Meeting in Special Session yesterday, the Legislature rubber-stamped Governor Kristi Noem’s wildly misdirected and self-serving use of the remaining $597 million remaining in coronavirus relief funds. Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls) pans his colleagues’ non-performance:
The regular appropriations process was undermined and turned over, inappropriately, from the legislature to the executive branch… Tf there ever was an appropriation that was “special” this $1.4 billion was it. Rather than these funds being spent as a special appropriations bill, we instead only amended the existing general appropriations bill to give spending authority entirely to Governor Noem. We then wrote a memo to the Governor—not a bill, just a resolution—allowing her to spend as she pleases with a few of our suggestions. In short, the legislature failed to manage the public purse as directed by our constitution. We gave it to the Governor instead [Sen. Reynold Nesiba, press release, SDDP, 2020.10.05]
Democrats did offer some amendments to the non-binding suggestions for coronavirus relief spending that the Legislature approved. In the Senate, Senator Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission) suggested roping $2 million from the small business grant fund and given to rodeo workers who’ve lost money due to canceled events. Senator Heinert proposed directing $3.4 million to give Native American schools $500 per student. Senator Heinert asked to carve out $10 million to help local meat lockers expand. The Republican majority rejected all three amendments; the Native American education amendment came closest to passing, 14–20.
In the House, Representative Linda Duba (D-15/Sioux Falls) went straight to the heart of the pandemic and suggested that Governor Noem spend $15 million to improve rapid, point-of-care covid-19 testing capabilities and contact tracing. The Republican majority rejected that motion 13–57.
The Legislature took five and a half hours to do nothing. $597 million dollars thus remain entirely under the control of Governor Kristi Noem, who is likely to do little with that money to directly protect you and your family and friends from the coronavirus that is currently raging in our state thanks to the poor leadership and constant bad example set by her and her subservient Republican Legislature.