The day we have long awaited is nearly here. South Dakota's 96th Legislative Session will start on January 12 at noon with Governor Kristi Noem's State of the State address. People looking to secure a sense of serenity should leave the Capitol right after the speech and never look back. Staying to watch what happens over the next 36 days can be confusing, disorienting and occasionally infuriating. Fortunately for Chamber members, there is a team of two skilled lobbyists in Pierre, plus support staff in Sioux Falls, to make sense of the action and work to make sure the outcomes enhance doing business in South Dakota rather than obstruct it.
If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.
– Otto von Bismarck
The 2020 November election has brought back familiar legislators along with a few new individuals. The 105 legislators include 35 Senators and 70 Representatives, who will be sworn in on the first day and will begin the work of considering legislation, including the state budget. The old adage from Otto von Bismarck is often invoked about the process of making law. "If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made." In other words, the legislative process, though messy and sometimes unappetizing, can produce healthy, wholesome results.
The composite of those making laws in January 2021 will be:
- 32 Republicans and 3 Democrats. (The previous count in 2020 was 30 R's and 5 D's)
- 21 Senators were re-elected.
- 8 Senators were Representatives in the previous election. Sometimes these elected officials can be identified as "crossovers" because they crossed over the Rotunda to now serve in the Senate.
- 6 Newly elected Senators who have not served in the legislature before.
- 62 Republicans and 3 Democrats. (The previous count in 2020 was 59 R's and11 D's)
- 46 Representatives were re-elected.
- 3 Representatives were Senators in the previous election. Again, you may hear these referred to as "crossovers" because they crossed over the Rotunda to now serve in the House.
- 7 Return legislators who have served in the legislature before but have not served in the last legislative term.
- 14 Newly elected Representatives who have not served in the legislature before.
The South Dakota legislature has been governed by the Republican party for most of our state's history. This election increased the number of Republicanslegislators to 32-3 in the Senate and 62-8 in the House of Representative. The previous highwater mark was in 1953, when the numbers were 35-0 in the Senate and House of Representatives 73-2.
Saving the best for last, the voters have set a new record of women legislators in our state. South Dakota voters have sent 30 women legislators to Pierre to represent them. The previous high-water mark for women legislators was 26 women in the early nineties. Nine of these women legislators will be serving their first term.
Congratulations to all of our legislators and thank you for serving. We look forward to working with you over the next three months.
The Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce's advocacy efforts are closely aligned with our membership and approved by our Board of Directors. As a Chamber member, you can track our work through our weekly newsletter the Advocate, our Bill Tracker, Twitter, Facebook and our weekly podcast. We are looking forward to representing the interests of our members in Pierre.