Lawmakers Want Voters To Decide On Pay Increase

Nov 13, 2017
Melissa Hamersma Sievers / SDPB

South Dakota legislators are asking voters for a pay raise.

A legislative committee passed a resolution Monday that if passed through the legislature, would put a pay raise question on the ballot.

Lawmakers receive $6,000 a year. They currently have authority to set their own salary. Nineteen ninety eight was the last year lawmakers adjusted their salary.

Republican state representative Mark Mickelson is Speaker of the House. He says legislator compensation is low enough that it discourages many from running for office.

Sd Legislature

One of the state’s top Republicans is calling for a repeal of Marsy’s Law from the constitution.

Speaker of the House Mark Mickelson says the law is costing cash strapped counties too much. He says there’s still a case for keeping provisions of the law in state statute.

Speaker Mickelson says the voter approved victims' rights constitutional amendment is costing counties an additional $5 million statewide.

Hemp Getting Roots In North Dakota Despite Drought

Sep 26, 2017
Jamie Edwards / North Dakota Hemp Farmer

Some South Dakota farmers are watching closely as North Dakota brings in its second industrial hemp crop.

It’s a pilot program that South Dakota lawmakers have eyed in the past.

There was even a bill to create a hemp pilot program that stalled in the statehouse last year.

When the Ag economy started to dip a few years ago, Jamie Edwards and his father started looking for a different crop to toss into their rotation.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

A South Dakota circuit court judge is denying a request by drug companies for the Attorney General to rewrite a ballot measure question.

The ballot question caps the amount state agencies can pay for prescription drugs.

The ballot measure question requires state agencies to pay the same, or lower prices for prescription drugs as the US Department of Veterans Affairs pays…

Some prescription drug entities took issue with Attorney General Marty Jackley’s explanation for voters.

Jenifer Jones / SDPB

A state legislative committee is hoping to find the right balance in restricting the amount of money given to candidates running for state office.
Last November, voters approved an ethics reform package that reduced the amount of money candidates can receive per calendar year. But the Legislature reduced that package to near original amounts.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, the amount of money an individual can give to candidates running for state office is on average $2,000 to $3,000 lower than the national average.


South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard says he expects to hear from the federal government about a state-funded Small Business Investment Company license.

Daugaard says that state-sponsored company will provide investments in early stage startups in South Dakota. The company is called Enterprise 605.

Daugaard says it’s a source of dollars will give fledgling South Dakota companies some extra help.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

As healthcare reform talks are stymied in Congress, there’s still a lot of uncertainty about future funding from a controversial portion of the Affordable Care Act.

President Donald Trump says he may pull Cost Sharing Reduction payments. But one of South Dakota’s Senators says that might not be a good idea right now.

Cost Sharing Reduction payments, or CSR’s, are federal monies that help low income Americans afford healthcare on the exchange marketplace.

Kent Osborne / SDPB

Backers of an open primary constitutional amendment say this ballot measure question is different from a similar ballot question last year.

The constitutional amendment will place all candidates in a primary election on the same ballot. The top two candidates who receive the most votes then move on to the general election in the fall.

Joe Kirby is chair of Open Primaries South Dakota, a group backing the measure. That group also backed Amendment V, a similar measure last year. Kirby says that measure almost passed with 45 percent of the vote.


State Representative Don Haggar is resigning his District 10 seat.

The Speaker Pro Tempore is vacating his spot for a position he says is a rare opportunity.

The now-former Representative is accepting a position to work as the state director for Americans for Prosperity in South Dakota. That group is a self-described grassroots organization funded by conservative billionaires, the Koch brothers.

Haggar represented District 10, which includes northeastern Sioux Falls, Brandon, Corson and Renner.

Debate On The State’s Ballot Measure Process Begins

Jun 20, 2017
Lee Strubinger / SDPB

A legislative task force that’s taking a closer look at registered voters’ ability to pass legislation is taking public testimony Wednesday morning.

Non Meandered Lakes Are Re-Opened

Jun 12, 2017
Lee Strubinger / SDPB

Non-meandered bodies of water are now reopened to the public… unless a landowner declares otherwise.
That comes after the state legislature convened for a special session to tackle an over 25 year old issue. Several sloughs flooded in Northeastern, South Dakota, after years of heavy rain and snowfall in the 1990’s.
Following a recent state Supreme Court decision, the legislature crafted what the Governor calls a compromise between landowners and sportsmen.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Later this month, a summer task force will take a closer look at the ability of South Dakotans to create and pass legislation through ballot measures.

Meanwhile… two people are circulating petitions for a constitutional amendment meant to protect that process.

After a laundry list of ballot measure questions from the 2016 election, lawmakers sought to rope in the ballot measure process.


A South Dakota lawmaker wants to make audits from organizations and businesses that receive state or federal grant money public.

That would include contractors like Mid-Central Education Cooperative, which played a role in the GEAR UP scandal in 2015.

State Senator Deb Peters says by making audits of private entities that receive public money public, the quicker something like a GEAR UP-type scandal can be caught in the future.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

A special summer study committee is passing legislation to open up several of South Dakota’s non-meandered bodies of water that closed following a recent state Supreme Court decision.
The committee to regulate non-meandered bodies of water passed the bill 13 to 2, which opens non-meandered bodies of water unless landowners close them. The bill is now up for full legislative consideration.
State Senator Brock Greenfield is a co-chair on the committee. He says there are many issues the bill doesn’t address.

State Senate Democrat Announces Run For Governor

May 31, 2017
Kevin Woster / SDPB

State Senator Billie Sutton is running for the South Dakota’s highest office in 2018.

The Democrat from Burke is the first to announce a bid for governor in the state’s minority party.

Sutton has served in the state legislature for 7 years. He says he’s able to get elected in a district that’s a majority Republican and is able to do so in a statewide race.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

State lawmakers say they need a week to pore over proposed legislation that declares non-meandered bodies of water open to the public, even over flooded private property.
Officials say the legislation could lead to a special session in June, even though there’s no consensus on the bill.

Kent Osborne / SDPB

One state lawmaker says he hopes a special session is called very soon to determine what beneficial use of non-meandered water is for the public.
During day two of public hearings on the issue in Aberdeen, State Senator Brock Greenfield says he hopes a special legislative session is called soon to consider any legislation.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

The first of two legislative hearings on non-meandered waters is being held in Aberdeen. Many testifiers focused on the economic benefit fishing has in Northeastern South Dakota.

Some sportsmen say they want a solution that also makes landowners happy.

Water has flooded private property in Day County for decades, and hunters, fishermen and women, and outdoors-people have constitutional access to that water. This has created a rift between landowners and recreationist.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

An issue that infiltrated the 1990's is catching the eye of South Dakotans who fish.

The South Dakota Supreme Court will rule on the second of two lawsuits pertaining to public access to bodies of water for recreation. It’s an issue that took center stage in Day County where several bodies of water formed more than two decades ago following heavy snow and spring rains.

Since then sportsmen have wanted access to the water that pools on private property, but landowners want their privacy. State law holds water in trust for “beneficial use” for the public.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

High-profile political speakers grabbed headlines this weekend, and politicos followed potential drama at two competing events.

A Bernie Sanders-style Democrat, Keith Ellison, talked to Democrats. Right-wing author David Horowitz offered the keynote to Republicans.

The Best Western Ramkota Hotel complex in Sioux Falls hosted the annual McGovern Day fundraiser for Democrats and the GOP's Freedom Rally. Both events signal a shift in state politics.

Audit of Mid Central Expected Mid-May

Apr 25, 2017
Kealey Bultena / SDPB

The South Dakota Auditor General says he expects to release the final audit of the Gear Up program next month. Marty Guindon says the audit examines the financial dealings between federally-funded Gear Up and Mid-Central Education Cooperative.

Anti-Corruption Group Holds Forums Across The State

Apr 23, 2017
Kealey Bultena / SDPB

The group promoting a constitutional amendment in the spirit of Initiated Measure 22 held a forum in Rapid City to discuss the new Voter Protection and Anti-Corruption Amendment.

The stop in Rapid City is one of many the group is holding across the state in the next couple weeks

Around seven people showed up for the Represent South Dakota forum at the Rapid City public library.

It’s one of nine stops the group is making to organize and place another ballot question similar to Initiated Measure 22 on the ballot.

City of Sioux Falls

Every ten years state lawmakers must draft new boundaries for state legislative districts. Observers say as population grows in more urban areas, Sioux Falls may receive another legislative district in 2021, following the census.

State Senator Jim Bolin loves to talk demographic and population shifts in South Dakota.

“I’ve crunched some numbers on this," Bolin says. "It’s kind of my hobby…”

The head of South Dakota Game, Fish and Parks says it will block off access to water situated over private land.
The move is a result of a state Supreme Court decision saying landowners have property rights under non-meandering water.
Last week Game Fish and Parks officials announced they were closing Department-managed boat launches and halting fish stockings on non-meandered bodies of water over private land.

Lee Strubinger / SDPB

The State of South Dakota is pausing efforts to facilitate the Little Spearfish Canyon and Bismarck Lake land transfer with the federal government.

Katie Cerrol is with the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks department. She says the consulting firm Peaks to Plains will finish up an inventory analysis of the proposed areas…

“Then we’re going to close out their contracts," Cerrol says. "So, in other words, there won’t be any formal meetings taking place in May, they’re postponed. And really that allows us to pause. So we’re pausing those planning efforts.”

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

South Dakota’s governor says federal health care reform can benefit the state’s working poor. The United States Congress failed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. South Dakota’s top official says a different federal change can save tens of millions of dollars.

To understand health care in South Dakota’s future, start in the past. The Affordable Care Act offers subsidies for people with low incomes down to the poverty line. Below that the law needed states to expand Medicaid to cover the working poor.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

Lawmakers in Pierre changed their own rules Monday to introduce a new bill on veto day. The final day of the session is reserved for reconsidering bills the governor vetoes. Not this year.

Senate Bill 179 extends probationary time for juveniles.

Lawmakers in the South Dakota State Legislature introduced it, approved it, and delivered it to the governor all in one day.

House Lawmakers Fail To Override Gun Bill Vetos

Mar 27, 2017

Two vetoes by Governor Dennis Daugaard aimed at bills that relax state gun laws… stand.
The South Dakota House of Representatives failed to reach a two thirds majority to override the governor’s veto on allowing concealed pistols in the capitol building, as well as stripping the permit process for concealed carry elsewhere.
House lawmakers came up eleven votes shy of allowing gun owners what’s often called “Constitutional Carry” – the assumption that a citizen has a right to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

Victoria Wicks

Pending approval, the Keystone XL pipeline will pass across the state of South Dakota, through Buffalo, Murdo and Winner. The pipeline also crosses the river near the Cheyenne River Reservation.

A protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline near Standing Rock in North Dakota went on for months.
That’s prompted the state to prepare for potential demonstrations. It starts with one piece of legislation.

Governor Vetos Gun Bills And Three Others

Mar 17, 2017

Governor Dennis Daugaard is vetoing five bills that reached his desk. Two of those bills would have expanded gun laws in the state.
Two gun bills Governor Daugaard vetoed allow persons with an enhanced concealed carry permit to carry in the capitol, and another repealed concealed carry permit requirements altogether.
Daugaard says security at the capitol is ample. Since the sheriffs and police chiefs association oppose getting rid of concealed carry without a permit, he opposed that bill as well.