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South Dakota lawmakers already at work ahead of 2020 session

Stephen Groves
Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The 2020 legislative session doesn't officially start until Tuesday, but the halls of the Statehouse were already buzzing with activity on Monday.

Many lawmakers were holding meetings to review session rules, examine the budget, and gain support for prospective bills. The session kicks off when Gov. Kristi Noem delivers the State of the State address. The Republican governor plans to use the speech to emphasize the benefits of doing business in South Dakota and outline her plan to aggressively grow the state's economy.

Lawmakers are watching the budget figures closely after a year of tight revenues. They want to find room to fund pay raises for teachers, state employees and medical providers. 

The Joint Committee on Appropriations met on Monday and got a bit of good news — the state's revenue's were $8.4 million higher than estimates.

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Lawmakers are looking for a way to raise pay for teachers and state employees.

Lawmakers are also looking to revise several laws that prosecuted "riot boosting." Noem is pushing laws that would make it illegal to directly "urge" people to use force or violence ahead of potentially disruptive demonstrations against the Keystone XL pipeline.

A law that was passed by the Legislature last year was nullified in a legal settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union in October. But Noem has floated legislation to lawmakers that would clarify "riot boosting" and attempts to protect the right to peacefully protest.

The governor has sought input from lawmakers and Native American tribes this time around. She met with leaders and representatives of some of South Dakota's tribes on Friday to get their input.

With just 37 days in the legislative session, lawmakers said they will be busy in Pierre. They are looking to expand mental health resources to rural areas to help prevent suicide and legalize industrial hemp.