The third week of the 2022 legislative session is now over. This has been a difficult week since I am quarantining from home as a result of a positive COVID test. My symptoms have been relatively mild, and I will be able to go back to the Senate next week. Under the Senate rules, since my absence is due to COVID, I am able to appear and participate in action on the floor, in caucus and in my assigned committees over the internet. I appreciated the fact that I was able to appear and participate remotely but it is not the same as actually being there in person to see what is going on, talk to interested parties and participate in the debate.
Both of the Senate committees that I am on had a heavy workload of bills this week – some of them dealing with cannabis related issues.
The Senate Judiciary Committee approved SB22, which prevents a judge from taking away custody of children from a parent just because they have a medical cannabis card, and SB16, which repeals the part of Initiated Measure 26, which forbade law enforcement from investigating or prosecuting anyone for violations of the cannabis laws. We also passed SB83, which provides for removal of arrest records from an individual’s criminal records when they are never prosecuted for any offense, and SB72, which makes hazing a crime.
The Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved a request for the remodeling and expansion of the State Public Health Laboratory in Pierre. Although that is going to be very expensive, that is the type of thing that the COVID relief money is specifically earmarked for.
One of the most controversial issues before the Legislature this week was the governor’s request for $10 million to expand campgrounds in Custer State Park. The original plan was for this new large campground to be placed on the Wildlife Loop in the park. I believe that I have received more emails opposed to that project than I have on any other single issue since I have been in the Legislature. The opponents expressed a wide range of reasons: Some were opposed to the environmental damage that construction and use of this large campground would cause; others were owners of private campgrounds in the Black Hills area who are opposed to state competition. Because of the heavy opposition, the Game Fish & Parks and the governor now have a different plan for a much smaller campground in the Stockade Lake area. However, those who are emailing me don’t appear to favor that smaller plan any more than they did the first plan.
It seems like there are a lot of other spending requests from the Black Hills area — $28 million for a new women’s prison in Rapid City and $2.5 million for a shooting range and firearms complex in the Rapid City area. The request for a women’s prison in Rapid City makes sense as the present women’s prison in Pierre is over crowed with an average of 469 female inmates, and a large share of them come from the West River area. There is an average daily count of 2,886 male inmates. I can remember in 1972 when they opened South Dakota’ first women’s prison in Yankton on the grounds of the state hospital. It had room for 28 inmates. Before that, female inmates were housed in Nebraska.
I regretted that this week I missed the opportunity to visit with some of the groups who came to the capitol this week; Credit Unions, AARP, Independent Insurance Agents, S.D. Trial Lawyers, S.D. Health Care Association, Heartland Consumer Power, S.D. Ag. Leaders, Community Support Providers, Children’s Home Society and S.D. Municipal Electrics.