Note to readers: This daily installment will be updated throughout each working day of the South Dakota Legislature’s 2021 session that runs through March 29. (The session opens at noon Tuesday, January 12.)
OPENING DAY(S): The 105 lawmakers — 35 senators and 70 representatives — officially convene at noon CT Tuesday, January 12, in their respective Senate and House chambers, then gather in the House to jointly receive the governor’s State of the State address.
Committee meetings begin Wednesday morning at 7:45 a.m. CT. The 105 (or as many can be in attendance under the COVID-19 guidelines) gather again in the House chamber Wednesday afternoon for the State of the Judiciary speech from new South Dakota Supreme Court Chief Justice Steven Jensen. He succeeded David Gilbertson, who because of state law had to retire last week. Gilbertson had served as chief justice since 2001. The new justice is Scott Myren, who had been a circuit judge.
The State of the Tribes address to a joint assembly of lawmakers is scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Crow Creek Sioux Tribe chairman Lester Thompson delivered the speech last year.
BY THE NUMBERS: More Republicans were elected to the Legislature than two years ago. The House split now is 62 Republicans and eight Democrats; it had been 59-11. The Senate is now 32 Republicans and three Democrats;; it was 30-5.
There is a record 30 women — nine senators and 21 representatives. The Senate record remains 11 from the 1993-94 sessions. The 21 in the House is a record.
NEW GOP LEADERS: There are different Republican faces at the front and back of both chambers.
The new House speaker is Republican Spencer Gosch of Glenham. He was speaker pro tem — essentially the speaker in waiting — the past two years. He succeeds Steven Haugaard of Sioux Falls. The House traditionally changes speakers every two years.
The new House Republican leader is Kent Peterson of Salem. He succeeds Lee Qualm of Platte, who was term-limited as a House member.
The Senate president pro tem is Republican Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown, who replaced Brock Greenfield of Clark. The new Senate Republican leader is Gary Cammack of Union Center. He succeeded Kris Langer of Dell Rapids, who didn’t seek re-election to her seat.
The Senate president is Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, a Republican also from the Union Center area of Meade County.
There have been other changes to Republican leadership teams. In the House, the new speaker pro tem is Jon Hansen of Dell Rapids, while the Republican assistant leader is Chris Johnson of Rapid City. The Senate Republican assistant leader is Mike Diedrich of Rapid City.
The Democrat caucuses will be led again by Troy Heinert of Mission in the Senate and Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls in the House.
FOUR-DAY WEEKS: The main run of the annual session will go through Thursday, March 11. Veto day is Monday, March 29.
The South Dakota Constitution says there can be up to 40 days in the regular session. Lawmakers set a 37-day schedule for this year.
Nearly all of the weeks will be four working days. Six of the weeks run Monday-Thursday. One runs Tuesday-Friday. One runs Tuesday-Thursday. One runs Monday-Friday.
WEAR A MASK: The Legislature’s new leaders have been working on proposed COVID-19 restrictions.
Later this week, the Senate will consider a proposal that says senators are expected to wear face coverings while on the Senate floor or attending a Senate committee. The House meanwhile doesn’t have a proposed mask policy. There also will be discussion of remote participation by lawmakers.
The Senate will consider a proposal that all witnesses, lobbyists and citizens will be required to wear face coverings on the third and fourth floors, as will all Legislative Research Council staff. Witnesses will be allowed to remove masks while testifying. Legislators from both chambers are encouraging remote testimony.
Because of COVID-19, seating is limited in the galleries overlooking the Senate and House chambers. Plexiglass sheets have been installed between some pairs of lawmakers’ desks.
FAST START: The nine senators on the 18-member Joint Committee on Appropriations that writes state government’s budget will have a new chair. Schoenbeck chose Republican Jean Hunhoff of Yankton. She replaces John Wiik of Big Stone City, who will continue on the panel. Republican Chris Karr of Sioux Falls again chairs the House nine.
TRACKING BILLS: A piece of legislation is known as a bill. The Legislative Research Council office on the third floor has been pre-filing bills for state agencies and for lawmakers. The growing list is at https://sdlegislature.gov/Session/Bills/44. Underlines are proposed new language; strike-throughs are proposed deletions; and new sections are marked as — yup — new sections.
SD Legislative session 2021
The South Dakota Legislature is established by Article III of the Constitution of South Dakota as a bicameral legislative body. Legislative Sessions can run for up to 40 days every year, depending on the legislative calendar set by the Legislature.
The 2021 Legislative Session will begin Tuesday, January 12, 2021, and ends Monday, March 29, 2021, to complete a 37-day session. During the Session, the Legislature will be in recess beginning Friday, March 12, through Friday, March 26.
The Senate consists of 35 Senators (32 Republicans, 3 Democrats) representing 35 districts. The Constitution provides for not fewer than 25 or more than 35 members.
The House consists of 70 Representatives (62 Republicans, 8 Democrats) representing 35 districts. The Constitution provides for not fewer than 50 or more than 75 members. Districts 26 and 28 have been subdivided into two House districts to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
A bill is simply an idea that someone would like to see become law. It could be anything from the penalty for committing a crime to the amount of money that can be spent on a state program. The idea can come from anyone, but only a Representative or Senator can take that idea and guide it to final passage through the State Legislature.
Following the introduction and first reading of a bill in either house, the presiding officer assigns the bill to a committee based on the subject matter. Generally, bills dealing with certain subjects are assigned to the same committee.
The South Dakota Legislative Research Council, a nonpartisan professional staff for lawmakers, prepares legislative drafts and provides professional staff to standing committees and individual legislators for technical advice and research.
SD Legislative Session COVID-19 protocols