PIERRE | Not only does July usher in summer weather to South Dakota, but also a fresh fiscal year and host of new legislation passed during the 2019 legislative session.
Unless a bill had an emergency clause, making it take effect earlier, bills passed during the Legislature's 40-day session this year will become the law of the land today. South Dakota will also be entering its 2020 fiscal year, with a total state general funds budget of $4.9 billion.
2019 was Republican Gov. Kristi Noem's first legislative session in office as governor, and hot topics ranged from the state's ongoing nursing home funding crisis during budget discussions to legalizing industrial hemp and production in the ultimately vetoed House Bill 1191.
Noem sat down with Forum News Service to discuss a handful of major bills taking effect today.
Combating South Dakota's rate of methamphetamine addiction has been a talking point of Noem's since her first annual budget address as governor when she requested $4.6 million for anti-methamphetamine efforts. Her propositions included an education media campaign aimed at youth as well as increasing state intervention and treatment resources.
Noem said Thursday that she was “thrilled" the Legislature fully funded her request. She said her administration hopes to launch its media campaign by the start of the school year and is hiring four highway patrol officers to specifically target methamphetamine users and distributors.
The funds will be used to expand treatment options. Addicts are often put on waiting lists for treatment, she said, but "people need treatment now, not six months from now."
Noem said increasing funding for the state's methamphetamine addiction problem is an important investment. "It’s a multiple-layered effect on the state and every other entity that has to intervene in these situations, from courts and the judicial system, to law enforcement, health effects, social services."
House Bill 1198 further defines in state code what constitutes as human trafficking, a Class 4 felony that Noem said has "an evilness to it."
By clarifying the definition of trafficking as well as adding a definition of coercion to the statute, Noem said the state can have better success prosecuting traffickers and those who "manipulate and aggressively push people into trafficking."
She added that not only do bills like HB 1198 clarify state law, but also raise public awareness.
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"That's what South Dakotans need to realize, is that we’re the 11th highest state for human trafficking in this country. We have a problem," Noem said. "So, when we pass bills and cover stories like this, it makes a big impact."
Indigenous women, girls
According to the Indian Law Resource Center, Native women in some areas are murdered 10-times more often than the national average and more than half have experienced sexual violence. A recent report conducted in Canada concluded that the systematic violence perpetuated against Native women "amounts to a race-based genocide of Indigenous Peoples."
Up until now, South Dakota, whose population is 9% Native, did not have a standardized procedure to train law enforcement on cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, often referred to as MMIWG.
Senate Bill 164 changes that. It establishes a standard training procedure for law enforcement as well as a system to share data between local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement agencies on MMIWG cases.
In addition to SB 164, Noem said she hopes to improve relations between the state and the nine sovereign nations which are within South Dakota's boundaries.
"I think we need to be working better together on communication and help support ways to educate all the communities where the threats are and what we can do to protect Indigenous women," she said.
She also suggested expanding memorandums of understanding between state and tribal law enforcement.
"If we can have agreements where we support their law enforcement officers and they support ours back and forth, we can make communities more safe," Noem said.
Noem's first bill signing of the 2019 session didn't come without its controversies. Senate Bill 47 allows gun owners to carry a concealed firearm without a permit.
Throughout the bill's debate, it drew criticism from law enforcement and legal groups concerned about out-of-state gun owners traveling to South Dakota who will be able to carry a weapon concealed without a permit. Under South Dakota's existing law, gun owners have been able to open carry without a permit but needed one in order to conceal carry.
Noem said she "(took) all of their concerns to heart," but signed SB 47 because she "believes that it applies to people who can legally carry today, law-abiding citizens."
"There was law enforcement that expressed concerns with the legislation," she said. "We also had some law enforcement tell us that they felt people who were going to cause a problem were going to break the law anyway."