Congressional Roundup: Watchdog group rates effectiveness of SD delegation

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the latest installment in a series of periodic updates on the activities of South Dakota’s congressional delegation.

All three of the people representing South Dakota in Congress are among the most effective in their party, according to new scores published by a congressional watchdog group.

In its “effectiveness scores” for the 117th Congress, the Center for Effective Lawmaking ranked Rep. Dusty Johnson 14th among 222 Republican House members, while Sens. Mike Rounds an

Congressional Roundup: Sustainability vs. safety

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a series of periodic updates on the activities of South Dakota’s congressional delegation.

A new bill from Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, would take money away from sustainability efforts in schools and redirect it to school safety.

The bill takes aim at $500 million in funding appropriated by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act for energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements at public school facilities. Rounds’ legislation would reallocate

$50 million water legislation falls two votes short on final day

Amid all the excitement over the passage of a sales-tax reduction on the final day of regular legislative business Thursday, a bill to devote $50 million of federal money to water projects quietly died.

Sen. Helene Duhamel, R-Rapid City, had hoped her water legislation, Senate Bill 156, would pass before legislators left the Capitol. They won’t be back in Pierre until March 27, a day reserved to consider bills vetoed by the governor.

“It was really disappointing not just for me, but for a whol

Legislative Roundup: Noem says no three times, but leaves big questions unanswered

Gov. Kristi Noem has not vetoed the Legislature’s “historic” sales tax cut this week – which lawmakers passed Thursday in spite of her opposition – but she did flex her veto power.

Noem issued her first veto on March 2, using a cattle “VETO” brand on a bill that would have allowed local business improvement districts to hike their hotel taxes. Lawmakers tried to bring it back to life this week, but failed to get the required two-thirds majority.

Two more vetoes landed on Thursday, the last day

'Biggest tax cut ever'? Depends on how you slice it — and on Noem's reaction

Some legislators are describing the $104 million sales tax reduction they adopted Thursday as the “biggest tax cut in state history.” But is that true?

The answer is complex. It might be more accurate to call the current proposal the state’s largest single tax cut in raw, unadjusted dollars.

The qualifiers are necessary because of some big historical tax cuts that rival or surpass the current one.

In 1978, the state repealed its personal property tax on items such as household goods, applianc

Daktronics reports improving conditions since December stock plunge

A homegrown, publicly traded scoreboard manufacturing company in South Dakota reported improving business conditions Wednesday, three months after public disclosures from the company caused its stock price to plummet.

Brookings-based Daktronics released a quarterly earnings report showing sales of $185 million, which was described as a company record for the third quarter.

Daktronics Chairman, President and CEO Reece Kurtenbach spoke to investors Wednesday on a conference call.

“Overall, we b

Senate scraps bill to switch nominations from conventions to primaries

An effort to change the way many statewide candidates are nominated has failed, after it pitted factions of the Republican Party against each other for much of the current legislative session.

Tuesday at the Capitol in Pierre, the Senate decided not to support House amendments to the bill or appoint a conference committee to work out the differences between the chambers. That effectively defeated the legislation.

Sen. David Johnson, R-Rapid City, was the bill’s prime sponsor. He said lawmakers

Legislative roundup: Tax talks go topsy-turvy, and the rest of the week's action in Pierre

Anyone hoping for some measure of finality this week on the tax relief talks dominating the 2023 legislative session was almost certainly let down.

Those who relish the spectacle of late-session political ping-pong, however, had plenty to watch.

Coming into the session, the state’s historic surplus – made possible by a combination of economic growth and federal stimulus funding – was top of mind, with Gov. Kristi Noem and leaders of the House and Senate pledging to pass some form of tax relief

Primary voters would choose most statewide nominees under bill advancing to the House

A bill to switch the nomination process for most statewide offices from political conventions to primary elections is one step closer to becoming law.

The House State Affairs Committee voted 8-5 on Wednesday at the Capitol in Pierre to send the bill to the House of Representatives. It’s already passed the Senate.

The legislation addresses an inconsistency in the way candidates for statewide offices are nominated to represent political parties in general elections.

Currently, nominees for gove

Legislative roundup: Noem bills bite the dust

About five months – that’s how long a proposed grocery sales-tax repeal inhabited political news, until a legislative committee brought all the chatter to an abrupt end this week.

Gov. Kristi Noem flipped the traditional political script when she announced her support for the idea in September. Democrats had been proposing the repeal for years, and had always been stymied by Noem’s own Republican Party.

Immediately after that announcement, legislators began to question the fiscal wisdom of exe

Attempts to block foreign ag-land ownership continue, despite existing laws that address it

PIERRE — Efforts to prevent and root out existing foreign ownership of agricultural land in South Dakota are still in progress, despite the Legislature’s rejection of a proposal from Gov. Kristi Noem, and despite a set of 44-year-old state laws that already facilitate some of what lawmakers are trying to accomplish.

The governor’s bill would have created a committee to consider foreign purchases of ag land and make recommendations of approval or denial to the governor. The bill was intended to

Will South Dakota be ready when other states come for our water?

The massive volume of reservoirs on the Missouri River is one of the nation’s least-appreciated public resources, but that could change as Western states grow more desperate for water.

“They’re tapped out, and so logic tells you they have to go to the next plentiful resource, which ultimately is the Missouri River,” said Troy Larson, executive director of the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System based in Tea.

Larson is one of the South Dakota water leaders starting to discuss the possibility

Effort to define 'state business' for aircraft use fails in committee

A committee of legislators rejected an attempt Wednesday at the Capitol in Pierre to define “state business” as it pertains to the use of state aircraft.

Sen. Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls, brought the bill in response to a controversy over Republican Gov. Kristi Noem’s use of a state-owned airplane.

Testifying to the Senate Transportation Committee, Nesiba referred to Noem’s flights as “less than fully limited to state business usage.”

“Nobody wants any elected official, including us, misusi

Lawmakers send transgender youth health care ban to Noem's desk

South Dakota legislators sent a bill to Gov. Kristi Noem’s desk Thursday that would ban some forms of health care for transgender youth.

Noem will now decide whether to sign the bill into law. She previously expressed support for the legislation.

Supporters said the bill would protect children and parents from making decisions they might later regret, while opponents said it intrudes on private medical decisions and puts transgender children at risk of harm from a lack of necessary medical car

Success brings Rounds an opportunity on Wounded Knee medals

Senator Mike Rounds deserves praise for his recent repeal of laws that discriminated against Native Americans. There’s a related issue he should consider next: the medals awarded for the Wounded Knee Massacre.

Rounds, a Republican from South Dakota, has momentum on Native American legislation from the passage of his bill that wiped away 11 egregious and antiquated laws. They included provisions that authorized the federal government to punish “hostile” tribes, to make government benefits contin

Tribal chairman calls for collaboration; Noem spokesman responds with criticism

PIERRE — A tribal chairman said Thursday that better collaboration is needed among tribal and state officials on deadly storms, and Gov. Kristi Noem’s spokesman responded by describing that assertion and others as a “message of division” that perpetuated “false narratives.”

Crow Creek Sioux Tribe Chairman Peter Lengkeek delivered the annual State of the Tribes address to lawmakers at the Capitol in Pierre. He talked about the response to recent winter storms, which has been a point of contentio

Woman pleads guilty to another crime 11 days after sentence reduction by Noem

A woman released from prison less than two weeks ago by Gov. Kristi Noem has pleaded guilty to another criminal charge that was pending while the woman was in prison.

Danielle Blakney, 30, of Spearfish, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Lawrence County court to one count of simple assault.

As part of a plea agreement, the prosecutor dropped another count of simple assault and a charge of intentional damage to property. A judge sentenced Blakney to 30 days in jail but suspended all of that time on se

Climate change is pushing wildfire smoke farther east in South Dakota

South Dakotans like to brag about their clean air, and for the most part, they’re right.

But that boast isn’t as true as it once was, especially in the half of the state to the right of the Missouri River on a map – a region known as East River.

Five East River cities have publicly available air quality data from the Environmental Protection Agency. All five suffered their worst daily Air Quality Index value sometime during the last four years.

Experts say one of the culprits is wildfire smok

Noem goes against board, victims' families and review process to reduce prison sentences

When Gov. Kristi Noem reduced seven prisoners’ sentences recently, she overruled the Board of Pardons and Paroles in one case, went against some victims’ family members she hadn’t contacted, and may have violated her own executive order.

The governor issued the sentence reductions, called “commutations,” on Christmas Eve. A news release said all seven people are paroled for the rest of their terms, with electronic monitoring, supervision by parole officers and the threat of a return to prison f

In search of a Christmas tree, we found a tradition

My wife and I didn’t realize how much we didn’t know about trees until we moved next door to the Black Hills National Forest eight years ago.

That was natural for a pair of small-town, eastern South Dakota flatlanders. I grew up in Kimball and my wife grew up in Armour. Single acres of Black Hills land have more trees than our hometowns combined.

So it’s unsurprising that our inaugural trip to cut a Christmas tree in the forest was a comical failure.

That was in 2014, our first year as Rapid
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