This past Wednesday, the South Dakota Legislature hit one of its biggest milestones of the legislative session: Crossover Day.
Those who follow the Capitol calendar know that bills must successfully pass out of the chamber where they began on Crossover Day. Senate bills must pass the Senate and head to the House, and vice versa. The legislature began with 587 bills, and a handful of bills have now made their way from their first chamber where they began to the other. I have already signed two of the bills I championed in my State of the State address: protecting fairness for women’s sports and the repeal of the ridiculous bingo tax.
Other “Governor’s bills,” as they are colloquially known, have also moved forward. Those include my bills to ban teaching Critical Race Theory and its divisive ideology in both K-12 schools and public universities. The House chamber passed them to the Senate in mid-February.
Earlier this month, the Senate passed my bill extending COVID vaccine exemptions to private employees around the state. If this bill becomes law, employees will become eligible to claim a religious, medical, or natural immunity exemption for a COVID vaccine mandate issued by an employer in the state.
The Senate also supported the state’s funding initiative to expand the cybersecurity program at Dakota State University. I testified in committee to support this bill, which would appropriate $30 million in state funds to double the size of DSU’s Beacom College and put the Governor’s Cyber Academy in every high school in the state. This $30M in state funds will be paired with a $50M private donation and $10M from the City of Sioux Falls to build a new cyber lab in Sioux Falls as well. The early support that legislators showed for this bill demonstrates that South Dakota is ready to make cyber-research its next big industry.
Other important issues passed just before the Crossover deadline, with the House and Senate each debating the merits of big issues facing our state. The Senate discussed and passed my proposal to repeal fees related to obtaining a concealed carry permit for a handgun. The Senate also agreed with my recommendation to invest $660 million in federal dollars for water, drainage, sewer, and flood control projects around the state. That proposal will move on for consideration by lawmakers in a House Committee.
The Senate also passed a bill that would appropriate funding to build a state-of-the-art shooting range in Rapid City. Meanwhile, the House gave my bill to ban abortions via telemedicine their support, clearing the path for a committee hearing in the Senate.
These bills and dozens of others continue to move forward in the legislative process. The clock is ticking down as today marks Day 29 in the 38-day session. And there is one big-ticket item left for lawmakers to hash out: the budget.
Lawmakers have until March 10th to debate and find consensus on how the state will fund its operations for the next fiscal year. In addition to ongoing expenses, lawmakers will consider plans for one-time state and federal dollars for our public schools, infrastructure projects, university workforce programs, and improving the state’s public health laboratory.
All of these issues and more will be part of the flurry of activity in the Capitol these final two weeks. The decisions made in these waning days of session have the potential to keep South Dakota riding a wave of responsible, sustainable growth. Together, we will balance our budget and keep making South Dakota safer, stronger, and healthier.