Note to readers: This daily report will be updated throughout each working day of the South Dakota Legislature’s 2021 session that runs through March 29.
RURAL SPLIT: South Dakota Farm Bureau issued a statement Tuesday supporting the governor’s proposed merger of two departments to form a new state Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Meanwhile, South Dakota Farmers Union opposes the move.
The governor will issue a reorganization order to the Legislature in the first five days of the session that opens today. A majority in either chamber can stop it.
Historically, Farm Bureau has been more Republican-aligned and Farmers Union more Democrat-oriented. The incoming Legislature is heavily Republican, as is the governor, who held a conference call with various agriculture producers January 6.
TO MASK OR NOT: The Senate Legislative Procedure Committee meets at 8 a.m. CT Wednesday to consider proposed rule changes including mask requirements and others related to COVID-19.
The House Legislative Procedure Committee meets at 9 a.m. CT Wednesday; mask requirements aren’t on the agenda, but remote voting is in case legislators can’t attend because of COVID-19.
NO SUNSHINE YET: The governor kicks off South Dakota’s annual session of the Legislature with a State of the State speech to lawmakers. That’s what Governor Kristi Noem will do at 1 p.m. CT today. Past governors’ speeches have run as long as two hours. That’s a lot of material for South Dakota news reporters to sort. It’s why every previous governor since at least the 1980s, from Bill Janklow and George S. Mickelson through Mike Rounds and Dennis Daugaard, made time to brief the state’s reporters, whether afterward or beforehand.
As of 7:30 a.m. today, South Dakota reporters remained in the dark whether Noem will brief them. In her 2018 campaign, Noem promised greater transparency in state and local governments. The 2021 session marks the start of her third year as governor, but those campaign promises now seem to have been just clouds that produced little meaningful rain. (To read what was promised, see her Sunshine Initiative from the campaign.)
On a related note, South Dakota news reporters also still don’t know whether Noem will continue the tradition of weekly news conferences during session that previous governors held.
UPDATE: According to Patrick Callahan of the South Dakota Broadcasters Association, “Governor Spokesperson Ian Fury confirms there will be no press availability following today’s State of the State speech at the Capitol and did not address when the next availability is scheduled or planned. Instead, Fury asked that specific questions be directed to him.”
The governor meanwhile was on the national Fox News Channel this morning talking about legislation she’ll propose banning abortions of unborn children diagnosed with Down syndrome. That may explain the reason that a red satellite-dish van was parked outside the governor’s mansion Monday night.
LOOK WHO’S BACK: At least seven former legislators won election again in November. Here’s a look at who they are and when they previously served.
Rep. Mike Derby, R-Rapid City, House 1997-2002. He placed third in the 2002 three-way Republican primary for two House nominations.
Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka, House 2009-2014. He didn’t seek re-election in 2014.
Rep. Greg Jamison, R-Sioux Falls, House 2017-2018. He didn’t seek re-election and ran for Sioux Falls mayor.
Rep. Liz May, R-Kyle, House 2013-2018. She placed fourth in the 2018 four-way House race for two seats.
Rep. Mike Stevens, R-Yankton, House 2013-2018. He didn’t seek re-election in 2018.
Rep. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings. House 2005-2010; Senate 2011-2018. Term-limited in Senate, he didn’t seek a return to the House.
Rep. Dean Wink, R-Howes. House 2009-2016. Term-limited in the House, he didn’t seek a Senate term.
INDIAN EDUCATION BILLS: As of 7:30 a.m. today, the Legislative Research Council showed 47 House bills and 70 Senate bills had been pre-filed.
Several came from the Legislature’s State-Tribal Relations Committee, a mix of Republicans and a few Democrats who clearly haven’t agreed with some of the governor’s approaches in Indian country.
One measure, House Bill 1046, would reverse Noem’s 2019 decision to move the state Office of Indian Education to the state Department of Tribal Relations from the Department of Education. House Democrat Shawn Bordeaux of Mission, a Rosebud Sioux tribal member, is prime sponsor. The lead sponsor in the other chamber is Senate Democratic leader Troy Heinert of Mission, a Rosebud Sioux tribal member.
On the other hand, the committee is fully behind Senate Bill 68 that calls for creation of tribal-oriented public schools at the public K-12 level, emphasizing the Oceti Sawkowin standards that are already in place by the Department of Education. Heinert worked hard on this bill last year with the Noem administration and particularly then-Secretary Ben Jones, and the final joint product won Senate approval, only to die in a House committee.