Simplified: Sioux Falls-area state senators and representatives make up close to one-third of the South Dakota Legislature, so it likely comes as no surprise that the region's lawmakers have already signed on as main sponsors for nearly three dozen bills. Here's an early look at some of the priorities behind that legislation.
Why it matters
- The Legislature makes all of the laws that govern the state – laws that affect everything from how schools are funded to how food is handled at restaurants.
- Lawmakers also have the final say on the state budget, which will be especially interesting this year with extra federal coronavirus relief funds.
- The 30 lawmakers who represent the Sioux Falls metro area are the prime sponsors on at least 34 bills so far, and that's just on the first day of session.
So, what's on the docket?
It's worth noting it's too soon to know for sure. A lot can change in the two months of the legislative session.
That said, Sioux Falls-area lawmakers gave a preview of their priorities during a Chamber of Commerce legislative breakfast last week. That, in addition to bills already filed, gives us an overview of topics you can expect to see come up throughout the course of session.
Here are some of those (early) priorities:
The budget is always one of the biggest topics lawmakers tackle. This year, extra one-time federal funds give South Dakota more cash to burn, but local lawmakers are already expressing a desire to be careful about spending it.
Between the American Rescue Plan Act and the Coronavirus Relief Fund (in the CARES Act), the state has received more than $2.2 billion. That's not counting relief funds that went directly to cities and counties
South Dakota voters approved medical and recreational marijuana in 2020. Medical marijuana has been implemented, but the amendment legalizing recreational marijuana was shut down in court.
So far, five Sioux Falls-area lawmakers have signed on to various pieces of legislation further specifying the rules around marijuana use in the state.
Sen. Wayne Steinhauer (R) told chamber members he viewed Medicaid expansion as an inevitable train coming, and that lawmakers have an "obligation to get involved" to make sure if it's coming to the state, that it's done in a way the Legislature can get behind.
Child care and after-school care are both topics lawmakers broached during the Chamber breakfast. It's a workforce issue, Rep. Jamie Smith (D) said, and one lawmakers should find a way to help.
Rep. Linda Duba (D) and Sen. Reynold Nesiba (D) are prime sponsors on a bill to make Juneteenth an official state holiday. The holiday commemorating the emancipation of slaves became a federal holiday last year.
The state has a number of infrastructure projects related to water that could benefit from one-time federal funds, Sen. Jim Bolin (R) said last week.
Rep. Greg Jamison (R) said he wants to bring forward legislation to help folks who are stuck in time share agreements.
Private school funding
Rep. Jon Hansen (R) is a prime sponsor on a bill to increase the tax credit available for the Partners in Education program, which lets certain businesses give what would otherwise be tax money to scholarships for people to send their kids to private schools.
Transgender kids in sports
Rep. Rhonda Milstead (R) introduced a bill – also sponsored by Sioux Falls-area Sen. Maggie Sutton (R) – to ensure that people identified as male at birth cannot play on sports teams designated as being for women or girls.
How do I find my legislators?
Start by figuring out which district you live in.
To figure that out, you can go to the state legislature website. Under “Find my legislators,” there is a search bar on the map where you can enter your address and figure out which district you’re a part of, as well as the current lawmakers in that district.
How do I follow what happens during session?
All of the committee hearings, as well as meetings of the full House and Senate, are streamed on sd.net. You can find daily agendas at sdlegislature.gov.
If you want day-to-day coverage, you'll also want to follow the handful of journalists who spend the session in Pierre with lawmakers. Here's a Twitter list worth following.