Noem’s list of proposals will put Democrats, who just hold 11 seats in the Legislature, on the defensive. But Noem also faces several political foes within her own party, including one House member who is mounting a primary campaign against her.
Rep. Steve Haugaard, who has criticized the governor for not being conservative enough, agreed that Noem’s State of the State address was more of a campaign speech and said that if the governor was serious about such proposals, she would not have waited until the final year of her term to bring them up.
The governor’s tenure has been marked by the coronavirus pandemic and her decision to mostly forego lockdowns or other restrictions. Noem on Tuesday defended those who don’t get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying, “We live in a free country and we are free to make our own decisions.”
Smith criticized the governor’s failure to encourage people to get vaccinated, pointing out that the overwhelming majority of people hospitalized for COVID-19 are unvaccinated. The state’s hospitals have been strained in recent weeks as they handle the most people hospitalized with COVID-19 in over a year.
But Republican Rep. Chris Johnson, the assistant leader of House Republicans, praised the governor’s speech and approach to the pandemic, saying it has positioned the state to grow into the future.
“The governor deserves to take a victory lap at this time,” he said.