S.D. governor calls special session on COVID-19

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota lawmakers will return to the Capitol on October 5 for a special session of the Legislature that Governor Kristi Noem called Monday on COVID-19 spending and policy issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.

It wasn’t clear Monday evening whether the governor would address lawmakers that day and wasn’t immediately known whether legislators would meet in-person or meet virtually, with only leaders actually at the Capitol.

The final day of the 2020 regular was conducted for the most part via technology March 30, after the late Representative Bob Glanzer, a Republican from Huron, died from COVID-19. The House chamber has 70 desks, the Senate 35.

Legislators had already been holding joint committee meetings to make recommendations to the 18 House and Senate members on the interim Appropriations Committee that meets Sept. 30.

South Dakota received $1.25 billion from Congress for the governor to commit by December 30.

Word of the special session broke Monday during a meeting of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Commerce and Energy regarding COVID-19. Representative Carl Perry, an Aberdeen Republican, let other legislators know he had received a message about the October 5 date.

“We’ll see you in a couple weeks, I think,” the co-chair, Rep. Tim Rounds, R-Pierre, said as he concluded the panel’s meeting.

Among the commerce panel’s recommendations Monday were $10 million to assist non-profits and $5 million to pay up to three months of interest deferred on business loans made by economic development organizations.

The appropriators met September 10 to review the governor’s proposal for up to $400 million in relief grants for small businesses. Liza Clark, the governor’s finance commissioner, showed that more than $600 million had been committed or spent to that point.

Noem has previously announced $200 million for county and municipal governments and $75 million for K-12 schools.

On Friday, the governor proposed $100 million for health care organizations. That came as the Legislature’s Joint Education Committee recommended an additional $200 per K-12 student — roughly $30 million — and additional funding for school cooperatives. The Legislature’s Joint Health and Human Services Committee meets Tuesday at 8 a.m. CT.

House Speaker Steven Haugaard, a Sioux Falls Republican, led a bipartisan group of 46 representatives who sent the governor a letter in August seeking a special session.

Reed Holwegner, Legislative Research Council director, presented several technology-upgrade contracts for approval Monday morning by the Legislature’s Executive Board.

One is a voice-over-internet system to replace the current telephone system. “This will make remote work a little easier,” Holwegner said. 

Another contract adds more cameras, monitors, microphones and other technology in committee meeting rooms on the Capitol’s third and fourth floors. 

The items were previously discussed at several technology subcommittee meetings.

Sound and voting system changes that were approved in August would have allowed the veto-day session to be run from the chambers rather than committee rooms 413 and 414. 

About $392,000 of federal Coronavirus Relief Funds would be used for the latest contracts. 

This is a developing story.

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