Lee Strubinger asked Governor Kristi Noem yesterday if she’s thinking about calling a special session of the Legislature to address the coronavirus pandemic. Governor Noem said she wants to see what can be done on Veto Day first:
“There are some decisions that could get made with our legislators on veto day that we can deal with,” Noem says. “That’s why we’re not planning a special session. I will be having a telephone townhall with our legislators this evening to that I can give them an update as well, because I know a lot of people are reaching out to them” [Lee Strubinger, “Noem to Hold Town Hall with Legislators, Look Ahead for Potential COVID 19 Response,” SDPB, 2020.03.16].
I’ve already outlined six emergency measures the Legislature should enact to cushion the blow of the current public health crisis on South Dakota’s health, elections, and education. Permit me to add to that list:
- Move the petition filing deadlines for all partisan candidates to July 15.
- Move the primary election, referendum petition filing deadline, and new party organization filing deadline to September 8.
- Move the independent candidate filing deadline and the convention nomination of candidates deadline to September 15.
- Appropriate $10 million from the state budget reserve to build cellular towers in underserved areas and distribute wi-fi hotspots to school districts for distribution to low-income students forced to learn at home by school closures.
In the thirteen days until Veto Day, legislators shouldn’t have any travel or social engagements to distract them from researching and writing up these proposals and designing other state action to shore up our elections and public institutions against the impacts of our coronavirus response. Same for kids as for legislators: social distancing is not a snow day; it is time for serious study. Write these bills now, post them for public viewing and discussion this week, incorporate that public feedback into pre-posted amendments, and you legislators could run these emergency responses through the process on Veto Day. Of course, if you need a full day for committee hearings, the Governor can surely issue a call for a Tuesday special session, or you legislators can simply gather 71 of your own signatures (24 from the Senate, 47 from the House) to convene for an extra day to take care of business.