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Bills on special ed, abortion, guns and energy up for consideration ahead of SD legislative session

PIERRE, S.D. — Legislators will be returning to Pierre in just a few short days and it looks like they’ve already got a full plate of bills to consider over the next few weeks in session.

They’ll take their oaths of office the morning of Saturday, Jan. 5, followed by other elected officials and Republican Gov.-elect Kristi Noem in the afternoon. Then, starting Tuesday at noon, legislators will be in session until mid-March.

Noem hasn’t divulged specifics of her policy initiatives since the election — she said she will do that at her State of the State address on Tuesday — but campaigned on promises to cut regulations, reform K-12 and post-secondary education and address the state’s methamphetamine epidemic. During her campaign, she said she would sign bills that would tighten abortion restrictions, allow individuals to concealed carry a firearm without a permit under certain circumstances and restrict transgender people’s bathroom usage if they make it to her desk.

Here are some of the issues addressed by bills currently filed for consideration this legislative session:

Special Education

Several bills have been introduced regarding special education in the state, including one which would increase state Department of Education allocations for special education programs by $1 million for 2020, and in subsequent fiscal years in proportion to inflation.

Another calls for the establishment of a Special Education Task Force to study the rise in students in the state requiring special education services in school, the cost of those programs and to make recommendations based on their findings.

A third bill would be a resolution urging Congress to increase federal funding for special education in order to fulfill promises made by Congress in the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Abortion

Senate Bill 6 would require physicians to perform a sonogram on a patient seeking an abortion, offer a “verbal explanation” of the image of the fetus and describe its size and presence of cardiac activity, body parts and organs. The bill, if passed, would also require physicians make the patient listen to the fetus’s heartbeat if one is present.

Under current law, physicians are required to offer a sonogram to the patient. SB 6 would make the sonogram a requirement, not an option.

Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed into law a bill in 2016 which banned non-emergency abortions at 20 weeks gestation. The state’s single abortion provider located in Sioux Falls only performs abortions up to 14 weeks.

Firearms

In South Dakota, it is currently classified as a Class 1 misdemeanor if you are found to be concealed carrying a firearm without proper permitting, unless you are a law enforcement officer. Senate Bill 9 would extend that exception to active service members, so they, too could concealed carry without a permit.

Energy

Several bills regarding energy recommended by the Public Utilities Commission are on the table. One would allow the Commission more time to consider wind energy facility permit applications before making a decision. Another would allow the Commission to grant permits for solar energy facilities.

A third bill would double maximum penalties for gas pipeline safety violations from $100,000 per violation per day capped at $1 million, to $200,000 per violation per day capped at $2 million.

Contact Sarah Mearhoff at smearhoff@forumcomm.com or 610-790-4992.

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