South Dakota Voters Choose Status Quo
by Tim Dougherty, Lead Lobbyist
Except for the presidential contest, South Dakota voters chose the status quo in this election. In the legislative races, Democrats gained 2 seats in the senate, but lost 2 seats in the house. Republicans retained control of both houses of the legislature, the state’s lone congressional seat and the public utilities commission. Voters rejected the Governor’s proposal to create an economic development fund for large construction projects and his education reform package. They also rejected a measure initiated by health care providers and educators to increase the state sales tax to provide additional funding for education and Medicaid.
Going into the election, Republicans had a 30-5 majority in the senate and a 51-19 majority in the house. There were 12 uncontested senate seats, 10 held by Republicans and 2 by Democrats, and 26 uncontested house seats, 18 held by Republicans and 8 by Democrats. Thus the battle for control of the senate was over 23 seats, and for the house it was over 44 seats. Republicans lost 4 incumbent legislators, 2 in the senate and 2 in the house. Democrats did not lose any incumbent legislators.
Republicans now have a 28-7 majority in the senate and a 53-17 majority in the house. Republican and Democrat legislators will meet in early December to elect their caucus leaders. It is likely that the legislative leadership in the house and senate will largely remain the same, except the speaker. The house customarily elects a new speaker every two years. T he speaker pro temp is usually elected to succeed the retiring speaker. Also, there will be some changes in the senate and house committee chairs.
Below are the election results (percentages are rounded up).
Romney – 58%
Obama – 40%
Republican Kristi Noem (incumbent) – 57%
Democratic Matt Varilek – 43%
Public Utilities Commission Race
Republican Chris Nelson (incumbent) – 67%
Democrat Nick Nemec – 33%
Republican Kristi Fiegen (incumbent) – 54%
Democrat Matt McGovern – 40%
Libertarian Russell Clarke – 6%
Republicans – 28
Democrats – 7
Republicans – 53
Democrats – 17
Initiative and Referendum:
Referred Law 14 – transfers 22% of contractors’ excise tax revenues from the state general fund to the Large Project Development Fund to provide grants for the construction of large economic development projects within the state that exceed $5 million.
Yes – 42%
No – 58%
Referred Law 16 – establishes a teacher scholarship program; creates a program for math and science teacher bonuses; creates a program for teacher merit bonuses; mandates a uniform teacher and principal evaluation system; and eliminates state requirements for teacher tenure.
Yes – 33%
No – 67%
Initiated Measure 15 - increases the state general sales and use tax rate from 4% to 5%. The additional tax revenue will be split evenly between K-12 public education and Medicaid.
Yes – 43%
No – 57%
Constitutional Amendment M - allows the Legislature to: (1) authorize alternative methods of voting in elections for corporate directors; (2) expand the types of contributions a corporation may receive for the issuance of stock or bonds; and (3) establish procedures governing the increase of corporate stock or debt.
Yes – 30%
No – 70%
Constitutional Amendment N - repeals this constitutional limitation and allows legislator travel reimbursement to be set by the Legislature.
Yes – 37%
No – 63%
Amendment O - replaces the existing method for cement trust fund distributions and requires a yearly transfer of 4% of the market value of the cement plant trust fund to the state general fund for the support of education.
Yes – 57%
No – 43%
Amendment P requires the Governor to propose a balanced budget and prohibits legislative appropriations from exceeding anticipated revenues and existing available funds. The amendment is not intended to affect other constitutional provisions.
Yes – 65%
No – 35%