South Dakota House convenes ‘crossover day’ minutes before midnight

The South Dakota House continues with the tradition of "covering the clock" on crossover day,...
The South Dakota House continues with the tradition of "covering the clock" on crossover day, Feb. 25, 2021.(South Dakota Broadcaster's Association)
Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 10:54 AM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Lawmakers in the South Dakota House of Representatives continued with the tradition of “covering the clock” as it finished crossover day business with just minutes to spare.

Crossover day is the deadline for bills to be passed out of their chamber of origin. That means any House bill must be approved by the full House by this date, and vice versa in the Senate. Otherwise, the bill is essentially dead.

Because of this, crossover day is usually one of the latest nights for legislators, as they work to get votes on all bills by the Midnight deadline. The House in particular, having twice as many members, is known for often pushing this deadline.

At some point in the legislature’s past, lawmakers got the idea of skirting this rule by covering all the clocks in the chamber with cloths, so legislators wouldn’t technically know what time it was, meaning they could potentially work beyond the deadline to get all their business done. Thus, the tradition of “covering the clock” was born.

The South Dakota Broadcasters Association reports that a Supreme Court decision rendered the practice moot, but the tradition of covering the clock on crossover day - as well as the last day of the regular session, when lawmakers approve the final state budget - continues to this day.

This year, the South Dakota House addressed 38 bills in a marathon 11-hour session on Thursday - closing out crossover day at 11:58 p.m. CT. The Senate was much more punctual, adjourning its crossover day session at 3:15 p.m.

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