Democratic Leadership Column: Elections and Landowner Rights


March 3, 2024

Minority Leader Rep. Oren Lesmeister

Hello from week eight of the 2024 Legislative Session. We are getting down to the wire to debate the rest of the legislation on the docket as we also consider appropriations bills.

First though, I wanted to bring attention to something that happened to fellow Minority Leader Sen. Reynold Nesiba’s election board bill. This week, his legislation was hog housed to change the voter registration deadline from 15 days before an election to 30. Sen. Nesiba asked for the bill to be tabled because he did not agree with that change. Usually, when a sponsor asks for their bill to be tabled, our colleagues agree to that. I have never seen that not honored until this week.

Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Erin Healy and I tried to table it again, but that motion also failed on party lines. House State Affairs then allowed the new prime sponsor to present the bill and pass it out of committee, despite several county auditors and even Sen. Nesiba himself testifying against it. I believe what happened was a blatantly ugly maneuver by my Republican colleagues. They picked one of the last Democratic bills out there to do this to when they had all kinds of vehicle bills to pick from. I found the whole thing very disrespectful to Sen. Nesiba. I hope my Republican colleagues apologize to him as well as remove this change to the voter registration deadline, which I believe will make it even more of a burden to vote.

This week also saw a nearly two hour debate on the House floor concerning landowner rights, local control and pipelines. As I said on the floor, every single one of us understands the enormity of our decision on SB 201 and its impact on the proposed CO2 pipeline, future projects, counties and landowners. None of us took that decision lightly. This is an issue that has divided neighbors, farmers, agriculture groups and even families. There are still more discussions happening over SB 201 since it will now head into a conference committee.

I was also disheartened this week over the discussions about a Medicaid work requirement. Republicans are worried that people will just live off of Medicaid, but the Department of Social Services Secretary said they’ve already seen a churn on Medicaid expansion, meaning people are on it for a few months and then get off the program. I brought up the fact that we couldn’t spend $150,000 and hire six more full-time employees to implement the Summer EBT program, but DSS and the sponsor couldn’t tell us how much it would cost to enforce a work requirement.

This final week, much of the focus will be on the budget. Rep. Linda Duba tells me committee members are hashing out the details with only a few issues that lawmakers are trying to find a compromise. We are hoping to see the final budget early this coming week.

Thank you,

Minority Leader Rep. Oren Lesmeister (District 28A)

Minority Whip Sen. Liz Larson

After a short crossover day, we are now deep into the appropriation process as we also clear the calendar and work through the remaining bills. So far, we’ve debated some very important funding for airports, community support centers, fire fighting, water/sewage infrastructure, telemedicine, assisted living, a Quantum Information Science facility, new prisons and a new initiative for Indigent Legal Fees.

First though, I wanted to discuss an issue on the national level about the increasing concern over whether families can still use in vitro fertilization. As many of you know, IVF clinics in Alabama have had to halt their services after the state Supreme Court ruled that embryos are children. I am concerned that South Dakota does not have robust laws to protect IVF services for families struggling with infertility. While we are at the end of the session now, we need to be vigilant about this issue and stand with South Dakotans who are relying on IVF to grow their families.

We saw a big win this week to help people who are experiencing homelessness. Two bills, sponsored by Democrats, are now on the Governor’s desk waiting for her signature. I carried a bill on the floor for Republican Rep. Tyler Tordsen to waive the fee for a birth certificate. As a companion bill, Republican Sen. David Wheeler carried Democratic Rep. Kadyn Wittman’s bill to provide free ID cards. These are very small financial investments that can have a big impact on an individual’s life. These are great pieces of legislation that are hand ups for people who are trying to get their lives back on track. This was a win across the board.

Another win for all of South Dakota are the bills allocating the rest of the money the state received from the American Rescue Plan Act. This includes funding for our water infrastructure and to keep our forests healthy. On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Sen. Reynold Nesiba thanked the Biden-Harris Administration for this once in a lifetime investment in water and waste water treatment in South Dakota. He reminded everyone that Republicans in Congress voted against ARPA, but thanked Republicans in South Dakota for being good stewards of these funds.

Thank you,

Minority Whip Sen. Liz Larson (District 10)

For questions, you can contact the SDDP Executive Director Dan Ahlers at or contact the state party office by phone at 605-271-5405 or 605-940-3071.

Paid for by the South Dakota Democratic Party |