Simplified: More than a dozen state lawmakers gathered Thursday morning to let local business leaders know what they're working on when the 99th South Dakota legislative session kicks off next week. Here's a look at some of the big topics of discussion you can expect to see come up.

Why it matters

  • The Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce each year hosts a legislative breakfast event to help business and community leaders get a sense of important legislation coming up in Pierre.
  • Some themes that emerged in the event this week included support for counties, funding for infrastructure, a tuition freeze for state universities and the need to discuss the ongoing childcare crisis.

Tell me more

Here's a closer look at some of the priorities of Sioux Falls-area lawmakers:

Tuition freeze: Several of the lawmakers Thursday voiced strong support for a tuition freeze at South Dakota state universities. Rep. Amber Arlint, Rep. Linda Duba and Sen. Jim Bolin were among the people to say they were "all in" on a tuition freeze.

  • In a similar vein, Sen. Larry Zikmund said he'd also like to do more to fund tuition for National Guard members by expanding it to add private universities in the state as well as the public universities and tech schools.

Less money overall: The state is coming off of a couple of years where there was a large influx of one-time federal dollars via pandemic relief funds. This year, it's going to get more "back to normal," according to Rep. Tony VenHuizen. That'll likely mean increases to medicaid proviers, teachers and state employees will be more modest than they have been the last few years.

  • There's also a question about how much ongoing money needs to be committed to fund Medicaid expansion, VenHuizen added, and he predicts that any remaining one-time funding likely needs to go to fund a new state penitentiary.

More support for counties: County governments in the state often face budget struggles, and part of their financial challenges come down to the counties' need to pay for legal representation for those accused of crimes who cannot afford a lawyer of their own. Bolin said he'd like to see a $6 million line item to help counties pay for those legal expenses.

Solutions for elderly care: The legislature had a summer task force to look at nursing homes in the state and the long-term care industry as a whole. You can expect to see bills that address workforce needs, as well as discussion on how to incentivize nursing homes to consolidate, according to Rep. Brian Mulder.

Money for school lunches: Rep. Kadyn Wittman is bringing a proposal to fund all school lunches for people who qualify for reduced-priced lunches, but don't qualify for free lunches. She estimates this will cost the state about $600,000 per year.

Money for airport expansion: A couple of lawmakers, including Bolin noted that the state should invest in expanding the Sioux Falls Regional Airport to allow for more gates and accommodate a growing city and state. There's also a fair amount of federal matching funds the state can take advantage of to advance that project, Sen. Jack Kolbeck said.

Regulating artificial intelligence: Sen. Liz Larson said she'd like to see lawmakers discuss artificial intelligence, and specifically she wants to see if there's anything lawmakers can do to prevent deep fakes from influencing elections.

'Truth in Corrections': The big judicial system discussion last session was a so-called "truth in sentencing" bill that made it harder for certain inmates to be granted parole. This year, Sen. Brent Hoffman said he'll be supporting a "truth in corrections" bill in an effort to lower recidivism by providing inmates with training and support to ease their transition out of incarceration.

Discussion – but likely no action – on childcare: Rep. Erin Healy (who herself just had a baby less than two months ago) said there is a coalition of lawmakers who are committed to finding solutions to the state's childcare crisis. That said, there likely won't be any action this year because there's a lot of information gathering that needs to happen first, Rep. Linda Duba said.

"We're not going to solve this problem until we get loud about it," Healy said.

What happens next?

The legislative session kicks off Tuesday with Gov. Kristi Noem's State of the State address.

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South Dakota’s 99th annual legislative session kicks off next week.