PIERRE, SD (January 21, 2021) – Greetings from Pierre, it is week two of the legislative session and we have started to get into the swing of things with committees starting to meet and bills moving though. We have had multiple members of the legislature out due to Covid but we continue to do the best we can under difficult circumstances. Thankfully, none of our caucus members who have contracted Covid have become seriously ill, because they are vaccinated and boosted. I encourage all South Dakotans, regardless of political background, to get your vaccinations and boosters and to wear your masks when appropriate. Please take care of yourself, your neighbors, and your friends.
Much of what we have seen early this session are department bills, clean-up bills, and presentations to keep us informed. Many of the bills we see are not controversial; they allow the state government to function and stay efficient. For example, on Wednesday we updated the state-controlled substance list to comply with federal law. This is common sense legislation that we all can agree on keeping our state up to date.
However, the Senate had its first opportunity at a social bill on Wednesday: Senate Bill 46, which we strongly oppose. Instead of solving real issues related to education in South Dakota, Senate Bill 46 is a harmful bill brought by Gov. Noem to ban transgender girls from participating in female sports in schools. It has made its way through the Senate and will be assigned to a House committee next week. Instead of working together to solve real problems for South Dakota, we instead have to spend our time opposing this legislation intended to divide South Dakotans.
However, we continue to work with our friends across the aisle. As a super minority, it is important that we work together to solve South Dakota problems with common sense solutions. The Senate Health and Human Services committee met earlier this week on various medical marijuana bills, including growing, cultivation, and distribution in a safe and responsible way that protects South Dakotans and this new industry. Later on in this session, I am looking forward to passing recreational marijuana. We hear South Dakota: this needs to happen.
Throughout the past week, I have been serving on a special session that is operating at the same time as our general session looking into Attorney General Ravnsborg. We have heard open and public testimony from investigators, and we will continue to work to make sure there is a thorough investigation.
Next week, as bills keep on coming, the pace will only increase. While the thermometer may be going down outside, the temperature is surely rising in Pierre. Democrats are here to work for you and want to hear from you! Please contact us to share your questions or concerns about the current session. Our caucus meetings have always been open to the public each day right before floor session. We are observing COVID mitigation practices in place in the Capitol. Your voice matters to us, and we believe that together, we can create a South Dakota that works for all of us.
House Democratic Leader Jamie Smith