Governor Kristi Noem calls for special legislative session

The session is currently intended to address how the state ought to spend federal coronavirus relief funds.
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Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 7:22 PM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Lawmakers will meet October 5th in a special legislative session to discuss how to spend coronavirus relief funds. The relief funds in question are the $1.25 billion the state got from the federal government for coronavirus relief, largely through the CARES Act.

Much of those funds have already been allocated to various different state agencies and initiatives. Some of those include funding for state public safety and health officials, universities and technical schools, as well as for city and county governments.

Unless the federal government were to extend out the deadline to spend those relief dollars, states have until December 30th, 2020 to do so. The start date of the regularly schedule South Dakota legislative session is currently set for January 12th, 2021.

Governor Kristi Noem opted for the special session after long arguing against the need for one. Speaker Steve Haugaard (R- Sioux Falls) has been calling for a special session since June. He says a series of legislative “listening sessions” have been productive, and have helped South Dakotans voice their concerns and needs.

“If in the process we find that there are laws or rules or regulations we can modify we will address that as well. As far as just getting a rubber stamp for authority I don’t see that as what the legislature should be used for. We certainly want to take a look and see what bills are being proposed.” Haugaard said.

State Representative Tim Rounds (R- Pierre) has stood in opposition to the prospect of a special session, but says he better understands the need for one after co-chairing some of those legislative “listening sessions.” Questions still surround some of the spending initiatives and decisions, particularly regarding things such as dispersal and eligibility on certain proposals.

“There is a lot that the governor proposed, the four hundred million for business grants/loans for example. Some of the people are questioning, like the idea she came up with it, may need some tweaking to the rules... that is what we’ve heard a lot of. How is it going to effect small businesses? Some may get squeezed out. We want to make sure they get all included.” Rounds said.

Regardless of the tactic, legislators across the spectrum hope that their time in Pierre results in the needs of South Dakotans being met.

“We will do as much as we can in the time that we’ve got, we don’t want to rush anything. We want to have a good process, and hopefully a good result.” Haugaard said.

Governor Noem’s Director of Communications Ian Fury said that they hope to complete the special session in one day, but Speaker Haugaard questions whether the legislature’s work can be completed in that short a time frame.

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