Legislative roundup: Elections, transgender kids and Noem’s first signatures

By: - February 3, 2023 4:39 pm
Aerial photo of the Capitol building in Pierre. (Getty Images)

Aerial photo of the Capitol building in Pierre. (Getty Images)

PIERRE – Aside from the ongoing saga of censured-and-reinstated Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller, elections were the major theme this week in the Legislature. 

Our own Josh Haiar spent Friday morning in the House State Affairs Committee, where he heard debate on a few of the 46 election-related bills filed as of 1 p.m. Friday.

Here’s a link to the election bills. Here’s another for the “election verification” bills. 

One of those bills, SB 55, would ban ranked-choice voting. It’s an option that isn’t currently used in South Dakota elections. The bill passed on the Senate floor Thursday and is headed to a House committee.

Josh is working on a rundown of the election proposals and the competing visions emerging from different factions of the Legislature.

Keep your eyes peeled, readers.

Rep. Bethany Soye, R-Sioux Falls, speaks on Jan. 17, 2023, at the Capitol in Pierre about a bill she introduced to ban some forms of health care for transgender youth. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)
Rep. Bethany Soye, R-Sioux Falls, speaks on Jan. 17, 2023, at the Capitol in Pierre about a bill to ban some forms of health care for transgender youth. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)

Another big topic this week? Trans health care. 

We heard emotional debate on House Bill 1080, which would prohibit certain kinds of health care for transgender youth. 

Supporter Rep. Brandei Schaefbauer, R-Aberdeen, quoted Martin Luther King Jr. 

Another supporter, Rep. Liz May, R-Kyle, compared gender-affirming health care to lobotomies and other medical procedures that were once common but are now frowned upon. 

None of that sat well with the bill’s opponents, including the South Dakota Legislature’s first openly gay male lawmaker, Democrat Rep. Kameron Nelson of Sioux Falls.

Nelson called the MLK quote “reprehensible” in the context of HB 1080, and vowed to fight for the LGBTQ+ community with this line: “I’m here, I’m queer, and I’m not leaving Pierre.”

HB 1080 passed the House 60-10 and heads to a Senate committee.

Lastly, Gov. Kristi Noem signed the first 2023 bills into law this week. 

The big one was Senate Bill 41, which frees up $200 million in infrastructure funds to support the construction of workforce housing – funding that was supposed to be available last year

Here’s a press release covering other new laws, and another one about Noem’s signature on an unemployment insurance tax cut.

Here’s an update on what happened this week with the bills we’re tracking:

  • Prison-jail costs: Those cost estimates for bills that would impact prison and jail populations? Unless Gov. Kristi Noem vetoes HB 1003, they’re going away. The Senate passed the bill 33-1 on Monday, and it already passed the House.
  • Kids and crime: SB 3 would require law enforcement to notify schools of suspected student misbehavior. Makenzie Huber had a story on that one right here. SB 3 squeaked by 18-16 on the Senate floor and now heads to a House committee.
  • State Rep. Kadyn Wittman, D-Sioux Falls, on the House floor during the 2023 legislative session. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)
    State Rep. Kadyn Wittman, D-Sioux Falls. Wittman sponsored a bill that would have offered free state ID cards to those below the federal poverty line. (Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight)

    Free state IDs: HB 1103 would have let low-income South Dakotans get free state identification cards. The House Transportation Committee killed the bipartisan bill 8-3 on Tuesday. The Department of Public Safety was opposed, in part because the DPS “has no way to verify” if a person is actually below the poverty line.

  • Opioid harm reduction: HB 1041, another bipartisan bill, would legalize fentanyl test strips, which can detect the presence of the sometimes-deadly synthetic opioid in other drugs. The House passed that one 64-2. Next up: Senate Judiciary.
  • Adult day centers: HB 1078 would offer up $5 million to support adult day centers for the elderly, which were once more common in South Dakota. It passed Joint Appropriations 13-0.
  • Medicaid: The House voted 60-8 Tuesday to advance House Joint Resolution 5004, which would put an amendment on the ballot to allow lawmakers to consider imposing work requirements for Medicaid recipients. Voters backed Medicaid expansion in November. That’s on to Senate Health and Human Services.
  • Sales taxes: The House Committee on Appropriations threw its unanimous support behind HB 1137, a proposal to lower the state sales tax a half percentage point – which is a bigger tax cut than Gov. Kristi Noem has proposed. That vote came Tuesday.
  • Court-appointed attorneys: HB 1064 would create a task force to study South Dakota’s approach to public defense. It’s an expensive constitutional requirement for counties, and the state doesn’t offer much financial help. Passage in the Senate would put it on Gov. Noem’s desk.
  • Lawmaker travel: SB 68 would’ve changed the approval process for lawmakers attending out-of-state events. The House nixed it 60-8.
  • Lithium tax: A bill to levy a severance tax on lithium mining, which had passed the House, died on a 4-2 vote in a Senate committee.




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John Hult
John Hult

John is the senior reporter for South Dakota Searchlight. He has more than 15 years experience covering criminal justice, the environment and public affairs in South Dakota, including more than a decade at the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.