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NELSON: What exactly is a co-sponsor?

Stace Nelson

We often get calls and questions about what it means to be a co-sponsor and a prime sponsor on a bill. A co-sponsor is basically a legislator who has indicated preliminary support after being given a quick brief on a proposed bill and asked to sign on as a co-sponsor of a proposed bill idea. If it is something that on first glance I can support the discussion of, I will sign onto a bill as a co-sponsor.

With me, if I co-sponsor something it is normally an issue I will support — or I wouldn't sign on. With other legislators, their indication of co-sponsor support is not always something that can be counted upon. A prime sponsor is the person responsible for advocating for the bill in their respective chamber. Normally there are two prime sponsors per bill, one for the Senate and one for the House. There can be up to 103 co-sponsors on a bill. Which still does not guarantee passage. Normally each chamber's prime sponsor is responsible for carrying the bill in committee and on the floor of the Senate/House if it passes committee.

There has only been one occasion, that anyone is aware of, in which a bill was entered late as an orphan with no annotated sponsors or co-sponsors, and passed into law. It was HB 1256 that I brought for constituent Harold Boer of Rosenbauer America, an emergency vehicle manufacture North of Sioux Falls, in my first year in the Legislature in 2011. I hand carried it through both the House and Senate processes and got it passed into law. Mr. Boer was turned down by the governor's office and other legislators and had all but given up hope of getting any help on the pressing issue when he asked for my assistance.

In the morning I have HB 1268 up in front of the Senate State Affairs Committee. This bill seeks to change the date legislators are allowed to pre-file bills for session. Currently legislators can only prefile them 30 days before session. This bill would allow them to be filed in July during off election years, and several weeks earlier during an election year. This allows for more public access to the bills and increases open government and public access to our legislative process. It also eases the crush of bill drafting on our Legislative Research Council at the onset of session. It passed the House with a unanimous vote.

Additionally, I currently have nine other bills that are still working their way through the Legislative process, with two others that were in front of committees Monday morning that I need to speak on. It's going to be another busy week.

During session, the best way to get in touch with me is to text (605) 770-7461 or email me at

God bless and Semper Fidelis.