Democratic Leaders Column from Jamie Smith and Troy Heinert– Week 4

PIERRE, SD (February 6, 2021) – Greetings from Pierre, where the fourth week of the legislative session has ended. We’ve heard debate on bills that we hoped to see succeed including those to take care of our neighbors and protect businesses. We’ve also heard debate on some bills that seem to be solutions looking for problems, that are discriminatory in nature, and take our time away from issues that really matter. Democrats are here to work on common sense solutions to create a better and safer South Dakota for all of us.

Last week, Democrats introduced SB125, to require the wearing of face coverings in the state under certain conditions, in response to the pandemic. In committee, Sanford, Avera, the SD State Medical Association, SD Nurses Association, Community Health Clinics, the Presentation Sisters, and others spoke in favor of the measure to mitigate the spread of COVID. There was no opponent testimony. The committee sent it to the Senate floor on a 5-2 “without recommendation” motion. The following day Republicans denied the bill a debate on the floor by voting against a motion to calendar the bill.

“We believe South Dakotans want to do the right thing to help each other,” says House Minority Leader Jamie Smith. “This bill was an attempt to promote better mitigation measures than what we’ve seen being promoted. Even though the bill failed, we hope that by bringing this discussion to the Capitol, we’ve raised awareness of the importance of simply wearing a mask until we can get the spread of this illness under control with vaccinations. We just want folks to be safe.”

Safety is important to all of us, which is why Democrats support the Governor using our state highway patrol for her security at all times. We also support transparency in government, especially when it comes to how our dollars are being spent. HB1089 to require the disclosure of security costs for public officials, which was killed by Republicans in committee, was a good measure to ensure fiscal responsibility and government transparency.

“Our governor is always our governor, no matter which party they are from.,” says Senate Minority Leader, Troy Heinert. “She deserves to feel safe wherever she goes. When the governor is traveling to make appearances at national campaign events, South Dakotans deserve to know how much that costs. We don’t think knowing that general amount after the fact jeopardizes safety concerns. This governor campaigned on sunlight and transparency, which this bill sought to provide.”

This week, the Senate heard testimony on SB68, Troy Heinert’s bill to provide for the creation and funding of Oceti Sakowin community-based schools. After passing the Senate unanimously last session, the bill failed this year on a 20-12 vote on Thursday.

“We need to create an educational situation where our native kids can learn in a safe and culturally accepting environment,” says Heinert. “We need to increase the rate of graduation among these students and reduce the rate of incarceration and deaths. For forty years, I’ve heard that we can already do this, but it never happens. This bill would have created those schools because the system somehow became irrelevant to them. We’re here to listen to our constituents, not ignore them.”

Working on behalf of our constituents is a Democratic priority, which is why our representatives bring the bills they bring and fight against those that do harm. We hoped to see bipartisan support on SB89, recognizing Juneteenth as an official state holiday, but Republicans in Senate State Affairs voted against it. We were happy to see HB1076, to require that birth certificates reflect biological sex, get voted down unanimously in Senate Health and Human Services committee.

Democrats are here to work for the people, to work for you. We want to hear from you! Please contact us to share your questions or concerns about the current session. Our caucus meetings have always been open to the public each day right before floor session. We are observing COVID mitigation practices in place in the Capitol. If you are visiting, plan to allow extra time for screening at the entrance and wear a mask to keep you and others safe. Your voice matters to us, and we believe that together, we can create a South Dakota that works for all of us.

Representative Jamie Smith,

Senator Troy Heinert,