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Bart Pfankuch

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  1. As she embarks on a reelection campaign, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem received strong overall support for her performance in a recent statewide poll conducted by South Dakota News Watch and the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the University of South Dakota. While the results bode well for her political future, two professors from South Dakota say Noem has sometimes exhibited a divisive approach to politics that has increased polarization in the state and nation.
  2. Home heating costs typically rise as winter approaches, but this year, retail prices for propane and heating oil are almost double last year and still rising, placing another burden on South Dakota families already enduring high prices for gasoline, groceries and other goods. Some experts worry that unsafe heating methods could result and that fire risk will increase.
  3. Traffic on the roadways is expected to return almost to pre-pandemic levels in South Dakota this holiday season, and distracted driving and speeding remain major safety risks for drivers, some who are unwilling to put down their phones or travel at a safe speed despite laws and information campaigns.
  4. As the state grapples with how and how much Native American history and culture to teach in public schools, a new South Dakota News Watch poll shows that the public overwhelmingly supports inclusion of Native American studies in public schools statewide.
  5. A new poll shows that a majority of South Dakotans favors the removal from office of state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, who killed a pedestrian with his car in 2020 and pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors. The poll results come just days before the Legislature will begin impeachment proceedings against Ravnsborg in a special session on Nov. 9.
  6. Two South Dakota lawmakers are calling for further investigation into the state covid relief grants received by Chris Cammack, the son of Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack. A News Watch investigation published Oct. 11 raised questions about whether Chris Cammack's business that received the grants is located in South Dakota, as required by the state program.
  7. Community banks, often with close relationships with borrowers, played a critical oversight role in ensuring the validity of more than $800 billion in Paycheck Protection Loans issued during the covid pandemic.
  8. Grocery prices, especially for meat products, have risen sharply during the COVID-19 pandemic and are expected to continue to rise throughout 2021. Market forces have pushed up costs for grocers and their customers, some of whom are already experiencing financial hardships as the costs of other essentials have risen.
  9. A South Dakota News Watch investigation has raised questions about whether a taxidermy business owned by the son of a state senator is operated from Texas even though application materials submitted by the son, who received more than $1 million in coronavirus grants and loans, list an address in Union Center, S.D. Part 2 of the package, available below, is also published on this website.
  10. The state hired two independent management and auditing firms, and may pay up to $12 million, to oversee the application process and auditing of coronavirus relief grants.
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