Lawmakers lean into multi-state compacts to plug workforce shortages
A barrage of 'compact bills' has some lawmakers celebrating, others worried about ceding authority
PIERRE — Making it easier for workers to move across state lines is a priority for legislative leaders this year.
But details about how that can work while maintaining state autonomy have some at the South Dakota Capitol suspect of an increasing number of multi-state regulatory agreements they’re being asked to sign off on.
At least six interstate licensure compact agreements — contracts struck between states that allow workers to move between them more easily — are being considered this year by lawmakers. One has already cleared the Legislature and awaits Gov. Kristi Noem’s signature.
In theory, they allow professionals from a specific field to more easily transfer their credentials between participating states, at a cost that would be lower than reapplying completely to that same state.
Six compact bills is an increase compared to years past. In 2023, lawmakers voted on just one compact bill. The year before that, zero. The uptick is because lawmakers on the Legislature’s summer study on Sustainable Models for Long Term Care Committee proposed joining compacts.
“Increased flexibility accommodates increased rates of moving and anticipates federal support of these initiatives,” a report from that committee states. “Rural healthcare, and e-healthcare providers, can make good use of these initiatives as well.”
Both proponents and opponents agree on the general goals of compacts, fostering interest in jobs and streamlining the ability of workers to move between states.
“If you get a license in Iowa to be a nurse, you can become a nurse in South Dakota, without jumping through all the regulatory hoops,” House Majority Leader Will Mortenson said. “It is important to make sure we have a sufficient workforce.”