Mr. Speaker Vermillion native is leader of the S.D. House Rep. Matt Michels, a Yankton Republican, applauds as Gov. Mike Rounds, behind the podium, delivers his State of the State address. Michels, a Vermillion native, is serving as speaker of the S.D. House of Representatives. (Photo by Dave Baumeister) by Dave Baumeister The 2003 South Dakota legislative session opened in Pierre Tuesday, Jan. 14 with the election of Rep. Matt Michels (R-Yankton) as speaker of the House of Representatives.
Michels, who is beginning his third term in the State House, was actually chosen for this position by the majority Republican Party last November, but his official election wasn't until the session convened.
"I knew this was what would happen," Michels said of his election, "but being nominated and elected on the floor was still an overwhelming experience."
The nomination of the new speaker demonstrated great party unity when Michels was nominated by the House majority leader, and that was seconded by the minority leader.
In his nominating speech, Rep. Bill Peterson (R-Minnehaha), a longtime friend of Michels, cited his passion and caring for others.
"His caring for others led him to the nursing profession," Peterson said. "He continued caring as he took up the legal profession and carried the desire to help others with him when he joined the U.S. Navy.
"And now he has taken his caring for others to the level of helping all people of the state of South Dakota."
Both Michels and Peterson are Vermillion natives and members of Delta Upsilon Fraternity at The University of South Dakota.
Rep. Mel Olson (D-Aurora/Davison) seconded Peterson's nomination by drawing a comparison to the speaker of the British Parliament giving up his party affiliation when that job is assumed.
"While we don't require that a person gives up political affiliation," Olson said, "you will not know any political affiliation when Matt is in the chair. You will know if the person on the floor is a Democrat or Republican. You will know if the person in the floor is out of order. You will know if the person on the floor is an idiot. But you won't know if the person in the chair is a Democrat or Republican."
"I was honored and touched during Bill and Mel's speeches," Michels said.
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During his acceptance speech, Michels, whose grandfather Wright Tarbell, served as chief clerk in the S.D. House in 1921, quoted the Book of Proverbs saying there is "death and life in the power of the tongue."
He added, "Our encouraging words can lift someone up and help them through the day. And destructive words can cause deep wounds."
With this in mind Michels asked the assembled body "to disagree, but not be disagreeable; to argue, but not be argumentative; to advocate, but not be acrimonious."
Michels then officially opened the 78th session of the House, and, after a small amount of routine business, adjourned and a joint session of the Legislature was convened for the first State of the State address by the newly inaugurated Gov. Mike Rounds.