Author

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.

Rep. Chris Karr, R-Sioux Falls, questions an official from the Governor's Office of Economic Development during a hearing on Jan. 8, 2024, at the Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Permanent sales tax reduction bill flies through committee

By: - January 11, 2024

A bill to permanently set South Dakota’s state sales tax rate at a reduced 4.2% sailed through its first committee hearing Thursday at the Capitol in Pierre with an 11-1 vote. Prime sponsor Rep. Chris Karr, R-Sioux Falls, told House Taxation Committee members the bill “concludes some unfinished business” from last year’s session. The 2023 […]

The sun sets behind the South Dakota Capitol in Pierre on Dec. 5, 2023 (Makenzie Huber, South Dakota Searchlight)

State demographer projects older population over the next decade

By: - January 10, 2024

South Dakota’s population will continue to grow, but at a slower rate, while continuing to become more diverse and elderly in the next couple of decades, according to state demographer and South Dakota State University professor Weiwei Zhang. Zhang presented her findings, based on census data, to the legislative House State Affairs Committee on Wednesday […]

(Daria Nipot/Getty Images)

State changes child care subsidy policy to better support providers

By: - January 9, 2024

A program meant to help low-income families pay for child care changed this month to better support providers. The change to the South Dakota Department of Social Services’ Child Care Assistance Program moved from an attendance-based policy to enrollment-based, which child care advocates say is welcome. Department Secretary Matt Althoff said in a news release […]

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

Education, taxes, crime: Notable bills filed ahead of South Dakota’s 2024 legislative session

By: - January 7, 2024

Teacher pay, tax relief, election processes, and tweaks to medical marijuana laws are among the topics of bills filed ahead of the annual legislative session. More than 100 bills have been introduced so far. More than 500 bills were filed during the 40-day session last year. The 99th South Dakota legislative session kicks off Tuesday […]

Attendance liaison for Sioux Falls Whittier Middle School Suzannah Reaves goes over attendance data, checking who is in and out of school. (Courtesy of Sioux Falls School District)

One in five SD students is chronically absent. The state is awarding millions to address it.

By: - January 5, 2024

Student absenteeism is one of the biggest problems facing South Dakota public education, said state Secretary of Education Joseph Graves. Chronic absenteeism among South Dakota students jumped from 14% during the 2018-2019 school year to 21% during the 2022-2023 school year. That increase is more pronounced among Native American students, whose chronic absenteeism rates jumped […]

The entrance to the South Dakota Supreme Court at the state Capitol in Pierre. (Joshua Haiar/South Dakota Searchlight)

Ex-legislator repaying money as conflict question she sparked goes to state Supreme Court

By: - January 5, 2024

As the state Supreme Court prepares to hear arguments Monday about what constitutes a conflict of interest, the former legislator whose situation sparked the question is repaying money her business received from the government. Jessica Castleberry, R-Rapid City, resigned from the state Senate last year. Gov. Kristi Noem had publicly revealed that Castleberry’s business, Little […]

Paramedics carrying patient in ambulance at night (Getty Images)

New report recommends state efforts to sustain rural ambulance services

By: - January 2, 2024

Some South Dakotans who call 911 won’t see an ambulance show up for over half an hour on the western side of the state if they have an emergency. That’s because there simply aren’t enough ambulances to cover the West River region. The problem could worsen as volunteer emergency responders age, fewer South Dakotans volunteer […]

An educator works with students at the George McGovern Middle School. (Courtesy of Sioux Falls School District)

Why South Dakota’s landmark teacher pay law failed

By: - December 30, 2023

Inflation, turnover, minimal increases in state aid to education, and pay raises absorbed by non-teaching staff: Those are the reasons for South Dakota’s lagging teacher pay, according to education experts and school officials. The Legislature expected to infuse over $60 million into public K-12 education in the first year following 2016’s historic half-percent state sales […]

Getty Images

Nursing home complaints up 38% since last year

By: - December 21, 2023

Complaints against South Dakota nursing homes are the highest they’ve been in at least eight years. The state Department of Health oversees 97 long-term care facilities, according to its website. It fielded 54 complaints as of Dec. 19 – a 38% increase over 2022 and three times higher than 2021 and 2020, when the state […]

The Palmer Gulch Fire burns in October 2022 in the Black Hills. (Courtesy of Black Hills National Forest)

State disaster report prepares for more natural disasters in coming years

By: - December 20, 2023

South Dakotans have less than two weeks to review and comment on the state’s new 2024 hazard mitigation plan, which is used to navigate and prepare for costly and deadly disasters. The plan is updated every five years to meet state eligibility requirements for increased mitigation funding from the federal government. The comment period was […]

The South Dakota Board of Regents meets on the South Dakota State University campus on Dec. 14, 2023. (Makenzie Huber/South Dakota Searchlight)

Changes from higher education task force result in increased program terminations, collaborations

By: - December 16, 2023

BROOKINGS — Four university degrees will be discontinued at South Dakota Board of Regents institutions and two programs will be consolidated, according to a recent program productivity report presented to the board on Thursday. Those discontinued degrees were flagged due to low enrollment, low graduation and a lack of financial viability. The report has been […]

Gov. Kristi Noem presents her fiscal year 2025 budget address to the South Dakota Legislature on the House floor on Dec. 5, 2023. (Makenzie Huber, South Dakota Searchlight)

What’s not in Noem’s budget? Governor omitted some summer-study items sought by lawmakers

By: - December 14, 2023

Legislators spent long hours last summer digging deep into specific issues deemed potential priorities for the 2024 legislative session, including long-term care, funding for county governments and legal representation for low-income defendants. During her budget address last week, Gov. Kristi Noem did propose a 4% increase in state reimbursement to health care providers, including nursing […]