The South Dakota Legislature kicked into a higher gear this week with many more bills being dropped and more sure to hit the hopper by Wednesday of this coming week which is the deadline for unlimited bill introduction.
Most of the bills we heard in committee this past week came to us from either summer study groups with recommendations for statute change or new legislation steering the State of South Dakota away from a looming problem of which the majority of us believe to be a valid concern. Whenever those summer studies bring forth bills from a summer study to be considered we always have an opportunity to amend that specific legislation in the committee hearing it or once it passes committee and hits the floor of origin. Nothing is set in stone until the Governor actually signs a piece of legislation and in all honesty that is only valid for one year until the legislature comes to session once again with the opportunity to tweak any existing law if need be.
Many of you by now have heard or read about the coming legislation which will enable any school board to allow law enforcement trained persons within the school district to carry a concealed weapon while teaching or working in a school district. This in fact will be heavily scrutinized by all involved in the legal process and watched by many groups all over America. I suspect that in every legislature in this country similar discussions are occurring.
Initially this sends out a message to anyone wishing to harbor carnage upon a school that someone may be in possession of a weapon within that schools confines. The second thing it does is immediately put the staff and school board into a position of setting in motion the requirements for allowing a staff member to attend the training needed to carry a weapon upon school premises should they determine it is in their best interest. What may in fact be an amendment to this bill is the requirement that all discussion of the staff member involved in this training remain hidden behind the Executive Session rules keeping that name from the general public for various reasons. The most important being that person becoming a sitting duck within the school should a horrific incident take place and second anyone wishing carnage will never know if a school actually has taken this step keeping them from originating any ill will in the first place. For me the greatest deterrent to any threat is showing the possibility of having a specific defense stronger than the will of evil to create chaos. Think “Cold War” strategies. Local control will prevail should this piece of legislation become law.
One other bill of note that should be noted is HB 1072. This bill was passed unanimously in Judiciary and what it does is repeals the provisions providing a criminal penalty for a political party to endorse or nominate a judicial candidate (a judge).
We were one of two states that did not allow this and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found it to be unconstitutional, forcing us to change statute or be taken to court. Some of the attorneys had a bit of heartburn with political parties being able to nominate a judge by convention or any other method. It did pass out of our committee without any dissenting votes though and will be heard on the house floor this coming Tuesday.
Working with the new freshman politicians has been uplifting as we have a terrific new class of legislators pushing us all up to a new level. Not to brag but many have told me that District 23 has the toughest and best legislators of any one district. To be sure my two district mates force me to bring my “A” game to Pierre and I am blessed being able to work honorably with them.
The pace of the legislative session began to pick up this past week as bills began to move out of committees and down to the Senate floor. The majority of these bills are issues brought forward by the Governor or the various agencies. Most of these bills are required to be filed before the legislative session begins, so they tend to be some of the first ones that are debated.
This week, the Criminal Justice Initiative bill (SB 70) had its first hearing in the Senate State Affairs committee. This has been a collaborative effort between all three branches of government and about 400 stakeholders from across the state. The effort aims at addressing the underlying cause of many non-violent crimes. Usually these cases were the result of drug or alcohol addiction. The reform effort studied approaches from across the country with a proven track record. The goal of the effort is to reduce repeat offenders and spend our state’s dollars more wisely.
Without these changes, it is estimated that the state will have to build a new men’s and a new women’s penitentiary within the next 10 years costing millions of dollars. The committee unanimously approved the bill and it will be heard before the full Senate this week.
This past week, I was reminded that we truly do have a great system here in South Dakota. Despite the fact that hundreds of people have looked at SB 70, a concerned citizen on his own accord came forward to testify about several issues that he had with the bill. Before the committee hearing was done, the bill was actually amended to address some of his very legitimate concerns. It is great to see a legislative system that is so responsive to all of our citizens when they come forward to voice opposition.
As one of your voices in Pierre, I hope that you will contact me as these issues are debated throughout the session. You can reach me via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at: (605) 769-0540.