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Lawmakers to debate legislation on gun rights, nepotism

January 20, 2019

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota lawmakers this week plan to hear Gov. Kristi Noem’s first budget address and debate bills that would expand gun rights, void an activities association policy for transgender student athletes and block state officials from hiring relatives.

A glance at the agenda when legislators return to the Capitol on Tuesday:

BUDGET PLAN

Noem will present her state budget proposal to the Legislature on Wednesday. In her State of the State address earlier in January, Noem discussed priorities including mental health, fighting the methamphetamine epidemic and connecting more people to high-speed internet. She has said the budget address will follow the outline she gave in the State of the State.

CONSTITUTIONAL CARRY

The full state Senate is scheduled to take up a measure this week that would allow people to carry concealed handguns without a permit in South Dakota. It’s a conservative prize that supporters hope will be won under Noem’s new administration.

Right now, it’s a misdemeanor for someone to carry a concealed pistol or to have one concealed in a vehicle without a permit; openly carrying a firearm in South Dakota is legal.

Former Gov. Dennis Daugaard vetoed a so-called constitutional carry bill in 2017, but Noem offered support for such a law during her campaign.

TRANSGENDER STUDENTS

A measure that would void an activities association policy allowing transgender students to request to play on the athletic team that matches their gender identity has been revived this year. The Senate Education Committee is scheduled Thursday to debate the bill.

It would require a student’s sex to be determined by their birth certificate or a South Dakota High School Activities Association physical exam form.

Republican Sen. Jim Bolin, the bill’s main sponsor, has said the legislation is “all about fair competition.” Libby Skarin, policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of South Dakota, said in a statement that the measure is another attempt to “single transgender students out for discrimination” in South Dakota.

NEPOTISM

The Senate State Affairs Committee plans to take up a bill Wednesday seeking to bar state officials from hiring relatives. The proposal comes after Noem announced in December that her daughter would be a policy analyst in the governor’s office.

Republican Sen. Stace Nelson, the bill’s sponsor, said in an earlier statement that outraged residents contacted him after the hiring.

He said state employment should be based on merit, not on “political family power.”

Noem spokeswoman Kristin Wileman said the governor should be able to develop a team who will deliver results for the state “regardless of their last name.”

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