PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Lawmakers are returning to Pierre this week and already as of Monday morning, more than 100 bills have been filed. Many of these bills are small, technical changes in the laws, but there are a few that could impact the lives of South Dakotans.

Voter registration

2020 is going to be a big election year. Sioux Falls has a city election, and of course, there is the Presidential primaries and general election.

The South Dakota Secretary of State is looking to make voter registration an easier process.

The bill would allow any person eligible to vote with a valid driver’s license or nondriver identification card issued by the State of South Dakota, to register to vote through an online system.

Right now, voter registration requires the person to print off a form, fill it out, sign it and return to the respective county auditor.

The form is also required to change address or party affiliation. There is already a digital platform allowing voters to check his or her voter registration status.

As of now, this bill if passed, would go in effect after the June primary. It’s unclear if the system would be ready for the general election.

In an era where election security is top of mind for many officials, the National Conference of State Legislatures has several recommendations for states to secure this process:

  • The registrant provides his or her driver’s license number or the last four digits of a Social Security number, information that others will not have.
  • Systems often include “captcha” boxes, where registrants must decode images that a computer cannot decode, to prevent hacking by programmers.
  • Data is encrypted and data logs highlight unusual activity that can be investigated.
  • Multi-screen systems, that offer just one question on a screen, are harder to hack.

A 2010 report from Pew Research found Arizona’s voter registration cost drop from 83 cents per paper registration to 3 cents per online registration.

South Dakota remains a state with paper ballot systems.

📜Capitol News Bureau Correspondent Bob Mercer is tracking bills as well. Click here for the latest from him.

⚠ NOTE: The above Capitol Conversation took place last week before Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) announced her support for industrial hemp with ‘guardrails.’ We will explore that topic later today on KELOLAND.com.

Wildfire prevention

As fires ravage across Australia, this image from the International Space Station shows smoke billowing over the continent.


Thousands of miles away, the eyes of the world are on Australia as at least 18 million acres of land have been destroyed by hundreds of fires.

At home, South Dakota is looking to bolster its wildfire suppression budget. Noem outlined in her FY2021 budget, adding $367,727 in a special fund dedicated to fighting wildfires.

A bill introduced this week by the South Department of Agriculture does just that. If passed, HB 1029 would go in effect immediately after being signed by Noem.

📅 Capitol News Bureau Correspondent Bob Mercer has a look at what’s happening this week in Pierre. Click here for the latest report.

Aquatic invasive species

Another bill introduced by Noem’s administration is to tackle aquatic invasive species contamination.

South Dakota has seen several types of species:

Zebra mussels at Lewis and Clark Lake. Courtesy: State of South Dakota/Sam Stukel

While there are already administrative rules in this area, this four-page bill will add clear language into the law.

The legislation will make anyone possession, importing, shipping or transporting an invasive species a class 2 misdemeanor. If it is repeated within one year, it becomes a class 1 misdemeanor.

It also requires that boats be cleaned when removed from the water, drained by removing plugs and following other cleaning procedures. This is also a class 2 misdemeanor.

The legislation will allow inspection stations and a requirement for boaters to stop at one.

Last summer, in a weekly column, Noem said everyone in the state should work together to take care of the waters in South Dakota.

“If you use South Dakota’s lakes and rivers to boat, fish, hunt or for any other form of recreation, you need to care about the devasting impacts of aquatic invasive species,” Noem said. “I don’t want the next generation of anglers and boaters to have to solve this issue when we can do something about it today.”

State of the State

(AP Photo/James Nord)

On Tuesday, Noem will deliver her second State of the State address. This year, she plans to focus at least part of her speech on owning an operating a business in South Dakota.

In an excerpt from Noem’s speech released to the media on Monday, Noem is expected to speak to employers and businesses by saying: “South Dakota is OPEN for business.”

“I grew up with a Dad who dreamed of all four of his kids being able to stay on the family ranch if they wanted to. My vision for South Dakota is the same. We must ensure that every South Dakotan can build their life here and make a good living, so they can provide for their families and maintain our traditions and way of life. This is why I am committed to four pillars of protection for South Dakotans: keeping taxes low, limiting government spending, fighting government intrusion, and keeping government open and honest,” Noem is expected to say in prepared remarks.

🔴 KELOLAND News will have a team in Pierre for the State of the State, lawmaker reaction, Noem’s news conference and the first day of the legislative session.

Capitol News Bureau Correspondent Bob Mercer has been covering the South Dakota legislature for more than three decades. Watch for his coverage on Twitter and the Capitol News Bureau page.

Kelli Volk will bring on-air reports all day on KELOLAND News. Follow Kelli on Facebook and Twitter.

KELOLAND.com Reporter Michael Geheren will be running a live blog during the State of the State address at 1 p.m. Follow Michael on Facebook and Twitter.