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Noem continues post-session town hall tour in Spearfish

Governor Noem speaks to a constituent in Spearfish
C.J. Keene
Governor Noem speaks to a constituent in Spearfish

Gov. Kristi Noem continues her post-session town hall tour, speaking to voters across the state. This time, a packed West River business was the venue.

On Thursday, the Spearfish coffee shop hosting the event was so full the local fire marshal was consulted, reflective of Noem’s popularity West River.

The recent investment of $1.5 billion in the state prison system was addressed. Many of the state’s inmates are incarcerated for reasons relating to addiction, putting significant strain on the prison system more broadly. Noem said these cases shouldn’t be ignored.

“I just don’t believe it’s the best thing to lock someone in a cell and think they’re going to become better and unaddicted just by locking them up for a while," Noem said. "They need some help and some counseling and some tools they can utilize to move forward and to take care of their families, and they need mentors. We will continue to do that and create situations where we’re offering opportunities for treatment because I’m just a big believer people need a second chance in life.”

South Dakota is the only state in the nation with a felony-level ingestion law. Noem said there are alternatives in these cases.

“We have alternative courts here in South Dakota that allow people to, instead of going to jail, go through a program," Noem said. "They’re fantastic, but I need judges to refer people to them. I’m working hard with the Chief Justice to educate judges on referring people to alternative courts, drug treatment courts, alcohol courts, veterans’ courts.”

Another key issue was the subject of property taxes. While the crowd appeared to be strongly pro-Noem, it’s clear some voters are unhappy with the current taxing overhead.

“I do know legislators are working on a way to reform property taxes in a way that would be much more fair – all your property taxes do stay local," Noem said. "So, one thing that might be helpful is not just talking to legislators, but talk to your county commissioners and your assessors and go out there and talk to your school districts.”

Noem took no questions from the press at the event.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture