Local News

PC to host virtual "Black and White" ball

Presentation College is hosting the first ever virtual “Black and White Ball” at 7:00 p.m.  The event will be virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic and take place February 27th.  Attendees can stream the event via computer, TV, or smart phone.


Packages can be purchased on the Presentation College website for event sponsorship levels, ranging from $85 dollars all the way to $5000 in prices. You can reserve your spot for the virtual ball on Stacy Bauer of Presentation College elaborated more on the Ball and what to expect.


First, she explained what the Black and White Ball is now with COVID….





While COVID has played a role in changing the ball, it was not like that just almost a year ago…





But, the Black and White Ball is a great program for the scholarships for students….


Rep. Will Mortenson talks about issuing articles of impeachment against Ravnsborg

(DRG News - Pierre,SD) District 24 Republican Representative Will Mortenson of Pierre has filed a resolution proposing two Articles of Impeachment to remove South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg from office.


HCR7001 included two separate Articles of Impeachment-- one concerning the crimes and misdemeanors that caused the death of Joseph Boever on September 12, 2020, and one concerning the statements and actions of Ravnsborg in reporting the crime and the resulting investigation.


Mortenson tells DRG Media Group, it was a difficult decision to make.





Mortenson, who is also a lawyer, says the Attorney General has a special obligation to follow the laws and protect the public. He says Ravnsborg’s actions and statements related to the death of Boever “breached those obligations to the people of South Dakota and he should be removed from office.”





Mortenson says HCR7001 may be read “into the book” on the House floor today (Feb. 24, 2021), but doesn’t anticipate floor discussion until the process for moving forward has been worked out.





While Mortenson took the lead in filing the paperwork, he says his role in the process moving forward will be limited.





The Articles of Impeachment resolution (HCR7001) is co-sponsored by House Majority Leader Kent Peterson and House Minority Leader Jamie Smith.

State releases further details about Ravnsborg investigation

Articles of impeachment were filed Tuesday against South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.  Ravnsborg has come under additional scrutiny after being charged with three misdemeanors for killing 55-year-old Joe Boever on accident near Highmore last September.

South Dakota Governor Kisti Noem says she agrees with the articles of impeachment against Ravnsborg, but wishes he would resign on his own and called on him to do so Tuesday afternoon.  So far, Ravnsborg says he has no plans to step down from office.


The impeachment proceedings and pressure to resign come after additional evidence against Ravnsborg was made public by the Department of Public safety, including more than three hours of interviews conducted by North Dakota investigators leading the process.

Major takeaways from the video include:


Distracted driving:

Investigators say Ravnsborg was checking political websites including and dakotafreepress among others minutes before the accident occurred.  Ravnsborg denies he was distracted by his phone at the time of the accident…





The victim’s glasses:

According to investigators Joe Boever’s glasses were found in the front passenger seat of Ravnsborg’s car, meaning he hit face first into the vehicle’s windshield.  Other eye witnesses who investigators spoke with and passed Boever that same night, not hitting him, said they saw him wearing those same glasses as he made with way back to Highmore walking off the shoulder of the road…





The victim’s flashlight:

Ravnsborg’s story was that he did not know what he hit initially, dialed 911, and then used his cell phone flashlight to look for what his vehicle had made contact with.  Boever was carrying a flashlight at the time of the accident and according to investigators that flashlight was still on and working when they arrived at the scene the following day.  Investigators say that light would’ve shined like a beacon…





Ravnsborg faces three misdemeanor charges, distracted driving, lane integrity, and using a cell phone while driving.  None of which are for the death of Joe Boever.  Prosecutors say the state lacks a negligent manslaughter charge which would be the most appropriate in this case; therefore they cannot bring charges in Boever’s death. 


Full interviews can be seen here:

Bill passed out of committee preventing trans girl high school students from competing in sports that conform with their gender identity

(WNAX - Yankton, SD) In an 11-2 vote, the House State Affairs Committee last night (Monday) voted to advance House Bill 1217, legislation that would ban transgender women and girls from competing on the sports teams that match their gender identity.


Bill supporter, Senator Maggie Sutton of Sioux Falls, says allowing transgender students to participate could destroy sports...





Dan Swartos, Executive Director of the High School Activities Association, told the committee they were dealing with a small number of kids...





Representative Oren Lesmeister of Parade says these cases will end up in court...





The bill, with a do pass recommendation, now moves to the House floor for debate.

House reportedly considering impeaching AG Ravnsborg

The state house of representatives is reportedly considering impeaching South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.  It was recently announced Ravnsborg would face three misdemeanor charges, but nothing more after killing a man on accident while returning to Pierre from a GOP event in Redfield.  Throughout the six month investigation Ravnsborg never took a leave of absence an even after investigators talked about all the unanswered questions about the night that left 55-year-old Joe Boever dead, Ravnsborg remains on the job.  Impeachment would require a majority in the house and a trial in the senate. 


If the legislature is going to move forward on something like this, articles of impeachment must be filed by 2:00 p.m. Tuesday.  House majority whip Tim Goodwin of Rapid City is calling on Ravnsborg to resign saying he should spare the state more controversy.  Goodwin is the first GOP member of the legislature to publicly discuss the potential impeachment.  The South Dakota constitution gives a large list of reasons a office holder can be impeach, including misdemeanor offensive of which Ravnsborg faces three.  If he were replaced Governor Noem would nominate a successor to fill out the rest of Ravnsborg’s term.

SD Highway patrolman injured Friday in two vehicle accident

( - Watertown, SD) A South Dakota Highway Patrolman was injured Friday night in a two vehicle accident on Highway 20 in Watertown.

Police Sergeant Trevor Barthel says it happened just after 7:00 p.m. when the trooper was catching up to a vehicle as he was about to conduct a traffic stop near Highway 20 and 10th Street Northwest.

That's when a pickup driven by a 79 year-old man turned southbound onto Highway 20 and collided with the patrol squad car.

Both drivers had minor injuries and later sought medical treatment.

Damage to the squad car was estimated at $4,000, and damage to the pickup was estimated at $2,000.

Watertown police are investigating the crash, and charges are pending. 

Brandon mayor Pual Lundberg resigns

Brandon South Dakota Mayor Paul Lundberg has announced he is resigning from his position after two years.  In a letter to the Brandon City Council, Lundberg says he wants to focus more of his attention on his position within the Brandon Valley School District.  Lundberg is the Business Manager for the school district, a district he has served for over 30 years. 

Life expectancy sees biggest drop since WWII in the United States in 2020

Life expectancy in the United States dropped a full one year during the first half of 2020 mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The United States has not seen a decline in life expectancy like this since World War II.  Minorities suffered the biggest impact with African-Americans losing nearly three years and Hispanics nearly two.  Life expectancy is considered how long a life will last on average for a child born today.  Overall, the expectancy is now at 77.8 years.  That’s down from 78.8 in 2019 with men at 75.1 years and women at 80.5. 

Ravnsborg charged with three misdemeanors in accident where he killed Joe Boever

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has been charged with three misdemeanors after killing a man, 55-year-old Joe Beover while returning to Pierre from a Republican event in Redfield.  He has been charged with using a mobile device while driving, a lane violation and careless driving.  He will not face any manslaughter charges for Boever’s death. 


Hyde county assistant state’s attorney Emily Sovell made the charging decision and was aided by Beadle county state’s attorney Michael Moore.  Moore explained the thinking of prosecutors for not bringing harsher charges…





Ravnsborg released a statement following the decision thanking those who supported him during this time and vowed to continue his work as an elected official.  He also offered his condolences to Boever’s family.  Ravnsborg never took a leave of absence and still has given no indication he plans to resign despite all the unanswered questions which remain about Boever’s death.  Governor Kristi Noem also tweeted following the decision, not calling on Ravnsborg to resign, but instead vowing to try and make public more information from the investigation.


The state Democratic Party has called on Ravnsborg to resign.


The incident in question happened on September 12th and prosecutors have been silent the entire time, leading to speculation amongst the public as interest continued to grow.  Sovell says it was all in an effort to conduct a full an impartial investigation and vowed no political pressure was involved in not bringing harsher charges…





Prosecutors made great efforts to parse what the worlds “negligent” and “reckless” meant under South Dakota law in deciding what charges to bring.  Moore pointed out to be vehicular manslaughter Ravnsborg needed to be under the influence, which he was not, and they said they could not determine if he was reckless in the incident.  Moore says South Dakota law is missing the necessary statutes in this incident to bring a stronger case…





Many questions remain from the night in question, including the actions taken by Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek.  Ravnsborg admitted to a 911 dispatcher he was not sure what he hit at the time.  Why a greater search was not conducted is unknown.  Ravnsborg was loaned the personal vehicle of Volek to return to Pierre, would he have done that for any other individual in this situation?  Why was Ravnsborg not given a breathalyzer at the time of the accident or asked to give blood to check BAC? 


Jenny Boever, the victim’s widow, has announced plans to file a wrongful death suit against AG Ravnsborg. 

Four people killed in a two car accident near Wagner

Four people died and another person was injured Tuesday night in a two-vehicle crash west of Wagner.


Names of the five people involved are not yet being released pending notification of family members.


A 2003 Chrysler Sebring was southbound on South Dakota Highway 50 and failed to stop at the intersection. It collided in the intersection with a 2008 Jeep Cherokee which was westbound on South Dakota Highway 46.


The Chrysler went into the south ditch and started on fire. The four occupants had to be extricated. The 31-year-old female driver, a 28-year-old female passenger and a 33-year-old male passenger were transported to a Wagner hospital where they were pronounced dead. The fourth occupant, a 27-year-old male passenger, suffered serious non-life threatening injuries and was later flown to a Sioux Falls hospital.


The 64-year-old female driver of the Jeep was pronounced dead at the scene.


None of the people involved in the crash appeared to be wearing seat belts.


South Dakota’s Highway Patrol is investigating the crash. All information released so far is only preliminary.


The Highway Patrol is part of the South Dakota Department of Public Safety.

Watertown man Peacemaker now faces first degree murder charges

( - Watertown, SD) New charges have been filed against a Watertown murder suspect that makes him eligible for the death penalty--if he's convicted.


Forty one year-old Jeremiah Martin Peacemaker is accused of killing 28 year-old Kendra Owen at her Watertown residence last year. Police were called to conduct a welfare check on Owen after friends and family had not seen or heard from her.


They found her deceased, with numerous signs of trauma on her body.

Police quickly identified a suspect, and the day after Owen's body was found, they arrested Peacemaker in Watertown.


Peacemaker was originally charged with Second Degree Murder. However, a Grand Jury was convened, and handed down a superseding indictment charging him with First Degree Murder that upon conviction, leaves only the death penalty or life in prison as sentencing options.

He pleaded not guilty during a court appearance today (Wednesday).


Police have said they believe Owen had been dead for several days before her body was discovered. They described the suspect and victim as, "recent acquaintances."


A charging document indicates Owen's death is believed to have occurred between the dates of August 24th and September 2nd, 2020--the latter of which is the day her body was discovered.

Witnesses who testified at the Grand Jury hearing included Watertown Police Detective Sergeant Chad Stahl, Watertown police officer Cody Trumm, South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation Agents Cam Corey and Jeff Bellon, and Dr. Kenneth Snell, a pathologist with Sanford Health in Sioux Falls.


Peacemaker's jury trial is scheduled for October 18th.


He's being held in the Codington County Detention Center on one million dollars cash bail. 

Gov. Noem signs host of bills into law

Today, Governor Kristi Noem signed eighteen bills into law:


  • SB 6 corrects technical errors in statutory cross-references related to the Department of Social Services.
  • SB 20 places certain controlled substances on the controlled substances schedule.
  • SB 22 corrects a technical error concerning a cross-reference regarding a certain energy conservation program.
  • SB 29 revises certain training and testing requirements for entry level driver applicants for a commercial driver license.
  • SB 30 extends the issuance period for commercial learner’s permits.
  • SB 32 revises certain provisions regarding access critical nursing facilities.
  • SB 39 repeals the registration requirements for certain amusement devices.
  • SB 41 revises certain requirements for contesting certificates of assessment.
  • SB 42 requires all documentation supporting a tax refund claim regarding the accidental mixing of undyed and dyed diesel fuel to be submitted to the Department of Revenue within a certain time period.
  • SB 43 modifies certain provisions related to motor vehicles.
  • SB 63 corrects technical errors and outdated provisions regarding the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
  • SB 73 revises provisions regarding the sale of certain government owned vehicles by an auction agency.
  • SB 78 modifies certain provisions related to trusts.
  • HB 1031 revises certain provisions relating to the South Dakota Retirement System.
  • HB 1032 revises the minimum cost of living adjustment and revises terminology of the South Dakota Retirement System.
  • HB 1033 updates certain provisions relating to the South Dakota Retirement System and revises certain provisions relating to reemployment after retirement with the South Dakota Retirement System.
  • HB 1037 authorizes the increase of certain fees by the State Electrical Commission.
  • HB 1046 limits liability for certain exposures to COVID-19.


Governor Noem has signed sixty bills into law this legislative session.

State house passes a resolution requiring some Initiated Measures and constitutional amendments to require a super majority to pass

The South Dakota Department House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution 5003.  The resolution will need to be approved by the voters of South Dakota as it amends the state’s constitution.   If added to the constitution, it would require any initiated measure or constitutional amendment which would raise taxes or call for an appropriation of over $10 million or more to receive 60 percent of the vote instead of the usually required simple majority.  Proponents say this helps keep the state in line with its goal of fiscal responsibility, while opponents say it is another way the state legislature is trying to sidestep the will of the voters. 

Conservative radio star Rush Limbaugh dead at 70

Talk radio giant Rush Limbaugh passed away Wednesday at the age of 70.  Limbaugh’s death was announced by his wife Kathryn.  He spent more than 30 years on nationally syndicated radio, becoming one of the most power voices in right wing, Republican circles.  He was also controversial for his often tear down of liberal ideas and his willingness to go at any topic.  He had been battling lung cancer.  He announced his diagnosis last year. 

Bill to make Kratom illegal for anyone under 21 in SD passes the house

A bill which would make the substance Kratom illegal for South Dakotan’s under the age of 21 passed out of the House Tuesday.  It will now make its way to the senate for consideration.  The bill is sponsored by District three Representative Carl Perry, who tried a similar bill last session but it failed.  Kratom is a plant from Southeast Asia which has some opioid properties and can be used as a stimulant or other ways.  According to the US Food and Drug Administration however, it says there is no evidence Kratom is safe or effective in treating any condition.   

District 2 Senator Brock Greenfield to pursue different office

( - Watertown, SD) Brock Greenfield of Clark released a statement on his political future today.


The longtime State Senator from Clark announced he will seek the nomination for the office of Commissioner of School and Public Lands in the 2022 election cycle.


Greenfield says the man who holds that job now--Ryan Brunner--has done an excellent job, and he wants to, "carry on the tradition of superior, efficient and effective management of school and endowment lands and dams under purview of the office."


Greenfield began his legislative career in the Senate in 2001, and has spent time in both the House and Senate over the past twenty years. 

Man made blackouts possible throughout South Dakota due to extreme cold temperatures

Man made blackouts lasting anywhere from 45 minutes to more than an hour may be happening to the listening area due to the extreme cold temperatures hitting the middle of the country.  The cold runs all the way from the Canadian border to south of Texas and is putting a strain on the Southwest Power Pool.  The Southwest Power Pool the energy producer for a giant swath of the middle of the country. 


There will be little warning when the power will go out and it will affect both Aberdeen and rural areas alike.  It is suppose to last into the afternoon.


Scott Moore with FEM electric in Ipswich explains...




Ben Dunsemore with Northern Electric Coop in Bath says they are experiencing the same thing...


Eighth case of COVID-19 confirmed in the state house of reps

An eighth member of the State legislature has tested positive for COVID-19.  Representative Hugh Bartles of Watertown announced he had tested positive for the virus over the weekend.  He is again a member of the House of Representatives where the original case emerged.  So far no senators have tested positive for the virus despite the outbreak.  Also, per senate rules this year following the outbreak state senators were given the option to attend session via conference call rather than being in person. 

Crews respond to fire early Monday morning in Aberdeen

Aberdeen Fire and Rescue responded to a house fire early Monday morning.  According to a release from Aberdeen Fire and Rescue, the structure fire was in the 400 block of 4th ave SE.  Upon arrival, flames were coming out of the first floor window of a two story apartment house.  One individual involved was treated for smoke inhalation and transported to a local hospital.  First responders were able to rescue a dog from the second level of the building.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

Marijuana legalization a hot issue at weekend legislative cracker barrel

Marijuana was a hot topic at this weekend’s legislative cracker barrel.  Three lawmakers showed up to give an update on what they are working on in Pierre and take questions from constituents.  The three that were in attendance included District One Rep. Democrat Jennifer Keintz, District Three Rep. Republican Carl Perry and District Three Senator Al Novstrop. 


On Monday a circuit court judge ruled Amendment A which legalized recreational marijuana in South Dakota is unconstitutional.  That decision nullified 54 percent of voters who said yes last November.  Less than 48 hours after that decision, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem requested an additional year to get IM-26 implemented.  IM-26 was passed by over 70 percent of the vote and legalized medical marijuana in South Dakota.


Representative Jennifer Keintz thought it was not coincidence this delay request came after Amendment A was struck down…





Representative Carl Perry says he agrees that the will of the voters should be respected and it is their job to implement IM26.  However, he agrees with the delay because he feels there are too many questions still unanswered and this delay is not indefinite…





Senator Al Novstrop called both Amendment A and IM-26 poorly written and admitted he was not convinced medical marijuana is a real thing… 


Gov. Noem signs host of bills into law

Today, Governor Kristi Noem signed fourteen bills into law:


  • HB 1001 corrects technical errors in statutory cross-references regarding insurance.
  • HB 1002 revises certain provisions regarding fingerprint-based background checks for the Real Estate Commission and the appraiser certification program.
  • HB 1003 revises certain provisions regarding credit for reinsurance.
  • HB 1009 revises certain provisions regarding the licensing of electricians and electrical contractors.
  • HB 1022 repeals certain obsolete state estate and inheritance tax provisions.
  • HB 1023 repeals obsolete property tax provisions and revises property tax cross-references and land classification statutes.
  • HB 1024 repeals obsolete provisions and revises statutory cross-references for the energy minerals severance tax, state and municipal sales taxes, contractor’s excise tax, alcohol licenses, and gaming tax.
  • HB 1025 deletes or revises certain outdated language relating to education.
  • HB 1030 revises and clarifies certain provisions regarding the required minimum distribution methods of the South Dakota Retirement System.
  • HB 1043 provides enhanced permit criteria for current and former law enforcement officers.
  • HB 1048 revises provisions regarding the sales of certain older vehicles at auction.
  • HB 1070 revises certain provisions regarding the Unified Judicial System.
  • HB 1082 revises certain state aid to education definitions for the 2021-2022 school year.
  • HB 1083 grants authority to the Secretary of Education to waive accountability requirements in certain situations.


Garbage pickup to change due to President's Day Holiday

Due to the President’s Day holiday on Monday February 15, 2021, City garbage pick-up will change. Residents who normally have their garbage picked up on Monday are asked to have their garbage out for pick-up by 8:00 AM, Tuesday.  Both Monday’s and Tuesday’s garbage will be picked up on Tuesday.  Recycling remaining on the normal five day schedule.  Dependable Sanitation will be picking up recyclables on Monday. 

Democrats send letter seeking stricter COVID-19 guidelines following outbreak at the capital

The South Dakota legislature experienced its first case of COVID-19 this week and since then those infected has increased.  In all, six people this week have confirmed they tested positive for the virus.  This has led some to criticize the protocols lawmakers are following as too weak to adequately protect members and staff.


Rep. Kent Peterson of District 19 who serves as majority leader says the fact the legislature has gone this long without an outbreak is something to be celebrated…





Democrats in Pierre have sent a letter to speaker of the House Spencer Gosch calling on him to implement stronger rules to help mitigate any further spread of COVID-19. 


Democrat Jamie Smith of District 15 who serves as house minority leader says protocols should be more uniform…





Speaker Gosch has said the decision to mandate mask usage would be up to the house members themselves and he does not see that happening. 

Farmers and Ranchers could be left out with passage of new healthcare law by SD legislature

South Dakota lawmakers have passed a bill that would allow agricultural industry groups to develop their own health-benefit plans that would be outside the purview and regulation of the state Division of Insurance and which would sidestep some federal consumer protections.

The measure is being pushed by the South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation, a powerful agricultural industry group that is seeking to create a new health plan for its 13,500 members and other farmers and ranchers across the state.


Opponents of the bill—including independent insurance companies and health groups including the American Cancer Society—argue it would be “dangerous” for consumers who buy into the plan, would weaken the stability of the overall insurance marketplace in South Dakota and lead to higher premiums for people on traditional insurance plans across the state.


The measure, Senate Bill 87, was passed by the South Dakota Senate on Feb. 3 on a 19-15 vote; it passed in the House of Representatives by a 50-16 vote on Feb. 10. The bill now moves to Gov. Kristi Noem for consideration.


Backers of the measure say it would allow for creation of affordable health plans that would provide a new coverage option for those in the agriculture industry who mostly are independent contractors and do not qualify for employer-based plans. They note that an estimated 80,000 residents of South Dakota under 65 do not have any form of insurance. The new plans would cost several thousand dollars less per year in premiums than traditional insurance, supporters said.


Many farmers and ranchers also make too much money to qualify for subsidies that make traditional insurance plans offered within the Affordable Care Act marketplace more affordable. The bill would allow the Farm Bureau to create its proposed health plan but also opens the door to creation of similar plans by other established agricultural groups in the future.


“The plan would assist in reducing the number of uninsured and support rural health care and further enhance quality of life in rural America,” said Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack, R-Union Center, a Meade County rancher and store owner who is the lead sponsor of the bill. “We’ve got a real crisis when it comes to being able to access and afford health care insurance … this particular plan gives an option to those folks to be able to afford something that will give them some protection and protect them from catastrophic issues that happen in life.”


Opponents say the plan puts individuals or families who buy in at risk of losing money or being denied coverage because they will not receive the consumer protections, guarantees of coverage, or proof of health-plan financial stability that state and federal laws require of traditional insurance plans. Fraud also becomes more likely without state oversight of the third-party contractor that will provide the benefits and run the plan, opponents argue.


“This is terribly unfair to the health insurance industry, because we have this whole stack of rules and regulations and statutes that apply to them and now we’re going to put a competitor out in the marketplace that doesn’t have to follow any of them,” said Randy Moses, a lobbyist for the Independent Insurance Agents of South Dakota. “We’re talking about a substantial amount of law, and this bill just throws it all way, no protections whatsoever for consumers.”


In testimony before the Senate and in press releases issued on the bill, opponents said that without state and federal regulation, the new plans could exclude or charge higher premiums on consumers with pre-existing conditions, could drop patients who contract complex and costly illnesses, and may not cover preventive tests or some costly services such as treatment for mental health and cancer. The plans theoretically could have annual or lifetime caps on benefits, which would force major out-of-pocket costs onto customers who become afflicted with serious illnesses, said David W. Benson, lobbyist for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network of South Dakota.


“This could leave people with cancer and other expensive illnesses with massive medical bills or force them to forgo needed medical treatments,” Benson said. “These plans would likely attract younger, healthier individuals, segmenting the individual marketplace risk pool in South Dakota, and leaving it with older and sicker enrollees. This would result in increased prices on everyday South Dakotans like cancer survivors.”


Similar plans are already allowed in Iowa, Michigan, Kansas, Indiana and Tennessee, which has the most experience with the benefit plans and whose program is the model for the proposed South Dakota plan.


During debate on the bill in the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee, farmer Nick Ihnen of Tulare, S.D., said his family has had to make difficult decisions in order to maintain health insurance.


The family then had to buy insurance from the ACA marketplace that cost about $16,000 a year, Ihnen said. The prohibitive cost led his wife, Bekah, to take a job off the farm in order to get employer-provided insurance, which he said has reduced the time he and his wife have for both farming and raising their children.


“As you can imagine, juggling a farming operation, my own retail business, four children and Bekah having an off-farm job makes it challenging to get the work done on our farming operation, to say the least, let alone to have a family life,” Ihnen said.


Ihnen said the Farm Bureau benefits plan could provide his family a way to afford health insurance and remain committed to their farm.


“Plain and simple, this option would help my family,” Ihnen said. “This will give the next generation confidence of staying on the farm and continuing our strong agricultural tradition.”


Sen. Wayne Steinhauer, R-Hartford, said he was paying about $18,000 a year for private health insurance before joining Medi-share, a Christian medical sharing plan that is similar to the proposed Farm Bureau health plan. Under that plan, Steinhauer said his annual premiums dropped to about $7,000 and he still feels well covered. Steinhauer voted to approve the bill in committee and the full Senate.


Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, is a rancher who said he initially supported the bill as a co-sponsor but changed his mind after learning that some coverage under the plan could be restricted because it would operate outside state and federal guidelines.


“I thought that sounds good; low-wage ranch hands or farm hands might qualify,” Heinert said. “[But] I can’t risk someone thinking they are going to have coverage and something happens in a farm accident or ranch accident and they don’t have the coverage.”

Heinert voted against the bill in the Senate.


Ryan Brown, an administrator with the Farm Bureau Health Plan of Tennessee, said his organization has been offering health benefits since 1947 and has operated the type of plan South Dakota is considering since 1993. The plan that is the model for the South Dakota Farm Bureau plan has about 100,000 members across the state, he said.


Brown said the plan operates outside the purview of state insurance regulators in part so it can avoid coverage mandates that add administrative and benefit costs.


“Because it’s not insurance, it’s a membership service organization, we’re allowed to do some things that result in lower costs and lower premiums, and we pass that onto the members,” Brown said.


Brown said the Tennessee plan has coverage that compares well with health benefits provided by traditional insurers in the Affordable Care Act marketplace. He noted that the Tennessee plan covers both preventive testing and medical treatments, including mental health treatments. The plan does not have lifetime benefit limits, and does not allow for further underwriting or removal from the plan if a patient is sickened by an illness with expensive care or treatments.


He said potential customers are made fully aware of the limits on coverage and their upfront and co-pay costs.


In many cases, Brown said, lower premiums offset the higher co-pay costs incurred by customers.

Brown rejects the idea put forward by opponents of the South Dakota legislation that the Farm Bureau health plans push sicker patients into traditional insurance or that premiums for traditional insurance will rise if the new plans are offered.


“We believe that our effect is not really on the insurance marketplace, but on the uninsured population,” Brown said. “This plan is not for everyone; it’s for a niche population. We are covering people who otherwise would not have any form of coverage and are now able to pay their medical bills because they have this plan.”

Gov. Noem gives special address on budget developments Tuesday

On Tuesday, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem held a special budget address to a joint session of the state legislature. Governor Noem stated that as a whole South Dakota is doing better than ever. She chalked this up to conservative ideals and staying open during the coronavirus pandemic. Noem went on to discuss a multitude of topics in her address. 


She first discussed how South Dakota has thrived during the pandemic and how South Dakotans are doing better than ever…






Governor Noem also brought up that state revenue projections are going up far more than originally expected, mainly due to one-time covid funds….






Not only are revenue projections expanding but so are Governor Noem's goals, which she laid out in some detail in the budget address…