Lawmakers to debate sports betting, distracted driving and other measures this week

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota lawmakers plan to take up bills this week to create a reporter shield law, allow sports betting in Deadwood, limit distracted driving, allow people to take their driving test in Spanish and make the state’s official indigenous languages Lakota, Dakota and Nakota.

Here’s a glance at what’s on the agenda when the Legislature returns to Pierre on Tuesday:


The House Judiciary Committee plans to debate a bill Wednesday that would give protections to journalists who refuse to disclose information or sources. Noem called for a reporter shield law in her State of the State address.

Noem has said it’s important that investigative journalists can work without fear of having to reveal their sources or getting pulled in front of a court to testify. The bill would block courts, the Legislature and other public bodies in South Dakota from holding in contempt journalists who assert the privilege.


A proposal asking voters to legalize sports betting in Deadwood is set to have a hearing Wednesday in the Senate State Affairs Committee. The push comes after the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way last year for all states to offer legal sports betting.

The proposed constitutional amendment would allow the Legislature to authorize wagering in Deadwood and at tribal casinos. If sports betting gets voters’ blessing in 2020, it could be available by July 2021.

Supporters say it would help keep historic Deadwood competitive as a gambling destination. House Majority Leader Lee Qualm said he opposes the plan because people can become addicted to gambling. He said it ends up destroying families and costing far more than the state gets in revenue.



People would be mostly barred from using mobile devices while driving under a bill scheduled for debate Tuesday in the House Transportation Committee. Texting, browsing Facebook and sending an email while on the road would be a misdemeanor. Using a navigation app, making a telephone call or operating in hands-free mode and using a device during an emergency would be allowed.

Under current law, drivers can’t text or email when operating a vehicle, but they have to be pulled over for a different violation for it to be enforced. The new bill would increase the penalty and make it a primary offense, which means motorists buried in their phones could be stopped for it.

Republican Rep. Doug Barthel, the sponsor, said he brought the measure for the safety of people on the road. The measure would serve as a good deterrent, he said.

“What’s in the books right now, it’s good in spirit, but the reality is, it’s very difficult to enforce and most people know that,” said Barthel, a former Sioux Falls police chief.


Senate Democratic leader Troy Heinert is set to present a bill to recognize South Dakota’s American Indian heritage by making the state’s official indigenous languages Lakota, Dakota and Nakota.

The Senate State Affairs Committee will debate the measure Friday. Heinert, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said it’s important that South Dakota recognizes “part of our unique history.” He said it’s a way to acknowledge the importance of indigenous languages.


A bill that would allow people to take a driving test in Spanish is set to get its first legislative hearing. Right now, it’s only available in English under a state law dictating that English is the language of any official public document.

The Senate Transportation Committee on Wednesday is scheduled to debate the measure that would direct the state to offer driver’s license and permit applications, test materials and exams in Spanish. It would take effect in 2021.

Democratic Sen. Reynold Nesiba, the sponsor, said it’s been a workforce development issue, particularly in Sioux Falls. House Speaker Pro Tempore Spencer Gosch said it’s premature to have reached a conclusion about the bill, but said he planned to question whether officials would also change road signs to be repeated in Spanish.

Nesiba said road signs are “pretty universal around the world.”

Categories: Local News, Politics & Elections, South Dakota News