South Dakota Legislature roundup for Thursday, February 18, 2021

Capitol News Bureau

HOME SCHOOL CHANGES: A majority of state senators agreed Wednesday to give more power over choosing to participate in a public school district’s athletics, fine arts or activities to students who receive their educations at home or other alternative settings and their parents.

The school district would no longer have approval power over whether the student can participate under SB 177 if the student meets the local age requirement and the local training rules. Students intending to participate in activities run by the South Dakota High School Activities Association would need to meet the association’s transfer and non-academic eligibility rules.

Senator Wayne Steinhauer, a Hartford Republican, was the bill’s Senate sponsor. He said Wednesday the process began with a lunch invitation from Maggie Seidel, the senior policy advisor to Governor Kristi Noem. “What we’re about is to make successful kids,” Steinhauer said.

Senators voted 21-14 for the 10-page bill. The legislation would also repeal the requirement that parents annually notify school districts their students won’t be attending and require notices only the first year the students won’t attend and when any changes occur. Standardized tests also no longer would be required in 4th, 8th and 11th grades for the students. Truancy also would be applied, although Steinhauer acknowledged that depends on the county’s state’s attorney.

South Dakota would be the 40th state to not mandate testing, according to Senator Maggie Sutton, a Sioux Falls Republican. “This changes our model from one of exclusive to inclusive,” she said. “It does make things more economical,” said Senator Blake Curd, a Sioux Falls Republican who chairs the chamber’s Education Committee. They voted yes.

Senator Timothy Johns, a Lead Republican, said his main objection was the lack of verification that students are academically eligible. “I don’t know how you get parents to parent,” Johns, a retired circuit judge, said. Senate Democrat leader Troy Heinert of Mission said his complaint was over section 18 that proposes the changes for participating in activities. Senator David Wheeler, a Huron Republican and a lawyer, didn’t want standardized testing dropped. “This bill moves us in the wrong direction,” he said. All three voted no.

“We don’t legislate to the lowest denominator,” Steinhauer said. The bill now moves to the House. Representative Rebecca Reimer, a Chamberlain Republican, is the lead sponsor there.

DONOR ANONYMITY: The Senate voted 33-2 Wednesday for SB 103 that would create a state law guaranteeing a right to personal privacy and confidentiality for personal information of people who donate to nonprofit corporations.

Senator Casey Crabtree, a Madison Republican, gave examples of six- and seven-figure anonymous contributions to several community-oriented organizations. He said the legislation doesn’t change existing laws related to campaign finance disclosures.

It would work with HB 1079, according to Crabtree. That’s the governor’s bill prohibiting state government’s executive branch from disclosing information about charitable trusts and nonprofits.

No one else spoke. The legislation now goes to the House where the lead sponsor is Representative Kirk Chaffee, a Whitewood Republican.

ALL IN FUN: A legislative procedural maneuver known as rule 5-17 allows lawmakers to suspend their debate two days to consider a pending amendment. It needs support from at least one-fifth of a chamber’s members. Usually that’s done by asking those in support to stand

During a debate Wednesday, a senator called for 5-17. Over the chamber’s PA system came a voice: “Greenfield is standing.”

It was Republican Brock Greenfield of Clark. He was participating remotely, after being in close contact with someone regarding COVID-19.

That brought laughs in the chamber. Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, holding the gavel as Senate president, didn’t miss a beat.

“I really don’t think he is,” Rhoden said, drawing more laughs.

SIGNING CEREMONY: Folks from the South Dakota Farm Bureau Federation will be on hand Thursday when the governor signs their health-benefit legislation into law.. She’ll pose with a larger group for a celebratory photo on the Capitol’s second-floor staircase.

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