An hour and a half of riveting testimony and vigorous committee debate resulted in stalemate for the tan ban last week. House Bill 1166, a bill to ban minors from tanning beds, got its first hearing before House Health and Human Services last Thursday. The committee heard seven proponents and five opponents, including two lobbyists for the South Dakota Tanning Salon Association (yes, there is such an association). Committee members considered amendments to lower the ban age to under 14, to allow 14- to 18-year-olds to tan with consent from a parent and a physician, and to allow those teens to tan with just a note from a parent. The latter amendment came close to passing, but foundered, like the bill itself, on a 6–6 vote. Chairman Scott Munsterman, unable to secure one more vote, had to defer his bill to February 19.

Rep. Lynne DiSanto, R-35/Rapid City

Rep. Lynne DiSanto, the House needs your mild and beneficent glow!

The stalemate happened because HHS committee member Rep. Lynne DiSanto (R-35/Rapid City) skipped work Thursday. That's too bad, because Rep. DiSanto, Rapid City's maven of modeling, knows a thing or two about young women and fake tans. Rep. DiSanto surely could have shone a fierce professional light on the issue and helped the committee come to a decision.

So when Rep. DiSanto comes to committee Thursday, how will she tilt the vote? Will she pick up Teen Vogue and deem fake-baking the new smoking? Or will Rep. DiSanto stand for carcinogenic liberty with her bronzed commodities and Facebook Likes?

p.s.: Eleven states ban minor use of tanning beds. 41 states have some sort of minor-tanning regulations. South Dakota has no such regulations.

pp.s.: So if the Legislature passes both HB 1166 and HB 1212, which defines embryos as minors in an attempt to ban abortion, will that mean pregnant women won't be able to use tanning beds?

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Some legislators want to boost student privacy online at school. Others sought to reduce student privacy with school counselors. House Bill 1077 would have allowed parents to waive the confidentiality between a school counselor and their children under age 16.

As I understand it, lawyers brought HB 1077 to get counselor-student confidentiality out of the way and allow them to use counseling records in custody battles. Spearfish school counselor Brady Sumners tells me that this confidentiality is essential for doing his job. Confidentiality is not about keeping secrets from parents but building trust so students will explain their problems to him. Sumners says such trust allows him to build a professional relationship with students. Far from seeking to supplant parents with that relationship, Sumners says that once students explain to him what's wrong, he encourages them to bring parents into the loop and involve them in seeking solutions.

One would think that lawyers, who enjoy their own legally protected confidence, would understand the necessity of trust in such a close professional relationship. At least nine members of House Education understand: they voted yesterday to defer House Bill 1077 to the 41st day, which means we won't be hearing any more about it, and counselors may continue to offer students their confidence.

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The Legislative power couple of Rapid City fringe conservatism, Senator Phil Jensen and freshwoman Rep. Lynne DiSanto, whose every move in Pierre ought to arouse the suspicion and scrutiny of all good liberals, have floated a bill I find I must support.

Senate Bill 77 is titled "An Act to allow nursing mothers to breastfeed in certain locations." Actually, it would permit moms to breastfeed their kids in darn near any location. SB 77 reads, in its glorious one-sentence simplicity, "Notwithstanding any other provisions of law, a mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother and child are otherwise authorized to be present."

Football game, public library, Perkins, the sidewalk in front of Pat Powers's house, the front pew—if Mom feels like going out, and if baby's feeling noshy, Mom can feed that baby the way only she can.

Well... at least someone in Pierre supports raw milk.

I do have a question about the reach of this proposed law. As written, SB 77 sounds pretty absolute. "Notwithstanding" seems in one swoop to fell every possible legal restriction (though I skim through statute and find no legal restrictions on breastfeeding). "Public or private" seems to declare pretty much any location as the proper domain for moms to carry out that blissful natural function. "Otherwise authorized" seems to say that if you own a restaurant or a rifle range and a customer breaks out the homebrew for Junior, you can't say, "Excuse ma'am, your lactation is bothering other guests, I must ask you to leave;" try it, and your customer may have grounds to haul you to court for infringing on her legal right, enshrined in Senate Bill 77, to feed her child. No breastfeeding rooms, no segregation—Senate Bill 77 makes the right to breastfeed absolute.

...which is fine, right? Kids gotta eat. Moms gotta feed. And that's what breasts are for, right?

Unless someone can conceive of the exceptions to which this policy should be subject, Senate Bill 77 is the real pro-woman, pro-baby, pro-life legislation I've been waiting for, the sort of bill that may boost South Dakota's ranking for truly family-friendly policy... but I can't shake the feeling that Senator Jensen, Rep. DiSanto, and the mostly conservative caucus signed on as sponsors are up to something. Let moms do their thing, and keep your eye on Jensen and DiSanto.

P.S.: The only South Dakota statute I can find dealing explicitly with breast feeding is SDCL 16-13-10.4, which exempts breastfeeding mothers from jury duty. This statute also lets expecting parents and parents of newborns, up to six weeks, skip jury duty. The Legislature passed this law in 2012.

182 comments

The Legislature has no bills in the hopper yet (Session doesn't open until January 13—ugh! I can't wait!), but Attorney General Marty Jackley has posted his legislative package for the new year. South Dakota's most popular Republican is riding his massive mandate to proposing eight new laws (because Republicans... like... more laws...?) to make us all safer:

  1. Put child sex traffickers on the sex offender registry: perfectly sensible—selling child porn puts crooks on the sex offender list, so why not selling children?—but techincally necessary? SDCL 22-24B-1 already lists sexual exploitation of a minor and promotion of prostitution of a minor as registrable offenses. I look forward to hearing AG Jackley's committee testimony to explain the necessity of specific trafficking language.
  2. Make raffle scams illegal: Hey! The Madville Times makes a difference! This blog broke the story in November 2013 of Chad Haber and Annette Bosworth conducting phony raffles. The Attorney General managed to force Haber and Bosworth to refund some ticketholders, but incredibly was unable to prosecute the raffle scammers because state law doesn't actually require that folks selling raffle tickets actually draw for the prize they promise. (I still think Haber and Bosworth may have violated some other prosecutable raffle statutes.) Crazily, Haber ran against Jackley for the AG spot this year, perhaps to stop exactly this kind of legislation. Expect swift and unanimous passage.
  3. Let cops and first responders administer overdose treatment: AG Jackley wants to train and equip police and first responders to give the drug Naxolone, also known as Narcan, to opioid drug overdose victims. Narcan can save lives, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder promoted its use by federal agents, but expect some serious discussion of the precautions necessary to turn cops into medics.
  4. Let soldier's spouses get concealed weapons permits: SDCL 23-7-7.1(6) requires an applicant for a concealed weapons permit to have lived in the county of application for at least thirty days. Apparently thirty days is too long for a soldiers's spouse to wait to carry a concealed weapon. (But wait: there still isn't any rule stopping the wife of a new transfer to Ellsworth or anyone else from openly carrying a pistol from the day of arrival in South Dakota, is there?)
  5. Legalize police scanners! Technically, all the fun South Dakota reporters and citizens have listening to their local cops on police scanners is illegal. In a small nod to transparency, AG Jackley wants to revise that law to make monitoring police communications illegal only while committing a felony.
  6. Protect DCI and HP bosses from political backlash: AG Jackley wants a law that gives the DCI director and the Highway Patrol superintendent their old jobs back if their appointments are revoked without cause. The Governor appoints the HP chief; the AG appoints the DCI boss. Curious: when's the last time either official was dismissed without cause?
  7. Make bigger lemons! AG Jackley wants to update South Dakota's consumer protection laws to raise the vehicle weight limit for our lemon law from 10,000 pounds to 15,000 pounds. (Hmm... will we have to change the name to "grapefruit law"?)
  8. Allow Supreme Court to correct illegal sentences: The AG says he is responding here to federal Supreme Court decisions; I'll have to see the bill and hear the testimony to make sense of the impact, but it sounds like minor bookkeeping.

Stay tuned for the real bills, coming sometime in the next couple weeks!

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Attorney General Eric Holder offers South Dakota this parting gift—a redoubled commitment to enforcement of the Indian Child Welfare Act:

...[T]he Department of Justice is reinforcing and increasing staff for the Office of Tribal Justice—including experts with a deep understanding of the laws impacting Indian Country—to make certain that Indian men, women, and children will always have a voice in the policies and priorities of the Justice Department. And we are redoubling our support of the Indian Child Welfare Act, to protect Indian children from being illegally removed from their families; to prevent the further destruction of Native traditions through forced and unnecessary assimilation; and to preserve a vital link between Native children and their community that has too frequently been severed – sometimes by those acting in bad faith.

Today, I am pleased to announce that the Department of Justice is launching a new initiative to promote compliance with the Indian Child Welfare Act. Under this important effort, we are working to actively identify state-court cases where the United States can file briefs opposing the unnecessary and illegal removal of Indian children from their families and their tribal communities. We are partnering with the Departments of the Interior and Health and Human Services to make sure that all the tools available to the federal government are used to promote compliance with this important law. And we will join with those departments, and with tribes and Indian child-welfare organizations across the country, to explore training for state judges and agencies; to promote tribes’ authority to make placement decisions affecting tribal children; to gather information about where the Indian Child Welfare Act is being systematically violated; and to take appropriate, targeted action to ensure that the next generation of great tribal leaders can grow up in homes that are not only safe and loving, but also suffused with the proud traditions of Indian cultures.

Ultimately, these children – and all those of future generations – represent the single greatest promise of our partnership, because they will reap the benefits of our ongoing work for change [Attorney General Eric Holder, remarks, White House Tribal Nations Conference, Washington, DC, 2014.12.03].

South Dakota's least favorite NPR reporter, Laura Sullivan, notes that this commitment to heightened enforcement of ICWA is already evident in the Department of Justice's historic intervention in the ongoing lawsuit over Pennington County's allegedly discriminatory child custody practices against American Indian parents.

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Anti-abortion crusaders are more concerned about political grandstanding than women's health outcomes. The Center for Reproductive Rights finds that states where such anti-abortion sentiments prevail in policymaking tend to have worse health outcomes for women and children.

Now the study doesn't say that abortion restrictions make women sick (although they should). The study simply affirms that policymakers like Mike Rounds, Dennis Daugaard, and Larry Pressler who are willing to ignore scientific evidence that abortion bans don't reduce abortions will probably do a worse job of making evidence-based, effective public health policy.

State abortion restrictions and health outcomes for women and children, Bridgit Burns, Amanda Dennis, and Ella Douglas-Durham, "Evaluating priorities: Measuring women’s and children’s health and well-being against abortion restrictions in the states," Ibis Reproductive Health and Center for Reproductive Rights, September 2014.

Bridgit Burns, Amanda Dennis, and Ella Douglas-Durham, "Evaluating priorities: Measuring women’s and children’s health and well-being against abortion restrictions in the states," Ibis Reproductive Health and Center for Reproductive Rights, September 2014, p. 11.

In kinda-sorta good news, South Dakota is not the most oppressive place for women. Like Texas, we only have twelve of the fourteen restrictions on abortion considered by the researchers. Kansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma have all fourteen; eight states have thirteen such restrictions.

9 comments

Mr. Ehrisman rightly dings his hometown for plopping a school in a neighborhood with no sidewalks and then banning students from walking. The absurdity of a pedestrian ban around George McGovern Middle School rankles on multiple levels:

  1. Cities should not build any public facility that can be accessed only by motor vehicle.
  2. Schools dedicated to teaching kids healthy lifestyles should never make a rule against walking.
  3. Local governments should spend less time bickering about jurisdiction (the city's "flagpole annexation" of 40 acres for the school and just a narrow strip to connect it to the city proper makes unclear who ought to lay footpath along the connecting road) and more time solving problems.
  4. Parents should not put up with the school's interference with their lifestyle choices. If George McGovern Middle School parents want their kids to walk home, then when the school calls to alert them that their children are walking, the parents should respond, "Yup, they sure are. What's it to ya?"

City Engineer Chad Huwe says a four-foot sidewalk in a developed urban area costs $25 per foot. A ten-foot-wide asphalt pedestrian path costs up to $140 per foot. Let's meet in the middle and say we could build some sort of walking path for George McGovern Middle Schoolers for $80 a foot. Let's say we need to build two miles of walking path around the school on Maple Street and Marion Road to the nearest housing developments. That's $844,800. If one bus route costs a school district $37,000 a year, the school district could pay for those two miles of sidewalk with the savings of eliminating four of its bus routes from McGovern over six years.

But if the city and county and school board can't find a way to make the kids safe, then it's up to us. I know it's asking a lot of Sioux Falls motorists who seem to think cars always have the right of way, but motorists, slow the heck down. Pay attention, share the road, and let those kids get to and from school.

7 comments

Fake Libertarian candidate for attorney general Chad Haber has chosen to exploit American Indian foster children as his primary campaign (fundraising) issue. Even American Indians aren't falling for Haber's latest scam. Chase Iron Eyes, attorney for the Lakota People's Law Project that worked to bring abuses in South Dakota's foster care system to light long before Chad Haber decided he could make money off the issue, says Haber's exploitation of the issue is as bad as any cover-up or corruption of which we might accuse Haber's opponent, Attorney General Marty Jackley:

The articles surrounding the issue recently have tended to focus on Chad Haber and his campaign to unseat Marty Jackley from the Attorney General’s office.

Lakota People’s Law Project believe Jackley and his officers were more interested in covering the tracks of the corrupt DSS than pursuing justice for disempowered and sexually abused children.

The heinousness of this crime cannot be overstated and the fact that it has received little to no press coverage inside or outside of South Dakota is disappointing to say the least.

However, it is equally dismaying to see this unconscionable instance being used as little more than a narrow window of political opportunism by opponents to Jackley who are angling for a high-powered state job.

The Mette case should not be about elections. If Haber is elected, will the illegal practices of the Department of Social Services suddenly cease? Forgive us for our cynicism, but it is doubtful [Chase Iron Eyes, "The Mette Case Is About the Children, Not Elections," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.08.28].

South Dakota's Lakota people have true allies in the ACLU, the U.S. Department of Justice, and other conscientious actors. They recognize that the attorney general campaign is a sideshow that will do nothing to advance the cause of their children and families.

88 comments

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