PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The feet of Governor Kristi Noem seemed to never touch the ground Tuesday as she opened the 2022 session of the Legislature by proclaiming South Dakota the best it’s ever been. And she tied the success to her decision that South Dakota remain more open during the coronavirus pandemic than any other state.
“In South Dakota we protect freedom and we will pass it on to our children and we will not let freedom go extinct,” Noem told the nearly 105 representatives and senators gathered in the House chamber for her State of the State message. “We are blessed to be living in South Dakota.”
She quoted one of the nation’s founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson — “Our rights come from God, not from the government” — and referred several times to another former U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, on the topic of freedom.
Noem, who’s running for re-election, received the first of many standing ovations when she said she would bring legislation that would outlaw all abortions once a heartbeat can be detected. Most of the Republicans stood and applauded, while the greatly outnumbered Democrats stayed silent in their chairs.
The Republican governor also called for a state law banning all chemical abortions –“Chemical abortions are dangerous,” she said — and for a state law allowing a moment of silence at the beginning of every school day for children and teachers to reflect or have a quiet moment or “exercise their First Amendment right to pray.”
“We will protect the freedom to worship and re-instill a right that has been absent for far too long in our schools,” she vowed.
Her speech hit upon themes of life, adoption and foster care, expanding healthcare access, addiction and mental health treatment, economic freedom, cutting regulations, strong revenue growth, small reductions in taxes and fees, vaccine legislation, outdoors, fairness in female sports, teaching history, business success and people moving to South Dakota for its freedom.
She said Black Hills Harley Davidson for example led the world in sales of Harleys during 2021.
Noem asked legislators to eliminate the fees that businesses pay the South Dakota secretary of state to start or maintain their businesses and to eliminate all fees for concealed-carry permits and the related federal background checks. And she called for the repeal of the “incredibly ridiculous” bingo tax, which she described as a tax that falls largely on senior citizens and veterans.
Noem tied much of South Dakota’s recent surge of success to her decision to keep much of the state open during the pandemic. She asked lawmakers to support her legislation that would protect people’s right to a medical or religious exemption from the COVID-19 vaccines and said her administration would recognize natural immunity.
She said students received a “distorted view of history” through teachers using Critical Race Theory and said they need to know “true and honest history.” She pre-filed legislation that addresses some of its effects but doesn’t specifically use the phrase ‘critical race theory.’
At one point Tuesday she highlighted a cluster of uniformed law enforcement officers who moved to South Dakota during the pandemic. “Hundreds of law enforcement officers responded to our invitation,” she said. Noem said thousands of people moved to South Dakota wanting to get away from conditions where they previously lived.
Among the many others, she noted throughout the gallery, such as the Onida volunteer ambulance service, were national conservative icon Ben Carson and his wife, Candy.
Noem said South Dakota can’t be measured by one point in time.
“It is our duty to ensure that it is strong for generations to come,” she said. “Let’s work together this session to keep the doors of opportunity open for our people – and to guarantee the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”