VEHLE: SD ‘sexting’ bill is good compromiseLegislation would give prosecutors necessary middle-ground option.
By: Mike Vehle, Guest columnist
As we approached “crossover day,” I ran a quick check on the status of bills. Crossover day means that all bills must either have been passed or killed in the chamber of origin. In other words, if it was introduced by a House member, to stay alive it has to get over to the Senate on Tuesday and vice versa for the Senate.
In South Dakota, all bills introduced receive a public hearing. The committee chairs must arrange a hearing on all bills assigned to them and the committee must have either passed or killed them by (this year) Monday, Feb. 13. Then all bills must have been passed by either chamber by the end of the day Tuesday, Feb. 14.
Before committee meetings began Monday morning, out of the 471 bills introduced (not counting resolutions) there were still 91 in Senate committees, and 71 in House committees. The governor had signed seven House and two Senate bills, there were seven House and 12 Senate bills on his desk, and no vetoes yet. In addition, there were 16 Senate and 13 House bills on the floor calendar.
Please treat this as approximation as things are changing as I write this article, but it does give you an idea where we are at in the session.
Last week, we had some lively discussions on the fate of the James River Water Development District and a proposal for starting large watershed districts, like the James River watershed. When a fellow senator reminded us of the age-old saying that “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting,” it was apparent how that comment originated.
After a recent audit of the James River Water Development District, several of us felt that there were issues that needed to be addressed. However, to divide the district into a north district encompassing the three northern-most counties, and a second district being the balance of the James River Valley south to the Nebraska border, was not the answer to the problem.
Another interesting bill was one I introduced on juvenile sexting. It was heard by the Judiciary Committee and passed 7-0. This bill affects those younger than age 18 who transmit nude depictions of a minor, often of themselves.
The problem is that this offense results is either a slap on the hand or child pornography charges, which can result in requiring registration as a sex offender. The state’s attorneys need something in their tool box between those two extremes. This provides for a class 1 misdemeanor.
Some of the testimony exemplified the problem where a minor sends a nude picture of themselves to someone with whom they are in a relationship, then the relationship goes sour and the nude pictures are forwarded onto everyone in their cell phone address book in retaliation. The pictures are then in the public domain for all to see forever, and sometimes it falls into the hands of pornographers and later appears on child porn sites. If you are older than 18, it will still be child pornography. This can ruin the lives of young people and needs to be deterred.
I want to thank all those that came to the cracker barrel meeting on Saturday. It was very well attended and many issues were discussed. We truly appreciate your input.
Mike Vehle is a Republican from Mitchell representing Davison and Aurora counties in the state Senate.