Democratic Leadership: An Action-Packed First Week of Legislative Session

By Senate Democratic Leader Reynold Nesiba and House Democratic Leader Oren Lesmeister

Last week kicked off the 98th Legislative Session in Pierre.

After an election for Speaker of the House that demonstrated the fractures in the Republican Party, we had Governor Noem’s State of the State address. She said a lot of words but didn’t address the actual issues going on in South Dakota. Instead, she talked up her accomplishments with her sights clearly set on higher office.

We heard the State of the Judiciary on Wednesday where Chief Justice Jensen proposed summer studies focused on youth rehabilitation, recruiting and maintaining public defenders—as many counties are without a full time public defender—and reviewing the bar exam and entrance to become an attorney. He also proposed an additional judge in the Minnehaha and Lincoln county area. While it is sad this is a need, it is something that we fully support.

The Legislature was honored to hear from Crow Creek Tribal Chairman Lengkeek during the State of the Tribes address. He spoke about the importance of building relationships and communication between the nine tribes that share a border with the state of South Dakota and state government.

There is a lot of work to do here in Pierre, and while we may be small in number, we always show up to do the hard work for the people of South Dakota. Legislative committees are starting to get to work on bills. There were 105 pre-filed bills, and we saw the first bills coming out of committee on Friday.

Some of the best news coming out of Pierre this week is that the Senate Commerce Committee and full Senate passed SB 41, the $200 million housing infrastructure bill. It will now go to the House. This bipartisan bill is a concrete first step in creating more housing for South Dakotans.

One of the biggest challenges facing South Dakota is our childcare crisis. The $38 million of one-time federal money the Governor plans to spend on childcare is thanks to the hard work of Democrats in Congress and the Biden Administration.

If we want high-quality, affordable childcare that pays a living wage, state government needs to do its part and subsidize this care on an ongoing basis. This is an essential part of workforce development and we need to get this fixed for South Dakotans before the Governor recruits thousands of new people to our state.

We have a great team in Pierre this year. The House Democratic Caucus is made up of Representatives Linda Duba, Eric Emery, Erin Healy, Oren Lesmeister, Kameron Nelson, Peri Pourier, and Kadyn Wittman. The Senate Democratic Caucus is composed of Senators Shawn Bordeaux, Red Dawn Foster, Liz Larson, and Reynold Nesiba. We also have a great set of interns, and we are excited to get to work for the great people of South Dakota.