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‘Bathroom bill’ sponsor won’t try again during 2019 session

December 6, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The sponsor of an unsuccessful bill to restrict the bathrooms South Dakota transgender students could use said he won’t try again when he returns to the Legislature this session.

Incoming Republican Rep. Fred Deutsch told The Associated Press this week that he doesn’t see the urgency under President Donald Trump. Deutsch said he proposed the bill in 2016 to push back against federal overreach during former President Barack Obama’s administration.

“I’ve not heard of anybody else that’s going to bring a bathroom bill. I hope not,” said Deutsch, who is coming back to the House after deciding not run for re-election in 2016.

GOP Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed the 2016 bill, which brought national headlines as critics pushed back against it as discriminatory. Supporters had argued it would protect student privacy.

A bill that would have restricted which locker rooms transgender students could use was scuttled before it had its first hearing in 2017 after Daugaard issued a veto threat.

Deutsch’s decision not to pursue such a policy again comes as a supportive governor will take office in January. Republican Gov.-elect Kristi Noem has said she would have signed the measure and then kept working on it.

After convening a summer group to study the issue ahead of the 2019 legislative session, Deutsch said he came to the conclusion that there’s “no need to move forward with that issue at this time.” The session starts Jan. 8.

Libby Skarin, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, said she hopes other lawmakers will follow Deutsch’s lead and the issue won’t surface when the Legislature meets.

“Transgender people in South Dakota didn’t ask for this fight,” Skarin said. “If this marks the end of these attempts, I will be very thankful.”

Family Heritage Alliance Action, a key conservative group that previously raised the prospect of pursuing such legislation under a new governor in 2019, didn’t immediately comment.

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