HURON — Difficult topics, made even more difficult when those affected by both sides of the issue are present, led to an emotional morning Saturday as the area’s three representatives in the South Dakota legislature met with the public during Coffee with the Legislators.
Opening remarks were given by each legislator. Representative Bob Glanzer opened by discussing the industrial hemp legislation that had been passed through the agriculture committee over the week. He spoke to his role on the committee to study the issue this summer and his regret that he was not able to be present for the eventual committee vote on the topic.
Senator Jim White followed Glanzer and thanked the various local persons that have come to Pierre to view the actions of the legislature and to visit or lobby with legislators, both local and from other districts. He spoke of special attention that he’s given to a bill recently to allow for alternative languages to be used when taking a South Dakota driver’s examination. His emphasis was on the benefit from those whose primary language is not English on the workforce in Beadle County and that those persons have to be able to recognize and read street signs as posted, but the details of the test can get beyond everyday use of the English language for a non-native speaker.
Representative Roger Chase spoke about the new electronic bill system and some of the downfalls of that system. First, it allowed for nearly 1,500 bills to be dropped this session for review between both houses. Second, it allows for many people to get their hands on a bill, which can be detrimental. As an example of this, he cited the industrial hemp bill, HB 1008.
“After everyone had put their hands on it, I’m much less excited about the bill than I was last year.” Chase stated. “The version that passed House committee is a version that the Governor has indicated that she will sign if it makes it through, and I think it still has a chance to do that, but it’s got a lot more hands on it this year.”
That opened up the forum to questions. Senator Jim White, as a sitting member of the appropriations committee, was asked about revenue projections. White answered that while projections are still a work in progress and that he could not give true numbers right now, the state has been fairly accurate recently in their projections, coming very near projections the last few years.
The second question referred to HB 1137, a bill to ensure health care patients are able to receive a detailed billing claim form so patients are able to understand questions or concerns. The bill also directs health care providers to offer a settlement if a bill has gone unpaid before sending the bill to legal action. Rep. Chase spoke to the bill and stated that as written, there could be some issues. All three legislators did speak to the comment of the individual who brought the question that support of nurses and other rural care workers is a top priority for all three legislators present.
Tim McLoud spoke to HB 1096 which would prohibit commercial surrogacy as he and his wife have pursued the option of surrogacy. Rep. Chase and Rep. Glanzer spoke of their reasons for voting for the bill, stating that the commercial use of unused fetuses caused significant concern for both of them. Sen. White had a very different viewpoint. He spoke with emotion to a family friend that confronted him at a dinner recently regarding surrogacy.
“I think we’ve lost vision of what we’re all about with this deal,” White stated. “It’s too bad we have this sort of thing coming to our (legislative) floor.”
McLoud followed up with legislators after the hearing and multiple individuals followed up with McLoud and his wife.
The next question was about removing requirements for immunizations for school age children, HB 1235, introduced in the last week. Rep. Chase and Rep. Glanzer both spoke strongly against the bill, though they both cited multiple emails they’d received in favor of the bill.
A question was handed in on a notecard from the audience regarding HB 1057, restricting medical professionals from performing any procedures or prescribing hormone replacement for gender reassignment on anyone under 16 years of age.
Rep. Glanzer and Rep. Chase both spoke to the restriction being moved from 18 to 16 falling in line with medical professionals that testified in the house on the bill. Sen. White reported that he went to individuals he trusts in the medical field, and based on their input, he would not be supporting the bill.
Other questions posed included a question about HB 1094 regarding the concealed carry on handlebar vehicles, something that all three legislators were surprised wasn’t already in provisions. Senate Bill 90 was also addressed, regarding funding at the township level of major infrastructure items. Sen. White did express that he would like to look at how the bill is funded, and he will attempt to work with the Governor to understand funding if there are misconceptions on how the bill will be funded.
One community member spoke to the industrial hemp bill and spoke strongly against it. While both Rep. Chase and Rep. Glanzer spoke to the deliberations in the ag committee of the House and potential age differences in interest in raising industrial hemp, Sen. White had a different take. He spoke to the funding setup that state regulators are requiring in order to pass the bill.
“I thought all along that this would be a good deal. My question is: why would we want to fund something out of the taxpayer money that is an agriculture product that has uncertain future qualifications?”
The legislators each closed with a statement. Each legislator thanked those in attendance for taking the time to speak, listen, and be involved. They also encouraged contact via phone or email. Contact information for each legislator is on the Opinion Page of the Plainsman. The next coffee with legislators will be Feb. 29 at City Hall at 9 a.m.