South Dakota received federal funds (CRF funds) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to cover expenditures brought on by the current public health emergency. At a special session, the South Dakota Legislature passed House Bill 1001 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 601 to address the expenditure of CRF funds. Senate Concurrent Resolution 601 recommended that unspent CRF funds be used through grant programs administered by the Governor for certain purposes. The grant program requires an application and a contract. The Governor asked the South Dakota Supreme Court to determine if state legislators are eligible to receive funds under the CRF Grant Program.
The South Dakota Supreme Court determined that it had the authority to provide the advisory opinion because it contained an important question of law not currently pending before a court and it raised an issue with significant impact on State government and public perceptions. The Supreme Court analyzed the issue under Article III Section 12 of the South Dakota Constitution which provides in part that members of the state legislature may not have an interest, either directly or indirectly, in any contract with the state during their term or within one year after their term ends. The Court concluded that Article III Section 12 precludes current state legislators from contracting with the State to participate in the CRF Grant Program and from receive those funds.