Special Legislative Sessions in South Dakota

Earlier today, Governor Dennis Daugaard called a special legislative session for Monday, June 12, 2017, to address recreational access on non-meandered waters.  

Photo Oct 14, 1 10 51 PMMonday’s special session will be the 26th in South Dakota history, each of which was called by the governor at the time.  (Although a 1990 constitutional amendment created a process whereby the legislature can call itself into session, this mechanism has never been used.  As a practical matter, it is much easier for the governor to call the session, meaning that the legislative mechanism would only be used if a governor refused to cooperate.)

Prior to 1963, the State Legislature only met every other year, in the odd-numbered years following a general election.  Particularly during the activist Progressive era, this led to a few special “general sessions” – sessions called in the off-year to handle numerous legislative topics.

Here is a list of the past special sessions, with a brief description of the topics covered:

October 15-17, 1889 – Just days prior to South Dakota statehood on November 2, 1889, the first State Legislature met in special session to organize and elect officers.

February 8-11, 1916 – Gov. Frank Byrne called a special session to pass an amended primary election law, and to propose a constitutional amendment relating to state rural credit loans, a state coal mine, and state road construction.

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Peter Norbeck

March 18-23, 1918 – Gov. Peter Norbeck called a general session amidst U.S. entry into World War I.  Legislators ratified the federal 18th Amendment enacting the prohibition of alcohol, provided for women’s suffrage and for voting by soldiers deployed overseas, abolished the right of resident aliens to vote in state elections, banned the teaching of foreign languages in public schools (an anti-German measure), and passed a constitutional amendment to fix defects in previous state-owned enterprise amendments.

December 2-4, 1919 – Gov. Norbeck called a special session to ratify the federal 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women’s suffrage.

June 21, 1920 – Gov. Norbeck called another general session to increase state spending and consider his proposals for state-owned enterprises.

June 22 – July 1, 1927 – Gov. W. J. Bulow, a Democrat, had vetoed the Republican legislature’s budget, which he believed overspent and was not properly balanced.  The State Legislature failed to pass a budget before it adjourned, and challenged Bulow’s right to veto the General Appropriations Act.  After the Supreme Court upheld Bulow’s veto, he called the legislature back into session to pass a state budget, successfully insisting on spending cuts.

July 31 – August 5, 1933 – With the federal repeal of the prohibition of alcohol, Gov. Tom Berry called a special session to legalize 3.2 beer and to tax its sale as a new revenue source during the depths of the Great Depression.

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Tom Berry

December 21-24, 1936 – Gov. Berry, a lame duck who had been defeated by Leslie Jensen in the November 1936 general election, called a special session to enact state legislation related to the implementation of the federal Social Security Act.

The session was overshadowed by U.S. Senator Peter Norbeck’s death on December 20, and by speculation about how Berry would fill Norbeck’s seat.  Berry was widely known to have ambitions to serve in the U.S. Senate himself, and hoped to resign as Governor so that Lt. Governor Robert Peterson could succeed Berry as Governor and then appoint Berry to the Senate.  The plan was derailed, however, when Peterson was arrested for embezzling from his Centerville bank.  Instead, Berry appointed Herbert Hitchcock, a 69-year old former state senator, with the understanding that Hitchcock would step aside in Berry’s favor at the next election.  Hitchcock ran for reelection in 1938, however, and Berry had to run in the Democratic primary against his own appointee.  Although Berry defeated Hitchcock, he lost the general election to Yankton businessman Chan Gurney, a Republican.

June 10-12, 1944 – Gov. M. Q. Sharpe called a special session to enact legislation allowed deployed soldiers to vote in the 1944 election.

February 6-16, 1950 – Gov. George T. Mickelson called a special session to create public power districts and to authorize additional funds for highway construction.

May 18, 1981 – After 31 years with out a special session, Gov. Bill Janklow called three.  The first authorized a state subsidy for the first year of operations of the new state-owned rail lines.

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Bill Janklow

September 23-24, 1981 – Gov. Janklow called a special session to approve his plan to sell Missouri River water to Energy Transportation Systems Inc. (ETSI), to be used in a coal slurry pipeline from Wyoming.  The pipeline was ultimately never built, but the state received over $5 million in payments before it was canceled.

May 2-3, 1984 – Gov. Janklow called a special session to abolish the state’s nine water conservancy subdistricts and replace them with six water development districts.  The State Legislature had rejected a similar plan during the 1984 legislative session, but adopted the plan in the special session.

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George S. Mickelson

July 16, 1987 – Gov. George S. Mickelson called a special session to finalize South Dakota’s bid to host the Superconducting Super Collider, a massive proposed particle accelerator complex.  The project was ultimately awarded to Texas but was cancelled in 1993.

October 3, 1991 – Gov. Mickelson called a special session to allow the state legislature to pass a redistricting plan in response to the 1990 census.  This was the first time that a special session was called to pass a redistricting plan.

November 26, 1991 – After a few errors were discovered in the redistricting plan passed by the October 3 special session, Gov. Mickelson called a brief special session in conjunction with the Governor’s Budget Address to fix the errors.

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Walter Dale Miller

May 25, 1993 – Gov. Walter Dale Miller called a special session in the wake of the death of Gov. Mickelson in the state plane crash.  The State Legislature unanimously confirmed Miller’s appointment of Sioux Falls businessman Steve Kirby as lieutenant governor and appropriated funds for a new state airplane and for construction of the Fighting Stallions Memorial.  Miler also used the special session to request funds for prison security in the wake of a riot at the state penetentiary.

July 11-12, 1994 – In response to a Supreme Court ruling that held video lottery to be unconstitutional, Gov. Miller called a special session to place a constitutional amendment on the 1994 general election ballot authorizing video lottery.

September 9, 1994 – Gov. Miller called another special session to authorize budget cuts and the use of reserve funds, due to the loss of video lottery revenue.  Legislators rejected a proposal from Miller for a temporary one-cent sales tax to help address the shortfall.

The budget adjustments had not been made at the July special session because a pending appeal sought to allow video lottery until the election, but by September the Supreme Court had rejected that appeal.

April 14, 1997 – Gov. Janklow called a special session to impose a temporary gasoline tax to fund emergency road repairs as a consequence of massive flooding in northeastern South Dakota.

December 28-29, 2000 – Gov. Janklow called a special session to authorize the sale of the state cement plant and to create a trust fund with the proceeds of the sale.

October 23-24, 2001 – Gov. Janklow called a special session to allow for legislative redistricting.

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Mike Rounds

June 26-27, 2003 – Gov. Mike Rounds called a special session to create a health insurance high risk pool.  The risk pool replaced an earlier system called “guaranteed issue,” whereby health insurance companies were each required to accept a share of high-risk insureds.  Several health insurance providers had left the South Dakota market rather than continue to accept high-risk insureds, and the new risk pool was allowed more health insurers to operate in South Dakota.

October 14, 2005 – Gov. Rounds called a special session to appropriate $19 million to the Science and Technology Authority for construction of a laboratory facility at the former Homestake Mine in Lead.

October 24, 2011 – Gov. Dennis Daugaard called a special session to allow for legislative redistricting.

June 12, 2017 – Gov. Daugaard has called a special session in order to consider recommendations from an interim legislative committee on the authorization of recreational uses of non-meandered waters.  The longstanding issue gained urgency after a Supreme Court opinion prohibited state game, fish, and parks officials from facilitating access to these waters.

Daugaard had in fact called another special session, to be held on June 22, 2013, to appropriate $10 million to complete construction of a new veterans’ home in Hot Springs.  The special session was canceled after the federal Veterans Administration gave the state more time to use federal funding, which allowed for the project design to be modified in a way that reduced costs.  This is the only time that a special session has been called, but canceled before it was held.

Oldest and Youngest SD GOV’s

The three major candidates for Governor of South Dakota are Republicans Kristi Noem and Marty Jackley and Democrat Billie Sutton.  In earlier posts, this blog looked at various historical milestones each candidate has reached, or would reach if elected.  (You can see those here:  Jackley, Noem, and Sutton.)

Although Sutton is an underdog to the eventual Republican nominee, if elected he would set a milestone as the youngest governor in South Dakota history, taking office at age 34 and breaking Richard F. Kneip’s record of 37.  This potential milestone has been mentioned by bloggers including Tom Lawrence and Cory Heidelberger.

Heidelberger also calculated the age of each governor upon assuming office.  A similar chart is provided below, ranking each of the state’s 32 governors by age:

# Governor Date of birth Date of inaugural Age at inaugural
29 Walter Dale Miller October 05, 1925 April 19, 1993 67 yrs, 196 days
13 Warren E. Green March 10, 1869 January 06, 1931 61 yrs, 302 days
11 Carl Gunderson June 20, 1864 January 06, 1925 60 yrs, 200 days
12 W. J. Bulow January 13, 1869 January 04, 1927 57 yrs, 356 days
32 Dennis Daugaard June 11, 1953 January 08, 2011 57 yrs, 211 days
16 Harlan J. Bushfield August 06, 1882 January 03, 1939 56 yrs, 150 days
30 William J. Janklow September 13, 1939 January 07, 1995 55 yrs, 116 days
17 M. Q. Sharpe January 11, 1888 January 05, 1943 54 yrs, 359 days
8 Frank M. Byrne October 23, 1858 January 07, 1913 54 yrs, 76 days
14 Tom Berry April 23, 1879 January 03, 1933 53 yrs, 255 days
2 Charles H. Sheldon September 12, 1840 January 03, 1893 52 yrs, 113 days
23 Nils A. Boe September 10, 1913 January 05, 1965 51 yrs, 117 days
7 Robert S. Vessey May 16, 1858 January 05, 1909 50 yrs, 234 days
22 Archie Gubbrud December 31, 1910 January 03, 1961 50 yrs, 3 days
3 Andrew E. Lee March 18, 1847 January 01, 1897 49 yrs, 289 days
21 Ralph E. Herseth July 02, 1909 January 06, 1959 49 yrs, 188 days
6 Coe I. Crawford January 14, 1858 January 08, 1907 48 yrs, 359 days
5 Samuel H. Elrod May 01, 1856 January 03, 1905 48 yrs, 247 days
31 M. Michael Rounds October 24, 1954 January 07, 2003 48 yrs, 75 days
1 Arthur C. Mellette June 23, 1842 November 02, 1889 47 yrs, 132 days
19 Sigurd Anderson January 22, 1904 January 02, 1951 46 yrs, 345 days
9 Peter Norbeck August 27, 1870 January 07, 1917 46 yrs, 133 days
28 George S. Mickelson January 31, 1941 January 06, 1987 45 yrs, 340 days
15 Leslie Jensen September 15, 1892 January 05, 1937 44 yrs, 112 days
10 William H. McMaster May 10, 1877 January 04, 1921 43 yrs, 239 days
18 George T. Mickelson July 23, 1903 January 07, 1947 43 yrs, 168 days
4 Charles N. Herreid October 20, 1857 January 08, 1901 43 yrs, 80 days
26 Harvey L. Wollman May 14, 1935 July 24, 1978 43 yrs, 71 days
24 Frank Farrar April 02, 1929 January 07, 1969 39 yrs, 280 days
20 Joe Foss April 17, 1915 January 04, 1955 39 yrs, 262 days
27 William J. Janklow September 13, 1939 January 01, 1979 39 yrs, 110 days
25 Richard F. Kneip January 07, 1933 January 05, 1971 37 yrs, 363 days

Notes:  This chart calculates the age at which each governor first took office.  It does not include second or third consecutive terms.  William J. Janklow is listed twice – once when he took office in 1979, and again when he returned to office in 1995.  Unlike Heidelberger’s chart, this chart does not attempt to include “months” in the age, as a “month” is not a standard length.

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SD’s oldest governor, Walter Dale Miller

The oldest governor, Walter Dale Miller, was 67 when he succeeded to office upon the death of Gov. George S. Mickelson.  The oldest elected governor was Warren E. Green, who was 61 when he took office in 1931.  The three oldest elected governors – Gunderson, Bulow, and Green, served in a row from 1925 to 1933.

Likewise, three of the four youngest governors – Farrar, Kneip, and Janklow – were elected consecutively in the 1960s and 1970s.

Here is the same chart again, inserting Noem, Jackley, and Sutton in their prospective places:

# Governor Date of birth Date of inaugural Age at inaugural
29 Walter Dale Miller October 05, 1925 April 19, 1993 67 yrs, 196 days
13 Warren E. Green March 10, 1869 January 06, 1931 61 yrs, 302 days
11 Carl Gunderson June 20, 1864 January 06, 1925 60 yrs, 200 days
12 W. J. Bulow January 13, 1869 January 04, 1927 57 yrs, 356 days
32 Dennis Daugaard June 11, 1953 January 08, 2011 57 yrs, 211 days
16 Harlan J. Bushfield August 06, 1882 January 03, 1939 56 yrs, 150 days
30 William J. Janklow September 13, 1939 January 07, 1995 55 yrs, 116 days
17 M. Q. Sharpe January 11, 1888 January 05, 1943 54 yrs, 359 days
8 Frank M. Byrne October 23, 1858 January 07, 1913 54 yrs, 76 days
14 Tom Berry April 23, 1879 January 03, 1933 53 yrs, 255 days
2 Charles H. Sheldon September 12, 1840 January 03, 1893 52 yrs, 113 days
23 Nils A. Boe September 10, 1913 January 05, 1965 51 yrs, 117 days
7 Robert S. Vessey May 16, 1858 January 05, 1909 50 yrs, 234 days
22 Archie Gubbrud December 31, 1910 January 03, 1961 50 yrs, 3 days
3 Andrew E. Lee March 18, 1847 January 01, 1897 49 yrs, 289 days
21 Ralph E. Herseth July 02, 1909 January 06, 1959 49 yrs, 188 days
6 Coe I. Crawford January 14, 1858 January 08, 1907 48 yrs, 359 days
5 Samuel H. Elrod May 01, 1856 January 03, 1905 48 yrs, 247 days
33? Marty J. Jackley October 13, 1970 January 5, 2019 48 yrs, 84 days
31 M. Michael Rounds October 24, 1954 January 07, 2003 48 yrs, 75 days
1 Arthur C. Mellette June 23, 1842 November 02, 1889 47 yrs, 132 days
33? Kristi Noem November 30, 1971 January 5, 2019 47 yrs, 36 days
19 Sigurd Anderson January 22, 1904 January 02, 1951 46 yrs, 345 days
9 Peter Norbeck August 27, 1870 January 07, 1917 46 yrs, 133 days
28 George S. Mickelson January 31, 1941 January 06, 1987 45 yrs, 340 days
15 Leslie Jensen September 15, 1892 January 05, 1937 44 yrs, 112 days
10 William H. McMaster May 10, 1877 January 04, 1921 43 yrs, 239 days
18 George T. Mickelson July 23, 1903 January 07, 1947 43 yrs, 168 days
4 Charles N. Herreid October 20, 1857 January 08, 1901 43 yrs, 80 days
26 Harvey L. Wollman May 14, 1935 July 24, 1978 43 yrs, 71 days
24 Frank Farrar April 02, 1929 January 07, 1969 39 yrs, 280 days
20 Joe Foss April 17, 1915 January 04, 1955 39 yrs, 262 days
27 William J. Janklow September 13, 1939 January 01, 1979 39 yrs, 110 days
25 Richard F. Kneip January 07, 1933 January 05, 1971 37 yrs, 363 days
33? Billie H. Sutton March 16, 1984 January 5, 2019 34 yrs, 295 days

Sutton would be 34 years, 295 days old if he took office on January 5, 2019.  (Although a new governor can take office any time after the New Year, traditionally the inauguration is held on the first Saturday in January.)

Noem would be 47 years, 36 days old, and as the first female governor she would nearly the same age as the first male governor, Arthur C. Mellette, who was also 47 when he took office on the day that South Dakota became a state, November 2, 1889.

Jackley would be 48 years, 84 days old, only 9 days older than Mike Rounds when he took office in 2003.  Jackley first came to Pierre in 2009 when Gov. Rounds appointed him as attorney general to replace Larry Long, who had been appointed a circuit judge.