SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As South Dakota enters a post-Roe v. Wade world, the political conversation is shifting to social support for South Dakota families.
South Dakota is one of many states that doesn’t offer paid family leave for new parents. Right now, 11 states and districts offer guaranteed paid leave for new births and adoptions: California, Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.
Over the weekend, Governor Kristi Noem appeared on CNN where she discussed opening the conversation on paid family leave in light of the recent Supreme Court decision which triggered an abortion ban in South Dakota.
“It’s something that I have supported in the past and talked about, so giving that flexibility to family,” Noem said to CNN’s Dana Bash. “South Dakota has not had a broad, expansive policy like several other states do. And I think that’s a debate that we’ll continue to have.”
Paid family leave has been brought to the South Dakota legislature in the past but hasn’t advanced very far. Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-Sioux Falls) is hoping that will change in 2023.
“In 2017, I brought forward a paid family leave bill that would grant paid leave for four weeks of parental leave for the purpose of you know, any employee that was either giving birth, dealing with an adoption or an adoption placement,” Nesiba said.
In addition to the four weeks of paid time, Nesiba’s bill would have added one paid week for every year the person had worked with their employer. Nesiba said this was a conservative approach to address parental leave but hoped it would start the conversation in the legislature.
“I thought this was a compromise; a way for employees to earn a benefit. And then it could also be, you know, would be a way for firms to use this for retention,” Nesiba said.
While the bill saw support from one Democrat in the Senate Commerce and Energy committee, the other Republicans on the committee voted ‘no’ on it, killing the bill.
Nesiba plans to bring a similar bill back to Pierre in 2023 if re-elected in District 15.
“If we’re going to change the law, as we have with the Supreme Court where we are going to… force people to carry pregnancies to term who don’t want to, at a minimum, then we should at least be giving them paid time off,” Nesiba said.
In a conversation with KELOLAND News in June, Rep. Fred Deutsch (R-Florence) said he was open to considering child tax credits and expanding paid maternity leave for state employees.
“I think it’s a very valid conversation and I think it calls for conservatives to reassess their values on the place of government,” Deutsch said. “I’m really careful not to expand government, I want small government… But I think Dobbs makes us rethink what can or should government do to help women in crisis, to help young families.”
Nesiba supports paid family leave for mothers and fathers and would want that to extend beyond state employees.
Noem also appears to be in favor of at least discussing the possibility of paid family leave in the legislature.
“I do think it’s important that we walk alongside people when they enter into a situation where maybe they have an unplanned pregnancy. And many women feel as though, when they get, have a pregnancy that’s not planned, that it’s a crisis situation,” Noem told CNN. “And we need to do a better job of supporting them.”
Noem also mentioned the website her office launched following the trigger law banning abortion as a part of her administration’s effort to offer resources to pregnant people in the state.
Who will pay for paid family leave?
At this time no concrete legislation or proposals have been introduced regarding paid family leave so it is not yet clear how lawmakers plan to fund the support.
In states where paid family leave is guaranteed, the leave is funded through employee-paid payroll taxes. In a few states it is also supplemented by employer-paid payroll taxes.
The question of how paid family leave was another point addressed by Noem on CNN.
“Many times, it’s the financial cost, the medical cost and the leave policy that many people have a tough time supporting,” Noem said. “But I think in South Dakota that the time is right.”
Nesiba said his proposed legislation would take into account that smaller businesses with fewer than 50 employees might not be able to financially handle paid leave for their employees.
“I would be open to a call about not having this applied to, you know, just small firms that simply would be unable to afford that,” Nesiba said. “But for any larger firms that have 50 or more employees, this is a benefit that that they should be offering.”
The next legislative session is still six months away and according to lawmakers that have spoken with KELOLAND News, conversations on support for families in South Dakota are expected to continue in Pierre in 2023.
A special session on abortion is expected later this year according to Governor Noem’s office but no official date has been announced.