PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — With fewer than 12 days remaining in the 2021 legislative session, this week will feature a rush ahead of Thursday’s Crossover Day deadline.
Thursday, Legislative Day No. 28, is the final day all legislation must be passed out of the first chamber. In a Capitol Conversation with KELOLAND Capitol News Bureau reporter Bob Mercer, hear more about Crossover Day and Gov. Kristi Noem’s influence on the 2021 session in the video player above.
On Monday morning, the House State Affairs Committee started hearing bills at 6:30 a.m. Mercer said some committees have finished work until crossover day, while others have too much.
“It’s really unbalanced,” Mercer said, adding it depends on a bill with a lot of witnesses who testify or bills that sail through. “There’s no way to know that ahead of time.”
Along with Crossover Day, Mercer said there would be extra focus on getting the medical marijauana bills through the House by Thursday.
HB 1100, which would delay medical marijuana’s start-up until 2022 and create a 22-member study panel to work on issues that IM 26 didn’t cover, will be heard on the House floor this week.
“It’s all about getting the mairjuana bill out of the house,” Mercer said. “The House has to get a coalition behind delaying medical marijuana for a year.”
The one-year delay for medical marijauana has the backing of Governor Noem, who campaigned against both IM 26 and the broader adult-use constitutional amendment that she’s fighting to overturn in state court.
Sen. Troy Heinert (D-Mission) has on numerous occasions pointed to the hemp program in South Dakota which was resisted by Noem and delayed after first passing the legislature in 2019. More than two years later, state officials are still processing the first applications for hemp licenses.
Heinert thinks the same process will happen with medical marijuana, which voters approved by a 70-30 margin with the date going into effect of July 1, 2021.
Gov. Noem signs 14 more bills on Monday
On Monday, Noem’s office announced the governor signed 14 more bills into law, bringing the 2021 session total up to 75.
With a budget surplus and $1.25 billion of coronavirus relief, the state had roughly $125 million in one-time money for extra use or spending. Gov. Noem laid out numerous plans for the extra money in her budget address in December and added additional legislative goals during her 2021 State of the State Address.
Mercer said he couldn’t think of a 2021 bill Noem wanted or supported that has had any resistance from the legislature. He had three reasons for Noem’s success in passing legislation — No. 1: Power in numbers, No. 2: Power in Republican lawmakers and No. 3: Power from the lieutenant governor.
“The Governor always has the power of her administration. She could turn loose hundreds of lobbyists in the course of a day to work over legislators,” Mercer said. “She can just out-number the opposition so it is a lot of influence especially with a part-time legislature.”
Of the 105 Representatives and Senators, 94 are Republicans and 11 are Democrats. In the Senate, there are only three Democrats.
“She has huge numbers to work with,” Mercer said. “It’s easy to find a majority of 36 in the House of 18 in the Senate for a simple majority vote.”
Mercer also noted lieutenant governor Larry Rhoden and Noem make a good team. He said Rhoden’s presence overseeing the Senate each day is a bonus.
“It’s a big benefit for her just to have that daily presence in and around the legislature,” Mercer said.