Democratic Leadership Column: GOP Chooses Corporations Over People


February 10, 2024

Minority Leader Sen. Reynold Nesiba

Greetings from the South Dakota Capitol! We are past the half way point of the 2024 Legislative Session. This week saw Democrats, Republicans and the Governor working together to give people who have been incarcerated a second chance. Senate Bill 57 allows people with a criminal history to still receive a professional or occupational licensure. This will open the doors for people who have served their sentence to get good paying jobs and become productive citizens. It was Democratic votes that helped get the bill passed in Senate committee and on the Senate floor. When Republicans give us good bills, Democrats are eager to work with them. We’re happy that Governor Kristi Noem signed it into law this week.

Unfortunately, Republicans did not work with Democrats on other bills to better protect hard working South Dakotans. I brought three bills this week to Senate Commerce and Energy that all failed. One would have given workers more time to report an injury in order to receive workers’ compensation. The Smithfield plant is in my district and we have employees getting repetitive motion injuries, but they only have three days to file a claim. My bill would have given workers 15 days, which would still be one of the shortest in the nation. Another bill would have recognized hair discrimination as unfair in the workplace. The South Dakota Chapter of the NAACP gave compelling testimony of how often black and brown people are discriminated against at work because of their hair. And the third would have put more protections in place for warehouse distribution center employees. Representatives from Teamsters testified in support of my bill, citing many of the issues that have come to light with Amazon’s distribution centers. Instead, Republicans sided with corporations and insurance companies to kill all three bills.

Democrats also stood with parents to give them back their rights when it comes to their child’s healthcare. Senate Bill 216 would have allowed transgender children to receive gender-affirming care if they have parental consent. This is an amendment to House Bill 1080 from last year that bans all gender-affirming care for trans youth. My bill was about bodily-autonomy and who gets to make decisions surrounding healthcare. I tried to amend the proposal to only allow for puberty-blockers, but I still couldn’t get enough support. Instead, Republicans listened to the false information about these life-saving treatments and vote against my bill. It’s sad that the GOP think it’s okay for a 16-year-old to get married with parental consent, but that same person can’t get a puberty-blocker to live as their authentic self.

We did see some positive discussions this week in the Senate. Sen. Shawn Bordeaux proposed renaming South Scalp Creek Lakeside Use Area in Gregory County because of the offensive language used. He gave a masterclass on how legislation can lead to good conversations for change, even though the bill failed. Sen. Bordeaux was able to talk with Game, Fish and Parks to start the process of renaming the area. Also, Sen. Liz Larson’s bill to prevent deepfakes from influencing elections in South Dakota passed out of committee. She did an amazing job in Senate State Affairs explaining to everyone about the threats of deepfakes. She even played audio of what sounded like former President Donald Trump saying he supports Sen. Larson and was becoming a Democrat. What her bill does is require someone who produces a deepfake to disclose that it is a deepfake 90 days before the election. I believe she found a South Dakota sized approach to protect our elections.

Thank you for continuing to stay up to date on the legislative session. We have one more week until cross-over day, so it will be a busy few days to meet that deadline. Democrats have several more bills coming this week to improve the lives of South Dakotans and we hope our Republican colleagues support these pieces of legislation.

Thank you,

Minority Leader Sen. Reynold Nesiba District 15

Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Erin Healy

Week five of the Legislative Session was productive for many members of the Democratic caucus as we presented even more of our bills in committees. Rep. Kameron Nelson brought legislation to provide new protections for vulnerable and marginalized populations. Unfortunately, several our Republican colleagues chose to be hypocrites and voted against it despite supporting a similar bill to protect the Jewish community. Rep. Kadyn Wittman passed a bill out of House Judiciary that creates a civil course of action for victims of stealthing, which is when a person removes a condom without consent during sex. I brought a bill that would eliminate out of pocket expenses for people who need diagnostic and/or supplemental breast examinations, however too many Republicans voted against it.

One of the main topics of conversation this week came out of House State Affairs. HCR 6008 is a resolution Republicans introduced opposing an initiated measure to place the right to an abortion in the state Constitution. This is the Republicans’ way to politicize abortion in our state legislature. South Dakotans have the right to make direct change through citizen-led ballot initiatives. They deserve to vote on important issues that impact their lives. Legislators should respect the initiated measure process and not use their elected position to intervene. Opposing initiatives that South Dakotans are working hard to put on the ballot is a dangerous precedent to set and legislators should be encouraging citizens to participate in democracy—not utilize their position to make a political statement.

This week we also voted on a few pipeline bills that addressed landowner rights. Our caucus voted in favor of landowners. The two bills would put in new protections and concessions for rural landowners. They state that companies and utilities with eminent domain authority must provide detailed notice to landowners and pay property owners $1 for every linear foot of pipeline built on their land.

As we move onto week six, House Democrats will continue to look out for hardworking South Dakotans. Rep. Peri Pourier is introducing a bill to create a two-year task force that would study Native American child welfare and expands ICWA into our state law.

Please reach out to us if you have any questions about current legislation—we enjoy hearing from our constituents!

Thank you,

Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Erin Healy District 10

For questions, you can contact the SDDP Executive Director Dan Ahlers at or contact the state party office by phone at 605-271-5405 or 605-940-3071.

Paid for by the South Dakota Democratic Party |