Legislative roundup: Tax talks go topsy-turvy, and the rest of the week’s action in Pierre

By: , and - March 3, 2023 4:48 pm
The South Dakota Capitol Rotunda. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

The South Dakota Capitol Rotunda. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Anyone hoping for some measure of finality this week on the tax relief talks dominating the 2023 legislative session was almost certainly let down. 

Those who relish the spectacle of late-session political ping-pong, however, had plenty to watch.

Coming into the session, the state’s historic surplus – made possible by a combination of economic growth and federal stimulus funding – was top of mind, with Gov. Kristi Noem and leaders of the House and Senate pledging to pass some form of tax relief. 

Last week, lawmakers shot down Gov. Kristi Noem’s preferred choice: a repeal of the sales tax on food. The House of Representatives opted instead for an overall sales tax reduction, taking it from 4.5% to 4.2%. At the start of this week, that proposal was amended to return the rate to 4.5% in two years.

On the Senate side, the appetite for tax cuts focused on property owners. Initially, the idea was to offer a property tax reduction. On Thursday, the Senate tossed that idea and replaced it with a bill to pay homeowners a $425 annual tax credit from state funds. The actual property tax rates and payments to local governments wouldn’t change.

Noem, meanwhile, threatened to withhold support for the state budget (mysteriously, without ever using the word “veto”) if it doesn’t include a food tax repeal. 

What happens next? We have one more week of the legislative session to find out. Then, over the next couple of weeks, we’ll find out what happens if Noem vetoes any tax relief plan, or the budget. Legislators will come back to Pierre on March 27 to deal with that and other vetoes. 

Below is a look at action this week on other bills we’re tracking.


Drag shows

The Senate Education Committee killed a bill on Tuesday that would prohibit the use of state resources for hosting “lewd or lascivious content,” most notably drag shows on college campuses. Some senators who supported the bill tried to revive it for debate on the Senate floor, but the effort failed.

Nursing homes

The Senate rejected a bill on Tuesday that would have required an updated cost report for community service providers, such as nursing homes, to accurately reflect changes in service costs. Another bill which would require an annual 100% reimbursement rate for such providers will be debated on the Senate floor next week.

Adult day services

A bill that would award $2 million in startup grants for facilities to expand adult day services for elderly and disabled adults, HB 1078, was unanimously passed in the Senate on Wednesday. It’ll head to the governor’s desk next.

Pharmacy costs

A bill that would lower costs for pharmacies by requiring greater transparency in the prescription drug supply chain unanimously passed in the Senate on Monday and will head to the governor’s desk.

Medical marijuana

A bill that would regulate medical marijuana advertisements was defeated in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee last week, but it was revived for reconsideration on Monday. But after a second hearing in the committee on Wednesday, it was tabled.

Moving county seats

Gov. Kristi Noem signed into law a bill that raises the number of signatures needed to let county residents vote on whether to move a county seat.

Legislative spouses and lobbying

The House State Affairs Committee passed a bill on Wednesday in a 9-4 vote that would prohibit the spouses of legislators from being employed as a private lobbyist. The bill came in the wake of the Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller controversy, and will now head to the House floor.

New prisons

Bills to fund construction of a new women’s prison in eastern Rapid City, HB 1016, and a replacement penitentiary at an as-yet undetermined location in or near Sioux Falls, HB 1017, each passed the Senate on Wednesday and are headed to the governor. 

Truth in sentencing

SB 146, which would upend South Dakota’s parole system for violent offenders, is headed to Gov. Noem’s desk. If she signs it, people who commit violent felonies will serve between 85% and 100% of their sentences. The House passed the bill Tuesday despite some impassioned opposition. The Senate signed off on two minor House amendments.

Drunken driving

Another tough-on-crime bill, HB 1170, is still alive and on its way to the Senate floor after passing the House earlier. It would attach mandatory minimum sentences to drunken driving convictions after the fourth offense. The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the bill 5-1 on Thursday.

Foster care

The last of three bills that targeted the overrepresentation of Native American children in foster care, SB 191, went down in a House vote on Wednesday. It would have created a two-year task force to look into the disparity, which has Native children representing 60% of the children removed from their homes (Native Americans make up about 10% of the state’s population).

Tribal relations

SB 69 would alter the makeup of the state’s tribal relations committee to more accurately reflect the Legislature’s political composition. At this point in history, that means more Republicans. The House passed it 57-11 on Wednesday. Next up: Gov. Noem’s desk.

Ag lawsuits

HB 1090, which would implement protections for agricultural operations from nuisance claims in court, earned its final passage Tuesday and is on the governor’s desk. 

Volunteer fire departments

These community institutions would get access to millions of dollars in state aid if HB 1127 is signed by the governor. The bill received its final legislative approval this week.

Ballot measures

The Senate State Affairs Committee rejected HB 1200, which would’ve required petition circulators to get signatures from all 35 of the state’s legislative districts in order to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Statewide candidates

The House almost completely gutted a bill that would’ve shifted several statewide candidate nominations from political conventions to primary elections. In its new form, SB 40 would merely allow candidates for governor to choose their own running mates, rather than allowing political conventions to choose the running mates. The bill now goes back to the Senate for consideration of that amendment.

Ranked-choice voting

South Dakota will prohibit systems in which voters rank their choice of candidate by ordered preference, if Gov. Noem signs SB 55. The bill cleared its final legislative hurdle this week.

Scholarships for foster kids

Noem’s proposal to provide state-funded scholarships to foster children for a variety of educational purposes – including private-school tuition – was rejected earlier this session. But the House Local Government Committee brought it back to life Thursday as a wholly amended SB 82 (which was previously an election-law bill) and sent it to the House floor for debate next week.




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John Hult
John Hult

John is the senior reporter for South Dakota Searchlight. He has more than 15 years experience covering criminal justice, the environment and public affairs in South Dakota, including more than a decade at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.

Makenzie Huber
Makenzie Huber

Makenzie Huber is a lifelong South Dakotan whose work has won national and regional awards. She's spent five years as a journalist with experience reporting on workforce, development and business issues within the state.

Seth Tupper
Seth Tupper

Seth is editor-in-chief of South Dakota Searchlight. He was previously a supervising senior producer for South Dakota Public Broadcasting and a newspaper journalist in Rapid City and Mitchell.