AP NEWS

Meet some key players in South Dakota’s Statehouse

January 10, 2020 GMT
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Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer speaks at a breakfast hosted by the Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Jan. 9, at the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. (Erin Bormett/The Argus Leader via AP)/The Argus Leader via AP)
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Senate Majority Leader Kris Langer speaks at a breakfast hosted by the Chamber of Commerce on Thursday, Jan. 9, at the Best Western Plus Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. (Erin Bormett/The Argus Leader via AP)/The Argus Leader via AP)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A quick look at some key players in Pierre as the Legislature prepares to open its 2020 session:

GOV. KRISTI NOEM

Heading into her second session as governor, Noem says she’ll work on communicating more clearly with lawmakers after some raised it as an issue. Noem described herself as “teachable.”

Noem butted heads with the Legislature last year on hemp, vetoing legislation aimed at legalizing industrial production and getting the industry rolling in South Dakota. It looked like she was prepared to make the same fight this year until last week, when Noem said she would consider legislation if it met her criteria for tight regulation.

Any state’s governor has a strong hand, but Noem also should enjoy a benefit from making several appointments to fill vacancies in both House and Senate. In fact, she promoted two House members into the Senate and appointed three more members of that chamber — amounting to more than 10 percent of the body. The governor’s power of appointments is laid out in the constitution, but it has some lawmakers grumbling.

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER KRIS LANGER

Langer, a Republican from Dell Rapids, is back in the role for her second session. She has often aligned with Noem, including on last year’s hemp vote. She said she is in regular touch with the governor’s office and will be working to make sure the Senate’s priorities are on the governor’s agenda. Her duties include organizing Republicans.

Langer is a real estate agent.

PRESIDENT PRO TEM BROCK GREENFIELD

Greenfield, R-Clarke, enters his 20th year, making him one of the most senior members. Clark decides who sits on which committee and assigns bills to committees, giving him some sway on their path to the floor.

He also sits on the Joint Committee on Appropriations, which handles the budget.

HOUSE SPEAKER STEVE HAUGAARD

Haugaard, a Republican from Sioux Falls, holds the post for the second year. Haugaard, an attorney, has championed the traditional GOP value of fiscal restraint; for example, last year he opposed a Noem proposal to spend $1 million to expand pheasant habitat.

He has also staked out more ideological positions. He criticized a proposed council to boost preschool attendance, calling it a “transformational approach to instilling a more socialist agenda into the system.” He also was a prominent voice in pushing free speech and intellectual diversity initiatives on college campuses that supporters said were necessary to foster conservative thought. Haugaard said the law was needed to counter “an increasing amount of socialism” on campuses nationwide.

HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER LEE QUALM

Qualm, a Republican from Platte, has demonstrated that he’s willing to spar with the governor. He led the charge on legalizing industrial hemp over Noem’s objections.

As a rancher, Qualm will also be a key voice from the agricultural community. After a year of floods and trade uncertainty, legislators said they will be looking for ways to help South Dakota farmers.

SENATE MINORITY LEADER TROY HEINERT

Heinert, a Democrat from Mission, is one of the leaders of a party that is at its lowest ebb in the Statehouse since the 1950s. But Heinert, a member of the Rosebud Sioux, has been instrumental in brokering cooperation between Indian tribes and the state government.