Slate of new laws take effect in South Dakota
Most laws out of the 2022 legislative session earlier this year took effect Friday, July 1. Among the notable changes are a waiving of concealed carry fees, a much discussed telemedicine abortion ban and new regulations over "divisive concepts" in mandatory collegiate trainings.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A slate of new laws took effect in South Dakota July 1, including doing away with fees attached to concealed carry permits, eliminating mandatory trainings discussing “divisive concepts” in state-funded universities and creating new rules around the use of abortion pills to terminate a pregnancy.
Most bills approving spending became law immediately after the close of session in March due to attached emergency declarations, which require a higher vote total.
Waived concealed carry fees
Starting July 1, most fees associated with acquiring a concealed carry permit in the state have been waived. Minnehaha County Sheriff Capt. Joe Bosman said the office is “expecting an influx of customers, as the process is now a lot cheaper.”
Point-of-service savings for those seeking first-time permits come out to $10, $40 and $60 for the basic, gold and enhanced carry permits, respectively. The bill avoids budget shortfalls for county sheriffs by offering reimbursements for each permit issued at the end of the year. Also waived is the $43.25 fee paid to the Department of Criminal Investigations for the fingerprint-based state and federal background checks.
Outside of eliminating most fees, no changes to the permit process were made. Applicants looking to receive the enhanced carry permit will still have to pay for a state-authorized handgun course covering state law and safety procedures.
“It doesn’t change any of the background requirements, everything is still in place,” Bosman said. “Only real change is we’re no longer the cashier at the point of sale.”
The Legislative Research Council estimates that the law will cost the Secretary of State’s Office, which handles sheriff reimbursements, approximately $110,000 annually.
New ban on telemedicine abortion
On June 29, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union dropped their case against Gov. Krisit Noem and others, ending the preliminary injunction that had kept a law from taking effect which outlined the acceptable procedures for a medicine abortion in the state.
Now that abortions in South Dakota are illegal unless “necessary to preserve the life of the pregnant female,” most sections of this law no longer apply.
The law allowed the dual administration of Mifepristone and Misoprostol, FDA-approved drugs which induce an abortion, only within the first 9 weeks of pregnancy and only at a licensed abortion facility under the supervision of a licensed physician.
Supporters of the law have pointed to a study by the anti-abortion Charlotte Lozier Institute claiming women taking Mifepristone are four times more likely to end up in the emergency room. In a statement on June 24, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland wrote states “may not ban Mifepristone based on disagreement with the FDA’s expert judgment about its safety and efficacy.”
Still applicable is the exception in the law made for “the management of a miscarriage” as well as the law’s increase of the punishment for an unlicensed provider who prescribes medicine in order to induce an abortion to a Class 6 felony, punishable by up to two years in prison, a $4,000 fine or both.
'Divisive concepts' removed from mandatory trainings
Although presented by Noem as a response to “Critical Race Theory” and a defense of “freedom of thought” on that state’s college campuses, a new law takes a more tailored approach of banning mandatory trainings for students, staff and faculty that present state-defined “divisive concepts.” These concepts include, among other tenets laid out in the law , any race being “inherently superior or inferior” or that “an individual’s moral character is inherently determined by their race.”
The banning of these concepts doesn’t apply to “the content or conduct of any course of academic instruction,” the law says.
“Certainly in an appropriate course, where the content is related to the course, there could be discussion, debate or critique over the items listed as divisive concepts,” said Nathan Lukkes, who serves as chief of staff and general counsel for the Board of Regents, which will oversee implementation of the law in the state’s public universities. “But we're not getting into the realm of compelling, directing or requiring students or employees to personally affirm or adopt any of those divisive concepts.”
While Lukkes said these concepts were not officially included in any mandatory trainings at state-funded universities, he called the measure “proactive,” saying it’s about “ensuring that this activity doesn’t start showing up or becoming more prevalent in training.”
One exception allows those leading the training to respond to questions raised by participants that pertain to the concepts otherwise prohibited by law.
New investments in housing infrastructure, others delayed
Around $200 million in new investments are coming to the state’s housing infrastructure, including upgrades to sidewalks, street lighting, storm sewers and more. The spending draws $150 million from the state’s general fund and $50 million from federal transfers in the American Rescue Plan Act passed last year.
At its June 28 meeting , the South Dakota Housing Development Authority Board of Commissioners approved a draft plan outlining how the organization would spend the $50 million in federal funding. In addition to following the requirements laid out in the legislation, that money is subject to certain federal labor and environmental standards. The board will reconvene on Thursday, July 7, to hear public comments, which can be submitted on the department’s website .
“If there's some good ideas that we never thought about, or they can document that maybe the funding needs to be more per project, any of those types of things we’re looking for in public comments,” Board of Commissioners Executive Director Lorraine Polak said.
As for the $150 million in state funds, South Dakota Housing Development Authority Board will not be taking further action to develop a program to disburse the funds until “further clarification is provided by the South Dakota Legislature” with respect to the rules governing these funds.
Jason Harward is a Report for America corps reporter who writes about state politics in South Dakota. Contact him at 605-301-0496 or firstname.lastname@example.org.