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Senate Leader Says Noem Special Session Lacks Support

Lee Schoenbeck

One legislative leader says the State Senate has little appetite to take up two key special session topics floated by Governor Kristi Noem. 

Governor Noem says she wants lawmakers to protect fairness in women’s sports and to make changes to a voter approved medical marijuana program during a special session this spring. 

Governor Kristi Noem wants legislators to change the voter approved medical marijuana program by limiting medical marijuana plant cultivation to just three plants and prevent patients under 21 from inhaling marijuana. 

Lee Schoenbeck is the leader of the Senate. He says if changes to the medical marijuana program came up, they would have to be narrow in scope and limited to administrative rules that weren’t controversial. 

“And, even at that there is very little interest—and I mean very little interest—in the Senate,” Schoenbeck says. “Because I polled them, in taking that issue up in a special session.”  

Schoenbeck says the Senate advised the governor of the consensus among lawmakers regarding that issue and the “fairness in women’s sports bill.”  He says they were taken up during regular session. 

The governor’s office says Noem’s executive orders will stay in place until there’s legislative appetite to take up the issue. One mandates that k-12 schools allow only girls as determined by birth certificates play on girls’ sports. For college level sports, her executive order suggests they follow suit. 

The Republican Speaker of the House is Spencer Gosch. He says the reason for a legislative process is so issues can be vetted by elected officials. 

“To preemptively say, ‘I talked to people and things don’t sound good,’ seems a little premature,” Gosch says. “The House is ready to do its work whenever it’s called to do so.” 

If a special session is called, legislators could also take up how to spend the nearly $1.4 billion in federal coronavirus relief money.