Drivers' exams, immunizations discussed at crackerbarrel

REPS. RANDY GROSS (left) and Marli Wiese and Sen. Jordan Youngberg, District 8 legislators, sit on stage in the Madison high School auditorium as they are introduced to members of the public at Saturday's crackerbarrel. The legislators and their audience discussed proposed bills that are under consideration by the Legislature.

District 8 legislators and a decent-sized audience for a Madison crackerbarrel exchanged information on providing Spanish-language forms for persons seeking South Dakota driver's licenses, mandatory immunizations for students, a proposed sales tax for counties, and the process in which state legislators can submit bills for consideration.

The crackerbarrel, a traditional mid-session meeting between South Dakota lawmakers and their constituents, was held on Saturday for Sen. Jordan Youngberg of Chester and Reps. Randy Gross of Elkton and Marli Wiese of Madison at Madison High School. The legislators, all Republicans, had attended an earlier crackerbarrel in Flandreau and later went to another meeting in Howard.

After introductory remarks, Gross asked for a show of hands indicating support or opposition from the audience regarding SB70, a bill that would allow the Department of Public Safety to offer driver's license and permit applications, exam materials and written exams in Spanish. The bill includes a requirement that the skills portion of the test is still conducted in English.

A majority raised their hands in support of the Spanish option.

The audience was also asked to vote on support or opposition to a change in current law that would not require children to have immunizations before attending school. HB1235 states, "No child entering a public or nonpublic school or a public or nonpublic early childhood program in this state may be required to receive any immunization or medical procedure for enrollment or entry."

The vote indicated that there wasn't support for eliminating the requirement for vaccinations. Gross noted the degree of opposition to HB1235 and said he agreed with the sentiment in the auditorium.

Later, Gross asked for a vote regarding legislation that Lake County Sheriff Tim Walburg had helped to introduce regarding a sales-tax funding source for construction of new county jails. Gross said the proposal would add a half-cent to local sales tax to help pay for construction at county jails. In the legislation, the counties would have a vote on the issue of jail improvements and approval would lead to a half-cent sales tax addition, with the tax levy paying for the construction bond. The half-cent sales tax would go away after the bond was paid off.

The show of hands regarding the sales-tax levy indicated that there was some support, some nonsupport and many noncommittal audience members.

One of the first questions from audience members centered on HB1057, a bill to criminalize certain medical treatments or medical practices for boys and girls under age 16 "...for the purpose of attempting to change or affirm the minor's perception of the minor's sex, if that perception is inconsistent with the minor's sex." HB1057 would outlaw the application of puberty-blocking medication and testosterone and estrogen doses and the removal of healthy or nondiseased body parts or tissue.

Critics of HB1057, which is nicknamed the Vulnerable Child Protection Act, have argued that the proposal is unconstitutional because it singles out one group, minors having transgender issues, with legal restrictions to medical treatment. They have also criticized SB109, a bill that would allow health-care providers, hospitals and clinics and health-insurance providers to refuse care to patients on religious, moral, ethical or philosophical grounds.

The questioner asked why legislators were inserting themselves into private and personal issues. Wiese replied that HB1057 was directed at minors and spoke about how the medical treatments mentioned in the bill were "thwarting a normal process." She said the legislation "...comes down on the side of children."

Gross agreed with Wiese and said government often involves itself in issues related to medical care.

"It's not new," Gross said of the proposed restrictions in HB1057.

The transgender issue returned later when the legislators were asked about South Dakota's ability to attract new businesses and retain younger residents when the Legislature involved itself in issues typically considered private.

Youngberg said the Legislature has the tradition of allowing its members to submit all types of proposals for consideration. Youngberg said that in his four years in the Legislature, none of the controversial bills have passed.

As for the sentiments of younger South Dakota residents toward the bills proposed, Youngberg said, "Students should learn the process and respect the process."

On the same subject, Wiese said that South Dakota is a great place to live and added, "We feel we are taking care of these issues."

Gross referred to South Carolina and how that state faced with similar controversy years ago. He said South Carolina was not hurt by the issues. Gross added that some people appreciate South Dakota's traditional values.

The crackerbarrel was sponsored by the governmental affairs committee of the Greater Madison Area Chamber of Commerce.