How to use your voice in the Legislative process


Brock Brown, Reporter (He/Him)

South Dakota’s state Capitol is nearly 190 miles away from the South Dakota State University campus, and, at times, the actions that occur in Pierre may seem distant or out of reach to SDSU students.

However, there are many ways that SDSU students can get involved in the legislative process and have an impact on what bills become law here in South Dakota.

There are a variety of ways that SDSU students can get involved, both in the Capitol building and from their dorm room.

One benefit of COVID-19 was the implementation of virtual committee testimony in all legislative committees. If any SDSU student wishes to testify on legislation, they may contact the committee through information listed on

There are currently 22 college students working as interns for the Legislative Research Council, who are assigned to specific parties, committees or legislators.

Their duties range from committee operations to research, along with other tasks depending on assignments from the legislators or committees.

The application for this internship is available each fall and is announced before the start of the spring semester.

“This internship allowed me to develop skills including leadership, networking, legal writing and communication,” junior political science student Rachel Schoon, a 2020 Senate Intern, said.

Students can also get directly involved with legislators by voicing their opinion on legislation, asking questions or even asking a legislator to sponsor legislation on their behalf.

“I always enjoy hearing from students, especially SDSU students,” Rep. Tim Reed said. “I consider all of them my constituents, and I always tell them if they are from South Dakota to make sure they contact their hometown representatives.”

Students can also get involved in special interest and lobbying groups; in fact, as members of the student body, they are already represented by the Students’ Association Senate, which has registered lobbyists that travel to Pierre and testify on their behalf.

The Students’ Association has already taken a position on 2021 legislation including needs-based scholarship funding, and in the past, worked closely with legislators to achieve their goals.

Rep. Larry Tidemann says he worked with SA student leaders to pass multiple pieces of legislation.

“I worked with the student body leadership on the wellness center and the Good Samaritan bills,” he said. “SDSU students also helped get bills passed for the new swine building and the cow calf unit.”

If students don’t feel comfortable directly contacting their legislators, there are other opportunities to learn more about the issues important to their communities.

The Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce hosts legislative town halls Feb. 13 and 20  from 9-10 a.m.; students can register on the Chamber’s website.

At the end of the day, if students don’t agree with the legislation that passes or dies in Pierre, they have the opportunity to be involved in the process as a legislator. The next general election is in November 2022, and students can find the requirements on the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website.