- Associated Press - Sunday, January 10, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - State lawmakers are set to debate hundreds of proposals beyond Medicaid expansion and hiking teacher pay when they return to the capitol for the 2016 session on Tuesday.

Republican legislators are pushing measures on abortion, students’ bathrooms and allowing hemp cultivation. Democrats’ priorities include economic development and overhauling government oversight.

The session’s main run wraps up in the middle of March, but lawmakers will return for consideration of gubernatorial vetoes at the end of that month. Some of the proposals set to be considered:


ABORTION RESTRICTIONS: Some lawmakers are set to push a 20-week abortion ban in South Dakota. Abortion opponents will also pursue legislation that would require practitioners to inform women who undergo medical abortions, in which two drugs are taken separately, that they may be able to reverse the effects of the first drug - should a woman change her mind - and still have a live birth.


FETAL TISSUE SALES: One of Attorney General Marty Jackley’s priorities is to make it a felony in South Dakota to sell fetal remains. State law does allow the donation of fetal tissue in the case of a spontaneous abortion if the mother consents.


TRANSGENDER STUDENTS: A House Republican is backing a bill to require that students use bathrooms and locker rooms that match their biological sex. Rep. Fred Deutsch said schools must provide “reasonable accommodations” for transgender students’ needs under his plan.

It’s unclear if legislators will again try to void a high school activities association’s policy allowing transgender student athletes to request to play on the team of their choice. Republican Rep. Jim Bolin, who sponsored such legislation last session, said “anything’s possible.”


HEMP CULIVATION: A bill that would legalize the cultivation of hemp in South Dakota could help spur economic development, especially among the state’s Native American tribes, said sponsor Mike Verchio, a Republican representative from Hill City. He said allowing people to grow hemp could also open up opportunities for manufacturing facilities to turn the plant into clothing or cosmetics.


ETHICS COMMISSION: Democrats plan to renew their pursuit of a state ethics commission as a result of recent scandals that have hit state government. Rep. Peggy Gibson, who previously backed an ethics panel, has said government needs more oversight after controversies surrounding the EB-5 visa program and a murder-suicide involving two employees of a Platte-based educational cooperative.


LIFETIME GUN PERMITS: A Republican lawmaker said gun advocates are weighing whether to pursue making concealed firearm permits “lifetime.” There would still be renewals, but they would be initiated by the state without additional fees required, Rep. Jim Stalzer said.


DEATH PENALTY: Republican Sen. Arthur Rusch, a former judge, said he will push to repeal the death penalty in South Dakota. Rusch said he has personally prosecuted a death penalty case, and said he’s seen firsthand how costly and hard it was on jurors and court personnel.

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