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Democrats in Legislature Cave on Impeachment, Initiative Delay, Abortion Posing

I haven’t had much to say about the Legislature’s Democratic caucus this Session, since there aren’t enough of them to make much difference on the passage or defeat of legislation. But I can’t help noting that Democrats have missed a few chances to at least vote in protest of some of the Legislature’s bad decisions.

On Wednesday, House Minority Leader Jamie Smith (D-15/Sioux Falls) joined all the Republicans on House State Affairs in gutting House Resolution 7001, the impeachment resolution that he co-sponsored, and putting off Legislative action against killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg indefinitely.

On Tuesday, Rep. Smith and four more of the seven present House Democrats voted for Senate Bill 123, which adds another 20-day delay to the initiative process that gives Democrats one of their only avenues to effecting progressive policy change in South Dakota. On Thursday, all three Democratic Senators—Foster, Heinert, and Nesiba, the latter two of whom are usually hawks on protecting the people’s petition rights—joined the unanimous Republican approval of this harmful erosion of initiative.

None of the Democrats had the courage to stand against Governor Noem’s hypocritical exploitation of Down syndrome kids and vote against House Bill 1110, even though the purported ban on abortions motivated by fetal diagnoses of Down syndrome unnecessarily interferes with women’s right to control their reproduction and adds an adversarial dimension to the doctor-patient relationship. House and Senate Democrats all surrendered to Noem’s emotional hostage-taking and radical right-wing posing.

It’s hard to be a Democrat in South Dakota and especially in the Legislature. But the super-minority position should also be liberating. Democrats have nothing to lose in chambers where their votes add up to single digits. They have nothing to offer but the consistent voice of radical witness against the one-party regime’s bad decisions.


  1. Richard Schriever 2021-03-05 08:16

    As demonstrated by their continued consent to play along with bad legislation like that mentioned, and failure to halt the Republican party’s other whack-a(one party)-mole game around the initiative process with a constitutional amendment to forbid legislative tinkering, the SD Democratic Party reminds one of the abused spouse in an abusive marriage. What would the Democratic identity in this state be – if not for its consent to that continued abuse? Like an abused spouse, does the Democratic party of SD fear losing all identity if it ditches its ongoing dependence on identifying as the abused one?

  2. Mark Anderson 2021-03-05 09:08

    You know Cory, there used to be a Planned Parenthood in Aberdeen. You could pick up your pills and have a Godfathers pizza in one trip.

  3. South DaCola 2021-03-05 11:05

    I lost all hope when they voted for the tax increase for teacher pay, even though many older Dems in the party warned them of the parlor game that was being played on them; Teachers really didn’t get much of a raise and most of the money goes into the general fund.

  4. DaveFN 2021-03-05 12:51

    If they have nothing to lose they must have something to gain. What is it?

  5. Disgusted Dakotan 2021-03-05 13:58

    The Democrats, What a betrayal of Nick Nemec 🤦🏻‍♂️ The RINOs and Democrats dither and subjugate themselves to a retired district court judge over their constitutional authority and duties to impeach an offending high ranking state official that has received preferential criminal charges that his office should review for the appropriate felony charging of Manslaughter 2, but won’t because of his involvement, and he has clearly not been entirely honest and forthcoming about his distracted driving that caused the illegal death of an innocent man. Your article was absolutely correct the other day. Many of the same people in the Legislature supported the legislative actions against Dan Sutton who’s misconduct was also subject to criminal charges. What a disgrace these people are.

  6. Kathy Tyler 2021-03-05 16:20

    I have no problem with their vote on the Down’s Syndrome abortion bill. Voting against that very unnecessary and waste of time bill could have cost them an election. Been there, done that. Republicans run horrible, false, fact distorting campaigns, and this bill is just the type of bill that fits into that agenda.

  7. Donald Pay 2021-03-05 17:07

    I have worked with Down Syndrome adults, and one of my former co-workers has a Down Syndrome child. I value all of their lives. I also know adults who were pregnant at an older age, and screened the fetus for various genetic problems. Their plan was to terminate the pregnancy if any had been found. I think the proper course is to leave such decisions to the woman. These are not easy decisions. It takes a lot of extra care and resources to rear a Down Syndrome child. I’ve seen how families struggle. I’ve also seen the love that such a child brings out in everyone. Families that are strapped for resources have a very hard decision to make. My guess is that a decision to abort would not be based on the diagnosis only, but on family circumstances, such as mother’s age, other children in the family and available family resources, etc.

  8. Mark Anderson 2021-03-05 17:51

    You know gentlemen and gentlewomen, my wife and I worked with a house full of down syndrome men and women when we lived in Aberdeen. One of them would only see her folks when they needed her and were out campaigning of course they were pubs. Beyond that, if I were reincarnated, I would love to be a down syndrome person because they have been rewarded with the blessing of happiness. Kay Lynn we will love you forever. Republicans are of course the opposite.

  9. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-03-05 18:11

    Kathy, I have a problem with conceding an argument before we have it. Every vote we cast against the GOP’s drive toward The Handmaid’s Tale will be used for attack ads; shall Democrats thus never stand up against bogus abortion posturing bills?

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-03-05 18:14

    Must we always be afraid to make Donald’s simple argument? First we Democrats never show the courage to say, “Trust women”?

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2021-03-05 18:15

    DD, good point. Have Democrats forgotten Schoenbeck’s eager prosecution of Sutton?

  12. grudznick 2021-03-05 19:42

    You know who used to never cave? Jim Hutmacher. You fellows need more of his ilk in the legislatures.

  13. DaveFN 2021-03-05 21:17

    Cory, my question is of a penultimate and not an ultimate nature. What do they have to gain in voting as they have since, as you indicate, they certainly are not a “consistent voice of radical witness against the one-party regime’s bad decisions.”

  14. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-03-05 21:47

    Wow. This is breathtaking.

    Why should we vote for Democrats at all? These ones in Pierre are just maybe the left or center wing of the Trump Party.

    No in impeachment, 20 day delay on I and R, and against women’s right to choose? The D Party is shattered into a million pieces by this cowardice.

    Dems can’t even roll the dice anymore, they are playing a different dice game, cowardice.

    The Trump Party does not represent Lincoln, US Grant or Teddy Roosevelt any more.

    The SD Democratic Party does not represent Roosevelt, McGovern or Biden any more. Zero. Gone.

    How can you bring home the bacon or vegan bacon any more by rolling along with the Trump bots? You can’t!

    It’s time for a different party that walks the talk. Ultra Democratic Party. Or something like that.

    I’m amazed at the Desire of House and Senate Democrats in Pierre to want to melt in the arms of the Republicans. That’s not orgasm. That’s stupidity, betrayal, and ‘ if I act like you guys, will I get a few crumbs?”

    No wonder Dems have lost elections in the last 43 years. It’s all in the betrayals, and acting like Republicans.

  15. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-03-05 21:59

    I agree with the last commenter. Better to abstain from voting, read Progressive Democrats of America website, than to to vote with the Republicans. We know have the Trump Party and the Republican Lite Party (used to be the Democratic Party)

    Mindless caving in.

    It is an honor to represent the people of South Dakota. That honor should not fall to the Trump Party-R Lite Party. It should go to.a party that doesn’t blink on impeachment (holding the exec branch to account) or on the people’s RIGHT to legislate (Initiative and Referendum).

    We now truly have a one and only one Party system here—The Trump-Dem Lite Party. The only way to vote against this monopoly is to vote for an Independent or create a 2nd Party, start fresh.

    The Lions that are supposed to defend the people are Lying!

  16. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-03-05 22:01

    National Democrats for President, Vice President, Senate and House are VERY important. Vote for them.

  17. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-03-05 22:27

    I agree. A radical witness against the one party systems bad decisions is needed.

    As far as I think, every Person in this state who can write to their 3 Federal know nothing’s, buy a notebook and a pen and write down their Great ideas, is a true One Man or one Woman Legislature with FAR deeper powers than the Pierre one, and is also a Governor in their minds, too.

    Radical witness for good is us!

    The Democratic legislators flew the coop.

    Just us Roosters left!

  18. bearcreekbat 2021-03-06 01:12

    It appears that the HB 1110 proposed downs syndrome statute does not have a provision that indicates it goes into effect only if Roe v. Wade is overruled, as do some other South Dakota abortion statutes that are inconsistent with the existing constitutional right of privacy in family planning decisions as described in Roe and subsequent cases.

    According to Roe a State can regulate woman’s decision to terminate a nonviable pregnancy during the 2nd trimester only in ways reasonably related to the health of the woman, and after Casey only in a manner that does not cause an “undue burden” on the private exercise of the right to terminate a pregnancy. And since the diagnosis of downs occurs in the 2nd trimester and is unrelated to a woman’s heath, coupled with the fact that forbidding any medical assistance to a woman is by definition an “undue burden,” the existing constitutional restrictions on the power of the State seem to mean HB 1110 will be quickly subject to an injunction, damages, and other relief under current federal law.

    There seems to be, however, a hidden goal. By enacting such facially unconstitutional state statutes, the proponents have decided to provide a funding source under 42 USC 1988 for experts and legal groups that support women’s rights. This is apparent since it is well known that federal courts normally must require States to pay reasonable attorneys fees and expert witness fees incurred iby women that seek judicial relief, including injunctions against such obvious violations of an existing constitutional right. It really is kind of refreshing to see state legislatiors pretend to be anti-women while using this back door method of using tax dollars to fund the law firms and experts that are committed to protecting women’s constitutional rights. Who knew?

  19. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2021-03-06 12:30

    Well, after the new redistricting, there won’t be any Democrats in Pierre unless they are fortunate enough to have an address from a reservation.

    We have a lot of good Democrats in this state, but I am amazed by how cautious and conservative they can be, but this temperament will never bare fruit. They try way to hard to try to continue and restart the pragmatism of Daschle and Johnson, who were good Democrats, but they really need to find their inner McGovern, if they want to inspire the Democrat base and begin to successfully rebuild the South Dakota Democratic Party.

    Perhaps too, this recent pragmatism also speaks to their acknowledgements as Democratic legislators, that the future holds the reality of legislative districts that will not look kindly upon any Democratic legislative candidate anywhere in the state. So, they are probably already trying to carve a new political image, but at the expense of what the Democratic Party stands for and should be fighting for.

  20. marvin kammerer 2021-03-07 12:09

    i turned this thing on & after a little reading i come across the issue of downs syndrome & abortion. it has become way to political. i think the issues of each should be up to the choice of the woman concerned.all these men due is drop their seed & run. you men who have a vote on either issue out of respect for the woman take along walk & shut the hell up. God Bless! & so long.

  21. SD is 20 per cent nonwhite 2021-04-10 12:19

    New Political image of Democrats? Let’s not impeach Ravnsborg.

    The D Party has no spine. They Vote with Republicans, act like Republicans. Won’t vote D anymore. 3rd Party.

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