Legislative Update Representative Shawn Bordeaux Dist. 26A
The repeal of the death penalty was once again before the legislature on Jan. 10 where it was heard by the Senate State Affairs Committee. This is one of those significant issues which certainly cross party lines. In fact, the two prime sponsors advocating for the repeal are both Republican legislators who are also retired judges: Sen. Art Rusch (R-Vermillion) and Rep. Timothy Johns (R-Lead). Proponents of the repeal argued that the death penalty is at least three times more expensive than life imprisonment, does not serve as a deterrent, and South Dakota should join the 20 other states which prohibit execution.
Our neighbor state, Nebraska recently passed legislation prohibiting the death penalty. One expert witness, a Supreme Court Judge from Georgia came to South Dakota to share his life journey on this issue. He emphasized that we spent 10% of all court resources while Capital cases represent less than one tenth of one percent. The European Union and another 101 countries have abolished the death penalty. As a victim of violence whose family was murdered in a drive by shooting, it is important to weigh in on this difficult subject. I support this bill and I signed on as a sponsor and know it is the right thing to do. After emotional testimony on both sides of the issue, the motion to repeal failed by a 6-3 vote.
I was very disappointed with 14 House Republicans on Wednesday when they postponed a vote to increase education funding (HB 1182) through a procedural motion. This seldom used motion caused the delay on final action of an amendment. The education funding bill was quickly amended and then “Rule 5-17” was invoked. (Rule 5-17 of the Joint Rules of the Legislature allows final action on any amendment to be delayed until one legislative day has passed. Because it effectively stops a bill from going forward, it may NOT be invoked during the last fourteen days of the Session). In these circumstances, the amendment is no more than a “prop” used to stop action on a bill. This effort was led by Brian Gosch, a term limited Republican leader from Rapid City. The motion received the required one-fifth second and thus delayed the vote until Tuesday, Feb. 16.
These games are exactly what the people of South Dakota don’t want when it involves our children’s education. If the House Republicans are too embarrassed to vote against teacher pay with hundreds of educators in the gallery, I hope they are prepared to see them at the ballot box.
Many SD educators showed up in the Capitol to witness action on this very important issue that affects so many of our people. Debate on HB 1182 will continue next week. If you know someone who has influence over some of these Republicans that are holding up this bill, please call them and tell them we need support on this important bill. It is time to increase teacher pay and move from lowest in the country to competitive wages with our surrounding states. It’s time to be bold. The only South Dakotans that think this issue can wait another day are the House Republicans.
It seems that a majority of South Dakotan are also becoming advocates of Medicaid Expansion. According to a recent survey conducted by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) and the American Heart Association and published in the Argus Leader: 74 percent of 400 registered voters surveyed between Jan. 14 and 17 said they favored “South Dakota accepting the federal money to increase access to health care coverage for 50,000 low-income South Dakotans through the state’s Medicaid program.”
Many Democratic lawmakers have joined their GOP colleagues in support of SB 140, a measure which would ban life without parole for defendants under the age of 18 at the time of the crime. The U.S. Supreme Court already has taken a stance on life sentences for juvenile offenders. In 2012, the high court ruled that mandatory life-without-parole sentences could not be given to juvenile offenders, striking down laws in 26 states, including South Dakota.
The court stated in its ruling that judges should consider the age of the offender when handing down one of the judicial system’s harshest penalties. A group called The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth has been advocating for SB 140 and states: “Sentencing minors to life terms sends an unequivocal message to young people that they are beyond redemption. We believe that society should not be in the practice of discarding young people convicted of crimes for life, but instead, should provide motivations and opportunities for healing, rehabilitation, and the potential for them to one day return to our communities as productive members of society.”
I sponsored a bill to support the return federal lands in the Black Hills. HCR 1010 would call for a return of select lands in the Black Hills and creation of a national commission. Many of the leadership in the committee had not been aware of the Treaty of 1868 and the State Affairs Committee is made up of some of the leaders of both parties. It gave me a chance to educate them and give them information about what is in the treaty and what the tribes expect based on promises made when the treaty was signed. I told them that I too learned about how Columbus discovered America and that I had to learn about the treaty at home. The bill was defeated but was a good start to a lifelong lesson that will bring about better understanding between the people.
I sponsored another bill to prohibit hydraulic fracturing or fracking as it is called in the industry. I had to go up against big oil and it is a powerful group. We had a good discussion and unfortunately, I was only able to get the support of one other representative. I know that producing energy is a concern for SD but I want to make sure we don’t do it at the expense of the environment. I spoke of protecting our lands and waters from contamination and feel that I won the arguments although I didn’t garner the votes I needed to keep the bill alive.
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