PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The debate over a statewide mask mandate is not over for the South Dakota Legislature. 

Senate Bill 125, which “require the wearing of face coverings in the state under certain conditions” was amended by Sen. Nesiba (D-Sioux Falls) to last until April 30. After more than an hour of discussion and no opposition testimony, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee passed the bill without recommendation 5-2.

Sen. Wayne Steinhauer (R-Hartford) and Sen. Erin Tobin (R-Winner) were the two “no” votes. Sen. Blake Curd (R-Sioux Falls), Sen. Mary Duvall (R-Pierre), Sen. Red Dawn Foster (D-Pine Ridge), Sen. Arthur Rusch (R-Vermillion) and Sen.  V. J. Smith (R-Brookings) voted “yes.” 

Sen. Nesiba said he introduced SB 125 on the request of many citizens and businesses, emphasizing the wording is very similar to city mask ordinances in place in Brookings, Sioux Falls and Yankton. 

Avera Health, Sanford Health, the South Dakota State Medical Association, South Dakota Nursing Association and other healthcare organizations spoke in favor of SB 125. The Presentation Sisters of Aberdeen also supported the bill. 

Sister Lynn Marie Welbig said the bill was a response to the failure of the personal responsibility response.

There was no opposition testimony. The South Dakota Department of Health did not have any one represent them during the committee hearing. On Wednesday’s media briefing, Secretary of Health Kim Malsam-Rysdon said the Department of Health does not support a statewide mask mandate.

Sen. Curd highlighted the importance of the issue and said it was worthy of a full discussion on the Senate floor.

Sen. Smith, who called himself the best mask wearer at the Capitol, said the mask mandate passed in Brookings has worked. He said the mask debate was neighbor vs. neighbor and family member vs. family member showing “the ugliness of the disease.” He said he struggles with the decision to impose on local communities but agrees the science about masks is clear.

Sen. Tobin noted she’s a nurse. She said the disease still ebbed and flowed across the country despite a mandate. She said there’s three ways of compliance — demand, ask and convince. She didn’t think demand is the best method. Citing her district of Bon Homme, Charles Mix, Gregory and Tripp Counties she didn’t support the bill. She added the mask decision doesn’t make a person a bad person.

A motion to move the bill to the 41st Day failed 4-3 and a motion for “do pass” also failed 4-3 with Sen. Smith being the swing vote on both motions.

The motion to pass “without recommendation” then passed 5-2.