State Rep. Kadyn Wittman, D-Sioux Falls, on the House floor during the 2023 legislative session. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)
PIERRE – State identifications cards are needed to get a job, rent an apartment and vote in South Dakota. Even library cards are out of reach without an ID.
The wallet-sized card, which resembles a driver’s license, costs $28 in South Dakota.
Rep. Kadyn Wittman, D-Sioux Falls, wants to make state IDs free for low income South Dakotans.
Wittman’s bill, House Bill 1103, was introduced on Monday with eight Democrat sponsors and six Republican sponsors — including prime Senate sponsor Jim Bolin, R-Canton, and Sen. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence.
Wittman used to work at the Bishop Dudley Hospitality House in Sioux Falls, a homeless shelter which serves more than 1,700 people annually. During her time there, she saw that fee as the “No. 1 barrier” between indigent community members and escaping homelessness.
“Imagine a scenario where you’re homeless and don’t have family or a support system to lend you that $28. You don’t have an ID to get work, and you don’t have a bank account to save money,” Wittman said. “It seems like a small barrier for those of us who are financially secure, but for someone starting from nothing that’s an easy barrier we can remove.”
Wittman said the bill could also help human trafficking, domestic abuse survivors and their families, since some survivors are either low income or aren’t able to access services to start anew without an ID.
The bill would apply to South Dakotans with incomes below the federal poverty line. In South Dakota, that apply to about 12% of the population, or more than 100,000 people. The bill would cost the state about $86,000, according to a fiscal note from the Legislative Research Council.
That’s worth the cost to offer a “helping hand” to those in need, Bolin said.
“I believe this bill will help the poorest among us and that it could likely help with our workforce issues, at least on the margins,” Bolin said in an emailed statement.
Residents who don’t have a legal address or the other typical paperwork needed for a drivers license can prove their identity with notarized documents, such as a social security card, birth certificate or medical records.
As for people worried about undocumented immigrants trying to access a state ID, Wittman said the state requires such proof of residency and citizenship.
“This is a way for us to help our most vulnerable people,” Wittman added. “The biggest pushback I can see is that people don’t want another government handout program. But this isn’t a hand out; this is a hand up for people who have literally nothing.”
The bill hearing in the House Transportation Committee has been deferred to Tuesday.
Update: This article was updated to more accurately reflect the state’s estimated cost if HB 1103 becomes law.
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