The 94th session of the South Dakota legislature got underway this past week in Pierre. So many things happened that it’s hard to know what to report on. Topping the list, however, has to be the inauguration of a new Governor and all the changes that result.
Elected only one day after the 100th anniversary of the end of women’s suffrage in South Dakota, Kristi Noem, the first woman to do so, took the oath of office as South Dakota’s 33rd Governor on Saturday, January 5. A short 3 days later, joined by a newly installed Attorney General, Secretary of State and other constitutional officers, and all seated justices of our Supreme Court, she stood before a joint session of the legislature and spoke of her vision for South Dakota.
There was confidence, courage and promise in her voice as she spoke of tackling the Meth crisis, reforming education, focusing economic development on agriculture, and strengthening families. On reforming education, applause greeted her announcement that home school kids would have equal access to college scholarship opportunities, and a standing ovation erupted when she said she wants every student to pass the citizenship test as a pre-requisite to graduation. Likewise, her “week of work” education initiative (a statewide exposure of middle and high school kids to future work opportunities) received the approval of loud applause.
There are many new faces throughout the Capitol this year. With a new Governor come new leaders in many Departments and offices. Likewise, an election brings many new legislators to Pierre. There are 26 new faces (37%) in the House alone. That change, combined with the internal political caucus elections that put new people in positions of authority, means that the whole dynamic has changed.
While there is uncertainty with all the change, there is also optimism. New leadership and new faces bring new energy – and a renewed hope that we can make needed changes and take on the tough challenges. I am more hopeful than ever that South Dakota can be better, as our new Governor said, “for the next generation”. Lets all do our part to make it so.
In service to God and you,
John Mills, Representative, District 4 firstname.lastname@example.org OR John.Mills@sdlegislature.gov