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. Updates 8:37 a.m., 9:33 a.m.
SILENCE ON MARIJUANA: What Republican Governor Kristi Noem didn’t talk about Tuesday in her State of State address was significant.
She didn’t spend any time on two of the bigger issues the Legislature faces this session: South Dakota voters’ approval of two marijuana measures and their legalization of Deadwood sports wagering.
South Dakota news reporters didn’t get a chance either to question Noem directly about marijuana or sports wagering, because she didn’t hold a news media briefing after the speech.
Her state Department of Revenue has submitted legislation on Deadwood sports wagering. And Noem talked in her December 8 budget speech about the costs of what she described as “disappointing” results on marijuana.
But there’s nothing legislatively so far from her administration on medical marijuana, which passed 291,754 to 125,488, including majorities in 63 of South Dakota’s 66 counties, or recreational marijuana, which voters supported 225,260 to 190,477, but gained majorities in only 25 counties.
This in the wake of her executive order issued late Friday afternoon, where Noem disclosed she was the force behind the lawsuit attempting to overturn the result of Amendment A that added recreational marijuana use to the South Dakota Constitution and taxes sales at 15%.
A circuit judge that Noem appointed in 2019 has set a January 27 hearing in the case.
MATTER OF TIMING: Whatever Judge Christina Klinger decides, the losing side probably will appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court.
Given the high court’s standard timelines, the five justices — new chief Steven Jensen, Janine Kern, Mark Salter, Patricia DeVaney and Scott Myren — likely won’t have the case ultimately decided until after the Legislature’s final day of session March 29.
The constitutional amendment meanwhile set a deadline of April 1, 2022, for the state Department of Revenue to have rules in place. That means the Legislature must adopt laws in the 2021 session or hold a special session later this year after a Supreme Court decision, because the 2022 session would be too late for subsequent rule-making to meet the deadline.
The Legislature traditionally has held a special session each decade in the first odd-numbered year to redraw legislative districts to reflect U.S. Census results. That could be a fallback on marijuana.
COVID-19 RULES: The committees on legislative procedure meet this morning on proposed rule changes for the 2021 session for the Senate and the House, as well as proposed changes to the Legislature’s joint rules. Look for updates here later today.
The Senate approach expects senators will wear masks and all non-senators shall wear masks. The House approach encourages mask use.
The recommendations will go to roll-call votes in coming days by the full Senate and full House.
8:37 a.m. update — The Senate Legislative Procedure Committee unanimously approved its four proposed rules. Two of the new rules deal with COVID-19.
S2-6 says all senators are expected to wear masks on the Senate floor or stay at least six feet distant from any legislative staff. It also would require all non-senators wear a mask on the Senate floor or “in a Senate lobby, in the Senate gallery, or in any area adjacent to the rotunda and the Senate on the third or fourth floor of the Capitol.”
S4-4 says all senators are expected to wear masks in Senate committees or stay at least six feet distant from any legislative staff. It also would require any non-senator to wear a mask in the committee but adds that the committee chair “may allow a person to remove his or her mask when speaking to the committee.”
Democrat Reynold Nesiba of Sioux Falls, a member of the Senate panel, asked how joint House-Senate committees would be run. Replied Republican Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown, the Senate panel’s chair, “It takes two to dance.”
Schoenbeck said a joint committee’s House chair would have to decide whether to follow the Senate rule, which would be more restrictive than what the House was expected to approve.
Republican Senator Gary Cammack didn’t wear a mask at the Senate committee meeting. Neither did Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, the Senate president, who’s also from the Union Center area.
9:33 a.m. update — None of six Republicans on the House Legislative Procedure Committee wore masks to its meeting Wednesday. Democrat Erin Healy of Sioux Falls did.
Among its decisions, the panel okayed two rules on COVID-19 voting procedures and didn’t discuss any policy on masks. A proposal on speaking-time was deferred until this afternoon. The full House will make final decisions on proposed changes next week.
IN PRACTICE: Tuesday, most of the 35 senators wore masks in the chamber.
Those without face coverings included Republicans Julie Frye-Mueller of Rapid City, Brock Greenfield of Clark, Jessica Castleberry of Rapid City, Ryan Maher of Isabel, Joshua Klumb of Mount Vernon and Jack Kolbeck of Sioux Falls, as well as the lieutenant governor. Republican John Wiik of Big Stone City wore an odd one into the chamber, joked with Rhoden about its appearance, and then took it off.
On the flip side, a masked Timothy Johns of Lead was protected by plexiglass around three sides of his Senate desk.
The House was a different story. Many Republicans in the 70-member chamber were mask-less, including the two new presiding officers, speaker Spencer Gosch of Glenham and speaker pro tem Jon Hansen of Dell Rapids, and the past speaker, Steven Haugaard of Sioux Falls.
The new House Republican leader, Kent Peterson of Salem, wore a mask, but most of the Republican leadership team across the back row didn’t.
Democrat Linda Duba of Sioux Falls doubled-down, wearing a face mask and a clear spatter shield.
ANOTHER ONE OUT: Missing the first day, and probably the rest of this week, was House Democrat assistant leader Orin Lesmeister of Parade. The rancher was back home with COVID-19, according to House Democrat leader Jamie Smith of Sioux Falls.
Lesmeister was the latest lawmaker to get coronavirus. The House lost Representative Bob Glanzer of Huron to COVID-19 last spring.
Among those known to have been infected since then are Haugaard and senators Nesiba, Helene Duhamel of Rapid City and Schoenbeck.