PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Constitution requires that the Legislature open its regular session at the seat of state government on the second Tuesday of January. But there’s nothing that says where or when lawmakers must finish.
That means the Senate and the House of Representatives can conduct business from the homes and offices of their members Monday, when lawmakers hold the final day of the 2020 session.
The contagious and potentially deadly respiratory virus known as COVID-19 is why most of the 105 probably will stay away. The Legislative Research Council announced the unusual plan Wednesday.
LRC director Jason Hancock provided more explanation to KELOLAND News.
“Very few people will be in the room, physically, when the Legislature meets. This will enable them to keep the CDC-recommended physical distance between individuals. The rooms on the third and fourth floors of the Capitol are also undergoing a second deep cleaning of all surfaces today, and LRC will have hand sanitizer readily available for those few individuals who will actually be in the room,” Hancock said.
Hancock said Wednesday the Legislature could meet again in 2020.
“Discussions are ongoing between the governor’s office and legislative leaders regarding a possible special session later this year, but no decisions have been made. The primary focus right now is on the March 30 veto day session of the Legislature,” Hancock said.
Representative Bob Glanzer, a Huron Republican, has tested positive for COVID-19 since the 2020 session’s main run wrapped up March 12. Glanzer was in the House chamber for some of that day but left the Capitol before several votes that evening.
Another lawmaker, Representative Spencer Gosch, a Glenham Republican, didn’t take part that day because he was receiving health tests.
Hancock said Wednesday his office hadn’t been officially notified by Glanzer or any other lawmaker who might have tested positive for COVID-19.
The schedule for Monday calls for the House and the Senate to gavel-in at 11 a.m. CT. The House will first consider two of the bills that Governor Kristi Noem so far has vetoed, HB 1012 and HB 1013. The Senate meanwhile will first consider whether to make changes the governor wants in SB 20 and SB 75.
29 pieces of legislation meanwhile still awaited decisions from the governor as of Wednesday evening, according to the LRC website. Many are spending bills.
“The South Dakota Legislature is conducting the essential business that it must complete for the people of South Dakota, but is doing so in a responsible manner that will both protect the health of its members, and help prevent the spread of a potentially lethal disease,” Hancock said.