Please get involved! Here’s how:
Face-to-face visits with legislators and staff are the most influential method of advocacy; however, email or phone calls work as well. Please see below for tips and tricks to talking with your legislator.You will find that state and county legislators are much more accessible and approachable than U.S. representatives and senators. SD state legislators don’t have staff during the year and only have access to a part-time intern during session; therefore, your messages should be short, concise and to the point. As local representatives, they want to hear from their constituents, who just happen to be their friends and neighbors.
- Limit the issues – one or two issues at a time.
- Get the facts. Try SDAHO sources:
- Knowing the bill number is helpful but not critical; the issue is more important than the bill number or title as there are so many bills and amendments. A legislator is likely to vote on an issue.
- Find out how your legislator voted on this issue or similar issues in the past.
- Take some handouts that you might be able to leave at the legislator’s office.
- Create a personal message that includes your relevant work, professional background, expertise and experiences. Always address the problem in terms of how it impacts your patients and the community.
- Give your name, home location (in the legislator’s district). Remember to identify yourself as a SDAHO member and your organization.
- State the reason for your visit or contact. “I’m concerned about…”
- Take note of the legislator’s reactions (e.g., pro, con, disinterested, confused).
- Briefly state your position on the issue. Avoid reciting facts and figures unless relevant to your story.
- Tell your story; remember your personal message.
- Ask the legislator for a commitment or action (vote, introduce, co-sponsor, speak to colleagues).
- “How do you feel about this issue? And can you support us [our position/this measure] on this?” [If no] “What concerns you about our position?”
- “Can we get you more information about this?”
- If the legislator declines, ask them what they can or will support.
- Send a thank you note or make a thank you phone call.
- Please let SDAHO know about your contact.
Writing Letters, Email Messages
- Keep it short: Not more than one page or what can appear on one screen without scrolling.
- Limit the message to one issue.
- The letter or message must include your name, address, phone number and email address (if email), your position and why you hold it, urging the legislator to support or reject the bill or amendment, co-sponsor it, etc.
- If you are constructing a letter or message from a website by pasting suggested paragraphs, add a few personalized sentences in the beginning. Legislators get many form letters and you want your message to stand out.
- Send a thank you note after the legislative action is finished (assuming it went the right way).
Telephone calls during session: SD legislators don’t have offices unless they have a leadership role and even then they will share cubicles. If you know their personal cell phone number that would be the best way to contact your legislator. Otherwise, you will end up calling the main House or Senate phone line and get a legislative page to take a message for you. Please keep in mind the legislative page is a junior or senior in high school volunteering their time for 2 weeks to answer the phone line for the legislative chamber. If you call the main phone line please identify yourself and your organization, include a call back number, state your position and why, and urge the legislator to support or reject the bill, etc.
Make a thank you call after the legislative action is finished (assuming it went the right way).
Telephone calls outside of session:
SD legislators are not full-time. They typically have a full-time job outside of the legislature; therefore, telephone calls to their home number are generally the only way to speak to them outside of session. Emails are generally best unless you know a personal cell phone number. The legislative research council does try to upload personal contact information as well as forward emails to home emails outside of session.
If you plan on visiting the capitol during legislature, knowing the Legislative Protocol and Legislative Process will help you be prepared.
State governments, like the federal government, are divided into three distinct branches of government. The legislative branch makes the laws, the executive branch executes the laws and the third branch interprets the laws. This guide’s focus is the legislative branch and the process in which laws are made in South Dakota.
The South Dakota Legislature is bicameral, or composed of two bodies; the House and the Senate. The other states also have bicameral legislatures with one exception, Nebraska. The State’s constitution provides that the Senate shall consist of 35 members and the House shall consist of no fewer than 50 members but no more than 70. Currently, there are 35 members in the Senate and 70 members in the House.
The State comprises of 35 legislative districts. Voters in each district elect one senator and two representatives. Every 10 years, in accordance with the state constitution, the Legislature must redraw the boundaries of the legislative districts to reflect shifts in the state’s population. This reapportionment process keeps the districts as equally populated as possible.
As mandated by the State’s constitution, the Legislature meets annually in Pierre, SD. The session begins each year on the second Tuesday in January at noon. The state constitution limits the length of these legislative sessions to not exceed 40 legislative days. Legislative days are defined by any day the legislature is convened.
To view the 96th SD Legislative Calendar, click here.
South Dakota State Legislature
South Dakota Legislature Legislative Research Council
State of South Dakota
South Dakota Department of Health
South Dakota Department of Social Services
South Dakota Foundation for Medical Care