Dana Hess

Dana Hess

Dana Hess spent more than 25 years in South Dakota journalism, editing newspapers in Redfield, Milbank and Pierre. He's retired and lives in Brookings, working occasionally as a freelance writer.

Jason Ravnsborg, former attorney general of South Dakota, speaks during a hearing about the future of his law license on Feb. 14, 2024, at the Capitol in Pierre while his legal team looks on. (David Bordewyk/SD NewsMedia Association)

As Ravnsborg tries to keep his law license, his integrity is lost

By: - February 21, 2024

Throughout my career in journalism, there were few more compelling days than June 21, 2022, the day of South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s impeachment trial. Memories of that day rushed back recently as Ravnsborg was again in the news, asking the state Supreme Court to block the state Bar Association’s attempt to suspend his […]

South Dakotans sign petitions at Yankton River Boat Days in August. (Courtesy of Dakotans for Health)

Regret signing that petition? Republicans are here to ‘help’

By: - February 19, 2024

Ever since the South Dakota Legislature dismantled the voter-approved anti-corruption measure known as IM 22 in record time, lawmakers and the people who back initiated measures have been locked in a battle of the ballot box. Lawmakers try to throw up as many roadblocks to ballot access as they can while ballot measure backers are […]

Sen. Shawn Bordeaux, D-Mission, in the state Senate during the 2023 legislative session. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Native American lawmaker finds little support in quest to reconcile the races

By: - February 10, 2024

In 1990, Gov. George Mickelson proclaimed a century of racial reconciliation in South Dakota. Given recent events, it just might take that long. Gov. Kristi Noem managed to anger Native American legislators when she asserted that the state’s reservations were strongholds for Mexican drug cartels. She smoothed over some of those hurt feelings in a […]

Gov. Kristi Noem speaks on Aug. 21, 2023, near the nation's southern border. With Noem are, from left, Govs. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Greg Abbott of Texas, and Jim Pillen of Nebraska. (Courtesy of Gov. Noem's office)

Noem’s border aid comes with personal costs for South Dakotans

By: - February 6, 2024

During a rare joint session of the Legislature, Gov. Kristi Noem gave lawmakers an accounting of her recent trip to the “warzone” at the Texas-Mexico border. She was soon caught up in a different kind of accounting amid revelations that South Dakota taxpayers are going to be on the hook for the cost of sending […]

The Senate floor at the State Capitol during the 2024 Legislature. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

From sleepwalking to sprinting: Faster start to legislative session is a welcome change

By: - January 27, 2024

After retiring from a career in writing and journalism, one of the freelance assignments I took was covering the Legislature in Pierre for Community News Service. Sponsored by the South Dakota Newspaper Association (now known as the South Dakota NewsMedia Association), CNS was legislative coverage designed for weekly newspapers, though some dailies did subscribe as […]

Gov. Kristi Noem recruits welders to move to South Dakota in one of her office's Freedom Works Here campaign ads. (Courtesy of Governor's Office)

Freedom Works Here, but so does cronyism

By: - January 23, 2024

Recent testimony cast a harsh light on how the bid was awarded for the Freedom Works Here marketing campaign. It seems that awarding the bid for the project had more to do with political expediency than it did with talent. Where that talent was missing, the winning bidder reportedly got to steal an idea from […]

Esport competitors take part in a gaming tournament at the Epic.Lan 38 event on Feb. 25, 2023, in Kettering, England (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

20 South Dakota schools participating in esports pilot season

By: - January 18, 2024

PIERRE — A pilot season for esports in South Dakota is helping high schools work out the technical kinks as well as building a foundation of mentors for the future. At its meeting Wednesday, the South Dakota High School Activities Association board of directors heard an update on the pilot season from Kaleb Dschaak, CEO […]

The flags of the Standing Rock and Rosebud Sioux tribes, center, stand between the U.S. and South Dakota flags on Jan. 10, 2024, in the Capitol Rotunda in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Noem unintentionally inspires unity among tribes

By: - January 18, 2024

The nine American Indian tribes in South Dakota are each struggling with similar problems. In their own ways, they’re all seeking solutions that will boost economic development, fight drug addiction and poverty, all while dealing with a host of other challenges. While they tend to go their separate ways as they tackle many of these […]

"I voted" stickers are made available to voters at Givens Recreation Center on Nov. 3, 2020, in Austin, Texas. After a record-breaking early voting turnout, Americans headed to the polls on the last day to cast their vote for incumbent U.S. President Donald Trump or Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election. (Montinique Monroe/Getty Images)

Republicans give three cheers for the Electoral College — again

By: - January 15, 2024

Lawmaking is a pretty straightforward business. A well-written law lacks ambiguity. If it’s done right, there’s no need to read between the lines to figure out what legislators really meant. That’s not the case with concurrent resolutions, which are meant to offer a snapshot of what lawmakers are thinking about an issue. Since they don’t […]

Attorney General Marty Jackley speaks during a rally featuring former President Donald Trump on Sept. 8, 2023, at The Monument in Rapid City. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight)

Jackley’s bill signals resurrection of Open Meetings Commission

By: - January 11, 2024

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley made some news last month when he announced the five bills he’s backing during the 2024 legislative session. Most of the headlines generated by his announcement concerned the attempt to regulate a livestock tranquilizer being used by drug dealers or outlawing the use of artificial intelligence to create child […]

Donkey and elephant representing Democrats and Republicans. (Getty Images)

State would benefit if ‘beaten down’ Democrats can rally

By: - January 3, 2024

Reporters expect a certain amount of spin at legislative news conferences. It’s the nature of the beast. What they don’t expect to hear is some hard truths about politics in South Dakota. That’s what editors and publishers got from Rep. Spencer Hawley, a Brookings Democrat, during a 2016 Newspaper Day at the Legislature news conference […]

Reps. Mike Derby, R-Rapid City, left, and Chris Karr, R-Sioux Falls, shake hands after a $104 million tax cut passed the House unanimously on March 9, 2023, at the Capitol in Pierre. (Makenzie Huber, South Dakota Searchlight)

Like Republican legislators, citizens want to cut taxes

By: - December 24, 2023

South Dakota lawmakers went through a bit of a tax cut frenzy in the last legislative session before finally settling on a reduction of the state sales tax. A recent poll shows that citizens favor getting into the tax cut game as well.  A poll of registered voters sponsored by South Dakota News Watch and […]