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COVID-19 relief, teacher pay on docket for 2021 legislative session

 Photo: South Dakota Bureau of Administration
Photo: South Dakota Bureau of Administration (KSFY)
Published: Jan. 12, 2021 at 10:49 AM MST
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PIERRE, S.D. (KEVN) - The 96th South Dakota Legislative Session kicks off Tuesday, and it’s anticipated to be a busy one.

As lawmakers begin the 2021 session, approving a budget flush with one-time money from federal coronavirus relief funds will be at the top of the to-do list.

In October, state legislators held a special session to recommend where federal relief dollars would be spent. A large amount of that funding went to community health centers and struggling businesses.

More targeted relief is expected to come down during this year’s session.

“I hope we continue to test people, and now vaccinate people, but really we need to be focusing on the impact that (the pandemic) has had on so many individuals across our state,” Rep. Erin Healy said.

Lawmakers want to ensure the money is going where it can be best utilized.

“I think, what we could have done along the way was probably provide more information about the testing that was being done and the results, because as we got further into the pandemic, if we had 500 tests, you’d like to know, of those 500 tests, how many people had a really serious situation? Is it asymptomatic, mild, moderate, or severe?” Rep. Steve Haugaard said. “That’s what we should have known, and that’s probably what we can do going forward.”

Also on the docket, teacher pay.

In her budget address, Gov. Kristi Noem proposed almost a 2.5% raise for teachers. Last year, that state approved a 2% raise for them.

Rep. Healy said concerns about the state’s education system is one of the top issues her constituents bring forward.

“That’s always a really difficult ask, when we’re looking at those three players in the state of South Dakota,” Healy said. “We spoke with the Sioux Falls School District on, I believe it was Thursday morning, and they were happy to see that 2.4% was in there.”

The increased wage also applies to community service providers and state employees.

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