Lee Strubinger

Politics and Public Policy Reporter

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.


Carbon is a greenhouse gas that traps heat in the atmosphere and causes global warming. More and more companies are pledging to offset their carbon footprint.  


South Dakota farmers and ranchers may play a role in that reduction. 

The Centers for Disease Control is updating its guidance on masks as COVID-19 cases increase.  

A health official says it’s tough to know how to respond in South Dakota. He says that’s because the state isn’t doing enough testing.  

The CDC's new mask guidance says even vaccinated people should wear a mask indoors in areas with significant or high spread of the coronavirus.  


Former House Majority Leader David Lust, who died last week, is remembered by colleagues as an intelligent debater.  

That was on full display in 2018. He sparred with fellow legislator Mark Mickelson about an effort to limit out-of-state contributions to ballot questions.

More than $10 million in out-of-state money was poured into campaigns for and against ballot questions in 2016. One of those that passed was Marcy’s Law—a voter-approved crime victims’ rights law.

Former Speaker Mickelson says those debates were challenging and intellectually stimulating.



Some South Dakota legislators are engaged in efforts to review and restrict some of the classroom curriculum taught at state universities and K through 12 schools.   


Freedom Fest


South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem is one of more than a hundred speakers on the program at Freedom Fest. Rapid City hosts the annual event for the first time beginning Wednesday.  



South Dakota’s two US Senators oppose a push by the Senate majority leader to decriminalize marijuana. 


Two groups that want to regulate adult-use marijuana continue to wait for the South Dakota Supreme Court to rule on the law that legalizes recreational pot. 


South Dakota Department of Corrections



Lee Strubinger /SDPB

When Oren Lesmeister, of Parade, reaches down for a fist full of light-brown grass a dry clump of dirt easily comes up with it. 

“Right after fourth of July, typically, we’ll start haying this ground here,” Lesmeister says. “This year you can kind of see what it’s like—dead dry.” 

As we stand in his field, wind rushes in from a low-pressure system of dark rainclouds that blanket the sky—skirting around his property. The radar makes it look like Dewey County could get rain, But not a drop has fallen near him--instead landing farther north.  

South Dakota Highway Patrol


The South Dakota Highway Patrol is adjusting its approach to marijuana.   



Some South Dakota ranchers and feed lot operators are asking a U.S. Senate committee to investigate anti-competitive practicing in the meat industry.  



It was an early October morning when the Beef Complex building in Huron caught fire. 

Peggy Besch is the state fairgrounds manager and remembers it well. And a 911 recording brings it all back. 

“You’re sleeping and all the sudden you hear on the phone, “The Beef Complex is on fire.” Besch says. “You jump out of bed and my husband joined me,” Besch says. “We flew to the fairgrounds. Fortunately, I’m not far away. You could see the flames and watch the first responders do what they do best.” 

Lee Strubinger SDPB

It’s December 4, 2020, and the grand opening of the National Rodeo Finals in Arlington, Texas. Governor Kristi Noem rides a tan Palomino Gelding named Magic out to the center of the arena—a US flag in her right hand. That horse has sold for $80,000.

A buyer in Utah bought the Palomino Gelding from the Diamond McNabb Ranch Horse Sale in Douglas, Wyoming, on June 5, for $80-thousand dollars. The Texas couple that bred the horse says they’re “tickled pink” about sale.

An internationally renowned Lakota medicine man has died.   

Chief Leonard Crow Dog passed away on Sunday, June 6.  


SDPB / Joshua Haiar

Cara Sanquist had an itchy spot on her shoulder and hoped it would go away.  

But late at night she worried her melanoma had returned. 

The 35-year-old is a nursing student at the University of Sioux Falls. She was first diagnosed with melanoma in 2019. But she put off a dermatology appointment for two months because she couldn’t pay for it. 

“Is it back? I can’t afford for it to be back, but is it back?” Sandquist says. “It was really scary.” 

SDPB / Joshua Haiar


Thirty-year-old Susan Fast Eagle left a detox program on May 3rd.  She was living in Rapid City, moving between locations. One day, she felt ill. Her husband went to buy her some food and when he returned, he says Susan Fast Eagle was gone. Her family officially reported her missing May 13th.  

Susan Shockey is Fast Eagle’s mother-in-law. She says the family got worried when Fast Eagle wasn’t returning calls.  

SDPB / Lee Strubinger


COVID cases and hospitalizations are down. So, Monument Health in Rapid City is reducing its COVID unit. As a result, twin-sized beds the hospital no longer needs  will go to West River families. 

The Black Hills hospital system is donating about 90  beds. Workers load up mattresses that  once lined largely overflown rooms.

“We have a lot of families who’ve got a lot of siblings who were previously sleeping on the floor.” 

That’s Brianna Nelson, with Youth and Family Services. The  group serves about 14,000 kids and families in  29 counties. 


South Dakota is one of a number of states that plan to eliminate federal unemployment benefits by the end of June. Some state leaders say the enhanced benefits keep people from taking jobs.  

That’s even led one state lawmaker to propose cutting the state’s unemployment office. 

At the beginning of the pandemic Monument Health stopped all elective surgeries. That led to furloughs across the health system. 

Trina Allen is the vice president of human resources at Monument Health. 



A legislative committee is approving a rule that prevents law enforcement officers from using medical marijuana. 

That rule conflicts with a voter-approved medical marijuana program. The program prevents disciplinary action against licensed professionals for using medical cannabis. 

The Law Enforcement Officers Standards and Training Commission is changing the definition of moral conduct by officers and 9-11 dispatchers. That includes preventing marijuana use, which was approved by voters in November. 

Paul Bachand is with commission. 

Xanterra Travel Collection


Black Hills Energy wants a new tariff that would charge customers with solar panels the true cost of their energy. The utility says people who generate their own electricity cost the rest of their customers more money. 

Some worry the proposal before the Public Utilities Commission will kill incentives to install solar systems. 

Courtesy Photo

A healthcare advocacy group has lost a legal fight.

The state Supreme Court says voters will decide a ballot question that could affect Medicaid expansion. 

The state Legislature is asking voters to make it harder to pass ballot questions that raise taxes or require the state spend 10 million dollars over five years. Those ballot questions would require 60 percent voter approval.

Rick Weiland is with the Dakotans for Health, which opposes the measure. He’s disappointed but respects the court’s decision.

Office of Governor Kristi Noem


Governor Kristi Noem says she does not have plans to issue a public service announcement urging South Dakotans to get the COVID-19 vaccine. 


SDPB / Lee Strubinger

State tourism officials expect a busy season as more Americans get their COVID-19 vaccinations. 

But hospitality businesses are struggling to fill seasonable jobs, despite an increase in the number of temporary work visas. 


Governor Kristi Noem plans to sue  the National Park Service for refusing a fireworks show this summer at Mt. Rushmore National Memorial.

Governor Noem made her announcement at a speech before  the Watertown Rotary Club on Thursday. 

“I’m going to file a lawsuit against the administration to get the fireworks back,” Noem said.  

The governor says the document allowing last year’s July fireworks event included a multi-year agreement.  

Joe Sneve / Argus Leader

State Supreme Court justices are considering the constitutionality of a voter-approved measure to legalize recreational marijuana.  

However, some say the legal challenge is a way to ban marijuana.  

South Dakota voters passed Amendment A by 54 percent.  

A few weeks after the 2020 election, Governor Kristi Noem and two law enforcement leaders challenged the law on several constitutional grounds.  


The state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Wednesday on whether a voter approved measure legalizing marijuana is constitutional. 

Those challenging the amendment say it violates a recent law that limits constitutional changes to only one subject. The state’s high court has yet to interpret the provision.  

South Dakota voters legalized recreational AND medical marijuana last year when they passed Amendment A. Both of the measures involve cannabis and its uses, but those appealing to the state Supreme Court say they are two separate issues. 


Governor Kristi Noem wants President Joe Biden to reinstate the Fourth of July fireworks at Mount Rushmore. 

The call comes less than a month after spring wildfires led to evacuations in west Rapid City and the temporary closing of the shrine of democracy. 

Governor Noem says the Park Service is reneging on a Memorandum of Agreement between that agency and the state of South Dakota. 



The South Dakota High School Athletics Association is recommending schools hold off on submitting any transgender athlete waiver applications. 

South Dakota governor Kristi Noem recently issued two executive orders that could be at odds with a federal justice department memo. 

Governor Noem’s executive orders state that only girls—based on a determination at birth—can play girls’ sports. Critics say that ultimately prevents transgender girls from playing girls’ sports.  

There are currently no transgender girl athlete’s doing that. 

NDN Collective


A new community-based school in Rapid City will immerse students in Lakota language and culture. 

The effort is a response to the refusal by state and local leaders  to open similar schools around the state. 


President Biden’s "American Jobs Plan” is a $2 trillion proposal that dedicates at least $1 trillion on a number of broad ranging infrastructure projects.    

Some South Dakota Republican leaders are publicly criticizing the plan.  

Biden’s jobs plan  calls for an investment in traditional infrastructure like roads and bridges.  It also includes $400 billion dollars to expand home or community-based care for the elderly and people with disabilities.  

Representative Dusty Johnson says Biden’s plan is too expensive.