Facade of South Dakota Capitol building in Pierre.

(The Center Square) – South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is asking state lawmakers to back bills that would eliminate fees for new and renewed business licenses and concealed carry permits.

The governor also said she wants to end a "ridiculous tax" Tuesday in her state of the state address. 

"Did you know that we have a bingo tax?" Noem asked, drawing a chuckle from the crowd. "This is largely a tax on our elderly populations and veterans. I’m proposing that we get rid of it, and this is just the beginning."

Noem said the state's economy is stronger than first thought. 

"Ongoing general fund revenues were $20.8 million higher than the revised estimates from December," Noem said. "So far this fiscal year, we’re $116 million above ongoing legislative adopted estimates."

Noem did not mention a proposed 6% raise for teachers and state employees she discussed in her December state of the budget address, but the raise is expected to be addressed by lawmakers during the legislative session. Senate Minority Whip Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls, said teachers need more. 

"Teachers have worked to ensure our children’s education but Kristi Noem is offering them a raise that doesn’t even keep up with inflation," Nesiba said in a news release. "They deserve 8%. Teachers and state employees deserve better."

The governor said the state's response to COVID-19 kept the state's economy strong. South Dakota was the only state that did not order businesses to close. 

"We did not decide who is essential and who is not," Noem said. "We chose freedom and personal responsibility over mandates and lockdowns. We took steps to be safe, to guard public health. But we also trusted people to make decisions that were best for them and their families.'

People should decide whether they want to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, said Noem, who reiterated her opposition to proposed federal vaccination mandates.

"I am bringing legislation this session to protect the people’s right to a medical or religious exemption from COVID vaccines, just as my executive order did for state employees," Noem said. "We will also recognize natural immunity."

Noem also announced several health and social policies. The governor is proposing a bill that would ban abortions as soon as a heart beat is detected. She also asked lawmakers to support her executive order that would ban women from obtaining abortion medication using telemedicine.  

The governor also reminded lawmakers of two proposed bills she already announced. One would allow only those born biologically female to participate in girls' sports. 

A second bill would ban the teaching of critical race theory. Noem said social studies standards should "reflect America’s true and honest history."

Noem praised Ben Carson, the former secretary of Housing and Urban Development who attended Noem's speech. 

"Today, Dr. Carson continues to advance the values that make America so special through his work at the American Cornerstone Institute, which just launched an online learning platform called Little Patriots to teach children about our country’s founding principles," Noem said.

House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, D-Sioux Falls, called the speech divisive. 

"We need a government that works for all South Dakotans," Smith said in a news release. "There are opportunities for us to work together. Areas of agreement include workforce housing, job training, and childcare just to name a few."

Lawmakers began the 2022 legislative session Tuesday. The Joint Committee on Appropriations is holding a series of hearings with state departments on their budget requests.

Associate Editor

Kim Jarrett's career spans over 30 years with stops in radio, print and television. She has won awards from both the Georgia Press Association and the Georgia Association of Broadcasters.