July 1st- what new laws are right around the corner?


Originally published 6/18/2021 Rapid City Journal


For my part in the Legislature this year, let's talk about what did and did not come to "pass" at the hands of Senator Castleberry. Funding for the railroad, child-like sex doll prohibition, gun rights, perinatal hospice, fireworks penalties, marriage name change, infrastructure for Box Elder, revisions for auto auctions, and funding the Liberty Center are all on the list. This past session brought $20 million to rehabilitate the railroad from Fort Pierre to Rapid City. I was happy to carry this bill with Representative Finck (Tripp, SD), which started at $6 million, and received so much support it was brought up to $20 million, providing a unique opportunity for South Dakota and RCP&E to hopefully leverage federal funds to complete the proposal. This railroad project will improve safety, capacity and enable us to bring new industry to Rapid City. I also presented SB 126 this year to outlaw the manufacture, sale, and distribution of child-like sex dolls. Contrasting opinions were offered, including that these dolls could be considered therapeutic for users. These dolls provide a simulation of sex acts with infant-sized or toddler-sized dolls. Some include programmable robotic life-like reaction settings such as "rape, submissive, or praise." That use of these should be considered therapeutic is a stretch, even for the darkest reaches of our comprehension, and studies completed in Texas and the UK have indicated otherwise. Outlawing these types of dolls in South Dakota was a good win. I also fought (but lost) a battle to name South Dakota as a Second Amendment Sanctuary State. I resurrected the bill as the more palatable SCR 607- affirming the Legislature's support of the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. No teeth, but a participation ribbon, nonetheless. Our forefathers weren't concerned about certain types of firearms; they were concerned about certain types of governments. I will continue to fight to preserve the Second Amendment; the consequences are too dire. Another bill near and dear to my heart had to do with offering perinatal hospice information to families who receive a lethal fetal anomaly diagnosis for their unborn child or who experience a miscarriage. With this bill, when a family is told their infant is not expected to live more than three months, they will be provided with information on counseling, potential funeral arrangements, and comprehensive, supportive care. This care will begin with the diagnosis of a lethal fetal anomaly and continue through the birth and resultant death of the child. This new requirement will contrast some current lethal fetal anomaly practices statewide and ensure families are aware of additional options, arguably more humane for everyone than simply providing information on medically deemed termination of pregnancy. There were some "fireworks" over my bill to align penalties for fireworks detonated in times of high danger fire risk. This bill clarifies the penalty for using fireworks during increased fire danger. The disciplinary action is now clear for residents, law enforcement, and legal representatives, and it aligns those penalties with similar fireworks laws.

Also misunderstood by some was HB 1067 to modify identification requirements for a marriage license and provide certain name change provisions. Erroneously deemed by a couple of people a politically motivated slap in the face of women's rights, the bill was formulated over months of coordination with the Register of Deeds across South Dakota. This bill did two things- streamlined proof of identification and reduced risk of fraud by allowing for surname change only. During committee and immediately following that committee hearing, we discussed how the bill could be modified next year to accommodate some of the concerns expressed (for example, changing a maiden name to a middle name). That change is a straightforward amendment for next year as long as it is supported. While better not to have to fix a bill after it becomes law, it shouldn't be too difficult to adjust in this circumstance. After some of these other hard hitters, let's talk about little old SB 73. This bill streamlined the process for auto auctions to sell government-owned and non-government owned vehicles on the same day by having them marked, separated, and held at different times, rather than the current law, which requires auctions on separate days. Cut red tape, help an entity be more efficient. This one passed, no-fuss, no muss. Finally, let's talk about my two sticky wickets of 2021- infrastructure funding for Box Elder and the Liberty Center and how these two intertwined. Bottom line - infrastructure is among the top three main concerns across South Dakota and closely tied to numero uno - housing. The litany of bizarre hokey pokey, misinformation, power struggles, and political hoo-hah that went on behind the scenes here was a sight to behold. The highlight of this dance was that while Box Elder infrastructure funding ended up as a sacrificial lamb, we were able to get funding for the Liberty Center, which will be an integral part of Box Elder's continued growth and strong support for the expansion of Ellsworth Air Force Base. The Liberty Center was a dead duck. Only through the tireless support of several legislators, I brought it through unanimously in the Senate, and Representative Derby brought it through in the House with 91% support.

Years of work went into this behind the scenes, and I was happy to play one small part in bringing it home. Ellsworth Air Force Base and Box Elder deserve recognition for the positive influence they have on our region. I'd love to share all the ways Box Elder has worked tirelessly to improve their community, but for today I'll leave you with this. The city of Box Elder representatives spent hours in Pierre, shoulder-to-shoulder, fighting for its residents. They fought to improve quality of life through sewer, road, and other infrastructure improvements and by trying to find ways to reduce your tax burden to maintain affordability while still supporting Ellsworth Air Force Base. Their work raised awareness in the Legislature statewide from Elkton to Aberdeen to Rapid City - we are all in desperate need of help with infrastructure. The Legislature is now working harder than ever to analyze creative solutions with the Governor's office to make that happen. These were the topics that I worked on behalf of the people of South Dakota, and all but two will become law. Even regarding those two, we were able to find compromises, and some iteration of them did pass. I also signed on to co-sponsor several other efforts, including the designation of the Purple Star School program, supporting trade negotiations to remove barriers to country of origin labeling, making an appropriation to the Department of Veterans Affairs for the South Dakota State Veterans Cemetery, increasing the penalty for protection order violations, establishing the Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons, establishing the crime of torture of a human trafficking victim and provide a penalty therefor, continuing the prohibition on the seizure of firearms and ammunition, urging efforts to increase competition and transparency among livestock packers, modifying the process for civil forfeiture, and a resolution acknowledging the local disaster impacting the Hideaway Hills neighborhood in the community of Black Hawk.


It is complicated to track what your legislators did (and did not) do for you in Pierre. Some can be very vocal when they get home - not always accompanied by facts to substantiate their claims. However, self-initiated, legislative horn-tooting aside - critical aspects of a functional, forward-focused legislature respect our heritage, Constitution, and rights-and also innovates to move forward through honesty, transparency, accountability, and the ability to collaborate professionally. More bills will become law July 1st, and I'm proud to have helped where I was able. Senator Jessica Castleberry represents District 35. She is the Vice Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee and the Vice Chair of the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee. She also serves on the Senate Taxation Committee.