Legislators should examine state’s priorities

Growing South Dakota’s economy, providing affordable healthcare, allocating enough money for our schools and directing resources to deal with mental health issues across the state are priorities the average South Dakotan and this newspaper would like to see addressed by our Legislature.

Instead, our legislators spend their limited time in Pierre on bills that illicit fear and hatred amid discriminatory rhetoric.

“With serious and complex issues like the lack of adequate education funding for teacher salary increases to access to drug addiction treatment in the rural areas of our state, it’s disturbing that legislators have spent so much time attacking vulnerable transgender youth and the LGBTQ and Two Spirit community as a whole,” said Libby Skarin, ACLU of South Dakota policy director. 

She said that bill after bill in this year’s legislative session seems fixated on the incorrect notion that some of our friends and neighbors are not entitled to the same dignity and respect as others. Criminalizing doctors from performing transgender surgery or hormone therapy, banning the recognition of same sex  marriage, prohibiting commercial surrogacy are to name a few.

“Our commitment to ensuring that LGBTQ and Two Spirit South Dakotans can live openly without discrimination remains strong. We urge South Dakota lawmakers to focus on the issues that really matter,” she said.

Other South Dakotans agree. 

On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign, Change Research polled 720 likely voters in South Dakota between Jan 28-30 and found that 69% say that “legislators are too focused on divisive issues and should be focusing on pressing issues that will actually have an impact on South Dakotans, like growing the economy.” 

Even the New York Times noted in a recent article that South Dakota’s Legislature has become a proving ground for conservative legislation on issues such as abortion, gun rights and, most recently, transgender rights.

The Human Rights Campaign survey also showed that among the most important issues for the South Dakota state government to address are healthcare costs (40%), education (35%) and the economy & jobs (30%). 

A majority of those polled - 53% - say Gov. Kristi Noem and state legislators do not share their values and 58% say they are out of touch with constituents.

So, lend an ear legislators and Gov. Noem, listen to what your fellow South Dakotans want to tell you about their concerns, then use your time in Pierre to address those issues.  

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