South Dakota gay marriage ban headed to court SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A federal judge in Sioux Falls hears arguments Friday on a state request to dismiss a lawsuit from six couples trying to block South Dakota's gay marriage ban. The complaint challenges a 1996 law passed by the South Dakota Legislature and a voter-approved 2006 constitutional amendment banning gay marriage as well as a U.S. provision allowing states not to recognize same-sex marriages performed elsewhere. Judge Karen Schreier (SHRY'-er) could rule or file her decision later. If she grants the motion and dismisses the lawsuit, the six couples would appeal to the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. If she denies the motion and allows the case to proceed, lawyers would likely make further argument and Schreier would decide the case, unless the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the issue first.
Wismer to attend 'Women's Rally' in Aberdeen SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Democratic candidate for governor Susan Wismer and her running mate Susy Blake were slated to attend a "Women's Rally" in Aberdeen. The South Dakota Democratic Party was sponsoring the event Thursday night. Officials said the rally's primary focus was to get out the vote for Democratic candidates. North Dakota U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp (HYT'-kamp) and former South Dakota Congressman Stephanie Herseth Sandlin were also scheduled to attend. Wismer and Blake will face Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard (DOO'-gahrd) and Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels in the November election. The last Democrat elected governor was Richard Kneip in 1974. Wismer is the South Dakota's first female nominee for governor from a major party.
Rural electric co-ops getting fed loan guarantees SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Four rural electrical cooperatives in South Dakota are getting large federal loan guarantees to help build or improve transmission and distribution lines. The money is part of $1.4 billion in U.S. Department of Agriculture loan guarantees for such projects nationwide. The agency says the goal is to improve the delivery of electric power to rural communities in 21 states. East River Electric Power Co-op in South Dakota and Minnesota is getting a $131.7 million loan guarantee for 445 miles of lines. Loan guarantees also are going to three other South Dakota co-ops: $3.3 million for Kingsbury Electric, $6.1 million for Cam Wal Electric and $6.7 million for Bon Homme Yankton Electric. Those projects encompass a total of 253 miles of line.
Officials expect usual crowd coming for opener PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Officials say they expect this weekend's annual pheasant opener to draw the usual crowd of thousands even after an unusually low harvest in 2013. Game, Fish and Parks Director Tony Leif says he's optimistic this season will bring in more hunters but says numbers for the opener are always high. The state last year saw the lowest number of licensed pheasant hunters since 1997. Hunters killed about 980,000 birds in 2013, the lowest since 1990. Local officials and business owners in rural towns depend on the opener to bring in an influx of business. Holly Glover of the Gregory and Dallas Chamber of Commerce says all hotels in the area are already booked well into the season.
Brandon Valley math teacher is S. Dakota teacher of the year PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota's teacher of the year for 2015 is a Brandon Valley High School math teacher. Allen Hogie was selected from six regional finalists and received the honor Thursday evening at a state education conference in Pierre. He has his National Board Certification and is a mentor to other teachers seeking certification. Hogie received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching in 2007 and is on the South Dakota Council of Teachers of Mathematics as a liaison to the national council. Through Northern State University, Hogie also teaches college calculus I as a dual credit course. He'll receive $8,000, a $6,700 technology package and the use of a vehicle for a year. Hogie will also compete for the title of national teacher of the year.
Tax fraud ring leader, ex-USD player pleads guilty SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A former University of South Dakota football player who recruited students and others to steal identities and fraudulently collect hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax refunds has pleaded guilty two charges. Alphonso Valdez on Thursday appeared in federal court in Sioux Falls to enter his plea to charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and aggravated identity theft. The Tampa, Florida, man faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the conspiracy charge. The identity theft charge carries a mandatory punishment of two years in prison. Prosecutors accuse Valdez and 10 other people of participating in a ring that filed bogus income tax returns showing about $1.1 million in refunds due. The group was indicted in 2012.
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