SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakota’s 2022 legislative session will begin on Jan. 11, and finances are on lawmakers’ minds.
“We have probably access to more financial resources than we’ve ever had in the state, so everybody’s going to have an idea on what to do with them,” said Sen. Troy Heinert, a Democrat from Mission.
“I would say the biggest will be the same as last year,” said Rep. Tony Randolph, a Republican from Rapid City. “The funds, the dollars that we have that are, the CARES Act dollars and then, of course, our excess revenue.”
“We’ve got again a big infusion of funds from the federal government related to COVID relief that are going to have to be spent,” said Rep. Jennifer Keintz, a Democrat from Eden.
“I think we all know that money is going to be a big issue just because we have a surplus of money coming in, so I’m concentrated on looking at issues that are going to be long-term solutions,” said Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt, a Republican from Sioux Falls.
Gov. Kristi Noem’s proposal of 6% bumps in pay for state workers, state aid for education and funding to health care providers has Rehfeldt’s attention, too.
“I really hope that a lot of the proposals that the governor had in regards to increases for our state workers come through,” Rehfeldt said. “I think the 6% is very important, especially considering the rates of inflation that we’ve had.”
Marijuana is also on legislators’ radar; more than 20 proposed bills are already posted online.
“We’ll also be talking about marijuana,” Keintz said.
“I think marijuana, recreational marijuana legalization will be a topic,” Heinert said.
Heinert and Randolph each bring up issues dealing with education.
“On the Senate side I do see some conversations about education, education funding, possibly, some of the curriculum issues that have been battered around,” Heinert said. “And something that I think we’re going to bring up is what happened with those social studies standards.”
“Here in South Dakota we don’t call it critical race theory, we don’t actually label it that, but I will say absolutely on the record, it is a divisive thing that’s taking place in our society and being implemented in our society, and I think that at least here in South Dakota it’s something we should deal with,” Randolph said.
Randolph wants to see COVID-19 vaccine mandates and exemptions addressed as well.
“As a legislature, I think we really need to deal with that,” Randolph said. “There are a lot of people in South Dakota that are struggling with this.”
While different bills will have lawmakers and the public’s attention, there is also the ongoing matter of the potential impeachment of South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
“The process is moving forward, so I think that’s going to be a big story coming up here when we get to Pierre,” Keintz said.
“At the same time our regular session is going on there is the impeachment proceedings, where we’re at with that,” Heinert said. “I think that will take a lot of oxygen.”