Lawmakers, public hash over legislative issues

More than 30 people attended a legislative listening session Saturday, asking questions that covered a range of bills being considered this session.

Residents of legislative District 8 had a chance to participate in the state’s citizenship government at a meeting with lawmakers recently.
Questions covered numerous topics, including education funding, changing the age for starting kindergarten, municipal utilities, immunization requirements, shared parenting, legalizing hemp and more.
About 35 people attended the legislative cracker barrel at the Flandreau Elementary School commons Saturday morning. The lawmakers did similar sessions in Madison and Howard. Flandreau’s session was sponsored by the Flandreau Development Corporation with the school providing the meeting space.
Rep. Randy Gross, an Elkton Republican, asked for a show of hands on who was in favor of offering the state’s driver’s license exam in Spanish, and several people raised their hands. When he asked who opposed the idea, one person indicated they did.
A bill in the legislature would allow the written exam in Spanish, while the driving exam would be in English.
The legislators said they have received many emails about topics before the Legislature, especially on a bill that would make it a crime for doctors to provide hormone blocking drugs or perform sex altering surgeries on people younger than 16. Both Gross and Rep. Marlie Wiese, a Madison Republican, supported the bill in the state House.
She called the bill one of the most emotional of the session. She also thanked residents for contacting her on issues this session. “I really appreciate all of the input I’ve had from a lot of you.”
Here is a look at several issues.
•On municipal utilities being limited in their right to expand into rural electric territories: Sen. Jordan Youngberg, a Madison Republican, said neither side is ready to come up with a solution. “We just could not find a common ground on any issue,” he said.
Gross said he would support whatever the study group looking at the issue comes up with. “What the consumers really care about is reliable, inexpensive power,” he said.
•Flandreau Superintendent Rick Weber said the district is committed to a 2 percent increase in pay for teachers because that is the state law and asked the legislators to fund it. He also said he is against changing the age that students start kindergarten and is against removing a requirement that children need to be vaccinated to start school. Parents who don’t want their children immunized have religious exemptions already, he said. If more children aren’t required to be immunized, there could be outbreaks of disease, he said. “That could affect the whole school which could affect the whole community if something breaks out.”
The representatives said they don’t see support for removing immunization requirements.
They said they won’t know how much money can be added to school funding for teacher salaries until they see the financial numbers.
Sales tax collections over the holiday shopping season are up, according to preliminary indications, Gross said. That is helpful but the question will be whether that is true for more than one month, he said.
•Gross said he has been asked to sponsor a bill on the house side that would make it possible to build a new nursing home on land owned by the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe. While the project would not use state money, the state has to give approval for nursing home licenses.
•Kari Witte Hargens, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist at Sanford Health and a native of Colman, thanked lawmakers for support of a bill that would expand the CRNA services so they could work with dentists, podiatrists and pain management doctors throughout the state.
In a rural state, having services available is important to good health care coverage, Gross said. “These are very trained, very capable people,” he said.
•When it comes to hemp, it is not the Legislature’s role to tell farmers what they can grow, and hemp is legal under the federal farm bill, Gross said. “Our purpose is to set reasonable guidelines,” he said.
Youngberg said he has always been on board with legalizing hemp. Surrounding states have legalized it, and South Dakota will need to decide how to permit transporting the product through the state, at the very least, he said. He doesn’t think it will cost as much as is projected.
•Daylight savings time: The bill is dead but will come back every year, the lawmakers said.
•Some in the audience complained about the additional capitol security this year, which screens visitors, who are funneled through the back door. “Now we’re at the point where the general public can’t walk in the front door of our capitol,” said Bob Pesall, a Flandreau lawyer and city council member.
The lawmakers said that the change was implemented by the Department of Public Safety.
“I can assure you, you won’t be the only one on the list of people complaining,” Youngberg said.
•A bill, proposed by Gov. Kristi Noem, that would streamline the process to permit feedlots in the state will be heard this week in a senate committee, Youngberg said. “They’ve been working very closely with the local county commissioners on this bill. That’s where the conversation started and that’s where it should be,” he said.
Wiese said the governor wants to make it so that if feedlots qualify and all of the boxes are checked, the permit is granted. “She says she’s trying to limit that neighbor to neighbor confrontation.”

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