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Two weeks in: District 20 legislators discuss what to expect from the 97th Legislature

Medical marijuana and women's sports bills have already been under discussion, but Gov. Noem recently announced the introduction of controversial abortion bills.

Paul Miskimins and Lance Koth
Reps. Paul Miskimins (left) and Lance Koth (right), both R-Mitchell, share a laugh during a District 20 cracker barrel event at Mitchell City Hall in 2019.
Matt Gade / Mitchell Republic
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PIERRE — Two weeks into South Dakota’s 2022 legislative session, elected officials from Mitchell are working on a swathe of bills that they believe will make necessary changes to the state’s lawbook.

Reps. Lance Koth and Paul Miskimins, alongside Sen. Josh Klumb, are all Republicans that hail from Mitchell, but together make up the state’s 20th legislative district, including Aurora, Davison and Jerauld Counties.

Here’s what they’ve been up to:

Josh Klumb
Sen. Josh Klumb (R-Mitchell) speaks in favor of a bill to repeal the bingo tax and other licensing requirements regarding the game on Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2022.
Hunter Dunteman / Mitchell Republic

Sen. Josh Klumb, R-Mitchell

Klumb is a third-term Republican senator from Mitchell, who won his seat with 85% of the vote in the 2020 election over Alexander Martin, a Libertarian. Before running for the Senate in 2016, he represented District 20 in the House of Representatives for one term.

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Klumb had served as an intern in the South Dakota Legislature in 2008, and worked as a staff member with the Legislative Research Council until 2014. His experience in the legislature as a staff member made him feel deeply ingrained in the process, and he said running for a position in the Senate was a natural step forward.

In the 2022 legislative session, Klumb, so far, has only been a sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 601, which would express support for the 2021 South Dakota Coordinated Plan for Natural Resources Conservation — a plan to meet the state’s goals to conserve certain resources that are critical to quality of life and economic prosperity in the state.

The resolution has yet to be heard in committee, but Klumb is optimistic that it will pass.

Beyond his own introduction, Klumb serves as a member of the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, Local Government Committee and Taxation Committee.

Though Klumb’s committee assignments have yet to hear many widely impactful bills, he did take part on the Senate’s passing of a bill to repeal the bingo tax . In a speech on the Senate floor, Klumb pointed the state only collected $33,000 in bingo taxes in licensing fees in the past year. That bill passed on a unanimous vote.

The most impactful bill Klumb has heard so far came on the Senate floor, as the lawmakers debated Senate Bill 46, which would prohibit transgender women from participating in women’s sports .

“It’s pretty simple, men play men’s sports and women play women’s sports,” Klumb told the Mitchell Republic. “Some people argue this isn’t a problem South Dakota has, but it wasn't a hard decision.”

As this year’s legislative session continues, Klumb looks forward to researching and debating medical marijuana bills, specifically examining the costs and income the industry could provide. He also has a strong interest in making sure the state can afford the 6% pay increase that Gov. Kristi Noem had proposed for state employees.

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Though he’s approaching his four-term limit in the Senate, Klumb has already filed his petition to run for a final term.

Lance Koth
Rep. Lance Koth chuckles at a joke told by a speaker before the South Dakota House of Representatives gavels in for session on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022.
Hunter Dunteman / Mitchell Republic

Rep. Lance Koth, R-Mitchell

Koth is a second-term Republican representative from Mitchell, who ran unchallenged for his seat in 2020. Before running for the Senate in 2018, he worked as a banker, and has a deep understanding of the state’s financial workings.

In the 2022 legislative session, Koth introduced House Bill 1064, which aims to allow school districts in the state to use enrollment figures from September 2020 instead of September 2021 when applying for state aid.

Koth pointed out that some school districts have faced declining enrollment since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but allowing them to use older figures may help them avoid some financial losses schools could incur as a result of having fewer students.

“There’s about 10 school districts that were negatively affected,” Koth said. “That’s going to affect the ability of those districts to take care of the teachers who take care of the students.”

Koth pointed out that any policy related to the pandemic can be controversial, but that this bill is an overall positive for all school districts and the field of education in general.

“It really boils down to can we help get through this pandemic issue, and there’s a lot of arguments on both sides,” Koth said. “Everybody has their opinion and this really has, in my opinion, had a negative impact on the general education system in South Dakota.”

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.HB 1064 has not yet been read or debated in committee, but Koth believes his fellow representatives will see the bill’s value and pass it.

Though he serves on the House Taxation Committee and Transportation Committee, Koth is keeping his eyes on a couple bills that he heard as a member of the interim Workforce Housing Committee which examined how the state can provide housing for its much-needed workforce.

“In essence, those two bills, which are sponsored by the Governor’s Office, would provide $200 million from the state, equally matched by a municipality and developer for infrastructure needs,” Koth summarized. “That $200 million could turn into $600 million [when matched] that would have a real impact in water and sewer and developing places for people to build houses.”

Other bills Koth is watching includes one to give counties the option to implement a sales tax to avoid bonding for improvements, the women’s sports bill — which will head to the House chamber soon — and Noem’s recently announced abortion bills.

“From what I understand to be the intent of [Noem’s abortion bills], I’m in favor of that. The constituents that I serve, and also the state of South Dakota, are definitely in favor of those types of bills to protect the unborn,” Koth said. “It’s not just because I personally believe in the sanctity of life — I don’t want that to cloud how I represent those who I represent.”

Koth plans to file his petitions for reelection soon, but said he’s very welcome to facing off with a challenger.

Paul Miskimins
Rep. Paul Miskimins, R-Mitchell, listens to another representative speak from his desk on the floor of the South Dakota House of Representatives on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022.
Hunter Dunteman / Mitchell Republic

Rep. Paul Miskimins, R-Mitchell

Miskimins is a second-term Republican representative from Mitchell, who also ran unchallenged for his seat in 2020. Before running for the Senate in 2018, he worked as a dentist, and continues to farm today.

In the 2022 legislative session, he introduced House Bill 1103, which would require the Department of Social Services to establish a reimbursement program for dental services provided under Medicaid. That bill has yet to be heard in committee.

He’s also signed on as a co-sponsor to Koth’s bill — to allow school districts to apply for state aid using enrollment figures from September 2020 instead of September 2021 — as well as a bill to allow the appropriation of $10 million to South Dakota State University for the construction of a year-round rodeo practice facility.

Miskimins serves on the House Education Committee as well as the House Health and Human Services Committee, which has heard multiple bills regarding the state’s controlled substance schedule and healthcare reimbursement.

According to the South Dakota Secretary of State’s 2022 Primary Election Candidates List, Miskimins has not yet filed his petition for reelection.

Miskimins did not respond to multiple interview requests.

Dunteman covers general and breaking news as well as crime in the Mitchell Republic's 17-county coverage area. He grew up in Harrisburg, and has lived in South Dakota for over 20 years. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 after earning his bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He can be reached at HDunteman@MitchellRepublic.com, or on Twitter @HRDunt.
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