My apologies for not writing last week. This has been a busy but rewarding week. Two of the bills I sponsored successfully passed out of committee and were debated on the House Floor. The bill I am carrying on behalf of our veterans passed 13-0 in committee and 68-0 on the Floor. It now heads to the Senate for debate. The bill clarifies a decades-old law that public employers must provide a veteran an opportunity to interview for a job opening if he or she is qualified. This is just one way in which South Dakota can say “thank you” to our veterans for their service.
The other issue that’s kept me very busy pertains to student privacy in public school restrooms, showers and changing rooms. The bill passed out of committee on a 10-3 vote and after vigorous debate on the House Floor, passed on a 58-10 vote. It now heads to the Senate where I foresee a close vote.
The primary purpose of the bill is to protect the physical privacy of students from having to expose themselves, or be exposed to others, when in a state of undress or nakedness while at school or school functions. Under this bill, biological boys and girls would be required to shower separately, use separate locker rooms and restrooms in South Dakota public schools or public school events.
I am bringing the bill because I’m concerned about what I see happening in schools across our country. Federal bureaucrats, without the force of federal law, are threatening to withhold federal funding from schools that do not allow transgender students full, unrestricted access to facilities of the opposite biological sex. I don’t want to happen in South Dakota. And I especially don’t want our children to be required by the federal government to shower, change or use restrooms with other young people of the opposite biological sex.
The bill also requires schools to make local, “reasonable accommodations” for children who want them because they’re uncomfortable using the facility designated for their biological sex. This provision protects the dignity and respect of all children, and prevents any child from having to use facilities with students he or she believes are the opposite biological sex, including transgender students. An example of a “reasonable accommodations” might be allowing a student to use a private teacher’s restroom or any other locally decided accommodation. Local control of accommodations always means local decisions made by people closest to the situation.
I will keep you updated about the bill’s progress.
Other interesting topics this week included:
Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients.
The measure would have required adult welfare applicants under the age of 65 to pass drug tests at their expense in order to receive food stamps or cash assistance. The bill failed in committee 4-9. The primary issues brought up against the measure were federal regulations that prohibit drug screening as a condition of eligibility for use of federal funds, and the consideration that 86% of current recipients are children.
Sale of Fetal Body Parts
The Senate Judiciary committee unanimously voted to move a bill to the Senate Floor that would prohibit the sale of fetal body parts in South Dakota and make any violation a Class Six felony, carrying up to a two-year prison sentence.
The House Transportation Committee unanimously voted to kill the measure that would have required bicyclists to pull off the side of the road and dismount their bicycle if a faster vehicle came up behind them on a roadway. Those who violated the rule would have faced a Class 2 misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.
At the hearing, the bill’s sponsor and Transportation Chairman Rep. Mike Verchio was the only one to speak in favor of the bill. About a dozen opponents from state Transportation, Public Safety and Tourism departments, as well as many bicyclists, including myself, testified against the bill. When it came time to vote, the entire committee, including Rep. Verchio, voted against it.
This bill would add meningitis to the list of immunizations children must have to enter school unless exempt via certification from a physician or by religious exemption. The bill passed out of the Senate 23-10 and now heads over to the House.
Transfer of Alcohol Funds to Counties
Under this measure, the state would provide a new stream of revenue to cash-strapped counties. Under the proposal, the state would redistribute revenue from the alcohol tax. Instead of the current 75%-25% split between the state and cities, the new distribution would be 50% state, 25% city and 25% county. The bill would send a total of $3.8 million out of about $15 million collected each year in state taxes on alcohol to county governments. The amount for counties would be distributed based on population size.
In District 4, the measure would provide funding of $124,624 to Brookings County, $108,257 to Codington County, $29,279 to Deuel County, and $39,615 to Grant County. The money could only be used for law-enforcement related expenses. The bill passed out of the Senate 28-5 and now will move to the House for consideration.
Repeal of Daylight Savings Time
The proposal would have set daylight savings time as the permanent year-round time for South Dakota. The bill passed in Committee 5-2, but died by a single vote on the Senate floor, 16-17.
Ongoing Education and Medicaid Discussions
We continue to have discussion about the two most significant issues facing us this year: teacher pay and Medicaid expansion. Many ideas are being shared. I hope we can see a proposal from the Governor this week.
The 43rd Hour of Reflection was held last week at the Capitol to commemorate the millions of unborn babies killed by abortion since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. Clergy and other speakers from throughout the area shared their sobering thoughts. The Capitol was blessed with the beautiful young voices of the Immaculate Conception School Choir from Watertown.
Once again, thank you for the opportunity to serve you. Please keep in touch with me about the issues that are important to you. I can be reached on my cell at 868-9010 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.