The Legislative Session has only three weeks remaining. In the Senate, we have debated several topics over the past week including homeschooling (SB 177), cemetery regulations (SB 106), parole eligibility (SB 146), procedures for initiated measures (SB 77, 86 and 123), youth hunting requirements (HB 1034) and the death penalty (SB 98), just to name a few.
We also had the opportunity to unanimously consent to the appointment of Huron superintendent Terry Nebelsick as a member of the South Dakota Board of Education Standards. I know he will do a great job serving our state in this new position as he retires at the end of June.
Recently, COVID in the Capitol was in the news, as we had eight members of the House of Representatives test positive within the span of a few days. Thankfully, we have not yet had any positive cases on the Senate side. So, I thought it may be good to explain some of the protocols in place to help reduce the spread. Since the beginning of Session, there have been hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes available at every desk. There is a temperature screening device at the door of the building and the door of the chamber to allow people to check their temperature if they want to.
Legislators are encouraged to wear masks, but each one makes his or her own decision. I personally wear a mask whenever I am in the Capitol, unless I am eating or addressing the Senate from in front of my desk where I am able to have some distance from those around me. I believe wearing a mask is one of the best ways individuals can help reduce the spread of the virus when around others.
Legislators and staff also have the option to be tested regularly. This started as a weekly test but has increased to twice weekly in the wake of the recent cases. I make use of this testing because I want to know as soon as possible if I am ever infected but asymptomatic. That way I can isolate and not expose others.
Finally, remote participation by legislators has become more common. If we are positive or even a close contact with someone who is, we can participate and vote remotely in committees and on the floor. This ensures that we can still fulfill our role representing our constituents while protecting others from the virus. Even you have the option of participating in legislative committee meetings remotely if you want to present testimony on a particular bill. You only need to email the committee 24 hours in advance in order to be sent the link to join in and share your views.
As we get down to crunch time in the remaining weeks, I hope these precautions will keep us all safe and healthy.
Contact Sen. David Wheeler via email email@example.com or by phone at (605) 412-8825.