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District 20 representatives: Votes for transgender youth bill were aimed at child protection

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District 20 legislators, top from left, Sen. Joshua Klumb, Rep. Lance Koth and Rep. Paul Miskimins listen to a question about recent legislative bills regarding transgender kids during a District 20 cracker barrel on Friday in the Mitchell City Council Chambers. (Matt Gade / Republic)

House Bill 1057, which would make it illegal for medical professionals to treat transgender children with surgery or hormones, was the most-discussed topic at Friday afternoon's District 20 legislative cracker barrel at Mitchell City Hall.

The bill passed in the House on Wednesday by a 46-23 vote, and Reps. Paul Miskimins and Lance Koth, both Republicans from Mitchell who voted in favor of the bill's passage, said they did so as a means of protecting children, not to negate transgender rights.

"It placed doctor-patient confidentiality and parental rights versus child protection in this state," Miskimins said. "And I think, for a number of us that voted in favor of that bill, child protection for us took precedent, and that was the reason we voted as we did. But none of the opponents or people that voted 'no' had any more or less concern for children or for the future of transgender."

Miskimins said he didn't believe that, after four and a half hours of testimony and discussion about the bill, many representatives' votes were swayed.

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"In this case, I felt it was the right thing to do," Koth said. "That person, that transgender, I respect them. I can't walk in their shoes. I don't know what that's like, but I respect them. When they are older and would like to do those things to feel more comfortable with themselves, that's fine."

Some members of the public expressed concern about the bill, asking legislators if they thought regulating transgender children at a state level was overstepping on local and parental rights or if that regulation could cause a spike in South Dakota's suicide rate, which Miskimins said is the sixth-highest in the nation.

"As Republicans, we always say, the problem should be solved closest to home. So whether it's the county elections, the school board elections, whatever it's dealing with, parents know best," former District 20 Rep. Tona Rozum said Friday. "We talk about education; we talk about homeschooling: the parents know best. We should stay closest to that. But yet we're legislating things that should be personal."

"None of us has brought a bill on transgender, but I want you to know that I don't believe the intent of anyone in the legislature, including those who present bills, is anti-transgender," Miskimins said. "The bill that we've dealt with this year created a lot of angst; a lot of discussion.

Two additional bills regarding transgender youth were introduced in the Senate this week. District 20 Sen. Josh Klumb, R-Mount Vernon, said Friday that the Senate Health and Human Services Committee is chaired by a medical professional. Sen. Deb. Soholt, R-Sioux Falls, is a registered nurse.

The following topics were also among those discussed by Klumb, Koth and Miskimins at Friday's event:

  • When asked if trust laws would allow for South Dakota to collect more from trust funds that are kept in the state, Koth said he would be concerned that if that were to happen, South Dakota might lose its position as having more trust funds than any other state, which he said has been an asset for job recruitment.
  • Klumb said Gov. Kristi Noem has been adamant about not raising or creating new taxes in response to a question about the possibility of increasing the state's gas tax as a means of funding repairs to bridges and other infrastructure.
  • The state's AAA bond rating, Klumb said, has saved school districts a total of about $13.3 million in interest payments statewide.
  • Koth said legislators are consistently being told about "workforce issues" and that the legislature hopes to put funding toward education, community services and government employees.
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