PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) – South Dakota’s legislative term limits that voters approved 30 years ago ensure there’s always some new faces making laws for the state.   

When the 98th Legislative session started on Tuesday, there were more than 30 first-year lawmakers between the House and the Senate. South Dakota’s Constitution calls for state lawmakers to be elected every two years and no person can be elected more than four consecutive times in the same chamber. 

Rep. Aaron Aylward (R-Harrisburg) is starting his second term in the House. He said there’s a learning curve for anyone new to the legislature. 

“It’s like drinking out of a firehose,” Aylward told KELOLAND News. “There’s kind of two different thoughts – you bring a bill or two or some people are told to sit back and watch as much as you can.” 

There’s 31 lawmakers in the House serving their first term and 28 of them are new members to the Legislature. In the Senate, 11 lawmakers are serving in their first term and five of them are new members to the Legislature. 

Rep. Erin Healy (D-Sioux Falls) is starting her third term in the House. She said the best advice for new lawmakers is to dive into understanding bills and start making relationships. 

“Lobbyists, although they have a kind of negative connotation on the national level, are really good people that are here to help,” Healy said. “They understand the issues, they understand their industries that they’re working in and have incredible value to this game of politics.” 

The South Dakota Legislative Research Council provides a breakdown of the 105 lawmakers serving in the 98th session and what term each one is in. Eight senators are starting their fourth term, while seven representatives are starting their fourth term. Republicans hold a 63-7 advantage over Democrats in the House and a 31-4 advantage in the Senate.   

Both Aylward and Healy have to work to find common ground with other lawmakers. Healy knows she needs Republican support on issues or bills and Aylward, who is chairman of the South Dakota Freedom Caucus, also works with other Republicans and Democrats on issues. 

Aylward said he suggests new lawmakers attempt to bring a bill forward, defend it through committee and even possibly defend it on one of the chamber floor debates.  

“You get that experience,” Aylward said. 

Healy said she’s learned how to work with other legislators and how to lobby bills. She said the key is finding subjects people agree on. 

Support for food sales tax cut 

Both Aylward and Healy said they are planning to support a food sales tax cut, which Gov. Kristi Noem has been advocating for since the final month of her reelection campaign. 

Aylward said he sees the food sales tax cut passing the House again; a hog-housed version of the bill passed during last year’s session. 

“I think it’s gonna hit a roadblock in the Senate,” Aylward said. “You have two other tax reform proposals. One’s a property tax, where I think that looks good in the Senate but over here, it probably won’t move too much. And then the (2016) Partridge Amendment, cutting that 4.5% (tax) down to 0.5%. I think that actually has the best chance in both chambers.”

Healy pointed out Democrats in Pierre have supported food sales tax cuts for years. She said she’s curious to see how the governor’s office tries to get the food sales tax cut passed. 

“Eliminating the sales tax on food has always been the right thing to do,” Healy said. “We’re obviously talking about it now because of a surplus in our budget. We’re also talking about it because of inflation and even more people here are having a hard time putting food on the table.”