The first week of the 94th Session of the South Dakota Legislature is now over. I am very grateful to be back and look... Week One of The 2019 Legislative Session

The first week of the 94th Session of the South Dakota Legislature is now over. I am very grateful to be back and look forward to once again do the people’s work.

My roommate during session is my District 4 colleague, Rep. John Mills. Our early mornings have been filled with good conversations as we prepare for the day.

There is quite a buzz in the Capitol about working with our new governor. I perceive it as a renewed sense of hope that South Dakota can become even better than it is, and quite possibly, serve as an example for the nation.

We will spend the next nine weeks working on legislation, crafting a state budget, protecting our freedoms, and representing the good people of our state. I am trying to tamper my enthusiasm as I write this, but the truth is I am excited about the potential we have to leave a lasting legacy for our children and grandchildren.

One of the key topics at any legislative session is the state budget. The Appropriations committee began meeting even before Session convened to start working on the budget. Our District 4 Senator, John Wiik, chairs this committee, making him one of the most powerful legislators in the state. There is an adage in the legislature that if you want to understand the depths of an issue, follow the money. That’s exactly what Senator Wiik does. We are blessed to have him as our state senator.
People always ask “what will be the hot topics of this session?” Usually it’s hard to know, but with the new governor providing direction for the major work she hopes to accomplish, I think it’s safe to say that a good part of the debate will center of her priorities to expand rural broadband, extend pheasant habitat, develop the economy, improve our schools, battle meth, expand foster care so every child can have a home, grow agriculture, and make government more transparent.
Of course, it’s one thing to paint a vison, it’s another to lay out the steps to accomplish it. That said, I think these topics will likely be some of the major themes we debate this its year and probably throughout her administration.
I also expect a battle over what to do with new tax revenue received from online tax revenues.
You may recall the battle a few years ago to raise sales tax one-half cent to provide funding to increase teachers’ salaries. One of the important factors that legislators weighed during the debate was an amendment offered by Rep. Jeff Partridge to offset the tax if South Dakota were successful in its efforts to requires remot sellers with no physical location in South Dakota to collect and remit sales tax on online purchases.
As things turned out, the United States Supreme Court agreed with our position in South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc.

This means an unknow amount of additional revenue will be coming into South Dakota. Estimates I’ve heard range between seven million to fifty million dollars.

The battle I anticipate will be what to do with the money – spend it or return it to the taxpayers per the Partridge Amendment.

My belief is when the legislature makes a promise to the taxpayers, it should keep its promise. If the battle develops, I will support offsetting the half-cent sales tax.

These issues, and others, will be covered in greater detail as the Session unfolds.
Please feel free to contact me at
If you would like to follow the session, you can find comprehensive legislative information online at:
Thank you again for the opportunity to serve you in Pierre. It is work I take very seriously. Please contact me if I can help on any issue.

In contrast, the third week of the 2018 Session included introduction of a spate of bills covering everything from open school enrollment to hunting mourning doves. The deadline for all bills to be introduced is Thursday, Feb. 1.
Listening to people/ principals and supe groups
Top speech excerpts
Hot topics
Tax issues
Bills I am supporting

A. Veterans – Clare
1. Direct state case-workers investigating child abuse to inquire if there is a military affiliation and authorize them to share information with appropriate military authorities.

2. Allow military children that are relocating to South Dakota to have access to public school registration at the time that the process is open to the general student population, and temporarily waive proof of residency requirements until the student begins school.

B. Education – Clare – Create a voluntary Civics Literacy program to incentivize public high school students to gain proficiency in advanced civics literacy. Create a state seal denoting advanced literacy in civics education to be affixed to the student’s diploma, and recognize advanced proficiency on official transcripts. To earn the “seal”, students must demonstrate mastery of our country’s foundational history and its documents.
C. Medical
1. Resolution to increase awareness about the dangers of Opioid abuse and alternatives to effective pain management instead of opioids. Deb (SDCA)
2. Simon’s law. Require physicians notify parents before placing a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order in a child’s medical chart. Anita
3. Establish legal standards for surrogacy in South Dakota. Ban commercial (for-profit) surrogacy. Anita
D. Govt. – Clean up language Water Districts

Issues important to me.
Transparency – Many steps have been taken over the past few years to make sure the public has easy access to government information.
• The South Dakota Transparency Website at is a great starting point. This website contains links to the state payroll, the state checkbook, contracts and grants, and the state budget.
• The Department of Legislative Audit (DLA) has extensive reports about the finances of the state, counties, municipalities, schools, special districts, regional railroad authorities, and pool arrangements. DLA has authority to audit any state officer, department, agency, board or commission, and any political subdivision. The DLA website ( has a “red flag” option for anyone to report suspected fraud, noncompliance, or abuse. Allegations may be submitted anonymously.
• Allegations about Medicaid fraud are submitted to the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit at
• The activities of the state’s various boards and commissions can also be found online, including agendas, minutes, board members, and related documents. For many boards and commissions, you can even listen to the board meeting online as it happens. Visit to learn more.
• In the 2017 Session, the legislature established a Government Accountability Board to review and investigate allegations of financial impropriety by any person holding a statewide office and employees of the executive branch. The scope of the board’s responsibilities, as well as a complaint form, are also at
• Political candidates are required to file campaign finance reports with the Secretary of State. Those reports are posted online, as well as elected officials’ conflict of interest and financial interest statements. Political action committees are also required to file financial reports. These documents can be viewed at
There are ways for South Dakotans to make sure state and local governments are honestly doing the public’s business. Everyone has access to information about how tax moneys are being spent. Everyone has an open invitation to look into the activities of boards and commissions. Everyone can see how political campaigns are being funded, and whether public officials have a potential conflict of interest on a topic.

Staff Writer

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