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PIERRE — South Dakota's 2019 legislative session will be Kristi Noem's first as governor, but she's not the only state official stepping into a new role.

Lawmakers gather Tuesday for the session that will run into late March. They'll set the state budget and debate issues ranging from criminal justice to online sales taxes.

Here's a look at some of the key political players this session:


A state legislator before she served in Congress, Noem is headed into her inaugural session leading the executive branch. It's unclear which parts of Noem's wide-ranging campaign platform — she had proposals on issues spanning public safety to government transparency — will top her to-do list, which will be the main force that shapes the session. Noem has said she'll release legislative priorities in her State of the State address and propose a state budget in the coming weeks.

In a speech at her swearing-in ceremony over the weekend, Noem said she wants to be remembered as a governor for the next generation. She is the first woman to serve in the office.

Some of the most-conservative lawmakers in the Republican-controlled Legislature have been waiting for Noem's term, hoping she will sign into law priorities such as allowing people to carry concealed handguns without a permit in South Dakota.


Ravnsborg, who is also new to his office, has made ending the state's presumptive-probation policy for some lower-level felonies the cornerstone of his legislative agenda. The practice is credited with helping stop expensive prison-population growth, but critics say it ties judges' hands.

The proposed changes are set to be among the most consequential that lawmakers debate this year. South Dakota in 2013 passed a Republican-led justice system overhaul to tackle prison overcrowding that the latest state analysis credits with saving taxpayers more than $30 million.

Ravnsborg, an Army Reserve officer and former lawyer in Yankton, campaigned as the candidate favored by the law-enforcement community.

His other campaign proposals included expanding programs allowing lower-level prisoners to work and establishing a meth-specific prison and mental-health facility in the central or western part of the state. His high-profile office takes on the state's top legal cases and has been a springboard for gubernatorial hopefuls.


Republicans have nominated Rep. Steven Haugaard, an attorney from Sioux Falls, as House speaker and elected Lee Qualm to another term as their majority leader. Qualm said House Republicans will be establishing priorities during the first week of session.

Qualm counted mental health, special education, online sales taxes and the juvenile and criminal justice systems among the top issues lawmakers will tackle this year. The farmer from Platte plans to bring legislation that would allow concealed pistols inside the state Capitol.

In the Senate, Republicans nominated Brock Greenfield to be president pro tempore and chose Kris Langer as their majority leader. Greenfield said lawmakers in South Dakota and other states must do whatever they can to solve opioid- and methamphetamine-abuse problems.

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It will be Langer's first term leading the Senate Republican caucus.

She said officials need to ensure that residents are getting access to mental-health services after a legislative task force studied the issue ahead of session. Langer said lawmakers would also focus on workforce development and maintaining the state's friendly business climate.

"I think we can do lots of big and good things together," said Langer, a real-estate agent from Dell Rapids.


Democrats won't have much power in the supermajority Republican Legislature. They've selected real-estate agent Jamie Smith to be House minority leader and rancher Troy Heinert as Senate minority leader.

After Noem's inauguration, the state's Democratic Party urged her to work across the aisle on priorities including funding early childhood education, removing the sales tax on food and expanding Medicaid.


A former state representative and House majority leader, Rhoden will preside over the state Senate as lieutenant governor after serving in the Legislature for 16 years. Rhoden is a Union Center rancher who also runs a custom welding business.

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