Democratic Leadership Column: End of the 2024 Session


March 11, 2024

Minority Leader Sen. Reynold Nesiba

This session we, again, made historic investments in infrastructure for clean drinking water, airports, and telemedicine that would not have happened without the leadership of President Joe Biden. South Dakota’s own members of Congress voted against these crucial funds.

During the final week, five House Democrats made the deciding 39-31 vote to move our ethanol industry forward while also protecting the rights of landowners. South Dakota really has the potential to be a world leader in low carbon fuels for automobiles and aviation. And we did it with greatly enhanced landowners’ rights that would not have happened without Rep. Oren Lesmeister.

Because of Medicaid expansion, we are now providing healthcare to about 20,000 low-income South Dakotans. This is thanks to the voters who overcame years of foot-dragging by the Legislature. Yet, Republicans continue to think their constituents got it wrong. They are now working on a purely partisan measure to undermine the decision of South Dakotans to expand Medicaid. Voters will be asked a vague and misleading question on the ballot this November of whether we should create more bureaucracy and require South Dakotans to routinely submit more paperwork to remain eligible for healthcare access. And only if it passes will they tell us what exemptions will be included. Will there be a waiver for a spouse caring for a child or a spouse that has healthcare challenges? No one can say.

Let’s judge this legislative session by the outcomes of our decisions, not how fast we got to go home. We bought a $4 million sheep shed instead of feeding hungry kids for a fraction of that price. We made hot pink a legal hunting apparel color, but couldn’t keep guns out of small children’s reach through safer storage laws. We couldn’t even end child marriage.

The tax on baby formula and peanut butter persists to help set aside a half billion dollars for new prisons, including a women’s prison with a mommy and baby unit where 98% of those in custody have a substance use disorder. We must do better at helping our fellow South Dakotans overcome addiction and we can’t simply arrest and incarcerate our way out of this crisis.

We also didn’t see anything substantive to address our childcare crisis or provide the funding necessary to substantially increase average teacher pay. We remain ahead of only West Virginia and Mississippi.

Lastly, our state motto is “Under God the People Rule.” The leader of the Republican Party said on the Senate floor that “direct democracy doesn’t work.” What I think he meant is that the people of South Dakota don’t often agree with the decisions he and his Republican colleagues make at the Capitol. The initiated measure process is the reason we have our state’s minimum wage, Medicaid expansion, and an end to predatory lending. Republicans not only want to dismiss the will of the voters, they want to strip away the entire idea of direct democracy. We were the first state to embrace voter-initiated measures. Now Republicans want a deeply flawed process to remove people’s names from a signature petition.

A number of measures will be on the ballot this fall. This includes restoring abortion rights, ending the sales tax on food, and legalizing recreational marijuana. Many of the ballot questions were created because the legislature failed to address these issues that matter to many South Dakotans.

This is my last year in the legislature. I will miss serving my constituents and working alongside some amazing lawmakers. Thank you to the Capitol press corps for your accurate reporting that is vital for our government. I also want to thank our interns, who work hard every day to make sure we stay on top of all of the bills and help us with legislation. Finally, a thank you to my wife, Erika Nesiba, without whom I couldn’t do this work. I look forward to spending more time with you.

Thank you,

Minority Leader Sen. Reynold Nesiba (District 15)

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 |