Weekend Special: Negativity and the SD Legislature

by Carl Kline

Has South Dakota ever had a legislative session with such a negative attitude, sometimes about insignificant issues? Some of the old timers in the state will know better than I. I’ve only lived here thirty six plus years. But I can’t remember such negativity coming out of Pierre as we’ve had this year. Let’s count the ways.

(1) Let’s start with bicycles. Some people in the Legislature don’t like bicycles, certainly not on the public roadways. House Bill 1073 wanted bicyclists to pull off on the shoulder and get off their bikes if a car wanted to pass them in a no passing zone. Fortunately the bill didn’t make it through the process.

There have been numerous times when we’ve been behind slow moving farm machinery in a no passing zone. Farmers have been as courteous about it as one might expect and we’ve been patient, realizing they have no other choice to do their work. Can’t we have the same patience with those who take alternative transportation or good exercise seriously?

(2) Then we have the payday loan issue. There are actual legislators sponsoring HB 1161, that would encourage these companies to continue to exploit the poor and desperate with high interest rates, and a new form of loan called “a line of credit.”

The bill is an attempt to circumvent initiated measure 21 to be voted on this November, that would cap payday loans at 36%. Good heavens, if you have to charge 300% interest on a loan, maybe you shouldn’t be in business! Why are these legislators so negative toward the plight of the poor and desperate?

(3) Refugees are not welcome for some SD legislators. HB 1158 was withdrawn, thank you to Rep. Craig. It would have created a new bureaucracy for refugee resettlement. And SB 119, to give the state more say in refugee resettlement, was referred to the 41st. day.

Wisdom seems to have prevailed on this issue. But the negative legislative response to the negative national political rhetoric against Syrian refugees, plays into the hands of those who don’t welcome the “tired and poor,” the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and the victims of our perpetual wars.

(4) Some people in the legislature are upset about the inefficiency of democracy. HB 1140 is a good example of how decision makers would prefer it, if citizens were uninformed and uninvolved about decisions that might affect their lives. They ask, “why do we have to go through all these processes to give a few complainers a soap box and hold up needed development?” So they would limit the right of neighbors to a CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) in their back yards to challenge that development.

Some of our legislators have a negative attitude about protecting our water, our air, our land, our neighbors and our democracy from exploitation. They seem to be blinded by big dollar signs from big industry. And they often have a corporate mentality when it comes to issues of eminent domain. There are bills to watch in this legislature, that could make it easier for “other interests” to override a citizen’s right to decisions about their own land.

(5) It’s no fun to be poor in South Dakota. Witness the bills in this legislature to stereotype those on SNAP or TANF and give them a negative reputation. Both bills want to make those on state aid be tested for drugs before receiving aid. The rationale being that tax payers shouldn’t have to pay for a drug habit. If that’s the case, all state employees should be tested, including legislators. What evidence is there poor people are more likely to be using drugs?

It seems to be another example of how some South Dakota legislators are negative toward the poor. Have we even mentioned Medicaid yet, where we know over 40,000 citizens in the state are without medical insurance? Every day! Day after day!

(6) Some legislators are convinced discrimination is a good thing. It’s OK to be negative and legislate negativity about some sexual practices. That’s if it’s against same sex couples, transgendered persons and even single mothers. (I guess single mothers might be included since some had sex outside of a marriage relationship). Of course, the discrimination has to be based on “religious belief.”

The advocates of this legislation are apparently convinced everyone in South Dakota has the same religious beliefs. Will they respect the conscience of clergy who perform same sex marriages?

(7) Need I mention bathrooms! This one has had press all over the country. We’re the first state legislature in the nation that has seen fit to define who can go in what bathroom and what physical appendage you must or must not have. At least we’re first in something. One could wish it was first in teacher pay or caring for our citizens.

(8) Although there are other instances of negativity in this legislature (in keeping with the national party), let me just conclude with teacher pay. Kudos to the Governor for listening to his committee and acting on the issue. Shame on the Republican leadership for delays and inaction and roadblocks. Must we be last in everything that insures a sound future for those who follow? And if you seriously don’t want to raise the sales tax, you know where the money is.

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Comments

  1. Bill Powers says:

    I agree with you on #1 & #2. Regarding the third I also agree. My position is different from those who oppose it. I think we ought accept such refugees in spite of the risk, not because there is no risk. Of course, I agree on #4. I don’t understand #5. I don’t understand people taking such loans, and I don’t appreciate people taking advantage of those who do. I don’t get the entire business. What’s likely happening is that there are people taking advantage of the business and others getting screwed by it. #6 & #7 are complicated and have nothing to do with religion, as incidents nationwide have indicated. There ought to be a way to work this out. The situation is complicated by Federal threats. OTOH, high schoolers can be cruel to everyone. Were it up to me, it would be solved at the community level. The teacher pay issue has gone as I expected it. It will probably get done eventually if not this year.

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