House State Affairs Kills Child Sexual Abuse Task Force… Time to Smoke Out Why!

House State Affairs did something strange yesterday.

Last year, the South Dakota Legislature unanimously approved creating a task force to study sexual abuse of children and recommend policy responses. The Jolene’s Law Task Force, named for Sioux Falls businesswoman Jolene Loetscher, who experienced sexual abuse as a child, held five meetings over four months in 2014. They came up with one bill, Senate Bill 70, to strengthen our mandatory reporting law, plus the beginnings of other policy recommendations to combat sexual abuse of children, like centralizing the reporting of sexual abuse to eliminate bureaucracy and creating a Child Advocacy Studies program in our Regental system modeled after a program at Winona State University. The task force isn’t proposing quick fixes; Loetscher says the task force is seeking “smart, thought-out, long-term plans.”

To continue its work to stem sexual abuse of children, the task force proposed Senate Bill 71, to authorize the task force to meet for another year. SB 71 would add one more member, a state’s attorney with experience in childhood sexual abuse prosecutions, to the fifteen-member team. SB 71 would authorize spending $21,000 this year, the same amount as last year, to support the task force’s work.

Everybody liked this bill in the Senate. The Department of Education and the Department of Social Services showed up to testify for SB 71, along with child advocates, Avera Health, and the Family Heritage Alliance. Senate State Affairs passed SB 71 unanimously on January 28. So did the full Senate on February 3.

Senate Bill 71 then sat on House State Affairs’ desk for four weeks. When they finally squeezed it onto their crowded agenda yesterday, they saved the task force extension for last. After lengthy testimony on other bills, the commitee took testimony for SB 71 alongside testimony for SB 70, the mandatory reporting bill. No one spoke against SB 71. Committee members asked no questions about the one-year extension of the task force.

Rep. Roger Solum (R-5/Watertown) moved SB 71 to the 41st day—i.e., to kill it. Here are his complete remarks on why he wanted to kill the childhood sexual abuse task force:

This committee’s gone on record here already this session. I really do think that we need to go back to the way we used to recommend a summer study or task force. I’ve chaired a number of summer studies over the past few years, and they’ve all been generated through the summer study process and the evaluation by not only the legislators but our LRC. And the suggestion I’ve made is if they want a summer study, get a group of legislators, and generally a good portion of 105 legislators need to put that down on their summer study form as opposed to having a group of—this small a group say, “Yes, you can have a summer study.” Perhaps we’re eliminating the opportunity for some other subject to come up. Who knows, after our transportation bill and so on, we may need to have another summer study on that. So, being we’re kind of limited on funding and the numbers of summer studies, I’d hate to lock us into this one when there may be others that need to be acted on as well. So that’s why I would ask to support the 41st day [Rep. Roger Solum, remarks on Senate Bill 71, House State Affairs Committee, 2015.03.04, timestamp 2:23:18].

No one rebutted. The chairman called for the vote. The two Democrats on the committee voted nay. The ten Republicans present voted aye.

A few hours later, every one of those committee members, including Rep. Solum, voted to bypass the way we used to recommend a summer study or task force, lock the Legislature into a task force on elder abuse, and spend $15,000 of their kind-of limited funding for that purpose. That measure, Senate Bill 168, passed the House unanimously yesterday afternoon, 68–0.

Jolene Loetscher says she and other task force advocates were “shocked” at the defeat of SB 71. No one had heard any rumble of opposition to the task force’s work last year or during the current session. Loetscher can’t imagine any partisan opposition—after all, sexual predators don’t check their victims’ party affiliations. Loetscher said she had wonderful cooperation throughout 2014 from the four Legislative members of the task force, a mix of right-wing Senator Jenna Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls), reasonably moderate (by South Dakota standards) Republican Senators Alan Solano (R-32/Rapid City) and Deb Soholt (R-14/Sioux Falls), and Democratic Senator Peggy Gibson (D-23/Huron).

Stopping the Jolene’s Law Task Force now essentially throws away much of the investment made last year. Loetscher says task force members began their work thinking they could achieve a lot in 2014, but after the first meeting, Loetscher says they were “overwhelmed by the depth of the issue.” There’s a lot of work in progress, plus a need to look at different needs and policy responses to sexual abuse in urban, rural, and reservation settings. The $21K the task force might spend this year is a pittance to the economic costs of the physical and emotional damage (not to mention the moral harm) that we might avoid by preventing childhood sexual abuse. This task force is, as Loetscher describes it, government working “the way you want government to work,” solving problems intelligently.

But now House State Affairs has decided to spend no more on this topic and throw away much of what we’ve already spent.

Why?

Rep. Solum’s summer-study-process complaint can’t explain the death of the child sexual abuse task force, since he himself ignored that reason in supporting the elder abuse task force. SB 71 isn’t a bank-breaker—heck, the state will save more than $21,000 just by using the youth minimum wage. (Hmm… exploiting child labor to fund efforts against child sexual abuse… that’s not cool.)

Why did House State Affairs kill SB 71?

We need to smoke out an answer to that question. We also need Jolene’s Law and the good work of the childhood sexual abuse task force to continue. Members of the House, it’s time for a smokeout. Invoke Joint Rule 7-7, bring Senate Bill 71 to the floor, and let’s hear the real reasons someone to shut down the this important work against childhood sexual abuse.


32 Responses to House State Affairs Kills Child Sexual Abuse Task Force… Time to Smoke Out Why!

  1. Kathy Tyler

    From what I hear, things got a little political. Can’t imagine that happening in our current legislature. What is so sad, is that the under-represented, the little guys, are the ones who suffer. I hope that a smokeout is successful.

  2. Kathy! Who got political? Why? Who would lose by the passage of SB 71 but not lose by passage of SB 168?

  3. mike from iowa

    To oversimplify the problem-kids have zero value and/or vote potential for wingnuts once they reach viability.

  4. This is just so typical of SD GOP politics. Children are just not that important to the GOP. Never mind the staggering statistics on child abuse in this country. Grrrr…..Cory – your blog depresses me at time and that’s not good, but I still totally support you in the fighting the good fight!

  5. The GOP probably just didn’t like something petty like the study being modeled after a liberal college model (Winona State University) and yes, I am being serious here.

  6. I think this bill was used to make a political point. to revamp the way summer studies are set up.

    It could have been a summer study about toadstools the result would be the same.

    However Jolene and her husband are not rolling over on this, and the pressure is on to smoke this bill out.

  7. Boy, MC, I think they picked the wrong bill on which to make a political point. And why make the point on this bill, on a task force that’s already up and running, and then turn around and vote the opposite of that political point on another bill that creates a very similar task force, with funding and everything?

    Who decided to play political games with child sexual abuse? We should at least know who’s playing the game so we can play fairly against them.

  8. Damn right there is some backroom politics going on. This vote was rigged before the hearing.

    No opposition and no question as to who was going to make the call to send it to the 41st day…they really do think the people of South Dakota are too stupid to figure out their little games.

    Steve Hickey has been warning us about this…Pastor Steve, hold your friends in the Legislature’s feet to the fire…help out Jolene and the kids who have been abused and help prevent future abuse.

    For such a small amount of money, for such an important issue, these people who claim to represent the people of South Dakota have been influenced by someone other than the $ amount or the process. Maybe they’ll have the courage or feel some sense of responsibility to tell us their reasoning so we better understand how they think they are representing the people of SD.

    Everyone of these cowards could have stood up and had the courage to say why they were voting against this, but were too afraid or too disrespectful of Jolene and the people abused children and the people of South Dakota.

    Call them find out why they voted the way they did and what discussions they had in private and who influenced them to say no! Ask them if they think that the public should know about these backroom deals and if they feel that is good governance. Then ask them if the other funding that they voted for all session is more important than children who have been abused and those that will be in the future.

    You can reach all of them at the legislative switchboard: 605-773-3851

    Or you can call them at home on the numbers the provided online at the official Legislative website.

    Munterman – 605-691-9930 home
    Verichio – 605-574-2466 home
    Gosch – 605-719-3365 home
    Bolin – 605-719-3365 home
    Langer – 605-428-4929 home
    Solum – 605-882-7056 home 605-882-5284 business
    Wink – 605- 985-5240
    Haggar 605-773-3851 ofc 605-360-8130 home
    Mickelson – didn’t attend…hmmm… 605-371-3365 home 605-977-4873 business
    Stevens – 605-661-0057 home 605-665-5550 ofc
    Westra – 605-271-1623 home 605-336-2111 ofc

    The next time there is a story in the news about a child who is abused in South Dakota, I hope they feel a special level of shame and guilt. I doubt that one of them would have the courage to call the parent and child and say that they were not willing to prevent what happened.

    A note to Jolene…please never let anyone forget what these legislators have done for petty reasons. You have a strong voice and it should be heard during the next election.

  9. Heck, take it one step further and call your own elected representative and ask them why the committee went against the “collective wisdom” of the Senate committees who approved the legislation.

    Especially get the Bill’s sponsors – Jenna Haggar, Deb Soholt, Alan Solano and Representative Peggy Gibson on the record as to what happened and why they didn’t fight harder.

    While you are at it, ask them who killed this bill in private…they know the people and the game.

    They should all feel a sense of failure, shame and responsibility.

  10. Sorry. Is “Collective Wisdom” trademarked by Matt Michaels? Matt, maybe you can share some thoughts on how this “Collective Wisdom” worked out…certainly they will tell you the truth.

    We’ll eagerly await your answer Lt. Governor.

  11. Deb Geelsdottir

    Arrrrgh! There is simply no excuse for this.

    Shame.
    Shame.
    Shame.

  12. could rep. solem tell us why, or who it was requested to kill this study? probably. would he? not if it is a government (GOP) top-down (daugaard) secret.

    wait till daugaard makes a move on the diluted minimum wage bill.

    so good to have you here, btw, kathy tyler!

  13. tara volesky

    The children that die or are sexually abused every year are at the hands of State and Tribes. They know what’s going on and all the cover-ups are obscene. The media refuses to hold our elected officials accountable. The religious non-profits focus on non-controversial things like sex trafficking. Well everybody agrees with that, but what about the SD children that are killed, abused and sexually abused? What do our elected officials do? They run and hide, knowing that these children are being abused everyday. They refuse to deal with it. It’s pathetic.

  14. Tara, I wondered what connection yesterday’s move might have with tribal issues, the NPR foster care report, and the Mette case. I can’t quite connect those dots, because the task force encountered no opposition last year. The Senate gave it unanimous reapproval this year. Our friends at Department of Social Services testified for the bill in the Senate and in the House on Wednesday, right before the Solum Surprise. This shoot-down doesn’t look like part of the long-standing problems we’ve discussed. It doesn’t look like an order from the Executive Branch (remember, Executive wanted this bill as of five minutes before Solum’s motion, since DSS and DoE were in the room saying Do Pass). House State Affairs held this bill for a month. Something happened at caucus, and I don’t think it was a policy discussion. We deserve to know what.

  15. larry kurtz

    This is just continued coverup of clergy crimes against children perpetuating profits for the Lee Schoenbecks and the Jeremiah Murphys: it’s just that simple.

    South Dakota: Land of Infinite Vice.

  16. tara volesky

    Cory, I could write a book about all the child abuse cases that happen everyday on and off the reservation. ICWA is not perfect either. The relatives not the tribal government should have authority over the children. Maybe Jenna Haggar should worry about the lives of these children. You can’t get any more pro life than that. Fighting the Supreme court is not going to overturn Roe v Wade. Just ask Thune, Rounds, and Noem. They campaign on prolife but do Zero when elected. The law is the law. Mr. Gosch are you making this a political thing because you don’t like someone on the committee? Everyone who voted against this is not PRO-Life! Hypocrites. It’s not about children, it’s about CONTROL. Peggy Gibson could teach you guys some lessons.

  17. tara volesky

    What was the sexual abuse bill that Rounds introduced which passed by the Republicans to protect the Catholic Church?

  18. Nick Nemec

    Tara, if memory serves me it put a statute of limitations on sex abuse charges. It is now law in SD.

  19. tara volesky

    Thanks Nick.

  20. Daugaard has reconsituted on his own accord this task force. What ever that means.

  21. tara volesky

    Cronyism over kids and they all know it but refuse to deal with it. Most everybody is afraid of their job or political future if they say anything. Reporters want to break some big stories but are afraid of getting fired if they do. The stories are there.

  22. Jolene did a great job of getting people active on social media and in the main stream media!

    Hopefully, I’m also sure that the bright light shown on this here at Cory’s Dakota Free Press also played a role.

    Activism works!!!

  23. It makes me wonder if someone from Daugaard’s office made sure the bill was killed in committee so he could come in and save the day. This move makes him look good, especially among those low-information folks.

  24. I find it quite silly that our Representatives are taking a beating on this. The only way a “task force” loses money from the citizen tax payers is they haven’t produced results, or there is no longer a need. I think everyone needs to ask – which is it? The money may be more suited to go directly towards/against the cause rather than studying it. Just my thoughts – since no one but a few seem to know the facts.

  25. Porter Lansing

    Here’s the smoke … http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephanie-woodard/south-dakota-catholic-sex-abuse_b_850102.html “A PEEK INSIDE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH’S DRAWERS” Rep. Solum speaks with more double-talk than he did as a student.

  26. mike from iowa

    Good reading. Thanks Porter. So much for equal protection under the law except in South Dakota.

  27. OMG Porter…that’s more than smoke. I think there needs to be a Freedom of Information Act inquiry into why Solum and the Committee acted the way they did.

    Until Solum and the rest tell the whole story, one could easily assume that the Catholic Church placed pressure on Catholic legislators and the Governor to kill this legislation. Not to mention the damage that would be caused by the exposure of this story.

    Of course, that could be wrong, but we won’t know until Solum, the Governor and the House Committee on State Affairs tells the whole story behind yesterday’s actions and vote.

    Solum, Governor et.al. Please do clear this up and tell us exactly what happened!

  28. Remember when Kristi Noem voted against the Violence Against Women Act? The sexual abuse of Native Americans by non Natives was her issue.

    Well, here’s more smoke to add with Porter’s.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/06/vawa-native-americans_n_6819526.html

    Here’s why Kristi was opposed.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/06/violence-against-women-act-eric-cantor-native-americans_n_2251924.html

  29. mike from iowa

    Alaska’s wingnuts wanted to protect white rapists and abusers from Native Americans as well.

  30. Deb Geelsdottir

    Thanks for the links Jana. I read that the folks on the Lake Traverse Res now have jurisdiction over anyone who tries to injure a woman on tribal land. It’s about time!

    The terrible legacy of those boarding schools is just horrendous. That is one of the national shames this country must address, atone for, beg forgiveness, and make right.

    I really don’t know how those legislators who approved making it harder for the abused to seek redress – Really. How do they live with themselves? Even though they must be horribly, shamefully corrupt, I believe there is a small, dark place in their hearts where the rancid stink of rot slowly seeps throughout the body.

    I try very hard to find a way to feel some compassion for just about anyone, but those who knowingly and willingly participate in the harm of the weak, young or vulnerable go beyond my abilities.

  31. That was nice of you Deb, but the thanks should go to Porter Lansing for steering me in that direction and then all I had to do was connect some dots.

    I hope those who seek silence rather than justice read your words and rid themselves of that ‘dark place in their hearts where the rancid stink of rot slowly seeps throughout the body.’

    As the reversal of Jolene’s law shows, we may not be in power, but we are not powerless.

    Thanks right back to you for your ever interesting contributions to this site as well.

  32. Francis Schaffer

    Here is a link to an event. I am sending it to all the committee members who voted no. I may mail it to them also. Last year, was my first time at the event – the closed group was difficult but helpful for all and being the only male on the panel was humbling. It is a start for me on my healing journey.

    https://www.facebook.com/download/537697469703984/Safe%20Space%20Day%20Conference%20Advertised%202015.pdf