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Newscast 3.28.24: South Dakota Legislature wraps session setting $7.4 billion budget; Iowa bill would require insurance to cover biomarker to help treat cancer

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem at the Sioux Falls city hall building in June 2020.
Stephen Groves
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem at the Sioux Falls city hall building in June 2020. The state's coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising, but Noem has said they are in good shape.

In the South Dakota Legislature, Wednesday marked the official last day of the session.

The last day is always reserved for considering overriding any governor vetoes. But this year there were zero vetoes, which is the first time in nearly 70 years.

Gov. Kristi Noem signed the last few bills last week, two of which make up the state budget for the rest of the 2024 and 2025 fiscal years.  

Noem also said she is proud to work with both parties to create a balanced budget that focuses on the main functions of state government.

The budget for the 2025 fiscal year, which starts July 1, is $7.3 billion. This budget includes a four percent increase for “The Big Three” – education, health care, and state employees. Moreover, it includes another tuition freeze for the state’s public institutions and the introduction of state funding for indigent legal services.

With the legislative session behind the state, lawmakers are looking towards the summer for next steps. The state Executive Board met this week to get the summer study agenda in order, and approved the topics of property taxes, the study of Artificial Intelligence, and regulating minors’ access to the internet.

Additionally, the Iowa House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would require health insurance plans to cover biomarker testing, which can help doctors more effectively treat cancer, autoimmune disease, and other medical conditions.

Iowa has one of the highest rates of cancer in the nation.

Republican State Representative Brian Lohse said biomarker testing will benefit patients and health care systems by avoiding unnecessary invasive tests and treatments.

Democratic Representative Megan Srinivas, who is also a physician, agrees, calling it a needed measure that can save lives.

The bill passed with a vote of 96 to 1 on Wednesday, and now moves to the Senate for consideration.

In other news, State Auditor Rob Sand says he’s concerned about the amount of time the Iowa attorney general’s office is taking to review its pause on paying for rape victims’ emergency contraception reimbursements.

State Attorney General Brenna Bird paused reimbursement for emergency contraception under the Crime Victim’s Compensation program when she took office in January 2023.

Her office says the policy, along with other crime victims programs, has been under review since that time, and Bird has declined so far to release its findings.

Reproductive rights advocates have spoken out against Bird's decision to pause emergency contraception payments, saying it impacts vulnerable Iowans who have been the victims of sexual assault.

Sand, a Democrat, expressed concern about the length of the review and Republican Bird’s choice to use the word audit, since audits are usually the realm of his office. Sand also said he doesn’t understand why the payments were targeted for review.

In a statement, Bird’s office called Sand’s concerns “flat wrong” and said it is in the final stages of its audit.