Legislative Reports

Local legislators Senator John Wiik, Representative John Mills and Representative Fred Deutsch

Note: This column only appears in The Review when the State Legislature is in Session. This example is from the February 6, 2019, issue. The column is published weekly during the session and gives the local legilators a way to let their constituents know their understanding of various issues.


Senator John Wiik
Starting the heavy lifting …
    This week at the South Dakota legislature, your appropriations committee began looking at some of the larger agencies that have control of a larger portion of the total budget.  Most of the week was spent hearing from the Board of Regents and the six universities and two special schools that comprise the regental system in South Dakota. The Governor recommended only slight adjustments for utility costs this year, but there are individual needs that we heard that are in the legislative idea bin now.
    We also saw permitless carry pass the House and Governor Noem chose it as the first bill to sign.  There is still a lot of rumbling about this bill on social media, and all I can say is this: South Dakota has been an open carry state for some time. Now you can concealed carry without a permit if you can lawfully acquire a handgun.
    The week ahead will bring the Departments of Health, and the issue of correctional health before our committee. Over $30 million is spent each year on health care for prisoners in South Dakota.
    First of all, the obvious:  You don’t usually end up in prison without a significant amount of bad decisions. Add the health care responsibilities of those filling our prisons and the bills add up quickly.  
    Secondly, there’s no federal match for Medicaid for prisoners like there is for Medicaid among the working poor, so South Dakota taxpayers must bear 100 percent of those costs. It’s all part of the illegal drug situation that Governor Noem addressed in the budget and State of the State addresses, and it’s not going to go away quickly.
    There are many issues that don’t make the common news every day that we are addressing in Pierre.  There are no shortages of hot button issues, but we are also working on the boring everyday business of operating the State of South Dakota, and we always look forward to your input.  
    You can find all the bills at sdlegislature.gov. You can listen to committees and the House and Senate proceedings at sd.net and the easiest way to get ahold of me is via email at wiikfor4@gmail.com. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in the South Dakota Senate.
Representative John Mills
    The big news this past week is probably the gun bill. Senate bill 47 (SB47) passed the House 43-27 on its final stop in the legislative process, and was signed into law by Governor Noem at her first official bill signing ceremony Thursday. The Governor had clearly campaigned that she supported what is sometimes called Constitutional carry, so it was no surprise that she signed the bill.  
    This idea has strong opinions on both sides and although it has passed the legislature before, previous governors had vetoed it. In case you are wondering, I voted for this bill. While the arguments on both sides have merit, I am influenced most by our state constitution, which every legislator takes an oath to defend.
    While one could possibly argue what is meant in the Second Amendment to the US Constitution, our state constitution is very clear. In Article VI of our Bill of Rights, at section 24, it says, “The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the state shall not be denied.” That’s concise and pretty clear to me.
    South Dakotans have a constitutional right to have a gun for personal protection, not just in our homes, but anywhere we are (with a few exceptions, like court houses, schools and bars). Requiring us to apply for and get a permit to do what the constitution guarantees is an unwarranted restriction. It can also be a burden to some.  
    We heard testimony of people who live a long way from the sheriff’s office and had to make two trips to get the permit.  One to do the paperwork, and a follow up trip to pick up the temporary permit and pay the fee after the sheriff had reviewed it and signed off. That can take days.   In contrast, law-abiding citizens can buy a gun with only a short wait while a federal background check is completed to ensure they can legally do so.  
    We also were reminded that current state law allows people to carry openly (as in a holster on your side or lying on the seat of your car), but once you put on a coat or toss something on the seat so that the gun isn’t visible, then you have broken the law. Doesn’t that seem a little silly, to make law-abiding citizens guilty of a crime because they put a coat on? Or consider the case of an abusive relationship that erupts on a weekend. No restraining order could protect her, but a concealed firearm might. In my opinion, she shouldn’t have to drive a long distance or wait days for a piece of paper (permit) to be able to protect herself using a right our constitution guarantees.  
    It’s also important to note that there is a long list of restrictions to buying or possessing a gun (cannot be a felon, cannot be habitually drugged or intoxicated, can have no history of violence . . .) and these people cannot legally own, possess or carry a gun – openly or concealed.  The new law goes into effect July 1 and doesn’t change these restrictions.
    There are other important topics being discussed and debated in Pierre, but based on the number of questions I have had since getting home for the weekend, this one simply needed more explanation this week.
    In service to God and you, John Mills, Representative, District 4 mills4sd@gmail.com OR John.Mills@sdlegislature.gov                                                                                        
Representative Fred Deutsch
    Four weeks down and five to go.  
    One of the bills I’ve been working on the past few months, Simon’s law, passed out of committee on a unanimous vote. The bill is named after a little boy who died after his doctor put a do-not-resuscitate (DNR) order in his medical chart without first discussing it with his parents. The bill requires doctors to notify parents or legal guardians before putting a DNR order in a child’s chart. Committee members wept during emotional testimony by Simon’s mother. I am grateful to bring the bill to the legislature. Seventy percent of the legislators signed on as a co-sponsor.
    In the education committee we heard several bills about homeschoolers. In one, we passed legislation that levels the playing field for homeschoolers seeking an Opportunity Scholarship. Currently they need an ACT score of 28, whereas public school students need a 24. Under the bill, the scores will be the same.
    On another bill, homeschoolers requested exemption from Governor Noem’s proposed civics literacy test. The committee ran out of time while hearing this bill. It is scheduled to continue this week.
    In the health committee we heard a bill that will require doctors to explain the relationship between the density of breast tissue and the potential for breast cancer as a part of the explanation of mammogram results. It passed 10-1.
    On other measures heard this week, the House endorsed Governor Noem’s push for putting E-30 blend in the gas tanks of state government’s vehicles on a 67-3 vote, allowing the higher blend fuel for the state vehicles that can use the premium fuel.
    An interesting bill passed out of the House Ag and Natural Resources Committee to allow the use of drones to locate predators or varmints during certain times of the year. The purpose behind the legislation is to allow the use of technology to locate coyote dens, helping livestock producers protect the animals they raise.
    Last, the constitutional carry bill, SB47, has been a major topic of discussion. People have asked why I voted for it.
    I supported it because it aligns with my belief in the Second Amendment, and because I thought the proponent’s testimony was stronger than the opponent’s testimony.
    Some of the testimony included:
    A. South Dakota is an open carry state. If you are not otherwise prohibited or disqualified from carrying a firearm you can open carry.
    B. South Dakota requires a permit to conceal a weapon. Therefore, if you slip it into your jacket or put it under the seat of your car or slip it into your purse, then you are illegally carrying concealed. The reality is SB47 addresses only this issue and no other issue. Pretty much everything else stays the same.
    C. There are 10 reasons that currently disqualify a person from their Second Amendment right to carry a gun with a permit and makes them unable to qualify for permit-less or constitutional carry, and six reasons for federal disqualification. Some of the reasons include:
          1. History of pleading guilty or
          no-contest or conviction of any
          felony or violent crime.
          2. History of habitual drugs or
          3. History of violence.
          4. History of being a danger to
          self or others in the last 10
          5. History of being adjudicated
          as mentally incompetent.
          All sixteen disqualification
          factors stay in place under
    D. Currently, only law-abiding people are legally allowed to obtain permits to carry concealed. Criminals, on the other hand, carry concealed firearms all the time, without permits and without regard for the law. SB47 levels the playing field.
    These are some of the reasons why I voted for the bill.
    That’s it for now. Please feel free to contact me at any time via email at fred.deutsch@sdlegislature.gov., and if you make it to the Capitol, please look me up.  
    Life is good. Have a great week.



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