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    South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is under investigation for using a state-owned airplane to fly to political events and bring family members with her on trips. But the decision on whether to prosecute the Republican governor likely hinges on how a county prosecutor interprets an untested law that was passed by voters in 2006. State law allows the aircraft only to be used “in the conduct of state business.” But Noem attended events hosted by political organizations. State plane logs also show that Noem often had family members join her on in-state flights in 2019. It blurred the lines between official travel and attending family events, including her son’s prom and her daughter’s wedding.

    South Dakota Attorney General Mark Vargo is preparing to hire a law enforcement officer to coordinate investigations into the disappearance and murder of Indigenous people. Vargo’s office said in a statement he met with Indigenous leaders after a gathering that included a song from Rapid City’s Wambli Ska Society and a smudging ceremony. The Legislature created the liaison position in 2021 to coordinate efforts across federal, tribal and local law enforcement agencies in addressing high rates of unsolved murders and disappearances among Indigenous people. Tribal members are disproportionately represented in the state’s missing persons database.

    South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is facing a lawsuit after her office refused to release expense records on five out-of-state trips this year to a liberal watchdog group. American Oversight is an organization that files open records requests and litigation against Republican officials. It filed a lawsuit Tuesday against Noem. She is in the midst of a reelection campaign and eyeing a bid for the GOP’s 2024 presidential ticket. American Oversight alleges that the governor’s office did not follow the state’s open records law by claiming that releasing the records would create a threat to the governor’s safety. In May, the organization had requested expense records, including lodging and travel, for Noem's 2022 trips.

    A South Dakota ethics board is keeping it a secret what action it took after finding there was evidence Gov. Kristi Noem improperly intervened in her daughter’s application for a real estate appraiser license. A lawyer hired by the board, Mark Haigh, says that the “appropriate action” the board determined in the complaint will remain “confidential.” The board appeared to let Noem decide whether to defend herself in a public hearing, known as a contested case hearing, or simply accept the “appropriate action” and let the matter quietly die. Government ethics experts say the lack of transparency undermines public trust in the board.

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    South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is showing no sign of fighting an action taken against her by a state ethics board over her actions surrounding her daughter's application for a real estate appraiser's license. Friday was the deadline for Noem to say whether she would defend herself against evidence that she engaged in misconduct by taking a hands-on role in a state agency just after it had moved to deny her daughter the license. Three retired judges on the state’s Government Accountability Board voted unanimously last month that there was enough evidence for them to believe the Republican governor had committed malfeasance and engaged in a conflict of interest. The board took unspecified “action” against the governor.

    The South Dakota Highway Patrol is struggling with a shortage of officers after over two dozen left the agency this year. Secretary of Public Safety Craig Price told the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee that the departures leave the highway patrol’s force short 22 troopers. Even with a recent pay raise approved by Gov. Kristi Noem, the highway patrol’s starting pay has lagged behind other law enforcement agencies in the state’s largest cities and counties. The shortage comes despite the Republican governor’s attempts to recruit officers from across the country with promises that the state supports law enforcement officers.

    The Biden administration has approved plans submitted by 34 states and Puerto Rico for building an ambitious national electric vehicle charging network as the U.S. begins in earnest its transition away from gas-powered transportation. The plans’ approval means $900 million can begin to flow to the states, which are tasked with using money from President Joe Biden’s big infrastructure deal to build out a seamless network of electric car chargers. Despite the approvals, some rural states have serious concerns about federal requirements that accompany the money, including installing fast-charging stations every 50 miles regardless of demand.

    The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation is accusing North Dakota officials of tampering with the tribes' efforts to collect royalties from oil and gas production underneath a riverbed on the Fort Berthold Reservation. The state says the tribes have no legal claim. The latest grievance is part of an ongoing dispute that has seen the rights for minerals exchange hands four times in the last five years. The last turnover was in February when the Biden administration ruled that the royalties belonged to the Three Affiliated Tribes. The U.S. Department of Interior followed up by demanding that energy companies provide a detailed account of royalties and bonuses from mineral production. The state responded with a letter to oil companies dismissing the ruling and title.

    U.S. officials have withdrawn parcels of public land near the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in Montana from future mining to protect a reclamation area where more than $80 million has been spent to clean up past mining contamination. Mining will be barred for 20 years on 4 square miles at the Zortman-Landusky Mine site now administered by the Bureau of Land Management. Former owners Pegasus Gold Inc. declared bankruptcy in 1998, leaving cleanup at the site to U.S. taxpayers. Contaminated water from the shuttered mine site has flowed downstream to the Fort Belknap reservation and fouled its water. The BLM has previously said the remaining clean up work could cost about $70 million.

    Gov. Doug Burgum wants the North Dakota Legislature to spend up to $80 million in state savings over the next two years to address child care in the state. The GOP-led Legislature meets again in January and will consider the governor's plan that also includes a child care tax credit for low- to middle-income families, expansion of child care assistance and matching money for businesses that offer their employees child care. Burgum says the lack of available and affordable child care for families contributes to workforce shortages that have hamstrung the state’s economy. Democratic lawmakers expressed support for the proposal but said more may be needed.

    A state health official says legalizing recreational pot in North Dakota could cut the number of people who are registered to use the drug as medicine by at least 80%, due to easier access to bigger quantities and more varied products. Medical Marijuana Division Director Jason Wahl says thousands of patients holding medical pot cards likely will opt to purchase from recreational sources if the measure is approved. Supporters of legalizing recreational marijuana in North Dakota succeeded last month in bringing the matter to a public vote. The state has issued more than 8,200 identification cards to qualifying patients since voters approved medical marijuana in 2016.

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