Governor Noem, lawmakers discuss topics for potential special session

Governor Kristi Noem and state legislators could look to a potential special session for answering questions surrounding the state.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Rumors of a special session for South Dakota lawmakers to address concerns from Governor Kristi Noem continue to loom.

The issues include banning transgender women from playing in girls sports after Noem returned House Bill 1217 to legislators for changes to its “vague language regarding civil liability and the use of performance-enhancing drugs,” as well as the bill’s limitations to elementary, middle and high school athletics.

Other issues that could be brought up in the potential special session could be how the state will spend CARES ACT funding and revisions to Initiated Measure-26, a voter-passed medical marijuana bill that will become law on July 1.

Helene Duhamel, a District 32 Senator for Pennington County, says this may not be the most effective way for lawmakers to create laws for the state, even though she’s heard talk of a potential special session coming in early June.

“A special session is a very hard time to try to tackle really big issues,” Duhamel said. “That’s what we do in the nine weeks of the legislature in South Dakota. We hear the proponents and opponents. We work through the committee system and we work through both houses and we come to the best consensus. That’s really hard to do over a day or two in the summer.”

Duhamel said that as it pertains to the issues in question with Gov. Kristi Noem, some senators question if the special session is the best way to solve the bigger issues.

“I’ve heard that she (Gov. Kristi Noem) wants potentially some direction on COVID spending, federal dollars that are coming to the State of South Dakota and that she also has some interest in picking up the women’s sports and transgender sports issue and taking that again,” Duhamel said. “Again the problem is, is a summer session the very best way to tackle these really big issues and there’s real consternation in the senate right now, whether or not that really is the best approach.”

When it comes to issues posed by Gov. Kristi Noem, specifically those in regard to IM-26, Duhamel says that she agrees with the governor’s main concerns like changing the bill from a minimum of three plants to a maximum in a person’s household and prohibiting people under the age of 21 from taking part in the medical marijuana program.

Rather than a special session, Duhamel says that issues, like IM-26, are best discussed in Interim studies, which give legislators a better chance to discuss concerns from those in favor and not in favor of the bill.

Lee Schoenbeck, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate, questions how the state will handle new CARES Act funding.

“We have the broadest strokes of information that the FEDs have put out, the real issue is the guidance that they will put out and they said that could take up to 60 days, middle of May,” Schoenbeck said. 

“That would be the time that I think we could dig into more of the Medical Marijuana issues,” Duhamel said. “I just think some people think summer studies are better in the summer than another special session.”

She says that the senate currently has two summer studies that are in the works, one regarding the medical and recreation aspects, while the other study is on the work force and affordable housing.

Members of the house looking to the challenges ahead.

“All three of these subjects, medical marijuana, men and women sports and if we have to fine tune some additional money coming from the CARES Act, which is crazy and we have to spend it, we can’t send it back,” said Rep. Tim Goodwin.

Duhamel said that some legislators feel the issue should be discussed before the bills comes law, while others think that the issue should be addressed in the next scheduled special session, which is in November. That special session was originally voted in agreement by both the state house and senate to go over redistricting questions following the release of the new U.S. Census numbers.

Categories: Cannabis Legislation, Local News, South Dakota News