PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Gov. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) started her Tuesday with an interview with Fox News.
A few hours later, she delivered her State of the State address from the House chamber — promoting the business climate in South Dakota, praising her COVID-19 response in South Dakota and calling for new aborition legislation related to babies with Down syndrome.
After the speech, there was no media briefing with reporters to discuss the State of the State. It’s a decision that differed from her 2019 and 2020 State of the State speeches.
It’s also a decision that caught some lawmakers off guard when asked by KELOLAND News.
“I didn’t know that,” Senate Assistant Majority Leader Mike Diedrich (R-Rapid City) said about Noem’s lack of availability to South Dakota media members Tuesday.
“It’s important to get information out. It’s the public’s business. Whatever we do, we want to be able to discuss it,” Rep. Steven Haugaard (R-Sioux Falls) said, adding there’s only so much interest people have unless it’s regarding a specific bill. “I think the governor works through her press secretary to get information out.”
Noem’s Communications Director Ian Fury told KELOLAND News if there were any follow-ups, he’d help “address them.”
We sent Fury the following questions; his responses are below the questions, in italics.
How much local debate is Gov. Noem expecting on future abortion legislation regarding babies with Down syndrome? Why is this a major priority for the 2021 session?
We have yet to hear a rebuttal the Down syndrome proposal from legislators.
Has the COVID-19 treatment success story from Wagner been shared with more nursing homes in South Dakota? How much help can this be for smaller communities in the fight against the pandemic?
I’ll defer to the Department of Health on their communications with nursing homes throughout the state.
Why didn’t Gov. Noem addresses the events of unrest from last week at the U.S. Capitol. How important are civil discussions and disagreements in South Dakota?
Governor Noem’s remarks on civic education speak to the unrest at the Capitol. As a reminder, here’s what she said: “Students should be taught our nation’s history and all that makes America unique. They should see first-hand the importance of civic engagement. And they should have robust discussions in the classroom so they can develop critical thinking skills. Our young people need more experience engaging with elected officials and practicing the art of debate. It is also our responsibility to show them how government works.”
House Majority Leader Rep. Kent Peterson (R-Salem) did not comment on the question regarding meeting with the media.
On the other side of the aisle, House Minority Leader Rep. Jamie Smith (D-Sioux Falls) thanked Noem for a positive tone from Tuesday’s speech and called for respectful discussions throughout the session.
“I would hope the governor makes herself available. You do ask tough questions. You don’t just ask tough questions to the governor; you ask tough questions to me and my colleagues,” Smith said. “Our job is to stand here with you and answer those questions.”
“I’m really surprised. As an elected official, I think it is our job to be transparent,” Rep. Erin Healy (D-Sioux Falls). “We need to bring our message back to the people and the media is the best way to do that. It’s a vital role to bring what’s happening here, in an isolated town like Pierre, to the people in Sioux Falls, Aberdeen or Rapid City.”
SD Legislative session 2021
The South Dakota Legislature is established by Article III of the Constitution of South Dakota as a bicameral legislative body. Legislative Sessions can run for up to 40 days every year, depending on the legislative calendar set by the Legislature.
The 2021 Legislative Session will begin Tuesday, January 12, 2021, and ends Monday, March 29, 2021, to complete a 37-day session. During the Session, the Legislature will be in recess beginning Friday, March 12, through Friday, March 26.
The Senate consists of 35 Senators (32 Republicans, 3 Democrats) representing 35 districts. The Constitution provides for not fewer than 25 or more than 35 members.
The House consists of 70 Representatives (62 Republicans, 8 Democrats) representing 35 districts. The Constitution provides for not fewer than 50 or more than 75 members. Districts 26 and 28 have been subdivided into two House districts to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
A bill is simply an idea that someone would like to see become law. It could be anything from the penalty for committing a crime to the amount of money that can be spent on a state program. The idea can come from anyone, but only a Representative or Senator can take that idea and guide it to final passage through the State Legislature.
Following the introduction and first reading of a bill in either house, the presiding officer assigns the bill to a committee based on the subject matter. Generally, bills dealing with certain subjects are assigned to the same committee.
The South Dakota Legislative Research Council, a nonpartisan professional staff for lawmakers, prepares legislative drafts and provides professional staff to standing committees and individual legislators for technical advice and research.
SD Legislative Session COVID-19 protocols