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.

Kent Osborne / SDPB

Monday is the last day South Dakotans can register to vote.

Those who want to participate in the 2020 election have until 5 pm local time on October 19th to do so.

South Dakotans can print off a voter registration form off of the Secretary of State’s website or they can go down to their county auditor’s office and register.

Secretary of State Steve Barnett says while you’re there you might as well vote.

Deadwood, SD

South Dakota voters will decide whether to allow sports betting in Deadwood.

If passed, the constitutional amendment will prompt state lawmakers to pass rules on sports wagering next session.

Twenty three states have legalized sports betting after the US Supreme Court overturned a ban on it in 2018.

Constitutional Amendment B adds wagering on sporting events to the gambling provision in the state constitution.

South Dakota voters will decide in November whether to legalize recreational marijuana for adults over 21. The constitutional amendment would also allow medical marijuana use and industrial hemp.

If the measure passes, supporters say the industry could raise millions in tax revenue. Opponents say legalization could increase impaired driving.

Since 2017, nearly 3,750 South Dakotans faced charges and convictions for marijuana-related offenses. More than 200 served time in jail or the state penitentiary.

The Department of Public Safety is releasing a toxicology report and audio of the 911 call from the night Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg struck and killed a Hyde County resident a month ago.

The crash occurred outside of the town of Highmore a half mile west of the US Highway 14 and South Dakota 47 junction on September 12th.

An autopsy determined the cause of Joseph Boever’s death was traumatic injuries due to a pedestrian-motor vehicle crash.

Opponents of a ballot question that would legalize recreational marijuana, say 25 percent of traffic fatalities in Colorado involve marijuana. Pot use is legal there.
 
However, numbers from the Colorado Department of Transportation show fatal crashes involving pot-impaired drivers is much lower.
 

SDPB

Twice, South Dakota Republicans rejected a proposal to include tribal schools in a $500 dollar per student COVID relief package.

In a resolution passed during a special session on Monday, lawmakers approved using some of it’s CARES Act money for public and private school students.

Governor Kristi Noem says the state will direct $75 million dollars in aid for public and private schools as part of how the state will spend the $1.25 billion dollars in federal COVID relief money. That’s in addition to what the federal government has already given public and private schools.

SDPB

State legislators are directing the spending of the remaining federal coronavirus relief dollars given to South Dakota.

Governor Kristi Noem opened up a special session with a speech about what the state has gone through since lawmakers were last convened in March.

South Dakota averaged 11 cases a day when the legislature met on that Veto Day. Now, the state averages 450 new cases of COVID 19.

Wikimedia Commons

Marijuana is on the ballot this year in South Dakota. In fact there are two initiatives to legalize pot - for different uses.
 
One ballot measure allows both medical and recreational marijuana. The other initiative, legalizes marijuana for medical use only. That one, has support from more than 70 percent of South Dakota voters. But the state medical association and some in law enforcement oppose it.
 
At a young age, Rodger and Janice Knutsen’s son Kai started getting seizures.
 

Both major party candidates for South Dakota US Senate say President Trump should have denounced white supremacy during the debate Tuesday night.

Republican US Senator Mike Rounds says he watched the Yankees-Cleveland game, instead of the debate Tuesday night.

Rounds says he caught the last 15 minutes of the debate, live, and caught up on it the next morning.

Rounds says he didn’t care for the insults and interruptions and America’s kids deserve to see better from both candidates.

A group opposed to a constitutional change that legalizes recreational marijuana, among others, says if approved drug use will proliferate in public places. It also alleges dispensaries will infiltrate downtowns in South Dakota.

Proponents of Amendment A point to the language in the ballot question, which says differently.

SDPB

State appropriators meet Wednesday to craft a legislative package to spend what’s left of roughly $1.25 billion in coronavirus relief money.

About $750 million remains unspent.

But, the state has put that money to use.

The state received the stimulus money in April. While it waited for the Treasury Department guidance on how to spend it, the money was placed into a cash flow portfolio—it was invested.

Since April, interest from that $1.25 billion has generated $4.7 million in interest for the state.

The poll, conducted by the right leaning Public Opinion Strategies, finds that over 70 percent of South Dakotans support medical marijuana. That’s according to David Owen, the chair of the No Way On Amendment A committee. They’re neutral on an initiated measure that legalizes only medical marijuana.

Owen says of those who said they’d vote to legalize recreational marijuana by voting yes on Amendment A, 26% say they’d support it because of marijuana’s medical use.

Owen says that points to confusion between the two ballot measures.

SD Secretary of State

Absentee ballots for registered South Dakota voters are going out Friday

South Dakotan’s have until October 19 to register.

The Secretary of State says don’t wait.

Before the primary election in the spring, all registered voters were sent an absentee ballot request form. That form asked voters what ballots they’d like to receive.

Secretary of State Steve Barnett says voters can double check which box they marked.

South Dakota’s lone representative in the US House is part of a bi-partisan group unveiling a coronavirus relief package amidst stalled congressional negotiations.

The 25 Republicans and 25 Democrats call themselves the Problem Solvers Caucus. Their package includes aid for individuals, unemployment assistance, state and local government money and a new round of paycheck protection plan loans.

Three South Dakota municipalities and a former state highway patrol officer are collectively paying a $440,000 settlement for involuntary catheterizations.

A federal judge is approving the settlement.

The cities of Pierre, Sisseton and Wagner, as well as patrol officer Adam Woxland, will pay damages, legal costs and attorney’s fees.

US District Judge Roberto Lange approved the settlement, which found none of the search warrants obtained by police authorized involuntary catheterization.

Office of Governor Kristi Noem

Highway Patrol investigators performed a blood draw and interviewed Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg following a fatal car-pedestrian crash.

They’re also searching both of Ravnsborg’s cell phones.

One car crash expert says the car will tell part of the story.

SDPB

State legislators are gathering public input about how to spend more than half a billion dollars in remaining federal pandemic relief money.

The Department of Public Safety is identifying the victim in a fatal crash involving South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.

Ravnsborg told the Hyde County Sheriff’s Office he thought he had hit a deer.

Officials say 55 year old Joseph Boever died Saturday night in a pedestrian-vehicle crash west of Highmore.

According to the Department of Public Safety, Ravnsborg was driving westbound on US Highway 14, when he struck Boever.

Boever’s body was discovered the next morning.

SDPB

The White House Coronavirus task force reports that South Dakota’s COVID-19 testing is at insufficient levels.
 
It recommends increased testing and that the state aggressively promote mask use and social distancing.
 

Charles Michael Ray

Governor Kristi Noem is blasting a study that finds the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is linked to over 250-thousand coronavirus cases across the country and responsible for 12 billion dollars in public health costs.

One state lawmakers says the study asks a unique question about the impact of the rally.

The study uses anonymized smartphone data from a company called SafeGraph, which found rally goers travelled from all corners of the country to the Black Hills for the 10-day event.

Chad Coppess / SD Department of Tourism

The state will spend up to $5 million in coronavirus relief money to promote visiting and relocating to South Dakota.

It’s called Governor Kristi Noem’s Invitation to South Dakota and features the Black Hills, Badlands and a running herd of bison.

The commercial has already been airing on Fox News for about a week at a cost of $800,000.

The tourism department is using $5 million of the state allocated $1.25 billion to air the commercial on several more networks in the coming days.

Ian Fury is a spokesperson for Governor Noem’s office.

Krystal Schoenbauer / SDPB

The South Dakota State Fair is officially underway, despite the rising number of new COVID 19 cases.

Officials say it’s hard to gauge how many will attend this year’s state fair in Huron.

A typical fair brings in anywhere from 200,000 to 217,000 attendees.

The state fair is one of many large scale events held in the state, despite the global coronavirus pandemic.

From fireworks at Mt. Rushmore to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the Sioux Empire Fair, South Dakota is one of the only state’s in the country bringing together large groups of people.

SDPB

Governor Kristi Noem’s merger of the state Departments of Agriculture and Environment and Natural Resources is being pitched as making state government more efficient.

Not everyone is convinced by the consolidation.

The move comes a few months after Kim Vanneman resigned as head of the Ag department in South Dakota. Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden served as interim secretary.

Now, the secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Hunter Roberts, will head up both departments, now called Agriculture and Natural Resources.

SDPB

The state legislature is coming up with a plan to spend coronavirus relief money handed down by the federal government in late March.

Roughly 75 percent of the $1.25 billion the state received is unspent.

Five legislative committees will meet starting the week of September 14th.

Screenshot / Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary

Governor Kristi Noem says she anticipates considering calling a special legislative session to spend more than $900 million in coronavirus stimulus money.

During an interview with the Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary, she says that’s something she might do if the federal government does not extend a December deadline to spend the funds.

The CARES Act gives governors latitude to spend those relief dollars.

Health officials in eight states report COVID-19 cases from people who were at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally earlier this month. Hundreds of thousands of visitors attended - and South Dakota is now doing mass COVID testing for anyone in Sturgis

The state has hosted a couple of the largest public gatherings since the pandemic began. That includes a Mt. Rushmore fireworks show for thousands earlier this summer.

As a reporter, I covered those events. My exposure to the crowds made me wonder what it takes to get a COVID-19 test in South Dakota.

Governor Kristi Noem is defending her comments about several major cities in the US during her speech at the Republican National Convention Wednesday night.

Protests are occurring in several cities across the country in response to several black people getting shot and killed by police.

It was a line she alluded to on her Twitter account earlier this week.

Lee Strubinger

The case against a Lakota organizer who was part of a July roadblock near Mt. Rushmore is heading to trial.
 
Nick Tilsen—the founder of NDN Collective—faces three felony charges and four misdemeanors.
 
Tilsen says he will not consider a plea deal.
 
“Oh no, we’re going to trial,” Tilsen says. “We’re not taking no plea deals. These charges are all unfounded.”
 
Tilsen faces three felony charges. One alleges that he stole a shield from a National Guard soldier. Another charge claims that Guard member was afraid of "bodily injury.”
 

SDPB

There is no long-term mental health care for volunteer first responders in South Dakota.

That’s the message from testifiers speaking to a state legislative committee. They say firefighters, police officers, and EMTs suffer from PTSD.

Tami Haug Davis is a therapist at Key Solutions in Sioux Falls. She says a lot of first responders in South Dakota respond to accidents where they happen to know all of the victims.

Kealey Bultena / SDPB

 

South Dakota parents need to decide whether to send their kids back to the classroom this fall.

Many schools are starting up in the next few weeks after shutting down in April.

Some district officials say their back-to-school plans rely on a number of families choosing remote learning for their kids.

Valeriah Big Eagle isn’t sure what to do. She has three school-aged children; pre-school, elementary, and middle school.

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