With Week 5 in the books, we have officially reached the half way point of SD's 2021 legislative session and AARP is proud to be working on several bills to help protect the rights of voters, nursing home residents and those with pre-existing conditions in our state.
House Bill (HB) 1126
On Monday, AARP South Dakota testified in the House State Affairs committee against House Bill (HB) 1126, which says the South Dakota Secretary of State may not mail an application for an absentee ballot unless the voter has requested it.
- Voters, and democracy itself, benefit from there being options available for an individual to cast their ballot - whether in person, through early voting options, or through the mail by absentee ballot.
SD Secretary of State Steve Barnett faced unprecedented circumstances last year when he oversaw the 2020 elections amid the on-going COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to his thoughtful leadership, his office employed a tool available to them and mailed absentee ballot applications to all registered voters ahead of the June primary. This action allowed South Dakota voters, especially the senior population which has been most seriously impacted by COVID-19, to safely and easily engage in the voting process.
HB 1126 would forever remove one of the critical options that made the 2020 elections in South Dakota successful, safe and secure. AARP South Dakota is asking legislators not to take away the option of mailing absentee ballots to registered voters when it is deemed necessary by the Secretary of State’s office, who will make their decision based on what is in the best interest of South Dakota voters.
Unfortunately, HB 1126 passed in the House State Affairs committee and on the floor of the House of Representatives and will continue to be opposed by AARP South Dakota as it is considered in the Senate.
House Bill (HB) 1245
On Wednesday, AARP South Dakota testified in the House State Affairs committee against HB 1245 which reduces absentee voting from 46 to 30 days prior to our elections.
- The right to vote is among the most basic of all rights. Voter participation can be significantly increased by practices such as early voting, which provides all voters with the time and opportunity to cast an in-person or mail-in ballot ahead of the election. AARP South Dakota believes HB 1245 will reduce voter participation.
It is the responsibility of policymakers to encourage and promote maximum participation in the electoral process. They should adopt voting procedures that expand the range of voting choices, not limit them. Just three month ago, voters across the state utilized absentee voting options at an incredibly high rate, demonstrating the need for a flexible voting schedule. It is irresponsible for legislators to take an action which directly goes against the actions of the constituents they represent.
Fortunately, South Dakota voters won and HB 1245 was defeated by one vote in the House State Affairs committee, keeping the current law in place and allowing for 46 days of early voting ahead of an election.
House Bill (HB) 1046
Despite AARP SD's vocal opposition during testimony in both the House and Senate committees, HB 1046, which limits civil liability related to COVID-19, has passed through both the House of Representatives and the Senate and now heads to Governor Noem’s desk for her signature.
Senate Bill (SB) 87
AARP South Dakota offered opposition testimony on Tuesday in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee against Senate Bill (SB) 87.
- The bill is brought to the legislature by South Dakota Farm Bureau and allows for the sale of insurance products that are exempt from state regulation.
The healthcare plans proposed in SB 87 are unregulated plans that could ultimately hurt South Dakotans with pre-existing conditions and drive up healthcare costs for everyone. These so-called “health benefit plans” may cherry-pick healthy customers and reject people with histories of illness (something that other SD insurers can’t do).
Under SB 87, these plans won’t have to obey the consumer protection laws that other insurers have to follow and when consumers have complaints, the SD Division of Insurance has no power to help them.
Despite AARP South Dakota’s opposition, after passing by a close 19-15 vote in the Senate, SB 87 sailed through the House Ag committee on an 11-1 vote and a 50-16 vote on the House floor. The bill heads to Governor Noem’s desk for her consideration.
Especially in these unprecedented times, it's important that your legislators hear from you! Many legislative coffees (aka cracker barrels) are being streamed online so you can still participate in this open forum with your elected officials. Click here for a list of these events and please remember to take all recommended COVID safety precautions.
If you are not able to safely participate in a local conversation, consider calling or emailing your legislator directly!