Democratic Leaders Column from Rep. Jamie Smith and Sen. Troy Heinert– Week 7

PIERRE, SD (February 26, 2021) – Greetings from Pierre! The seventh week of the legislative session ended with crossover day. Thursday was the last day for bills to move out of their chamber of origin to be voted on in the other chamber. The senate adjourned Thursday afternoon at about 3pm while the house debated bills until midnight. Democrats have bills that would do good things for South Dakota. Some were passed, others were voted down. We also continue to speak up against bills that seem to be solutions looking for problems, or that go against the will of voters.

“Of course, we are deeply concerned about HB 1217 that keeps transgender students from participating in sports,” says House Minority Leader, Jamie Smith. “I don’t see how bills like this make us a more inclusive state. I was really disappointed in the number of people that supported it. As a former coach, I am very familiar with Title IX, and the officers in the South Dakota High School Sports Association. If they were in support of the bill, they would have been in committee testifying.”

A more inclusive bill that would have helped vulnerable people in our state was Senator Red Dawn Foster’s, SB 166. It would revise provisions regarding hate crimes and extend them to include LGBTQ+ Native Two-Spirit and people with disabilities. It was voted down on the senate floor. A bill brought by Representative Erin Healy, HB 1220, that would have allowed pregnant minors to provide consent to their prenatal, delivery process, or postnatal care failed in its committee.

“Democrats in Pierre are bringing good bills that solve real problems that our most vulnerable citizens are facing,” says Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert. “I’m proud of the work they are doing here. We have to keep listening to what our constituents are telling us and represent them the best that we can.”

Examples of these include Rep. Healy’s HB 1196, that restores free online tuition for college students who blind and visually impaired and HB 1132, which adds dental hygienists as mandatory reporters of abuse and neglect. Both of these bills have made it through both the house and senate and are on their way to the Governor’s desk waiting to be signed into law.

On Tuesday, the house passed HB 1199, a proposal to create an office under the Office of the Attorney General to coordinate tribal, state and local law enforcement agencies in tackling the crisis of missing Indigenous people. Representative Peri Pourier, proposed the office as part of an effort to solve how a disproportionate number of Indigenous people go missing and are murdered in the state. This bill would create a one-person office within the attorney general’s office to specialize in coordinating law enforcement efforts across agencies.

“This is a significant step in the right direction to address the problem of missing Indigenous people in our state,” says Heinert. “I look forward to speaking to this bill and having this much needed discussion in the Senate. This bill, along with SR 701, to open an official inquiry into the Medals of Honor given to United States soldiers for their involvement in the Wounded Knee Massacre, will go a long way to foster healing in our state. For decades, Lakota people have asked for the rescinding of the 20 Medals of Honor that were awarded to 7th Calvary soldiers for their actions at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890. The resolution received unanimous support on the Senate floor and is the first time that the South Dakota Legislature has supported this movement. It’s time to right this wrong, and I’m deeply grateful to the Senate Republicans for supporting this.”

The bill that received a lot of attention this week was HB 1100, the governor’s bill to delay the implementation of medical marijuana to July 1, 2022, going against the will of the voters who overwhelmingly supported implementation to begin this year.

“The house debated this bill or over an hour, and our representatives spoke up for the folks who made it clear that we can’t wait on this,” says Smith. “There are a lot of people in our state who are suffering from medical conditions that medical marijuana would alleviate, and we hear them. The vote to delay that help is disheartening, but we hope the senate will do a better job respecting the will of South Dakota voters.”

“On the senate side, we heard SB 189, a bill that would have decriminalized small amounts of marijuana, and that bill failed,” says Heinert. “So, clearly we have a number of senators who aren’t listening. I’ll say it again, it’s our job as legislators to implement the will of the voters and Democrats in the state legislature will fight for their decision.”

The next big issue in the legislature will be the budget. There is more money this year than in previous years, which means more decisions to made on how it is spent.

“It’s a good problem to have,” says Heinert. “I just hope these decisions aren’t being made behind closed doors. We’ll be hearing a lot of appropriations bills coming up, including bills to appropriate funds for a new airplane for the governor’s use. The house bill to accomplish this failed, but there is another one coming from the senate side that includes that expenditure that will be debated over the next two weeks.”

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 the hour 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,