It’s debate time in Pierre.
The period to introduce bills in the South Dakota Legislature has closed, and Gov. Dennis Daugaard already signed his first bill in the 2016 legislative session Monday.
The bill, soon-to-be law, will give a rebate of sorts to state and local government to enter into contracts that create energy efficiency upgrades.
Those government entities would be paid for the savings they create.
“(It) will allow public officials to be better stewards,” Daugaard said. “Guaranteed energy savings contracts have long been used in the private sector to pay for energy efficiency upgrades.”
The session, however, is far from over. Lawmakers are expected to be working through mid-March. They still have to tackle the looming teacher pay situation.
As The Volante first reported, teacher pay in South Dakota is ranked last in the nation. Daugaard has issued a plan to increase sales tax by a half-cent.
The bill to raise the tax passed a committee Monday, and is expected to be debated on the House floor Wednesday.
“I’m grateful to everyone who testified to present that united front that this is right, this is what we need and this is what we’re going to do for our students,” said Mary McCorkle, president of the South Dakota Education Association.
Republican leaders are working on a possible alternative plan that doesn’t involve raising taxes, but the Associated Press reports they are waiting for Daugaard’s opinions before releasing more details.
Also during this legislative session, a series of bills defining what transgender students can do in public schools and outlining religious protections has sparked the interest from the ACLU of South Dakota.
“With this package of anti-LGBT legislation, South Dakota politicians have made it clear that their intention is not to protect anyone’s privacy, religious beliefs or freedom to live according to their own values. Instead, these bills stigmatize transgender students and target the South Dakota LGBT community for discrimination,” said Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU in South Dakota.
House Bill 1008
House Bill 1008, known as the transgender restroom bill, would restrict access to restrooms and locker rooms in public schools to that of the student’s biological gender. It passed in the House and is now headed to the Senate Education Committee.
House Bill 1112
Republican lawmakers are working to void a state high school activities association policy allowing transgender students to request to play on the athletic team of their choice through House Bill 1112.
The bill voids the current South Dakota High School Activities Association policy and blocks future ones. It says that a student’s sex is what’s listed on the birth certificate. If a birth certificate lacks a designation, a student’s sex can be determined from a physical exam.
The bill passed in the House Tuesday, with a few amendments.
House Bill 1107
Religious freedoms is at the core of House Bill 1107. The bill states “the state may not take any discriminatory action against a person” who doesn’t believe in gay marriage or transgender rights. The bill passed the full House Monday.