South Dakota marijuana, money will be top issues in the legislature

An unusually high amount of available cash and proposed laws concerning medical and recreational marijuana are expected to be top issues this legislative session.

The American News reached out to legislators in both Aberdeen and Watertown in recent weeks to get a sense of what legislators would be dealing with when session starts next week.

Session begins Tuesday with the State of the State address by Gov. Kristi Noem, who provided her budget address to legislators in December when she highlighted her spending priorities.

District 4 Rep. Fred Deutsch said the legislature has heard the governor’s recommendations and now it’s up to them to determine if that’s how the funding will be spent.

“It’s going to be overwhelming with the amount of federal funding coming in,” he said.

District 5 Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, said with $970 million available that needs to be spent in the next four years, plus additional one-time funding, it’s going to be the single-biggest session for appropriations.

Much of the funding available is possible through federal COVID relief money received by the state. And while many projects and directions have been identified for funding, Aberdeen legislators say they’ll be paying close attention to funding for the replacement of the Richmond Lake spillway and Lincoln Hall at Northern State University.

Noem recommended allocating $6.5 million to the replacement of the Richmond Spillway. With spillways on Lake Mina and Elm Lake currently being replaced this year, this would be the third multi-million dollar spillway replacement project for the area and the second for the state’s School and Public Lands department.

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