Originally published in the Rapid City Journal February 9, 2022
A lot is going on in Pierre- from marijuana mayhem, a hemorrhage of federal funds into our economy, an influx of our own sales tax dollars, and many agreements, disagreements, and everything in between. You are always hearing something about what the legislature is doing in Pierre. We, in turn, are flooded with emails, phone calls, and newspaper headlines asking us why we take up certain subjects. In South Dakota, every bill is supposed to get a hearing (apparently with one exception this year- the Heartbeat Bill). A bill being guaranteed a hearing is not the case in every state. Part of serving in the legislature means that we don't have the opportunity to pick and choose what we cast a vote on. We don't (and shouldn't) have the luxury of not weighing in. Most of us try to carry the will of the majority of our constituency, weighing the best outcome for the state and giving a voice to those who feel they have none. We have two choices on any given subject- yes or no, and that choice is public record forever. For my part, in addition to the yeses and nos I cast each day, I have the following legislation that I have hoisted upon my colleagues this year. To protect women, children, and victims of abuse, I have brought HB 1113, which prohibits threats made with the intent to coerce an abortion, and SB 120, to add the definition of deepfake videos to our revenge porn statute. In this case, the deepfakes are videos of a person whose face or body has been digitally altered so that they appear to be someone else, typically used maliciously or to spread false information or used in a pornographic manner. I also have HB 1246, which establishes that the fundamental right to make decisions concerning the upbringing, education, and care of a child rests with the child's parents. No state agency, political subdivision, or any elected or appointed official or employee of this state or its political subdivisions may abridge or infringe upon that right. This bill solidifies the current practice of the judicial branch in South Dakota and prevailing case law. To address taxation, HB 1039 is still alive and kicking, to provide grassland tax relief for our ranchers, and also HB 1253, to provide property assessment freeze and reduction of property assessment for certain seniors, and to revise qualifications for a property tax exemption. Additional legislation to help seniors in South Dakota is the Restaurant Meal Program in SB 149, which provides use of current SNAP benefits for the elderly, disabled, and homeless to purchase cold prepared, hot prepared, and warmed foods. This supports food security for those who can't prepare their own food by utilizing grocery store delis and restaurants that opt-in. I also have legislation in SB 209 to protect law-abiding gun owners from unconstitutional seizure of firearms and protect state tax dollars and law enforcement from being utilized in such enforcement, based on successful legislation in North Dakota and Montana.
There you have it- legislation protecting women, children, parental rights, and victims of abuse, lowering taxes, helping the elderly, disabled, and homeless with food security, and fortifying the rights of law-abiding gun owners by upholding the federal law of the Second Amendment to the Constitution. With only four and a half more weeks to go, the legislature is hard at work. But remember, there are always conflicting forces at play that influence the outcome of the legislation we bring.