Deadlines spur action in Pierre

Published: Feb. 24, 2020 at 7:09 PM CST
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The countdown is on in Pierre as state lawmakers must hear any remaining bills in their committees by Wednesday night.

Know as crossover week by those in the capital, this is a time where deadlines spur action.

Former Speaker of the House Mark Mickelson spent many years in Pierre as a South Dakota lawmaker, and is very familiar with the stresses that can accompany crossover week.

"As time gets long and people spend a lot of time together, sometimes people get wore down, and that can raise emotions," Mickelson said. "So a lot of the time all you want to do is look at the people side of things. How can you keep people relaxed, and in their best form to interact with one another?"

I'm told one of the contributing factors to the extra busy week is that, under state law, every bill introduced must be heard by a committee.

Legislative Research Council Director Jason Hancock says this can lead to more work for the legislators.

"Your bill count is going to always drive a certain amount of how busy you are, because we do have hearings on every single bill," Hancock said. "Where I came from, in Idaho, they don't have any requirement that bills have to be given a hearing."

And the work is far from over.

"The attention is really going to start to turn to the budget, and how additional funding is going to be doled out," Mickelson said.

Though tensions can be high, Mickelson says this time of the year is exciting for state lawmakers.

"People that get elected to go out there, they like to debate and vote," Mickelson said. "Votes don't always go your way, but it's a fair process, everything gets voted on, and part of what allows that to happen is deadlines."

Later in this year's session there will be a second crossover week. That is when all bills that have been heard and passed through the House must be taken to the Senate, and vice versa.