In The Moment … February 1st, 2021 Show 982 Hour 1

The South Dakota state legislative session moves into February, and SDPB brings you gavel-to-gavel coverage, daily reporting, a daily Statehouse podcast, and in-depth analysis of the debates and the decisions. 

  • Guests:
  • Seth Tupper, SDPB's business and economic development reporter.
  • Lee Strubinger, SDPB's politics and public policy reporter.
  • Jackie Hendry, host of South Dakota Focus.



As state lawmakers prepare for the upcoming session, they’ll handle a record amount of one-time money.

Governor Kristi Noem outlined her vision for spending those dollars during the annual budget address. Most state lawmakers like her proposal.

That record amount of one-time money hovers in at around $224 million. Typically, the legislature has anywhere from $5-$15 million in one-time money to spend.

Melissa Hamersma Sievers / SDPB

Democrats in the South Dakota Legislature have chosen leadership for the 2021 and 2022 legislative sessions.

For the second time in a row, Senate Democrats make history with their decision.

Troy Heinert was the first Lakota to hold a leadership position of any party in the South Dakota statehouse. He’s been re-elected to the position. He’s one of three democrats to serve in the South Dakota Senate this year. That’s out of a 35 member Senate. Democrats lost two seats this last election.


Republicans further solidified their majority in the South Dakota statehouse.

One Republican and one Democrat are offering differing assessments on how state Democrats can pick up the pieces following Tuesday’s general election.

The State legislature hasn’t been this Republican since 1953.

Of the 105 member legislature, Democrats are down to eight representatives from 10, and down to three senators, from five. That means some Senate committees next session will be all Republican.

Steve Munsen

The South Dakota Speaker of the House says it’s been three days since he’s had a fever after contracting the coronavirus.

Republican Steve Haugaard says he’s feeling much better.

It was two weeks of non-stop fever. Speaker Haugaard says he tried to manage it with Tylenol and Ibuprophen. But his fever persisted.

“Temperatures seemed to hover anywhere from 100 to 105," Haugaard says.

Haugaard from Sioux Falls says he never lost his sense of taste or smell.


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.


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.

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.


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


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.


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.

Behind the scenes of the recent primary election was a fight over South Dakota’s Republican party.  

Two people, a current and former lawmaker targeted a dozen primary races. Their goal – to defeat what some call an ultra-conservative group of Republican candidates.  

The stakes are high. The new lawmakers will shape the state legislature for the next decade.

State Senator Lee Schoenbeck has been around state politics for more than 40 years.

The Republican has been in and out of the state house in Pierre since 1995.

The chief code counsel for the South Dakota state legislature has resigned after just one year on the job.

But he didn’t leave without warning state legislators how they are perceived within the group that helps them write and research bills.

It was a late night on the third week of session when code council Wenzel Cummings addressed the joint legislative procedure committee. The legislative group was looking to change a rule that allowed the legislature to amend administrative rules—which falls under the executive branch.

Cummings says he was shocked to see it.

Melissa Hamersma Sievers / SDPB

Governor Kristi Noem says a special session in June is unlikely.
That’s when the state will report April tax collections—when economic activity across the country slowed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Noem says she anticipates a serious budget shortfall because of the virus.
She says all options are on the table, including dipping into reserves.

Melissa Hamersma Sievers / SDPB

South Dakota lawmakers are passing a bill that broadens the governor’s power in times of disaster or emergencies.

The bill is meant to define the governor’s role in addressing the COVID-19 outbreak. Lawmakers added an amendment that prohibits the government from closing gun stores and includes other gun rights related provisions.

As the number of COVID-19 cases reach 100, including one state lawmaker, legislators are passing a bill that eases licensing timelines for licensed professionals and suspend the letting process for state contracts.

Lawmaker Reject Expanding Secretary Of Health Authority

Mar 30, 2020
Cara Hetland / SDPB

South Dakota House lawmakers are rejecting a proposal that would allow the Secretary of Health to order public and private locations to shutdown as a means to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The bill was introduced on the governor’s behalf, but that office is okay with the rejection.
The bill grants the authority to the Secretary of Health to order the closure of businesses, parks, schools and other locations that promote public gathering. The CDC recommends gatherings of no more than ten people at a time.

Legislature To Hold Electronic Veto Day

Mar 25, 2020

In response to the coronavirus, state lawmakers will convene electronically for the last legislative day of the session.

Lawmakers will also consider overriding any gubernatorial vetoes.

Next Monday, only a handful of leaders from both parties and both chambers will meet in person at the state capitol. That group will include the Speaker of the House, president of the Senate—and the lieutenant governor.

The other 99 legislators are asked to stay home and participate electronically. Lawmakers will have to suspend the rules to vote remotely.

The South Dakota Department of Tourism is shifting its advertising approach in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tourism is the number two industry in the state. The virus could have an impact on the state’s bottom line.

The Department of Tourism is pulling back on its marketing spending and messaging. Messages are still going out to major markets, but are moving away from calls to action advertisements, for the time being. Those are ads encouraging people to book their vacation right now.

Jenifer Jones / SDPB

Governor Kristi Noem says she’s holding a townhall with state legislators Monday night.

When asked if she may call a special legislative session to respond to the coronavirus, Noem says they still have veto day ahead of them.

That’s a day typically reserved for overriding any gubernatorial vetoes of legislation.

State officials say there are no new presumptive positive cases of COVID 19. There are 41 pending test kits that they say will get announced by noon on Friday.

Governor Kristi Noem says they’re testing and monitoring seven individuals who came in close contact with the eight presumptive positive cases. She says none of those cases participated in large community events.

Noem says the state website devoted to COVID-19 information will update case information at noon every day.

Jenifer Jones / SDPB

A South Dakota lawmaker is being tested for an illness and is away from the capitol on the last day of session.

Republican Speaker of the House Steven Haugaard announced on the house floor that Glenham Republican Spencer Gosch will no longer be in the capitol.

“Speaker Pro Tempore Gosch was having some problems yesterday,” Haugaard says. “He got more ill overnight and went in to be tested. So he cannot have contact with anyone for a couple of days while they’re doing this testing. So, it’s a serious event.”

House Republicans are overhauling a bill and amending it to pass along $10 million dollars to counties for help with road maintenance.

Republican Representative Caleb Finck led the charge on getting the funding formula in place. He brought a similar bill earlier this year, but it was voted down.

Now, Finck says the formula gives deference to bridge decking, gravel roads and then population.

After negotiations on Monday and throughout the week, legislators and Governor Kristi Noem’s office are still determining how to fund an industrial hemp program.

Both camps have vastly different views on how much propping up a program will cost. She wants 43.6 million. Lawmakers call for much less.

House bill 1008 meets three of Governor Noem’s four requirements for allowing industrial hemp in the state.

She wants nearly two million dollars to put infrastructure in place to respond to legalized hemp.

Noem Says COVID-19 Testing Available In State

Mar 5, 2020

Governor Kristi Noem says testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus is now available at the South Dakota state public health lab.

Noem says the general public in South Dakota is still at a ‘low risk’ of seeing infection.

“We do have the ability to do that should someone with symptoms that they want to have tested would arise within our state’s borders.”

Noem says the state is coordinating with the federal government and Vice President Mike Pence’s interagency task force.


A House committee is passing Governor Kristi Noem’s county zoning and appeals process bill--moving along to it’s last step before reaching her desk.
Noem says the bill will aid in developing rural South Dakota. Critics call it an attack on local control.
Among several things, the bill standardizes the vote threshold for counties when approving projects that require conditional use permits--like wind farms, hog barns and utility projects.

A house committee is rejecting the Attorney General’s bill for a partial repeal of presumptive probation.

Senate Bill 6 would create an aggravating circumstance if those charged with a drug crime failed to cooperate with law enforcement. That would allow judges to sentence defendants to prison.

Republican Representative Timothy Johns opposed the bill. The former federal judge says he doesn’t see why the state will lock up drug users.

Senate Hoghouse Resolution On Gun Suicide For NRA Data

Mar 3, 2020

The South Dakota Senate is rejecting a concurrent resolution about suicide by guns, and instead approving National Rifle Association talking points.

It’s a concurrent resolution to recognize the importance of gun safety.

It states there were nearly 800 firearm suicides from 2004 to 2015 in South Dakota. In 2017, almost thirty more South Dakotans died by firearms than overdoses.

Still No Agreement On Hemp Cost In Capitol

Mar 3, 2020
Jamie Edwards / North Dakota Hemp Farmer

In the final weeks of the 2020 legislative session, discussions are ramping up over how to fund an industrial hemp program.

But lawmakers are working with vastly different takes on how much the program will cost.

There’s still no agreed upon number.

Noem Selects Venhuizen For Chief Of Staff

Mar 2, 2020
Governor's Office

Governor Kristi Noem is naming former-Governor Dennis Daugaard’s chief of staff as her new chief of staff.

Tony Venhuizen served during Daugaard’s second term in office. He is Noem’s third chief of staff since taking office just over one year and one month ago.

Governor Noem says Venhuizen brings a unique set of skills to her team, given his tenure in the executive branch and wealth of historical knowledge.

Jenifer Jones / SDPB

House lawmakers are killing a bill that restores voting rights to people with felony convictions who’ve completed their time in prison, as well as completed parole and probation.

The bill allowed those who still have restitution payments left a chance to vote.

Representative Kelly Sullivan is the prime sponsor of the bill. The Sioux Falls Democrat says she plans on bringing similar legislation next year.