South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem spoke for almost an hour reviewing the highlights of her first year in office and outlining her legislative priorities to South Dakota lawmakers for 2020.
In her second State of the State address, Noem covered many topics from developing agriculture infrastructure to legalizing hemp with regulations.
Most topics mentioned in the address will serve as talking points for many legislators in the 95th state legislative session. Here are five main points from the 2020 State of the State address.
Economic development: ‘South Dakota is open for business’
Noem began her address by making the case to attract businesses to South Dakota.
“Whether you’ve owned and operated a business for four generations, or you’re looking to start or even relocate your current operation, I want my message to be crystal clear: South Dakota is open for business,” she said.
Touting the state’s AAA credit rating and fully funded state pension plan, Noem further articulated how businesses should not give concerns about corporate income, business inventory, personal income, personal property or inheritance taxes.
“In short, if you’re worried about tax increases, you needn’t be—your business is safe here,” Noem said.
Since Noem’s budget address last December, she reported revenues were slightly better than initial expectations. She says her priority is to use the additional money for K-12 schools, providers and state employees.
Noem is continuing to provide broadband internet to South Dakota. She referenced her Connect South Dakota program, which aims to improve connectivity efforts for internet access statewide for homes and businesses.
Additionally, South Dakota companies were awarded points for their USDA Reconnect grant applications. The initiative moves to grant high-speed internet access for more than 1,750 homes in rural parts of the state.
Government to continue transparency efforts
Noem continued to push for government accessibility by committing to four “pillars of protection.” This includes maintaining low taxes, limiting government regulation, pushing back on government interference and creating more transparency within government.
One way Noem is taking steps toward these efforts is providing accessibility to state budgets, contracts/grants and financial publications through the state government transparency website, open.sd.gov.
Additionally, Noem signed the Reporter Shield Law, a bill that protects journalists from revealing their sources and information earlier in 2019. South Dakota is the 40th state to implement this type of law.
Another priority Noem is looking at in 2020 is to work with the Municipal League and local governments to match how meeting materials are available online.
South Dakota’s focus on agricultural development, hemp legislation
In South Dakota, tourism remains a pillar for the state economy. Noem articulates the industry has achieved nine straight years of growth.
“In 2019, tourism activity directly supported more than 37,000 jobs and 55,000 jobs in total,” the governor said. “This is 8.8 percent of all jobs in the state–1 out of every 11.”
The agricultural industry was hard-pressed in 2019 after the wettest year on record, reducing crop yields and lowering overall production. Noem’s focus for this year is towards precision, production and value-added agriculture.
“We must invest in the future of ag in our state, diversifying operations for our farmers, ranchers, and timber producers,” Noem said.
One center of debate last year was hemp legislation. Noem openly stated her opposition against hemp in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in the middle of the 2019 session.
Now, the governor is shifting her stance towards hemp after the U.S. Department of Agriculture released guidelines on the cultivation of the plant, federal approval of the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe to cultivate hemp.
“Last year, I vetoed a bill that didn’t address concerns surrounding public safety, law enforcement, or funding,” Noem said. “I asked that we wait until we had direction from the federal government and a plan to address those concerns. Now since that time, things have changed.”
Noem says there’s a need for legislation for hemp transportation based off of neighboring states’ actions on the plant.
The Game, Fish and Parks department is also slated for continued programming efforts in 2020. The department is looking for more ways to participate in the federally-funded Conservation Reserve Program, last year’s bounty program and a pilot HuntSAFE program. The pilot initiative teaches students responsible and safe handling of firearms while learning sportsmanlike values.
Healthcare reform: supporting awareness, prevention and treatment
Another legislative priority for the governor’s this session is healthcare.
The Department of Health will unveil a statewide suicide prevention plan, including a proposal to address suicide prevention, intervention and postvention.
Noem also updated legislators on methamphetamine abuse. Last year, the state launched an anti-meth awareness campaign which drew mockery over its marketing strategy.
“The first phase of the campaign has ended, and we have people’s attention. Now we have a rare opportunity,” the governor said. “It’s time to turn the conversation to the next phase: treatment programs for our fellow South Dakotans who are suffering from addiction.”
In addition to talking about human trafficking legislation, Noem addressed healthcare for the Native American community.
“For the first time ever, we have put state-employed nurses in three IHS facilities across the state…as a result, healthcare is better managed for patients that are referred by IHS to another provider,” Noem said.
The state government is also expanding outreach efforts to let tribes know about the employment opportunities in South Dakota.
Teaching the ‘next generation’
Throughout her address, Noem emphasized the need for providing opportunities for the next generation of South Dakotans.
“As leaders, I think I can speak for everyone here when I say, we value strong families—and opportunities for our kids to be successful,” she said. “Education is one important area.”
For higher education, Noem is looking at enhancing cybersecurity through Dakota State University. Last May, the Economic Development Administration awarded a $1.46 million grant to the university to establish a high-speed research network.
Additionally, South Dakota State University and the School of Mines and Technology will partner with the state to support research and development in bioprocessing.
The governor, along with Secretary of Education Ben Jones, pushed for the effectiveness of the Jobs for America’s Graduates program. The national non-profit program works to prevent school dropout rates by giving students chances to learn about future job opportunities.
“In all of South Dakota’s JAG schools, it has succeeded 100 percent of the time,” Noem said. “Unfortunately, only five high schools currently offer the program.”
The governor also discussed occupational licensing reform, retaining the state’s graduates and the upcoming South Dakota Week of Work. The inaugural program will give high school students a chance to explore job opportunities in their local communities.