PIERRE, SD (February 13, 2020) – This past week in Pierre has been a challenge, but it’s also given us the opportunity to hear from concerned citizens from all over the state, including young people, families, business owners, and more whose voices were heard in the legislative process.

HB 1057, Fred Deutsch’s bill against transgender youth, was amended to remove the criminal penalty for providing medically appropriate care to transgender youth, ban such treatment, and allow an extended time for a civil lawsuit against doctors who perform such treatment. Regardless, in a bipartisan vote, Senate Health and Human Services deferred HB 1057 to the 41st day, effectively killing the bill.

“Divisive bills like this have no place in South Dakota,” said House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, “That’s why Democrats are sponsoring bills that make South Dakota a better place for everyone. This means focusing on education, health care, economic development, public safety, agriculture, Native American issues, and transparency in government.”

In economic development news, this week the House passed the bill legalizing industrial hemp while the bill to provide driver’s license exams and materials in Spanish passed easily off the Senate floor and now moves to the House.

“We heard from so many large employers in our state, along with families and individuals who expressed how much these bills will improve their lives,” said Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert. “They just make sense for South Dakota.”

SB 117, requiring the Department of Education to establish certain programs for children who are deaf and hard-or-hearing under the Deaf Child’s Bill of Rights, passed out of Senate Education on a 4-2 vote and will move to the Senate floor. By changing one word, this bill is the third attempt by the legislature since 2008 to get the Department of Education (DOE) to uphold its commitment to provide a free and appropriate education to all South Dakota students. Currently the law states the department “may establish a program and policy to be disseminated to all school districts and other local educational agencies which promote the education of deaf and hard of hearing children.”

“We made a promise to these kids,” said Heinert who sits on the committee. “Every child deserves the best education we can give them and by changing the word may to the word shall it becomes a mandate, and we can start making that happen for them.”

These are among the many bills Democrats are working on. Other education bills include establishing an Early Learning Advisory Council. Health Care bills include creating a dementia services coordinator within the Department of Human Services and prohibiting the cancellation or non-renewal of a health insurance policy for preexisting conditions. Economic Development bills include providing for the creation of an international business and trade office and increasing funding for counties and townships. Public Safety bills include reviewing the penalty for ingestion of certain controlled substances and requiring an incentive program to provide diversion opportunities for certain substance abuse offenses. Agriculture bills include permitting modification of the term of a perpetual conservation easement after the death of a grantor. Native American bills include providing for the creation and funding of Oceti Sakowin schools and providing that Native American populations be protected in the legislative redistribution process. Finally, on the issue of Transparency, we have a bill focusing on Legislative Redistricting – allowing voters to choose who represents them in Pierre.

“These are issues that bring us together and build a better South Dakota for all of our citizens,” said Smith. “Bills like the new version of the Riot Boosting bill that just passed House State Affairs are disappointing. The language is incendiary and will certainly bring a legal challenge.”

“When you look at our limited resources, we have to be making better choices,” said Heinert “We have had to backfill our budget due to the unconstitutional laws our elected leaders have passed in Pierre. That kind of legislating has to stop. It’s not beneficial to our state.”

This week, the Joint Appropriations Committee, which oversees the state budget, adopted FY 2020 revenue projections that have $12.6 million more than Governor Kristi Noem estimated in her December budget address. Democrats on the committee believe that revenue will be higher based on the Legislative Research Council’s revenue model, and that we’re leaving money on the table. The committee’s vote on the 2021 revenue projections was split along party lines with Democrats Rep. Michael Saba and Sen. Reynold Nesiba opposing it.

“Democrats want extra revenue in 2021 to go toward an education funding increase. We want to follow the law,” said Heinert.

Remember, we want to hear from you! Please contact us to share your questions or concerns about the current session. If you’re in Pierre, you can always join us at one of our caucus meetings that are open to the public. Your voice matters.

Contact: Rep. Jamie Smith (605)339-3583


Senate Democratic Leader Senator Troy Heinert (D-Mission)

House Democratic Leader Representative Jamie Smith (D-Sioux Falls)