.
The South Dakota State Capitol Building in Pierre at sunrise.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: Oct. 31, 2022 at 9:27 PM CDT
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ABERDEEN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Michael Rohl is a Republican running for re-election to the South Dakota State Senate in District 1. District 1 consists of a portion of Brown county, and includes the counties of Day, Marshall, and Roberts. Rohl will face Independent Susan Wismer, who he previously defeated as a Democrat in 2020.

SD State Sen. Michael Rohl (R-Aberdeen)
SD State Sen. Michael Rohl (R-Aberdeen)(Submitted)

1. Who are you? Tell us about yourself in 100 words or less.

I was born and raised in Brown County. I’ve spent the last six years running our family-owned businesses, and the last two years serving in the State Senate. This year alone, during my first term in office, 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. In 2022 I was honored with a nationwide 20 under 40 for bipartisan leadership.

2. What prompted you to run for office/re-election?

As a 32-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. My district deserves a strong, effective voice and my opponent does provide that; but I do.

3. What public policies are you passionate about? What would your policy priorities be in Pierre?

Workforce: 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 small retailers hire the workers they need. I will continue to create pro-education and pro-small business policies for our communities while doing everything I can to help ease the pain of inflation.

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 after hearing from a lot of people in District 1 about the problems. Property tax is the only revenue for a county currently which puts a lot of pressure on landowners to carry the weight. We divide property tax by ag land, business, owner occupied, and other. Anytime you provide relief to one group, you burden another. We need to provide relief across the board, and I believe I have a coalition of legislators with a plan to do just that. If IM 27 passes, we have a strong plan to direct the tax revenue to the counties to enhance our schools, jails, and provide relief to all property taxpayers. If it doesn’t, we still have a modest plan to help relieve pressure on the families that need it.

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 illegal 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 illegal market in the future, while improving our accounting processes. I will continue to work every angle I can to make our communities have less meth and addictive opioids while providing better rehabilitation and treatment options for those who need it. It’s smart policy.

4. Cutting the grocery tax has become central to this election cycle. Do you think that the legislature should cut the grocery tax next legislative session? Is there any taxes you would cut instead, or in addition to?

I am always looking for ways, and open to having conversations, to save taxpayers money. However, I think it’s important to first fully fund our obligations, like education and rural health care.

5. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier in the year. South Dakota currently has a law that prevents abortion almost completely outright. Are there any exceptions you would like to see the legislature enact? What other laws would you like to see passed to support mothers and families?

I have a 92% rating with pro-life issues; however, I don’t think the trigger law was well-crafted. I support reasonable exceptions such as rape and incest. We need to make sure we aren’t infringing on a woman’s healthcare treatment during rarity occurrences while also protecting children. I also believe we need to create more clarity to health providers on the life of the mother and situations where the child is lost. I believe we need to better define and protect individuals’ rights to IVF and surrogacy to make sure we are allowing profamily policy.

6. Recreational marijuana is on the ballot in November. If it passes, would you commit to legalizing it?

Yes. I did the first time; and I will again.

7. What is the most important quality for an elected official to possess?

Honesty and the ability to get something done for their district. You can have the best ideas in the World, but if you don’t know how to work with others, you can’t

accomplish anything for the people you represent. An elected official must produce results for the families they fight for.

8. Who do you take inspiration from, and why?

My family members. They all inspire my in different ways to continue to grow and be a better businessman, leader, and person. Everyday the remind me the bar gets raised a little higher, and I need to work harder to exceed it.

State legislative candidates in contested districts this election season were emailed the same survey to complete for Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory News. 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.