Author

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.

Lobbyists in the halls of the South Dakota Capitol building in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Legislative roundup: Taxes and tribes, feedlots and lithium

By: - January 27, 2023

PIERRE — Things really picked up at the Capitol this week, and deadlines had something to do with that. Lawmakers had free reign to submit as many bills as they pleased until 11 a.m. on Thursday, which meant dozens of bills dropped just before lunch that day. Check the list here. Each lawmaker can file […]

Crews push their way through a massive snowdrift plugging an overpass on Interstate 90 near Kadoka. (Courtesy of State of South Dakota Highway Crew)

Risky rescues have state pondering approach to drivers who ignore road closures

By: - January 25, 2023

PIERRE – Hundreds of motorists drove around Interstate blockades or ventured onto snowed-over highways during a two-week storm event late last year, diverting the energies of emergency responders to rescues that sometimes put those responders at risk.  That’s not uncommon during winter storms, according to Sec. Craig Price of the Department of Public Safety (DPS). […]

Houses in a new development on Oct. 28, 2022, in Harrisburg. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Infrastructure bill resists attempts to quash it in House of Representatives

By: - January 23, 2023

PIERRE – The House of Representatives sent a $200 million infrastructure bill to Gov. Kristi Noem’s desk on Monday with a hard-won 54-16 vote. Senate Bill 41 is a fix to 2022 bill that sought to send infrastructure funds to developers to help fill gaps in workforce housing. The agency deemed responsible for dispersing the […]

The South Dakota Capitol building in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Jackley: Hold abusers accountable for manipulation

By: - January 19, 2023

Abusive partners could face a decade in prison for trying to convince their significant others to change their story, under a bill promoted by Attorney General Marty Jackley. Senate Bill 50 would apply the crime of witness tampering to anyone who “corruptly persuades or corruptly influences another person” to alter their testimony “with an intent […]

The South Dakota Capitol building in Pierre. (Seth Tupper/SD Searchlight)

Ex-candidate’s case helps spur election law proposal from attorney general

By: - January 19, 2023

A nine-year-old case against a former U.S. Senate candidate paved the way for a legislative proposal that would make it a felony to lie about petition circulation. A jury convicted Dr. Annette Bosworth, a 2014 candidate on the Republican primary ballot for Senate, on a dozen felony counts of election law violations in 2015. Bosworth […]

Deadwood, SD. (Courtesy of Travel South Dakota)

Housing for small towns, reservation school teachers hit by infrastructure hold-up

By: - January 18, 2023

Teachers in Pine Ridge, workers in Deadwood and students in Madison were among those waiting longer for a place to stay because of a hold-up in workforce housing money last year. “Our members are waiting for these funds,” Denise Hanzlik of the South Dakota Multi-Housing Association told lawmakers. “We’ve lost one construction season already.” The […]

The Senate chamber in the South Dakota Capitol. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)

Convicts could pay for cell phone searches under lawmaker proposal

By: - January 17, 2023

People convicted of crimes based on evidence from their cell phones, tablets or computers may soon pay an additional fee to help fund the detectives who sifted through their digital lives. Senate Bill 54 would tack on up to $95 in fees for cases that hinge on digital investigations. During Tuesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, […]

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

Senate panel advances bill to shield jail inmate records from open records requests

By: - January 17, 2023

A bill that would close the disciplinary records of jail inmates from public view advanced out of the state Senate Judiciary Committee on a 6-1 vote Tuesday morning.  Senate Bill 53 closes what its sponsor calls a “loophole” in South Dakota’s open records law. The current law closes disciplinary records for inmates, but defines “inmate” […]

Students at the entrance to the University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law. (Photo courtesy of USD)

Bar exam critics move to strike testing requirement for USD law grads

By: - January 15, 2023

On Wednesday, the state’s top judicial official asked lawmakers to refrain from any changes to the bar admission process while a committee studies it. Within hours, a lawmaker vowed to file a bill that would change the bar exam. Rep. Mary Fitzgerald, R-Spearfish, wants University of South Dakota Knudson School of Law graduates to earn […]

Tripp County will be the first South Dakota county in two decades to hand count ballots in an election, according to the Secretary of State's Office. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Rural lawyer recruitment efforts show local results, but fail to alter urban-rural divide

By: - January 15, 2023

In 2013, then-Chief Justice of the South Dakota Supreme Court David Gilbertson was quoted in The New York Times for a story on a shortage of lawyers in rural areas. Gilbertson helped spearhead an effort called “Project Rural Practice,” a coordinated effort to address that issue.  The goal was critical, Gilbertson told reporter Ethan Bronner. […]

Chief Justice Steven R. Jensen addresses the South Dakota Legislature in Pierre on Jan. 11, 2023. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Chief justice: Contested elections for local judges may dissolve under lawmaker proposal

By: - January 11, 2023

South Dakotans would lose the right to elect judges under a proposal from lawmakers that the state’s chief justice addressed Wednesday during his State of the Judiciary speech. Judges can rise to the bench by way of the ballot, but most do not.  Judicial elections are mandated by the state constitution, but they only happen […]

(Illustration by Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Gender Identity Summit closed to media, public

By: - January 11, 2023

The third annual Gender Identity Summit in Sioux Falls will be closed to the media and the public, organizers said Wednesday. The summit is set to begin Friday morning. The agenda includes sessions on understanding gender identity, implicit bias, gender affirming care and creating a gender inclusive practice. Paul Heinert of Sanford Health said Wednesday […]