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.

Gov. Kristi Noem speaks to reporters March 6, 2023, at the Capitol in Pierre. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Higher-ed policy by the ‘perpetually aggrieved and easily offended’

By: - June 5, 2023

In late May, Gov. Kristi Noem sent a four-page letter to the Board of Regents, telling them to get busy and start graduating more students. In the letter, Noem noted that South Dakota’s university graduation rate is 47% while the national average is 63%. She told the regents to have South Dakota’s graduation rate up […]

Dan Ahlers. (Courtesy of South Dakota Democratic Party)

New Democratic leader faces challenge filling blank spots on ballots

By: - June 1, 2023

The South Dakota Democratic Party has a new executive director. Let’s resist the urge to make a comparison to the captain of the Titanic. While the Titanic sank, at this point there’s no place for the South Dakota Democratic Party to go but up. Dan Ahlers of Dell Rapids is the new executive director and […]

Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota, joined by Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, left, and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks at the Capitol on Sept. 29, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images)

Rounds, Thune show courage with Scott endorsement

By: - May 28, 2023

At this point in the presidential election cycle, all we have is speculation. With eight months before the first caucus in Iowa and nine months until the first primary in New Hampshire, all any of us can do is read tea leaves if we’re trying to predict the political future. Fortunately, tea leaves abound. Plenty […]

Florida Governor-elect Ron DeSantis sits next to President Donald Trump and South Dakota Governor-elect Kristi Noem during a meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House on Dec. 13, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Noem, DeSantis and pugnacity as a political strategy

By: - May 24, 2023

It’s apparent there are some journalists in Sioux Falls who are being punished. These are the reporters and anchors assigned to the morning shows that start at 5 a.m. and drag on for hours until the network talkathons start. With so many hours of airtime to fill, these local early morning shows play the same […]

(Getty Images)

Ballot petition efforts alive and well, despite the Legislature

By: - May 15, 2023

Despite the attempts by some legislators to quash the will of the people, ballot petition drives in South Dakota seem to be thriving. Well before the next election in 2024, the secretary of state’s website already lists four measures that are circulating for petition signatures. These include constitutional amendments for open primaries, abortion rights and […]

U.S. Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-South Dakota, attends a February 2023 congressional committee hearing in Washington, D.C. (Rep. Dusty Johnson/Twitter)

Johnson shouldn’t let conservative credentials get in the way of statesmanship

By: - May 11, 2023

In South Dakota, there’s a reasonably easy process for changing your name. You fill out a form, pay a fee, publish a public notice and get the OK from a judge. Do that, and you can call yourself anything you want. Or, if you’re a congressman running in a primary, just buy a bunch of […]

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem speaks to guests at the 2023 NRA-ILA Leadership Forum on April 13, 2023, in Indianapolis, Indiana. The forum is part of the National Rifle Association’s Annual Meetings & Exhibits. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Maybe we love the Second Amendment a little too much

By: - May 1, 2023

When she spoke at the National Rifle Association Leadership Forum, Gov. Kristi Noem said that South Dakota is setting the standard as the most Second Amendment friendly state in nation. If it’s true — and why would anyone lie to the NRA? — it’s worth noting how we got that designation.  In the five legislative sessions […]

A Sioux Falls election polling place on the morning of Nov. 8, 2022. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Without open primaries, taxpayers are shut out of elections they pay for

By: - April 23, 2023

If there is a growth industry in South Dakota politics, it’s the primary election. Specifically, the Republican primary election. Incumbent Republicans are facing frequent, often grueling, intra-party challenges. In the 2022 election, Gov. Kristi Noem, Sen. John Thune and Rep. Dusty Johnson all faced challengers from within their own party. In the Legislature, there were […]

South Dakota's all-Republican congressional delegation, from left: Sen. John Thune, Rep. Dusty Johnson and Sen. Mike Rounds. (Photos courtesy of Thune/Johnson/Rounds offices; composite by South Dakota Searchlight)

South Dakota’s members of Congress are wasting their potential influence on gun violence

By: - April 16, 2023

Whenever there is a mass shooting in the United States, it seems as if a memo goes out to Republican members of Congress so that they are all on the same page when asked about the prospect of reforming the country’s gun laws.  Sometimes they say they don’t want to politicize a tragedy, and other […]

The South Dakota House of Representatives chamber at the Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Our Legislature is largely transparent, with one notable exception

By: - April 10, 2023

During the legislative session, South Dakota newspapers have been known to publish columns from their local legislators. These columns often appear on the editorial or opinion page since lawmakers are usually of the opinion that they are all doing a pretty good job of tending to the people’s business. Late last month, those columns were […]

(Daria Nipot/Getty Images)

Child care needs greater attention from the Legislature

By: - April 6, 2023

Veto day may have been the official end of the legislative session, but it did not mean the end of legislative work. The work of lawmakers continues past those nine weeks in the winter as veto day also marks the start of the summer study season. On veto day, the Legislature’s Executive Board met to […]

Legislators and guests wait for Gov. Kristi Noem to deliver her budget address on Dec. 6, 2022, in the House chamber at the Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)

Legislature protects us from dangers we didn’t know existed

By: - March 29, 2023

It’s amazing the amount of effort that the South Dakota Legislature puts into protecting citizens from things they didn’t even know were a threat. Lucky us. Consider ranked choice voting. That’s all you’ll be able to do — consider it. You’ll never vote that way because the Legislature just outlawed it. Held up as one […]