First, I need to express my gratitude to Senator Jim Peterson who announced that he will not be seeking another term in the legislature. Jim is a senior statesman and as good a guy as they come. It has been my honor to work with him representing the people of District 4.
Week five in the House of Representatives marked the midpoint of the 2016 legislative session. It was one of the hottest in recent history due to the large number of controversial bills that were debated. Among the many issues were tax increases to raise teacher pay; legalization of medical marijuana; abortion; the death penalty; guns in the Capitol; religious freedom; any willing provider insurance policy; and student privacy in showers and bathrooms. As a result, the Capitol was packed throughout the week with people from across the state.
Here Is the Hot List
HB 1182 is Governor Dennis Daugaard’s plan to increase sales tax one-half cent to increase teacher pay and provide property tax relief. After passing out of committee on an 11-0 vote, the bill came to the House floor.
The last time the legislature took up a bill to reform the education funding formula was 1995, so it’s not a stretch to say this bill is the most important education funding bill in over 20 years.
Thank you to everyone that has contacted me about this bill, both for it and against it.
The most common reason I’ve heard from people to oppose it is because it increases sales tax.
On the other hand. the most common argument I’ve heard to support the bill is that it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure teacher salaries remain competitive in the marketplace, and if we don’t, as the number of teachers in our schools decline, so does the quality of education our children receive.
I believe the greater good is to do what’s best for our children and I plan to support the governor’s bill.
The bill is currently in a delay mode, and we should know by Thursday, Feb 18th if there is sufficient support to pass the bill along to the Senate. The vote will likely be razor-blade close.
Legalize Medical Marijuana
Emotional testimony was taken in Senate Health Committee, but action on the bill was deferred until week six. I would be surprised if the bill makes it out of committee.
Prohibit Abortions for Pain-Capable Unborn Children
This is one of the bills I helped to develop last summer. If passed, South Dakota will join 12 other states that protect unborn children from abortions once they are capable of feeling pain. The bill was deferred for a continued hearing until this week.
Repeal of the Death Penalty
This was the most emotional testimony I have ever experienced. In a standing-room only committee room, the wife of a recently murdered prison guard had nearly everyone in tears. After lengthy and compelling testimony from witnesses on both sides of the issue, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to kill the bill 6-3.
Reverse Initiated Measure Vote on Patient Choice
In 2014, Initiated Measure 17 allowed South Dakota voters to decide on patient choice. In a nutshell, IM17 permits patients to stay with their doctors if the doctor agrees to perform the services at the rate the patient’s insurer was paying, rather than be forced to change to a provider chosen by the insurer. Sixty-two percent of South Dakota voters approved IM17. However, this year Sanford Health brought the measure back to the legislature asking us to overturn the will of the people. The bill was defeated in the House Commerce Committee on a 10-3 vote.
Ensure Government Nondiscrimination for Religious Beliefs
HB 1107 specifies that “the state may not take any discriminatory action against a person on the basis that the person believes, speaks or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” The bill passed the House on a 46-10 vote and now moves to the Senate. I voted “Yes” on the House floor.
HB 1008 is the bill I brought forward to protect students’ bodily privacy rights when showering, changing clothes or using restrooms in public schools. The bill is pretty simple. If you’re a biological boy, you use boy’s facilities. If you’re a biological girl, you use girl’s facilities. And if you’re a transgender student—meaning you were born one sex but now feel you are the other sex—schools must provide “reasonable accommodations” based on local decisions. The intent of the bill is to protect the privacy of all individual students. Unfortunately, the bill has stirred a hornet’s nest among some that believe it is discriminatory. It passed out of House State Affairs Committee 10-3, it passed the full House 58-10, and last week it passed out of the Senate Education Committee on a 4-2 vote. It next goes to the full Senate and, if successful, it will go to Governor Daugaard for his consideration.
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 phone at (605) 868-9010 and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.