Legislative Roundup: ‘Diet weed,’ lithium taxation, quantum computers, Medicaid work requirements

Bills continue their journey as session completes its fourth of nine weeks

By: , and - February 4, 2024 10:33 am
Inside the state Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Inside the state Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Compromise can come quickly in Pierre – at least when lawmakers share the same goal.

Rep. Brian Mulder, R-Sioux Falls, is the prime sponsor of a bill that aims to bar the sale or manufacture of synthetically produced “died weed” products. They’re legal under federal law because their active ingredients can be extracted from legally grown hemp and labeled as delta-8, delta-10 and THC-O, among other names.

Mulder’s intention is to ban the products when they’ve been chemically modified to spike potency. Manipulated versions of the chemicals have been tagged as problematic by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

The trouble, at least according to the hemp industry, was that the initial version of Mulder’s bill swept in delta-8-style products created using copious amounts of the naturally occurring chemicals present in trace amounts in the hemp plant.

On Wednesday, the House handled that problem at the behest of Rep. Oren Lesmeister, D-Parade. Lesmeister is a grower and booster of hemp. 

Lesmeister’s amendment made clear that only synthetic versions of delta-8 would be illegal. The bill passed unanimously as amended, and is on its way to a Senate committee.

Here’s a rundown of some other bills we’ve been tracking so far this legislative session, which just finished the fourth of its nine weeks.

Medical marijuana and guns

A bill to add a notice to medical marijuana applications to signal that the use of marijuana remains federally illegal, and that its use could impact the applicants’ firearms rights, passed the Senate on a 30-1 vote Monday. It had been amended in a Senate committee to remove a requirement that the applicant sign a separate acknowledgement of having read the notice, so it went back to the House on Wednesday. It passed there 67-1, and is headed for the governor’s desk.

Medical marijuana and drug tests

Another cannabis bill would allow employers to fire medical marijuana patients for failing drug tests if those patients are working safety-sensitive jobs. The House Judiciary Committee endorsed it 9-1. Next up: A House floor vote.

Child pornography penalties

A bill that began in the Senate would adjust penalties related to the manufacture, distribution and possession of child pornography, with higher penalties for the manufacture and distribution of that material than current law provides. It also adds mandatory minimums and makes it illegal to produce, share or possess computer-generated child pornography. It passed the House Judiciary Committee on a 12-0 vote Friday on its way to the full House.

How communities become cities

A bill making it easier for some communities to become incorporated cities passed the House of Representatives with a 58-11 vote on Wednesday. The bill, which was motivated by the community of Black Hawk, now heads to the Senate Local Government Committee. In Black Hawk’s case, the bill would retain a requirement for Black Hawk to petition Rapid City for annexation before trying to become a city in its own right, but would remove a requirement for Black Hawk to additionally petition the city of Summerset.

Hunting/fishing residency

Senate Bill 54 would impose stricter criteria for resident hunting and fishing licenses. It passed the House of Representatives with a 37-29 vote on Monday and was delivered to Gov. Kristi Noem for final consideration. The bill says people would lose their resident status if they undertake any of several activities in another state, such as applying for a resident license, registering to vote or residing outside of South Dakota for a total of 180 days in a year. Plus, the bill would put into law that possessing a mailing address in South Dakota, owning property or a business, or being employed in the state is not adequate proof of residency.

Lithium mining tax

A bill to impose a tax on lithium mining unanimously passed the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday after clearing the House of Representatives earlier. Companies are exploring for lithium in the Black Hills to feed the growing need for lithium-based batteries in electric vehicles and devices. The full Senate is the bill’s final legislative stop.

Quantum computers

A bill to provide $6.03 million for research into the field of quantum computing at several state universities received a unanimous endorsement Jan. 25 from the Legislature’s joint budget committee.

Medicaid work requirements

Senate Joint Resolution 501 would ask voters in November to give state lawmakers the authority to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients. That bill passed the Senate in a 28-4 vote Jan. 25. The bill now heads to the House State Affairs Committee.

911 surcharges

A bill to increase funding for 911 call centers by raising phone customers’ monthly surcharge from $1.25 to $2 per line passed the House of Representatives with a 60-9 vote on Wednesday and now heads to a Senate committee. In 2023, the existing surcharge generated about $12.47 million in revenue. With the proposed increase and assuming no change in the number of service lines, the projected revenue is approximately $19.95 million. The surcharge has not been increased since 2012. 

Tax credits for ethanol sales

A bill to incentivize the sale of more ethanol unanimously passed the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Thursday after cruising through the Senate. The legislation outlines a new tax refund that would be in effect from 2025 to 2030. It would allow gas stations to claim a fuel tax refund of up to 5 cents per gallon of E15 fuel sold. E15 is 15% ethanol and 85% gasoline, which is a higher blend of ethanol than the typical E10. The bill now moves to the full House.

Bills signed into law

Gov. Kristi Noem signed the first bills of the 2024 session into law last week:

  • Senate Bill 3 extends the length of time allowed for a tax agreement with an Indian tribe.
  • House Bill 1041 modifies the definition of public infrastructure to allow a federally recognized Indian tribe to be eligible for housing infrastructure grants and loans and to declare an emergency.
  • Senate Bill 7 revises the water resources projects list
  • House Bill 1019 clarifies language regarding sales and use tax in certain statutes.



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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.

Joshua Haiar
Joshua Haiar

Joshua Haiar is a reporter based in Sioux Falls. Born and raised in Mitchell, he joined the Navy as a public affairs specialist after high school and then earned a degree from the University of South Dakota. Prior to joining South Dakota Searchlight, Joshua worked for five years as a multimedia specialist and journalist with South Dakota Public Broadcasting.