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

State Supreme Court clarifies conflicts of interest; Noem pledges to fill legislative seats

Legislators can have contracts with state government if the money comes from the annual budget bill, but not if the money comes from any other bill.

That’s the gist of a state Supreme Court opinion issued Friday. Immediately after the opinion’s release, Gov. Kristi Noem said it will free her up to make appointments for two empty seats in the Legislature, both from districts in the Rapid City area.

“My team is reviewing this decision and will be announcing legislative appointments very soon,” N

Sales tax revenue is still available as a fix for nationally bottom-dwelling teacher pay

My heart sank as Mrs. Konechne expressed her disappointment with the class.

She’d assigned us to write a humorous personal essay, and she’d given us plenty of instruction. She expected better, and she was going to get it by making us all do a rewrite.

My pulse jumped at the sight of red ink all over my paper as it landed on my desk. When Mrs. Konechne whispered her request for me to stay after class, I wanted to disappear.

Then I read the handwritten notes. They were all positive — effusive,

Scramble is on for state's remaining federal pandemic aid

South Dakota has $130 million of federal pandemic aid left and an abundance of ideas about how to spend it.

The requests from legislators are more than double the available funding.

“A lot of hands are already in that bucket, and that bucket is only so deep,” said Paul Lepisto, a lobbyist for the Izaak Walton League, which is a national conservation group.

He made the remarks to the Senate State Affairs Committee last week at the Capitol in Pierre. Lepisto testified against a bill that would

Noem confirms $1.3 million of border assistance was a gift to Texas

PIERRE — Governor Kristi Noem confirmed Thursday that when she sent South Dakota National Guard troops to help Texas secure the U.S.-Mexico border, she did so with the understanding that the costs would not be reimbursed.

“If you look at the amount of dollars that Texas has spent in protection of the southern border, which is a federal government responsibility, it’s over $4 billion,” Noem said. “And so they were very clear: ‘You can come and help us, but this will be a financial responsibility

Texas hasn't repaid South Dakota for help at the border

Texas has not repaid South Dakota for assistance at the Texas-Mexico border even though similar mutual-aid agreements between South Dakota and other states have typically involved reimbursement, according to legislators and state officials.

That revelation came Tuesday, one day before Governor Kristi Noem was scheduled to address a joint session of the Legislature about what she foreshadowed as a “potential South Dakota response” to problems at the border.

Noem approved South Dakota National G

Does Kristi Noem believe in Freedom, or just freedom? The scandalous truth.

Gov. Kristi Noem really likes freedom. Not just little freedom. She likes big Freedom, and even bigger FREEDOM.

She reached the apotheosis of her freedom fetish during her recent State of the State address, when she used the word 38 times in 39 minutes. In the published text of the speech, every instance of the word included a capital “F.”

Noem capitalizes the “F” in freedom every time she writes it — not only in published speeches, but also on social media and in her weekly columns. I emailed

An alternative proposal for the Wounded Knee medal problem

Some of the soldiers who participated in the killing of hundreds of Native American men, women and children 133 years ago today at Wounded Knee are still officially honored as heroes.

Poorly written citations have confused the issue of how many soldiers received the Medal of Honor specifically for their participation in the massacre, but it’s believed to be 19, according to the latest scholarship.

The decision to glorify those soldiers for the slaughter at Wounded Knee can be understood, thoug

Forest Service issues draft approval of drilling plan above Spearfish Canyon, with restrictions

A federal agency has provisionally approved a company’s plan to conduct exploratory drilling for gold above Spearfish Canyon.

The company is Colorado-based Solitario Resources. Project maps show some of the proposed drill sites are less than a mile back from the canyon rim in the Black Hills National Forest, about 15 miles southwest of Spearfish.

“None of the proposed drill sites are located in Spearfish Canyon,” says a draft decision issued Tuesday by the U.S. Forest Service.

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