Cracker Barrel

Butte County News Newell News

NEWELL-During the Legislative Cracker Barrel, Representative Neal Pinnow and Senator Ryan Maher spoke to audience members and cautioned them to read any petition offered to before signing it. Many times, a petition is circulated by a group from out of the state of South Dakota that have no interest in the subject they are seeking signatures for. There are a number of petitions being circulated in the area, including an amendment to the SD Constitution establishing top-two primary elections, establishing a right to abortion in the State Constitution, an initiated measure prohibiting taxes on anything sold for human consumption, and an initiated measure repealing South Dakota’s medical marijuana program.

Keep in mind that a person signing a petition must be a registered voter in South Dakota and it is important to be informed on the ballot question. A circulator must provide a handout that contains the title of the ballot measure, the Attorney General statement describing that ballot measure, contact information for that ballot measure’s sponsors, and whether petition circulators are paid or volunteers. If circulators are paid, then the handouts must include their rate of pay.

Rep. Pinnow began the morning session with a few details of the 2024 legislative session.

“It’s been fast and furious, so far,” said Pinnow.

The past 17 days have not been filled with as much controversary as previous sessions. Discussion has been lengthy around the abortion issue. There is a petition being circulated that would legalize late-term abortions, denies parents the right to know when their underage daughter is seeking an abortion, and it allows taxpayer funding of abortions. More information can be found at

Pinnow has sponsored a bill that raises a property tax exemption for disabled vets. He has also been involved with bills covering eminent domain and other property rights.

Senator Ryan Maher has been involved in South Dakota legislation for 16 years and has been a member of the Appropriations Committee for many of those years.

He cautioned the audience that things are going back to normal with no influx of money from the federal government for Covid.

“We don’t have a lot of excess money,” he said.

One of the top issues is working out the financing for the new men’s prison needed in the state. The present prison was built in 1881 and is in disparate need of updating. Plans are being made for woman’s prison also. He noted that the state already owns the land that the men’s prison will be built on.

The “Sun Set Clause” for the state sales tax was addressed by both legislators. Sen. Maher explained that the clause was set to expire 2027 and be readdressed. By removing the sun set clause, it would make the sales tax permanent at 4.2%. In the Senate is a food tax repeal, but Maher urged the audience members to vote no on that issue. He pointed out that it would wreak havoc on small towns since it would decrease revenue taxes to the town.

Pinnow brought out information on reforming the marijuana laws and pointed out that he is working on information on synthetic THC, prohibiting Delta 8, 9, and 0 and removing the ability to serve drinks infused with marijuana.

Mayor Ken Wetz explained that a reduction in the food tax could hit Newell with at least a $35,000 deficit.

A member of the audience spoke up and asked it could be possible to make bills easier to understand. Rep. Pinnow said that sometimes the best thing to do is to simply kill the bill and start over.

The issue of foreign land owners was on the mind of many of the people in attendance. One member voiced concern and would like to see something that would curtail foreign ownership. He pointed out that even the wind farms are Canadian owned.

Pinnow and Maher asked the audience their opinion of the Governor sending National Guard troops to the southern border. Maher said that the cost could be over $1 million dollars, but it is money well-spent to insure the safety of South Dakotans.

Pinnow said that the cartels are here in South Dakota now.

Sheriff Fred Lamphere was on hand to give further information on the threat of the open border.

“It’s obvious the State is being infiltrated,” he said.

Not only are drugs and terrorists entering the state, he said, but there is a human side to the issue. He gave the example that a non-government organization is receiving government monies, then using part of that money to pay cartels to bring people north.

“Catch and release is a joke,” he said.

There is no process to get rid of the illegal immigrants, he continued when asked how law enforcement finds out if a person is illegal.

Sherry Hocking, Director of the Ambulance Service explained a grant she had received to teach CPR to area residents. She has taught in the Ninth Grade and is moving to Sixth, Seventh, and Eighth Grades. By March she hopes to be able to teach the High School. Then she will offer the classes to the community. There is no cost for the classes.

She urged the legislators to declare the ambulance crew as essential personnel.

An explanation of upcoming election dates was given by Butte County Auditor Annie Capp. Petitions are available for offices to be filled in 2024 which include US Representative, state legislators, County Commissioners, States Attorney, County Treasurer, and Precinct Committeemen and Committeewomen.

The timeline is as follows:

March 26-petition filing date

April 19-absentee voting begins for Primary Election

April 30-petition filing date for independent candidates

May 20-voter registration due to vote in Primary Election

June 4-Primary Election

June 7-canvass votes

June 13-post election audit

August 6-deadline to withdraw from General Election

September 20-absentee voting begins for General Election

October 21-voter registration deadline

November 5-General Election

November 8-canvass votes

November 14-post election audit

More information can be found at the South Dakota Secretary of State website on voter registration and upcoming elections at

On March 14, there will be a Butte County Election 101 class. Auditor Annie Capp will touch on all phases of Butte County’s election process. More information can be obtained by contacting the auditor’s office.

The morning concluded with one-on-one discussions with the legislators. The event was sponsored by WIT Coalition. WIT will be hosting a candidate forum in the future.

W.I.T. (Whatever It Takes) Coalition is a group of Butte County citizens united together to do “Whatever It Takes” _to help form cohesive partnerships within our community to raise awareness and provide prevention efforts for the education and development of Butte County residents of all ages. W.I.T. strives to be a responsible and caring coalition that promotes healthy lifestyle choices by offering resources, positive activities, leadership, character and ethical behavior education along with prevention efforts in hopes that all community members can learn to form lifelong habits so they can have healthy, contributing and rewarding lives.