PIERRE, SD (March 16, 2020) – Greetings from Pierre, where the legislative session is over, but in many ways our work is just beginning. Democratic representatives and senators worked hard to build relationships, pass meaningful legislation, and shape policy in our state government. 

“Democrats were united in laying out clear priorities for this session, and staying consistent,” said Representative Jamie Smith. “And one of our main priorities this year was to follow the law to fund education, community service providers, and state employees. We worked with our colleagues and Governor Noem to get the 2% cost of living adjustment they deserve. We didn’t play politics with this, we just found common ground and used common sense.”

Finding common ground on issues this session wasn’t easy, and Democrats have work to do. Education bills Democrats would have liked to have seen succeed include SB 72 to establish the Dakota’s Promise scholarship fund; SB 66 to provide for the creation and funding of Oceti Sakowin community-based schools; and SB 117 to require the Department of Education to establish certain programs for children who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.

“We are closer to making a lot of these things happen for our students in South Dakota,” said Senator Troy Heinert. “Although the legislation didn’t pass, our colleagues heard the proponent testimony for these bills and we started the conversations needed to turn them into reality.”

Democrats are optimistic that the conversations their bills create will inspire action in the future. Bills like HB 1142, to include post-traumatic stress disorder as a compensable injury for purposes of workers’ compensation, shed light on issues a lot first responders and emergency workers face as a part of their job. Or bills like HB 1223, to provide for the creation of an international business and trade office, brought a lot of good ideas to the table that would help our agricultural and manufacturing industries. 

“Although some of our bills failed to pass this year, we are confident they will come back in some other form in the future,” said Smith. “These issues aren’t going to go away, and Democrats will continue to reach across the aisle and find the support they need to get the work done.”

Bills receiving bi-partisan support that passed this session include SB 96, to prohibit the denial of benefits based solely on a controlled substance felony; SB 70, to authorize the use of Spanish in obtaining certain driver licenses and permits; HB 1008, to implement a plan for hemp in South Dakota; and SB 2, expanding the 211 Helpline statewide.

“Expanding the 211 Helpline service will be a vital mental health resource in South Dakota, and is especially important right now,” said Smith. “Helping people get the information they need in a crisis is important to all of us.”

“We all want a South Dakota that works better for all of us, and I’m proud of the work our legislators accomplished this year,” said Heinert. “Of course the main accomplishment this year was reaching a consensus on the budget. We may not have gotten everything we wanted, but I can honestly say it was the best product we could put forward that will help a lot of people. We listened to our constituents and will continue to fight for them.”

Remember, we want to hear from you! Please contact your local representatives to share your questions or concerns about this year’s session, and your ideas for the future. Your voice matters. 

Contact: Rep. Jamie Smith (605)339-3583


Senate Democratic Leader Senator Troy Heinert (D-Mission), Sen. Troy Heinert,

House Democratic Leader Representative Jamie Smith (D-Sioux Falls),