HURON — District 22 Representative Roger Chase will take his seat for opening session and the State of the State address on Jan. 9 for the last time as a legislator. He’s on his fourth term in the House, and will be term-limited at the end of this session.
After serving on multiple local boards, including township boards and county commission, Chase began his first term in the legislature after being elected in Nov. 2016. He’s been re-elected three times.
”Whenever you get to a smaller government, like a city commission or a township board, you are really closely connected to your constituents,” Chase noted, explaining the differences in work at the state level versus local boards he had served on prior to his election to the House. “When you get to a legislative district, you previously had someone from Arlington, now someone from Mellette, that may never see you. That’s the big difference is that you’re covering a large geographic district.”
He continued, “When you get to the state level, you have more money involved, so you have more reliance on the local governments. It makes the government interaction more important to make sure the laws in the state are what the people need.”
He finished, “From my perspective, I’ve enjoyed working with people from all over the state. We (legislators) are a very interesting cross-section of the population, a true citizen legislature.”
Chase went on to note that nearly twenty percent of the state legislature has a background in agriculture, while just nine total legislators are active lawyers.
In looking toward the 2024 session, Chase mentioned that a number of his fellow legislators missed Gov. Kristi Noem’s budget address Dec. 5 in Pierre, often considered the “kick off” of legislative action for each session.
“I was shocked how many people were not there,” Chase stated, proceeding to mention a number of legislators who were unexpectedly absent. “I would guess that we were missing 10 members from the House. I would guess that ten percent of the legislators were not there.”
“it’s in the constitution that the governor has to give a budget address,” Chase continued. He also explained that the Governor’s budget does not have all of the financial data that legislators will have by the time the final budget is approved.
Chase explained that he was surprised by the Governor’s suggestion of a four percent increase for schools, healthcare workers, and state employees.
“She had sent us a notification a month before her address indicating that it would be a lean budget, so we figured schools would be at three percent (the funding is required by law to go up by three percent each year),” he explained. “Then she announced for percent and, frankly, I - and many of my colleagues - were shocked.”
“There were a lot of things that we expected her to highlight that she didn’t,” Chase stated, when asked about the lack of mention of The SHED in the Governor’s address. “It was the shortest budget address that I’ve ever seen.”
The legislator expects that a big concern that will come to the legislative floor this year is property rights, specifically surrounding carbon pipelines.
“I know that we will have legislation both ways - both for and against pipelines,” Chase acknowledged. “One big question is which committee handles those bills as you can read them and place them in most every committee. The way the bills are drafted could end up determining which committee handles them this year.”
Chase chaired a summer study this past summer on county funding, and he expects that to be a focus of the legislature, though he says the suggestions from that committee will likely work with similar bills put forth by other areas in order to have more success getting things accomplished to help counties in the state on subjects like mental health, emergency management, and others.
The schedule this year has changed, with previous years opening with the State of the State on the first day, then the State of the Judiciary and the State of the Tribes speeches on the next two days, making it incredibly difficult to get any work on bills done the entire first week, Chase related. He noted that the schedule has changed this year with the judiciary and tribal speeches both on Wednesday, leaving Thursday and Friday to begin assigning bills that have already been dropped.
The first day that bills could be submitted for Legislative Research Council review was Dec. 11, so a number of pieces of legislation have already begun their path to the floor before the session technically begins on Jan. 9.
“This will be one of the sessions we’ve had in years,” Chase posited, thinking ahead to the upcoming session. “We will like have between 650 and 750 bills and resolutions.”
When reviewing what issues could be highlighted, Chase listed off a few.
“I think there will be key discussions on the pipeline and key discussion on education,” he began. “There will be discussions on abortion, as much as I may not enjoy those talks, to clarify the state’s position. Budget is always a big issue, specifically making sure we spend the American Rescue Plan funds, and we’ll have plenty of projects to utilize those on.”
“I just look for a very active session,” he concluded. “We’re going to be looking to do things for the good of the people of the state.”
Barring a special session during the summer - which Roger hopes can be avoided through work during the legislature, after the final day on March 25, Rep. Chase intends to be done with politics at the statewide level.
“I’ve never proclaimed myself to be a politician. I just want to be a public servant and do what I need to do,” Chase relayed. When asked about potentially serving on local political boards again, he was fairly certain that this is the end for him.
“I think I’m done,” he stated, with a smile. “I served eight years on the county commission and I walked away and never felt the need to return.”
“I have poured my heart and soul into it over the last eight years and earned the trust to chair two pretty important summer study committees,” Chase continued. “But, you know, after a while it’s just time to come home and be a real estate agent, to be a farmer, to play with my grandkids.”
“It’s time for new people and new ideas to come in,” he concluded. ”At this point, I’m going to be happy to sit back, relax, and be a constituent for once.”