Life and Death Issues in the House

First, I need to express my gratitude to Senator Jim Peterson who announced that he will not be seeking another term in the legislature. Jim is a senior statesman and as good a guy as they come. It has been my honor to work with him representing the people of District 4.

Because of his decision, and after a good deal of prayer, I’ve decided to run for the District 4 Senate position next election.

Week five in the House of Representatives marked the midpoint of the 2016 legislative session. It was one of the hottest in recent history due to the large number of controversial bills that were debated. Among the many issues were tax increases to raise teacher pay; legalization of medical marijuana; abortion; the death penalty; guns in the Capitol; religious freedom; any willing provider insurance policy; and student privacy in showers and bathrooms. As a result, the Capitol was packed throughout the week with people from across the state.

Here Is the Hot List

Teacher Pay
HB 1182 is Governor Dennis Daugaard’s plan to increase sales tax one-half cent to increase teacher pay and provide property tax relief. After passing out of committee on an 11-0 vote, the bill came to the House floor. The House gallery was literally overflowing with people. The debate began among all 70 representatives on the first of eight amendments to the bill. Unfortunately, after debate started, the bill was deferred to week six.

In my last column, I wrote I was not overly optimistic that the House would have a two-thirds majority vote needed to pass the bill to the Senate, but after seeing initial votes on the amendments, I am more optimistic the bill could realistically pass the House.

This is not an easy bill for me. My dilemma is choosing between a sales tax increase—which I hate—and solving a problem to attract and maintain teachers that benefit our children. I believe the greater good is to do what’s best for our children and I plan to support the governor’s bill.

Legalize Medical Marijuana
Emotional testimony was taken in Senate Health Committee, but action on the bill was deferred until week six. I would be surprised if the bill makes it out of committee.

Prohibit Abortions for Pain-Capable Unborn Children
This is one of the bills I helped to develop last summer. If passed, South Dakota will join 12 other states that protect unborn children from abortions once they are capable of feeling pain. The bill was deferred for a continued hearing until this week.

Repeal of the Death Penalty
This was the most emotional testimony I have ever experienced. In a standing-room only committee room, the wife of a recently murdered prison guard had nearly everyone in tears. After lengthy and compelling testimony from witnesses on both sides of the issue, the Senate State Affairs Committee voted to kill the bill 6-3.

Reverse Initiated Measure Vote on Patient Choice
In 2014, Initiated Measure 17 allowed South Dakota voters to decide on patient choice. In a nutshell, IM17 permits patients to stay with their doctors if the doctor agrees to perform the services at the rate the patient’s insurer was paying, rather than be forced to change to a provider chosen by the insurer. Sixty-two percent of South Dakota voters approved IM17. However, Sanford Health and Sanford Health Plan refuse to comply with the law. This year they brought the measure back to the legislature asking us to overturn the will of the people. The bill was defeated in the House Commerce Committee on a 10-3 vote.

Ensure Government Nondiscrimination for Religious Beliefs
HB 1107 specifies that “the state may not take any discriminatory action against a person on the bias that the person believes, speaks or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction.” The bill passed the House on a 46-10 vote and now moves to the Senate. I voted “Yes” on the House floor.

Student Privacy
HB 1008 is the bill I brought forward to protect students’ bodily privacy rights when showering, changing clothes or using restrooms in public schools. The bill is pretty simple. If you’re a biological boy, you use boy’s facilities. If you’re a biological girl, you use girl’s facilities. And if you’re a transgender student—meaning you were born one sex but now feel you are the other sex—schools must provide “reasonable accommodations.” The intent of the bill is to protect the privacy of all individual students. Unfortunately, the bill has stirred a hornet’s nest among some that believe it is discriminatory. It passed out of House State Affairs Committee 10-3, it passed the full House 58-10, and last week it passed out of the Senate Education Committee on a 4-2 vote. It next goes to the full Senate and, if successful, it will go to Governor Daugaard for his consideration.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to serve you. Please keep in touch with me about the issues that are important to you. I can be reached on my cell phone at (605) 868-9010 and by email at rep.deutsch@state.sd.us.

Representative Fred Deutsch serves District 4 in the South Dakota House of Representatives. He is a member of the Education Committee and a member of the Health and Human Services Committee.

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