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Saturday, January 23, 2010

Legislative Roundup: Toothless Legislation, Jail Bait, Beavers...

This week in the South Dakota State Legislature:

Genocide Concerns Us, But Keep Investing in Iran: The Senate Retirement Laws Committee stamped SB 21 "Do Pass." They did amend the state's request for unfettered investment in terrorist states. The amendment calls on the State Investment Council to "engage and promote compliance" with federal divestiture laws and authorizes the Legislature to "express its concerns" about state investments that may fund evildoers. In other words, more toothless paperwork. No sign yet of Rep. Lederman's promised legislation to outright ban the state from investing in Iran. Stay tuned....

Sex Sex Sex...: And you thought the budget would be all our legislators had on their minds. There are a slew of proposals relating to sex offenders and the life sentences our state imposes on them. There's also HB 1110, which eases the penalty for statutory rape for certain young and restless penetrators fondlers.

[Update 2010.01.24: HB 1110 primary sponsor Rep. Rich Engels drops by the comment section to clarify! See below! This bill is about sexual contact, not sexual penetration! Errors from the original post are corrected below—sorry for the mess!]

(Read carefully: this is tricky!) Right now, sex with someone under 16 is a Class 3 felony. However, if you're less than three years older than the victim, it's only a Class 1 misdemeanor.

HB 1110 changes the law to read thus:

If the victim is at least thirteen years of age and the actor is less than five years older than the victim, the actor is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Let's try to clarify, kids:

Under HB 1110, if you are this old......[correction] serious necking is a felony if she/he's this old (or younger)
..but a misdemeanor if she/he's this old

Correction: The rules on rape remain the same. basically, kids, don't go all the way! If either party is under 16, it may be rape... and it's probably stupid. And for pete's sake, don't do it a second time: HB 1110 makes second offense a Class 2 felony.

So under HB 1110, two legal adults, one 19, one 18, could perform the same act, sex heavy petting with a 14-year-old. The 19-year-old could get 15 years in the pen and a $30K fine. The 18-year-old could get a year in the county jail and a $2K fine.

Hmm... could we just issue stainless steel underpants to everyone and hand out keys with high school diplomas? (Now that would cut the drop-out rate.)

Darn You Beavers!: In the unnecessary legislation department, HB 1113 adds prairie dogs, raccoons, skunks, and beavers to list of critters GF&P can target on the animal damage control list. Thing is, current statute already says that list can include "other wild animals" deemed injurious to the general welfare. I guess certain legislators just want to say, "Skunks! Coons! Beavers! We mean you!"

Update 13:05 CST: But wait, there's more!

Tightening the Auto Insurance Noose: Driving without insurance could get harder: SB 87 would require folks registering any noncommercial motor vehicle to show their proof of insurance to the county treasurer.

Make Your Own Gun, Dodge Federal Rules!: A majority of the Legislature has already signed on to sponsor SB 89, which will exempt firearms, firearm accessories, and ammo made and used exclusively in South Dakota from federal regulations. Do whatever you want with your weapons, as long as you don't invade Minnesota.

Sure enough, the "Firearms Freedom Act" is a coordinated national effort. SB 89 copies language used in a "Firearms Freedom Act" proposed in Minnesota last year. Montana led the way, passing the first version of said law last year and now fighting Uncle Sam in court to keep it. Interestingly, the NRA may not be supporting this law.


  1. Rep. Rich Engels1/23/2010 2:37 PM

    Your explanation of HB 1110 is inaccurate. This bill changes the age gap from 3 years to 5 years for sexual contact, not for statutory rape. Sexual contact includes conduct that may be as minor as touching above the clothes, and does not necessarily involve sex.

    Under existing law, the penalty for 1st offense sexual contact is the same as for statutory rape. This bill gives prosecutors an option they don't have right now - the discretion to charge young 1st time "Romeo & Juliet" offenders within 5 years of age of the victim with a midemeanor rather than a felony.

    Also, the penalty for 2nd offense sexual contact is HIGHER than for 2nd offense statutory rape, which is corrected with section 2 of the bill.

  2. With due respect Rich, I really wish the Legislature would get off this sex offender kick -- the vast majority of our statehouse members have no respect for social science, and instead march to the drum of SDFPC and James Dobson, who share the disrepect.

    The result is knee jerk legislation that prevents judges discretion to address individual situations. Prosecutors always have leeway -- they hold just about all the cards and can plea bargain whatever they think is right.

    I am amazingly shocked how this self-procaimed libertarian state's Legislature just loves to wade in and fix the wrongs, whether they have a grasp of the situation or not.

  3. Rep. Engels, thanks for dropping in! And my apologies for missing the distinction made between sexual contac tand sexual penetration.

    Bob Mercer is right: some explanatory material on each bill would be great for transparency. Most of us read "sexual contact" and we think the whole nine yards, missing the separate legal definition that makes "sexual penetration" a separate class, not a subclass. In the meantime, I guess blogs and the comment sections will have to suffice for obtaining explanations of new bills.

  4. Steve Sibson1/24/2010 8:15 AM

    Who is "cp"?

  5. Exactly, Curt.

    The SDGOP hardens its bunkers every time the legislature meets.

    They massage the margins of the state constitution because there is no effective opposition.
    Democrats like me have fled South Dakota leaving a male-centered, tax haven for corporations eager to plunder the Haiti-like conditions proliferating here.

    I no longer wonder why smart young people are leaving en masse.

    I urged Cory over coffee last week in Madison to collect his young family and put Madison in the rearview mirror.

    His optimism and energy seem so futile in the culture of sorrow, depression, and grief that oozes out of Pierre.

    Pathos and doom...get angry or run away, South Dakota!


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