SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The 2023 legislative session is set to get underway in just under a month, and there will be quite a few new faces in Pierre that were just elected in November.
South Dakota has 105 total legislators across the house and the senate — 94 Republicans and 11 Democrats.
There are 35 newly-elected lawmakers getting started in Pierre in January — 31 Republicans and four Democrats.
Chris Kassin is a Republican serving District 17 and lives in Vermillion. He will be on the appropriations committee.
“Being a voice for the House but also the joint appropriations committee. You know, working towards a balanced budget, working towards a budget reflective of the values, the reason we were sent to Pierre. And also just doing the best, make the best decisions we can for the state,” Kassin said.
Kameron Nelson is one of the four newly-elected Democrats and represents District 10 in Sioux Falls. He brought up Governor Kristi Noem’s budget address and the proposed 5% increase for state employees and providers of Medicaid services. He says that number is falling short.
“My colleagues in the Democratic caucus will be championing 10%. And we like to have conversations with our colleagues to make sure that we get there,” he said.
Nelson also believes Medicaid expansion and abortion will also be hot button topics.
“We’re going to do what’s best for the people of South Dakota and those conversations are what’s paramount, and that’s what the people expect from us,” he said.
Tyler Tordsen is a newly-elected Republican representative for District 14 in Sioux Falls. He has interned in the legislature before.
“I’ve watched it for a long time, but to be able to be part of the process, be on a committee and have a vote, you know, have some say in that and just be, I want to just do the best job that I can,” Tordsen said.
Tordsen says he doesn’t have any plans for specific legislation right now, but he does praise the process.
“Every bill gets a hearing, and I think that’s an awesome thing that we need to keep and protect, and so doing what I can to make sure that I’m not helping us break records by introducing tons of bills. Naturally, there’ll be stuff that’ll come up, but at this time I’m just planning on coming into it, and I want to research and read a lot of the legislation,” he said.
Additional answers to our questions:
Question: What are your plans when working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to get things accomplished in Pierre?
Kassin: I was elected to be the representative for everybody is in District 17. Regardless of, you know, political affiliation or anything, just to be a representative for everyone in that. And that’s how I planned and plan to approach this. As far as, you know, reaching across the different aisles or the different chambers, working with everybody in order to do the state’s business.
Nelson: We’ll have large conversations about Medicaid expansion and how to implement that after the people chose to support that on the ballot in November. We’ll have lots of conversations. We’re excited to hear the governor change her position about paid family leave, and we look forward to working with the governor on that. As far as some of the other hot button topics, obviously, we’ll have large conversations about abortion and access to health care. When the governor makes comment directly in her budget about responsive and responsible health care and giving control to the people rather than the government, I hope that many of my colleagues will listen to that and make sure that outside of the realm of just the financial component, true health care, giving that authority to the individual is what’s best for South Dakotans.
Tordsen: I’m a lifelong South Dakotan, diverse background myself. Lived in different parts of the state, and so I naturally have always been able to get along and work with anybody. We just came off of our new member orientation last week and we had people from all over the state that are newly elected, all different backgrounds and experiences, ages, demographics, you name it. And I really think we’re going to have a good class that’s going to come in and be able to work together, tackle some of the tough issues that come up and then just be able to work together and have respect for the process and do the best job that we can for South Dakota.
Question: What is your first priority as soon as you get to Pierre?
Kassin: I think we’re going to be drinking from a water hose and in appropriations. I am particularly as a freshman legislator and somebody put on that put on that committee, just to get up to speed on what’s going on in the different departments in the state. The different programs in the state where there’s funding, where there’s funding deficiencies, where there’s additional funding that may could go and enhance those programs. I look forward just to understanding how that all pulls together, and how in the end working towards making the best budget we can for the state of South Dakota.
Nelson: Those first couple of weeks is getting to know people. Obviously, we’ve had the ability to talk to a lot of our first term freshmen legislators over the last week, but there’s a large body of folks that I have not met. And so building those relationships, building rapport, trust with different advocate groups and lobbyists. Making sure that we’re getting the whole picture of what is happening when we have a new term. There’s 35 new legislators. That’s a lot of education that has to happen in a very short period of time, and so everyone across the state who’s done the job over the last two years, educating for their place in line of a bit of the state support, that work starts over. And so I look very much forward to working with families, working with those stakeholders to ensure that we have the best product.”
Tordsen: My sentiments going into this legislative session are probably pretty similar to the governor’s as she outlined in her budget address last week. And that is making sure that we fulfill our duty to balance the budget again for another year, making sure that we’re good stewards of taxpayer dollars, trying to find a tax cut where we can to help South Dakotans, especially with record inflation, and then the emphasis on South Dakota families and all the different policies that’ll be debated impacting South Dakota families. That’s kind of my focus coming into session.”