Last week I discussed House Bill 1057, called the “Vulnerable Child Protection Act.” The bill would ban a long list of medical procedures intended to help transgender children, and fine or imprison medical professionals who performed the procedures. The bill stirred up much controversy, including media stories around South Dakota and the nation—and the Cracker Barrel in Vermillion. The Committee on State Affairs voted the bill out of committee 8 – 3. On Wednesday, after more than 90 minutes of debate, it passed 46 – 23 and now goes to the Senate. I spoke and voted against it.
Every year it seems that some group comes in for attack. One year it was unions. Last year it was public education, with bills to severely restrict what teachers could discuss, impose onerous paperwork burdens by requiring multiple signatures from parents, require unnecessary reports on "intellectual diversity," impose a citizenship test, and require a school district survey. We also had a Concurrent Resolution "instructing South Dakota's congressional representatives to support an effort in Congress to terminate the U.S. Department of Education." Fortunately, most of those bills were eventually defeated, but we wasted a lot of time responding to unwarranted suspicion and distrust.
This year's target seems to be the LGBTQ community. Besides the bill mentioned above, we have a bill that would require counselors to report to parents if they think their child is experiencing "gender dysphoria" and a bill to restrict or forbid an extensive list of gay and transgender activities.
Instead of spending so much time and energy attacking certain persons or denying them their rights, I wish South Dakota policymakers would spend more time examining why tax revenues seem to have stagnated; why we can't afford early-childhood education, when the evidence of its beneficial effects is so convincing; why our community support providers and nursing homes can't afford to pay higher wages, resulting in very high turnover; why our teachers and state employees are so poorly paid; and why private sector wages are among the lowest in the nation.
We'll be dealing with several other issues soon: a modest "red flag" law; private school scholarships; another bill to hamstring school districts; and a bill to restrict surrogacy brokers.
I still need to hear directly from constituents. The best way to reach me is email at firstname.lastname@example.org or Ray.Ring@sdlegislature.gov or cell phone at 605-675-9379. You can also call the Legislative Research Council at 605-773-3251 and leave a short message that will be delivered to my desk on the House floor. I can’t respond to every message, but I’ll give priority to District 17 constituents. Be sure to let me know where you live.
Thanks to all who came to the Cracker Barrel on February 1 and contributed to the lively discussion. Please come to the next Cracker Barrel on February 29, 9:00 a.m., Vermillion City Hall. I welcome other opportunities to meet with groups in District 17.