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South Dakota Legislative Update – Final Week!

By March 10, 2024South Dakota
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“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”  Ephesians 6:12

Thank you for your engagement and prayer during the 2024 state legislative session here in South Dakota. Here is an update on some of the bills we have been following in the final weeks of the session.

Age Verification to Access Internet Obscenity
We were very disappointed to see this good bill fail. It would have been a positive and effective step in protecting children from internet obscenity.

HB1257, the age-verification bill, first heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee where Sen. Michael Rohl (R-District 1) made a motion to send it to the 41st legislative day (thus killing the bill) The vote was 4-3. We wanted a No vote which would have passed the bill to the Senate for a vote. Because this good bill had passed in the House 62-6, February 20, we were very disappointed to see it fail in the Senate Committee.

From there HB1257 went through five conference committees where it was severely gutted and replaced with an amendment requiring the Legislature’s Executive Board to conduct a study on the topic of internet pornography. That vote passed 24-10. We wanted a No vote. If your senator voted Yes, respectfully express your disappointment. Another conference committee rendered the House to not concur, where HB1257 finally met its demise.

HB1257 would have required age verification for anyone seeking access to websites containing material harmful to minors. Pornography is a public health crisis. Currently, minors can download explicit pornography off the internet without proving their age.

So far eight states have passed age verification bills to protect children from obscene online content. In addition, at least twenty more states are considering comparable bills. Louisiana was the first state to adopt age verification bills and Pornhub traffic has dropped 80%. Just recently, in a victory for Texas, the Fifth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that age verification requirements are constitutional.

Freedom to Hand Count Ballots in Jeopardy
HB1140 was “hoghoused” this week in a form that would stifle the rights of the people of South Dakota to petition for a hand count of the ballots in an election. Many counties have taken advantage of our law, allowing citizens to do an initiated measure in their county that would allow the people to vote whether or not they want a hand count of the ballots in an election. Apparently, Senate leadership learned of this effort and decided to change the rules in the middle of the game. Our South Dakota Constitution Article 3, Article 6, Section 4 and the U.S. Constitution states that “the right of petition, … share never be abridged.” Ballots have been hand-counted for centuries.

HB1140 went through several conference committees attempting to rectify the differences between the House and Senate bills and various amendments. We are pleased that it finally was narrowly defeated in the House with a vote of 35-35.  (It would have needed a majority to approve.) We wanted a No vote.

Signature Withdrawal Bill
HB1244 is a bill to provide a process to withdraw a signature from a petition for an initiated measure, constitutional amendment, or a referendum on a law in certain situations. While “Dakotans for Health” has been busy gathering signatures for the abortion ballot initiative, Life Defense Fund has been standing near them urging people to Decline to Sign the abortion measure. Many times, people have been told lies about the amendment, like, “It’s a pro-life measure” or “Sign the petition to repeal the food tax.”  When they find out they have been deceived, they are seeking a way to get their name off the petition. HB1244 will provide that process to withdraw their signature.

HB1244 was amended making it a little more difficult to remove your name. It will narrow the window that a person can withdraw their name. It must also be notarized and sent via registered mail. This good bill then was concurred in the House 60-10. Senate concurred this week 28-5.

If you have been deceived and signed this abortion petition mistakenly, please watch for the action available to remove your name.

 Thank you for your faithfulness in prayer and action.

Linda Schauer
State Director