Capitol Conversation with KELOLAND’s Bob Mercer: Looking ahead to Tuesday’s State of the State speech Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — At 1 p.m. Tuesday, Gov. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) will be giving her third State of the State address in conjunction with the official start of the 2021 legislative session at the state capitol in Pierre. 

What will Gov. Noem say during her first speech of 2021?

Both Senator Troy Heinert (D-Mission) and KELOLAND Capitol News Bureau Correspondent Bob Mercer said Noem’s speech likely won’t differ too much from her budget address one month ago.

Mercer said the budget address is more about numbers and State of the State is more about policy. 

“They blur into each other because the budget drives policy and policy drives the budget,” Mercer said in an interview previewing the 2021 session. Listen to a full Q&A with KELOLAND’s Bob Mercer previewing the 2021 legislative session in the video above. 

In the budget address, Noem highlighted South Dakota’s approach and response to COVID-19, paying off debts and using $158 million of one-time spending on various projects including broadband investments, a new State Fair Livestock Complex and data security updates.  

After her budget address, Noem did not provide news reporters with a briefing. A news conference with media scheduled for Monday morning was cancelled. Less than 24 hours from the 2021 State of the State, media availability with the governor regarding the address was still uncertain.  

“The process should be open,” Heinert said about media availability and Gov. Noem’s office. “It’s been anything but.”

Heinert added Democratic leaders plan to continue with weekly end-of-week news conferences with members of the media. 

“She (Gov. Noem) ran on a policy of transparency,” Mercer said. “We just haven’t seen that from her administration. We just haven’t seen movement on transparency.”  

Mercer added the governor’s office hasn’t committed to weekly news conferences. 

In her first State of the State address in Jan. 2019, Noem touted South Dakota’s fiscal responsibility, called to expanding rural broadband internet access, helping maintain pheasant habitat, combating meth, advocating for foster homes and making the government more transparent. In her speech, she said, “I’ll bring debates and meetings from the boardroom to your living room by utilizing free technologies like YouTube, Facebook Live and other apps.”

In Jan. 2020, Noem released a preview of her State of the State address one day before the speech. After praising the business climate in South Dakota, she touted, once again, advancing government transparency. She wanted to work with the South Dakota Municipal League and local governments to find ways to get their meeting materials online. She transitioned from her administration’s controversial “Meth. I’m on it.” advertising campaign against the illegal drug to increasing treatment programs.

As for Tuesday’s address, Heinert added he expects to hear Gov. Noem say how good South Dakota has done in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I don’t agree that we’ve done a great job,” Heinert said, who added communication with the governor’s office and lawmakers has gotten worse since March. 

When asked about how someone should measure success with the pandemic response, Heinert said he measures it with the high number of calls and messages he’s received from people who no longer have a loved one alive. 

The South Dakota Department of Health has reported 1,585 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic, along with 103,499 total cases, 96,812 recovered cases and 5,917 total hospitalizations.

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.

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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.

You can find a complete list of Senators Legislators at

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.

You can find a complete list of House Legislators at

An example of a bill — Senate Bill 1 for SD Leg 2021.

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

  • Masks in spaces under the jurisdiction of the S.D. Senate and S.D. House.
  • Limited seating in the Senate and House galleries.
  • PPE for members and staff.
  • Encouraging remote testifying and digital documents. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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