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South Dakota lawmakers are limited to eight consecutive years in the House or Senate. They can stay in the Legislature by switching chambers or by taking a term off and then returning to their old post if re-elected.

SD lawmakers swap seats, look at extending terms

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By Nora Hertel

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PIERRE (AP) — The end of a term limit for a South Dakota lawmaker does not mean he or she is done making laws.

David Novstrup will reach his four-term limit in the South Dakota House this year, but he hopes to stay in office by switching chambers with his father, Sen. Al Novstrup.  

"We're going to try to do a swap if the voters let us," David said.

The father and son are both Republicans from Aberdeen. Al Novstrup will give up his seat for his son after serving six years in the Senate; previously he served six years in the House.

South Dakota legislators are allowed to serve eight consecutive years in the House or Senate. They can stay in the Legislature by switching chambers or by taking a term off and then returning to their old post if re-elected.

Of the eight South Dakota legislators reaching their term limits this year, only three plan to take a break from elected office: Sen. Ryan Maher, House Majority Leader David Lust and Rep. Lance Carson. Three, including Novstrup, hope to return to the Capitol next year by jumping chambers. Two others will run for different offices.

One proposed constitutional amendment to put a lifetime cap on term limits did not make it out of committee. Another to extend limits to 12 consecutive years passed the House and is working its way through the Senate. Voters must decide on changes to term limits, as they are proscribed in the state constitution.

"We have to reapply for the job. And if we're not doing a good job, we get fired," Novstrup said about term limits.

Sen. Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, also hopes to switch chambers for the second time in her career. She served six years in the House before her current eight-year stint in the Senate. She plans to run for a House seat again.

"I just love the process," Hunhoff said. "I still have energy and passion, and I think I can still contribute."

She said legislators with longevity in the Capitol carry institutional knowledge.

Maher, who will not run for re-election, agreed on the value of a veteran lawmaker's expertise.

He's worried about making sure his fellow Commerce Committee members understand complicated funding formulas.

"I think we have a responsibility to pass that knowledge on. Because when we're gone, there's no institutional memory left," Maher said.

Maher said he is looking forward to a break from the expenses — both of time and money — required of his current position. He called his eight years as senator his most expensive hobby.

After finishing the term, Maher said he'll "go home and be an average Joe." Lust, R-Rapid City, said he will enjoy more time with his family. And Carson, a Mitchell Republican, said he will fill his time with turkey hunting and high school basketball games.

Rep. Betty Olson hopes to slip into Maher's vacated position after her term expires this year. She said she's already filed her petitions.

Representative Manny Steel and Marc Feinstein will both leave state politics when their terms expire this year, but they plan to run in different elections.

Republican Steel said he is excited to run for the Sioux Falls City Council.

"There's so much action that goes on there and it's grass roots," he said.

And Democrat Marc Feinstein of Sioux Falls said being a lawmaker has prepared him for a run for a judge seat being vacated by Judge Peter H. Lieberman this year.

Novstrup is eager to return to lawmaking next year, in his father's seat. He said eight years with 40-day sessions each year does not add up to enough time in the Capitol.

"Eight years is so fast," Novstrup said.

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