Q&A: How an anti-vaccine bill motivated a South Dakotan’s award-winning response •

Dr. Allie Alvine went to Pierre in 2020 with a concern and came home with a mission.

At the state Capitol, she testified against a bill that would have repealed the immunization requirements that apply to most school children.

“I saw the anti-vaxxers there, and they were a large group,” she said.

Lawmakers rejected the bill, but Alvine, of Sioux Falls, feared the anti-vaccine movement was growing.

“I had to get more involved,” she said. “I had to create a presence at our state Capitol in Pie

Production jumps higher at Black Hills gold mine • South Dakota Searchlight

Gold production was up and silver production was way up last year at South Dakota’s only active large-scale gold mine, according to new numbers reviewed Thursday by a state board.

Chicago-based Coeur Mining owns the Wharf Mine, near Terry Peak and the city of Lead in the northern Black Hills. Gold production at the mine increased by 17% to 93,502 ounces last year, and silver production increased by 481% to 267,786 ounces.

Matt Zietlow is Coeur’s environmental manager at Wharf. He told South Da

Now that Noem knows what’s in her own book, she should tell us how it got there • South Dakota Searchlight

Kristi Noem owes South Dakotans an explanation for the embarrassment she’s caused herself and the state.

The Republican governor has not yet told us how or why she included a false story in her forthcoming book about meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Margaret Brennan of “Face the Nation” pressed Noem for an answer Sunday on CBS.

Noem replied, “This anecdote shouldn’t have been in the book, and as soon as it was brought to my attention, I made sure that that was adjusted.”

So Noem woul

Noem in political freefall as book inaccuracies emerge following backlash against animal killings • South Dakota Searchlight

South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem was in political freefall Friday as embarrassing revelations continued to emerge from the scrutiny of advance copies of her memoir, which doesn’t officially publish until Tuesday.

Noem was already reeling from near-universal backlash against her disclosure in the book that she shot and killed a dog named Cricket and a billy goat years ago — the dog for its failures on a hunting excursion and its attacks on a neighbor’s chickens, and the goat for chasing

Noem’s dog killing was bad, but to really understand her, consider the goat • South Dakota Searchlight

Since Gov. Kristi Noem’s disclosure of her farmyard killing spree, everybody’s been focused on Cricket.

That’s understandable. Cricket was a 14-month-old dog. It’s easy to imagine her head jutting out of a pickup window, hair and tongue blowing in the wind. Like many dogs, Cricket probably had a personality and other human-like qualities that we so often attribute to canine companions.

Noem shot and killed Cricket on some undisclosed date years ago for being bad at pheasant hunting and good at

Noem blames ‘fake news’ for backlash against her killing a dog and goat • South Dakota Searchlight

Who’s to blame for the outrage about South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s fatal shootings of a dog and goat? “Fake news,” according to her.

Noem, a Republican, appeared Wednesday night on Fox News with anchor Sean Hannity for her first interview since the story broke last week. In his introduction, Hannity said Noem “is being attacked by both Republicans and Democrats, dog lovers and goat lovers.”

Noem replied, “Well, Sean, you know how the fake news works. They leave out some or most of the facts

Public forum highlights potential property tax political storm • South Dakota Searchlight

RAPID CITY — Some frustrated taxpayers attended a public forum Saturday to tell state officials they’re taking the wrong approach to taxation.

Several of the roughly 100 attendees said legislators and Gov. Kristi Noem should raise the sales tax rate instead of reducing it, and use the money to replace some of the local government revenue currently supplied by property taxes.

“I don’t think there’s any other way around getting our property taxes taken care of unless we raise the sales tax,” sai

Changed forest and market factors share blame for sawmill troubles, forest supervisor says • South Dakota Searchlight

Changed forest conditions and market forces likely contributed to layoffs at a Spearfish sawmill, according to the U.S. Forest Service’s top official in the Black Hills.

Last week, the owner of the sawmill blamed logging reductions in the Black Hills National Forest for the layoffs.

The forest’s supervisor is Shawn Cochran. He said this week that the Forest Service was saddened to hear about the laid-off employees, and the agency is concerned about the economic health of sawmills.

“The mills

Black Hills sawmill lays off workers and alleges Forest Service is to blame • South Dakota Searchlight

The owner of a Spearfish sawmill is laying off 50 people and alleges the U.S. Forest Service is to blame for not allowing the company to cut enough timber.

The Forest Service, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

Neiman Enterprises announced the layoffs at Spearfish Forest Products in a Thursday evening news release.

“The layoffs are the direct result of reductions to the Black Hills National Forest timber sale program,” the release said.

A Neiman spokesperson said about 150 employees r

Q&A: Johnson calls criticism of his forestry hearing ‘absurd’ •

Dusty Johnson resents the implication that he’s looking out for the timber industry at the expense of the Black Hills National Forest.

“The idea that anyone in government wants to allow the timber industry to cut what they want to cut is absurd,” Johnson told South Dakota Searchlight. “I think it does a tremendous disrespect to this process.”

Johnson, a Republican who is South Dakota’s lone U.S. representative, disliked a recent commentary written by retired U.S. Forest Service employee Dave M

South Dakota does well in regional college cost survey • South Dakota Searchlight

Several years of tuition freezes have helped make South Dakota’s public universities the most affordable for undergraduates in the region, according to new data.

“As a result of this past legislative session, we’re continuing to save students money,” said Nathan Lukkes, executive director and CEO of the South Dakota Board of Regents.

He made the comments during a board meeting Thursday in Vermillion, reflecting on the legislative session that ended last month. Legislators and Gov. Kristi Noem

Q&A: Thune adapts to the political ‘reality we live with’ as he seeks leadership post •

It may seem illogical for John Thune to run for Senate Republican leader after he was booed by Republicans in his own state, but as Thune says, “these aren’t normal times.”

The booing happened in September. Former President Donald Trump headlined a South Dakota Republican Party fundraiser in a Rapid City arena packed with 7,000 people. Thune did not attend.

When Thune’s picture appeared on a video board, many in the crowd voiced their disapproval. He heard about it later from members of his Ra

Lawmakers approve $10 million for airport grants as session winds down • South Dakota Searchlight

Airports across the state may soon be able to apply for a share of $10 million in state-funded grants to improve, expand and support the future capacity demands of their terminals, thanks to a bill headed to the governor’s desk.

The grants would be issued by the state Aeronautics Commission. Lawmakers said the grants would allow airports access to federal matching funds, thereby extending the value of the state’s investment.

“Some of those could see up to a 90% match for 10% of state investmen

Noem signs ban on foreign-owned ag land; lawmakers busy as final week begins •

PIERRE — Governor Kristi Noem signed a bill Monday that bans ownership of agricultural land in South Dakota by people, companies and governments from six countries, while legislators sent her a flurry of other bills as the annual legislative session’s final week began.

“Their goal is to dominate the world, and the way they do that is by taking out America,” Noem said during a bill-signing ceremony at the Capitol.

Under an existing state law dating to 1979, foreign people and governments were a

Legislative Roundup: Tuition freeze expected in budget as session enters final week •

Lawmakers on a budget committee have agreed to another tuition freeze for state universities as South Dakota’s legislative session enters its final week and attention turns to the budget.

If the agreement holds, it will be the third consecutive year that tuition has gone unchanged.

The goal is retaining young South Dakotans and supporting workforce development by attracting students from other states, said Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel.

“We can’t grow our workforce organically by producing more p

Election officials say verbal abuse is common as lawmakers reject bill to protect them • South Dakota Searchlight

The assertion that election officials are not being threatened or intimidated in South Dakota helped derail legislation this week at the Capitol in Pierre that would have criminalized those acts.

Yet a South Dakota county election official published an article last month detailing verbal abuse suffered by her staff. And another county election official said this week that her office faces “intimidating” tactics from members of the public.

The article is from Susan Kiepke, the auditor of Daviso

Medicaid work requirement question will appear on South Dakota ballots in November

South Dakotans will vote on Medicaid work requirements in the Nov. 5 general election.

The measure would not immediately impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients who qualify under recently expanded income guidelines, but would authorize state officials to impose work requirements if they so choose and if the federal government allows it.

On Tuesday at the Capitol in Pierre, the state House of Representatives voted 63-7 to send the measure to the ballot. The seven no votes came from the

Legislative Roundup: Direct democracy, abortion, pipelines and property rights take center stage

Bills addressing pipelines, property rights, abortion and direct democracy are provoking strong opinions from legislators as they begin the final two weeks of their annual lawmaking session at the Capitol in Pierre.

Democrats are calling House Bill 1244 an assault on citizens’ rights to gather the thousands of petition signatures necessary to place questions on statewide ballots. The legislation would establish a process for people who regret signing petitions to remove their signatures.

Repub

Lawmakers advance bill allowing adult permit holders to carry concealed guns in schools

Legislation that would allow adults to carry concealed pistols in schools after getting a permit and permission from a principal is two steps from becoming law in South Dakota.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 11-1 on Monday at the Capitol in Pierre to send the bill to the House floor. If it passes there without amendment, it will go to the governor’s desk.

Rep. Mike Stevens, R-Yankton, cast the lone no vote in the committee.

“The inference,” Stevens said of the bill, “is that the school b

Phonics training is among the winners as budget panel plows through spending requests

PIERRE – The Legislature’s budget committee endorsed a bill Friday to spend $3 million on phonics-based reading instruction for elementary teachers, and the committee also dealt with a raft of other proposals ahead of a deadline to advance spending bills to the House and Senate.

Earlier in the week, state Education Secretary Joe Graves told the Joint Appropriations Committee that state universities are already training the next generation of teachers in the phonics-based approach to instruction

Q&A: The long road to 'Short Walk,' a new podcast on the Ravnsborg accident and impeachment

Jason Ravnsborg’s commitment to crisscrossing the state in his car led to his success and his downfall, according to the producer of a new podcast about the former South Dakota attorney general.

Before Ravnsborg’s involvement in a crash that killed a pedestrian, he defined himself in part by the long drives he made to political and official functions.

“One thing I’m good at is driving,” Ravnsborg said at a public meeting just months before the crash.

Details like that are woven throughout Lee

South Dakota was tardy with a gold tax. Can it afford to sleep on lithium?

When lawmakers convened in Pierre during the depths of the Great Depression in 1935, they faced a vote on “possibly the most widely advertised and discussed piece of legislation that has ever been brought before the South Dakota Legislature.”

That’s how proponents of a tax on gold mining described their bill.

Gold was famously discovered nearly six decades earlier in the Black Hills, so you might wonder why the state lacked a gold tax as late as 1935.

The answer is simple: Until that year, le

Lawmakers endorse summer children’s food program, nix expansion of reduced price school meals

A bill to include South Dakota in a summer food program for children advanced to the next step of the legislative process Wednesday in Pierre, while legislation to expand eligibility for reduced price school meals was rejected.

Lawmakers moved a bill forward that addresses the federal government’s Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer Program for Children. It provides eligible low-income families with $40 per child, per month in preloaded cards to buy groceries during the summer months.

Food is c

Teacher pay mandates pass committee without promise of new funding

A bill requiring public schools to raise teacher pay with no promise of new state funding passed a legislative committee Wednesday in Pierre.

Nobody testified against the legislation, but several lobbyists representing the education community called it a work in progress.

“It is not a perfect bill, but a compromise that will hopefully help us attract new teachers and retain the current, experienced teachers, and bring quality education to the students in the state of South Dakota,” said Dianna
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