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.

An apartment building under construction on June 13, 2023, in eastern Rapid City. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight)

Tribes still face uphill slog for housing infrastructure funding after passage of rules

By: - June 13, 2023

South Dakota’s tribes may lose out on a quarter of a $200 million pool of workforce housing infrastructure money before lawmakers can pass a bill giving them access to the funds. The Legislature’s Rules Review Committee voted 5-1 Tuesday to give final approval to the rules for the program. But a wrinkle in the law […]

The federal courthouse in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Sioux Falls man now facing 16 counts of COVID-related fraud

By: - June 12, 2023

SIOUX FALLS — A Sioux Falls man already facing possible federal prison time for bank fraud has been charged with two additional counts of wire fraud for allegedly lying to secure another $700,000 in COVID relief funds. James Bunker, 52, of Sioux Falls, was initially indicted on a dozen fraud-related charges related to the Paycheck […]

A sign identifies a polling place during a city and school election on June 6, 2023, in Rapid City. (Seth Tupper/South Dakota Searchlight)

Anti-abortion group sues South Dakota over campaign finance requirements

By: - June 6, 2023

A Virginia anti-abortion group wants a federal judge to strike down a South Dakota law that requires nonprofit organizations to list their top five donors on political messaging. Students for Life of America is a nonprofit advocacy group launched in 2006, with an aim to educate and connect anti-abortion students with messaging tools and one […]

Navigator CO2 Ventures Vice President of Government and Public Affairs Elizabeth Burns-Thompson, left, speaks with opponents of carbon pipelines following a meeting of the Minnehaha County Commission on June 6, 2023, in Sioux Falls (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Minnehaha County passes rules for carbon pipelines despite opposition from both sides

By: - June 6, 2023

SIOUX FALLS – Officials in South Dakota’s largest county dealt a blow to opponents of two carbon pipeline companies with a vote to set shorter-than-requested spaces between homes and pipelines in their first-ever set of rules for such projects.  Minnehaha County commissioners convened Tuesday to take up the issue of setbacks in a long-debated pipeline […]

The cost of holiday baking was higher in 2022, as prices for eggs were up 49.1% over 2021, according to the Consumer Price Index. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Slower growth, sluggish borrowing expected to impact South Dakota economy

By: - May 31, 2023

Higher interest rates, inflation, a cooling housing sector and a dip in consumer spending are expected to slow economic growth in South Dakota, according to the state Bureau of Finance and Management. The agency’s projections for two years of lower growth in the state came during Wednesday’s meeting of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisers. […]

Houses under construction. (Getty Images)

Housing cash one step closer for South Dakota builders

By: - May 31, 2023

The rules for a $200 million infrastructure funding program are headed to lawmakers for a final sign-off. The board of the South Dakota Housing Development Authority voted unanimously to approve its rules for the program on Wednesday after about an hour of public comments from local economic development offices, attorneys, home builders and others. Commenters […]

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

For-profit businesses in, tribes out in housing infrastructure rules update

By: - May 30, 2023

For-profit entities might have a shot at some of the $200 million in housing infrastructure funding, the Housing Development Authority’s board members learned on Tuesday. Tribal entities, however, likely won’t be eligible unless the Legislature rewrites the law next year. Those two changes to the proposed rules of the long-delayed workforce housing incentive program came […]

An inmate at the Women's Prison in Pierre works on a block of metal during a precision machining class in 2022. The program is a partnership between the state Department of Corrections, state Department of Labor and Regulations and state technical colleges.

Prison workshops bleeding money despite requirement to break even

By: - May 30, 2023

The South Dakota Department of Corrections is required to operate its prison workshops without losing money, but the DOC has long failed to live up to that expectation. Not only do some shops lose as much as $400,000 a year, but inmates aren’t spending enough of their work time filling customer orders. Inmates regularly tag […]

A collage of photos of Acey Morrison at a younger age. Morrison was killed on Aug. 21, 2022 by a man who claimed self defense. (Photos courtesy of Cheryse Hawkins, illustration by Josh Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Nine months and counting: Slain transgender woman’s family frustrated by wait for justice

By: - May 26, 2023

Prosecutors in Rapid City know who shot and killed Acey Morrison.  They’ve known since Aug. 21, 2022. That was the day the transgender member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe was shot in the mobile home of a man she’d met for an ill-fated hookup attempt that began on a dating app. What they don’t know […]

People raise their hands to signal their intent to speak in support of an ordinance that would restrict carbon pipelines at a Minnehaha County Commission meeting on May 23, 2023, in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

Tie vote delays decision on carbon pipeline policy in Minnehaha County

By: - May 23, 2023

SIOUX FALLS — Minnehaha County commissioners gridlocked Tuesday on setbacks from rural homes and postponed a vote on an ordinance with the potential to scuttle two carbon capture pipelines. The absence of Commission Chair Jean Bender set the stage for a 2-2 vote and a return to the issue at the June 6 meeting. Plenty […]

From left, Brookings Deputy Mayor Nick Wendell, North Dakota state Sen. Ryan Braunberger, D-Fargo, and Rep. Kameron Nelson, D-Sioux Falls, participate in a panel discussion on campaigning as members of the LGBTQ+ community on May 20, 2023, in Sioux Falls. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)

LGBTQ+ candidate recruitment event draws dozens to downtown Sioux Falls

By: - May 20, 2023

SIOUX FALLS — Being an LGBTQ+ lawmaker in a deep red state may feel like an uphill battle, but offering a presence and voice in statehouses “makes a big difference” behind the scenes. That was a key message at a candidate recruitment event in downtown Sioux Falls on Saturday organized by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit […]

(Illustration by Khanchit Khirisutchalual/Getty Images)

State investment manager argues against ban on ‘green’ investments

By: - May 19, 2023

The state’s top investment officer doesn’t want lawmakers to bar him from trading the securities of “green” companies — provided those companies can make money for the state. The goal of stock market purchases in South Dakota, Investment Officer Matt Clark said, is to buy low and sell high — regardless of the kind of […]