2023 Legislative Session yields several successes, a few setbacks
By Michael Pauley
Executive Director, S.D. Catholic Conference
This year state lawmakers convened on January 10 and considered 517 bills and resolutions, including proposals related to gambling, marijuana, gender ideology, abortion, and the regulation of obscenity.
The South Dakota Catholic Conference (SDCC) opposed two bills that sought to expand the gambling industry. Although the Catholic Church does not teach that games of chance are intrinsically wrong in every circumstance, there is a serious concern with certain forms of commercialized gambling that profit from “gambling disorder,” a form of behavioral addiction recognized by psychiatrists. This addiction has severe financial, emotional, and physical consequences for problem gamblers and their family members. The social costs of this addiction are borne by the broader society, not the gambling industry.
HJR 5006 proposed to allow highly addictive on-line mobile sports betting throughout the state. It passed a House committee by just one vote but was then defeated on the House floor. Another bill, SB 117, proposed to double the amount of money that could be spent for each game on video lottery machines. SB 117 came to the Senate floor and failed by a single vote – 17 years, 18 nays. Both bills demonstrate the truth of the adage that one vote makes a difference, and that election results have real-world consequences.
The SDCC supported passage of legislation, known as the “Help not Harm Bill,” to protect young people from gender ideology. HB 1080 proposed to prohibit medical providers from prescribing puberty-blocking drugs and cross-sex hormones, or performing mutilating surgeries on a child who has emotional distress surrounding his or her sex. A similar bill, also endorsed by the SDCC, failed in the legislature just three years ago. But this year, HB 1080 passed by a vote of 60 to 10 in the House and 30 to 4 in the Senate. It was signed into law by Governor Kristi Noem on February 14.
In the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Dobbs case, which overturned Roe v. Wade, the Legislature passed a resolution, supported by the SDCC, that praised the Supreme Court’s decision to return abortion policy to the states. SCR 602 observed that the Roe decision tragically “allowed for the legal ending of the life of thousands of pre-born people in this state.” The legislature also deliberated on several measures seeking to help parents and families with challenges related to pregnancy, childbirth, and adoption. Among these was an SDCC-supported bill, SB 75, that modifies existing laws related to parental support for a child born out of wedlock. SB 75 clarifies that both the father and mother are jointly responsible for paying expenses related to prenatal care for the child, labor and delivery, and postpartum recovery, including any medical complications that may occur. SB 75 passed the legislature with broad support and has been sent to the governor.
The 2023 session also featured a few disappointing outcomes. The SDCC supported legislation, HB 1129, that sought to establish certain safeguards in South Dakota’s medical marijuana program to protect patient safety and prevent abuses. This legislation passed the House but was then defeated in a Senate committee.
Another missed opportunity occurred with HB 1116, a bill that sought to prohibit the use of any state funding or state resources, including public school district resources, for promoting or hosting programs containing obscene content. This bill passed the House by an overwhelming vote of 60 to 10, only to be blocked by the Senate Education Committee. You can read more about the bills that were supported or opposed by the Catholic Conference by visiting: sdcatholicconference.org/category/2023-session/.