2021 legislative recap: money, marijuana and more


Brock Brown, Reporter (He/Him)

Impeachment, marijuana and fairness in women’s sports are topics that have brought recent national attention to the South Dakota’s State Legislature.  


All of these issues were left rather unresolved in the 2021 legislative session as the legislature failed to pass its larger medical marijuana legislation. Gov. Kristi Noem vetoed the legislation regarding fairness in women’s sports followed by a failed attempt to override in the House, and the House put a pause on the impeachment of the attorney general. 


All of these topics are likely to lead to special sessions at the call of Noem. 


These topics brought up lively debate, but one issue dominated the legislative session: money, specifically one-time money. One-time funds are those that are not appropriated on a recurring basis and cannot be used for on-going expenses like employee salaries, social programs or costs to the state government that will run into the next year.


In a typical year, this is roughly $15 million-$20 million, but due to federal COVID-19 relief dollars, South Dakota saw a decrease in the expenses in their Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) budget, meaning there was an increase in leftover FY21 funds that needed to be spent. 


In total, the state legislature approved a roughly $5.1 billion budget for the coming fiscal year starting this summer.  


Of the $5.1 billion appropriated, South Dakota State University and the Board of Regents (BOR) came out ahead in terms of their one-time funding requests. Going into the session, the BOR requested $22,274,200 in one-time funding requests with Noem recommending $898,200 in her budget address.  


This, however, was with two request caveats: needs based scholarship funding and continued legislative support of a bioprocessing imitative between SDSU and the School of Mines and Technology located in Rapid City.  


All in all, the BOR and SDSU got a large portion of their requested funds and came out with a $50 million endowment appropriation for the “Freedom Scholarship,” or a needs-based scholarship.  


SDSU is slated to receive $7.5 million for a “new dairy research and extension farm” as per HB 1153. This is a program that continues to set SDSU ahead with animal and food production research on the main campus in Brookings.  


Passing unanimously out of the Senate, HB 1210 builds off of a 2020 legislative appropriation and funds a “new bioproducts facility at the research park in Brookings” in cooperation with SDSMT. This bill appropriates $20 million to the constitution and furnishing of a new research facility dedicated to bioproducts, which may include corn ethanol, Black Hills timber by-products and new areas that SDSU and SDSMT can explore. 


SDSU also had the spending authority approved to build the new wrestling facility attached to the Sanford Jackrabbit Athletic Complex. The facility has nearly $4 million in donations completed and needed the state legislature’s approval to spend that money.  


One project that SDSU did not see legislative success in was finding funding for a Berg Hall renovation. This was a $2 million piece of BOR sponsored legislation but did not find a favorable vote before the House Appropriations Committee.