Bill to construct 4 schools to teach Lakota language and culture fails to pass

South Dakota State Capitol in Pierre

PIERRE – The 96th legislative session of South Dakota is well underway and some of its work has made headlines statewide and nationally.

SB68, which was proposed by Democrat and Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert, failed to pass. The proposal would have allowed the construction and operation of four schools that would teach Oceti Sakowin language and culture.

Opposition to the bill consisted of school boards from across the state the argued the schools were practically charter schools and that they would take away from necessary funding.

Proponents of the bill consisted of Native educators who cited dropout rates among Native American students in the state and said that the proposal’s defeat was a continuation of oppression from government-run schools.

SB 146 narrowly passed the South Dakota Senate. The bill stated that it was “An Act to revise certain provisions regarding eligibility for parole for certain persons sentenced to life imprisonment.” Introduced by a former judge in South Dakota, the bill limits sentences of life in prison without parole for those who commit their crimes at the age of 26 or older. It also allows people who commit a crime between the ages of 18-25 to apply for parole at the age of 50.

Two proposals in this legislative session made national headlines and both of them were struck down. House Concurrent Resolution 6005, which was introduced by Rep. Phil Jensen, a Republican from Rapid City, was a resolution for Black History Month that said the United States has a “positive record on race and slavery.” Resolution 6005 was labeled as “revisionist history” and was defeated 64-4. The four who supported the resolution included Jensen and Rep. Taffy Howard, another Republican from Rapid City.

SB 122, a bill that would have allowed the South Dakota Legislature to ignore federal laws if they were unconstitutional was defeated in committee. The Senate State Affairs Committee moved SB122 to the 41st, effectively killing it, in a 7-1 vote with little discussion.

Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender took to Twitter last week and decried the South Dakota legislature wanting “subordinates, not partners,” in reference to municipalities. He spoke to the South Dakota Standard about 5 bills, one of them being HB 1093 which has a title that reads “revise the limitations on a municipality’s power to take actions for the promotion of health or the suppression of disease.” The bill would have prevented regulations from prohibiting or interfering “with the free exercise of religion, abridge any person’s freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people to peaceably assemble, or of the right of the people to petition the government for a redress of grievances under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, or prohibit or interfere with activities within any person’s residence or privately held business, or interfere with any person’s right to bear arms under the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.” HB 1093 was moved to the 41st day 12-1 in the House Local Government Committee.

The 96th Legislative Session of South Dakota will end late March, 2021.

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