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Governor addresses future plans, education at post-session town hall

With the legislative session in the rearview mirror, Gov. Kristi Noem is hitting the road to discuss the last few weeks in town halls.

The governor visited several communities Wednesday, including Madison, Mitchell and Winner.

Noem signed two bills into law at Mitchell High School, but state politics weren’t the only thing on the mind of attendees.

Those bills, one establishing a salary floor for educators, and the other allocating $6 million to train teachers in phonics-based reading lessons, were passed during the session.

Noem said the price tag is for both current and future educators.

“What’s important about the amount of money that we’re using is so that not only can we give teachers access to that right now who are currently teaching, but we also can cooperate with the Board of Regents to make sure those students being trained right now will have the ability to get that training while they’re getting their degree and are able to do that,” Noem said.

The governor was also asked about speculation about her potential future aspirations. Namely, her making the short list of former-President Donald Trump’s vice presidential nominees.

“I don’t know," Noem said. "My answer used to be that President Trump and I have never talked about it, but we have talked about it. What I have told him is that I will just do whatever it takes for me to help him win.”

Noem said working with the Trump administration is going on “offense,” as opposed to “defense” she is playing against the Biden administration.

All the while, Noem has been the face of the high-profile “Freedom Works Here” ad campaign encouraging people to move to the state. Some in attendance asked why the governor is so focused on eyes outside South Dakota.

“We want to make sure we have enough people here to keep our stores open, our grocery stores open, that we have roads, to have people that you’re not the only one in your county paying property taxes,” Noem said.

That campaign has come at a cost of $6.5 million so far and has faced scrutiny from some media and state lawmakers.

Carbon pipelines, landowner rights, and vetting content in libraries were addressed at the town hall.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture