Actions Taken by the State Government
Legislation that Supports Equity and Justice
Important bills proposed by South Dakota lawmakers this legislative session that should be supported:
- No bills identified.
Harmful bills proposed by South Dakota lawmakers this legislative session that should be opposed:
- SB 149 would authorize adoption agencies and child placement services to discriminate against same-sex parents on religious grounds.
See also the main policy pages for federal legislative tracking.
Key Upcoming Elections
Click here to find out if you're registered to vote. Register to vote here. The deadline is 15 days before Election Day. Bring proof of identification the first time you vote. A photo ID is requested every time you vote.
- Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) is up for reelection in 2018.
- If there is a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act, 17,688 people in South Dakota (or 2.1% of the population) are estimated to lose coverage, whereas 74,000 people (or 8.6% of the population) will lose coverage with a partial repeal. (Retrieved 1/26/2017 from ACA Repeal Impact, state-by-state.) This is because with a full repeal, premiums will not increase the way they would under a partial repeal, since insurance companies will be able to discriminate on the basis of preexisting conditions and won't be required to provide essential health benefits. Not covering preexisting conditions will disproportionately affect people with disabilities.
- The number of uninsured people in South Dakota is predicted to be 83,000 by 2021 under the ACA. Without the ACA, that number is expected to rise to 118,000, a 43.4% increase.
- South Dakota is among the states that lost the ability to place lifetime limits on coverage, because that practice is banned by the ACA; those limits are likely to be reinstated under a full repeal.
- Prior to the ACA's ban on gender-rating, women in South Dakota could pay up to 71% more for the same coverage, compared to men; an ACA repeal could bring back that coverage gap.
- Given that a repeal of the ACA would also change payment structures and subsidies, 7,000 jobs could be lost in South Dakota. When federal funding is cut, it creates a ripple effect that affects local and state revenue, thus creating losses in economic activity and employment.ACA Repeal Impact, state-by-state
- Under the ACA Repeal-and-Delay strategy, young adults in South Dakota could pay $898 more in 2018.
- In 2013, South Dakota had 23,507 immigrants, making up 2.8% of the population.
- There are estimated to be 5,000 undocumented immigrants in South Dakota, making up 0.6% of the population.
Rights of Non-Citizens
- South Dakota does not allow undocumented immigrants to get drivers’ licenses.
- South Dakota does not allow undocumented immigrants to attend public college at the same in-state tuition rate as legal residents and citizens.
- In 2012, President Barack Obama signed an executive order (DACA) that defers deportation for children who were brought to the country as children. The action allows them to work lawfully but does not create a pathway to citizenship or give them legal status in the United States. In South Dakota, 367 individuals have benefited from this executive action.
- 0.6% of K-12 students in South Dakota had undocumented parents in 2014.
- Undocumented immigrants in South Dakota made up 0.8% of the labor workforce in 2014.
- If all undocumented workers were removed from South Dakota, the state would lose $190.5 million in economic activity.
- Undocumented immigrants paid $4.2 million in state and local taxes in South Dakota in 2012.
- South Dakota’s state legislature has introduced bills similar to Arizona’s SB 1070 (which requires police to check detained/arrested people's immigration status if it is suspected that they might not be in the US legally), but none has passed.
- South Dakota does not have any cities or counties with sanctuary policies.
- South Dakota ranked seventh in per capita refugee resettlement in 2016, with 50 refugees per 100,000 residents.
- South Dakota voters face the first presidential election in 50 years without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). The VRA was designed to prevent discrimination in voting. Overall, states are passing fewer laws to restrict voting rights. However, voter ID bills are the most common type of restriction.
- In 2014, 5,287 people were incarcerated in South Dakota, plus a probation population of 6,262 and parole population of 2,577.
- Of the prison population, 181 people were serving life sentences, all without parole.
- 333 juveniles were in custody in South Dakota in 2013.
- In South Dakota, a black person was 4.8 times more likely to be incarcerated than a white person in 2014.
- 10 people were incarcerated in private prisons.
- Corrections expenditures in 2014 were $109 million.
Tax Cuts for the Wealthy
- South Dakota residents who face a tax increase under Trump’s plan:
- Households: 24,000
- Adults and children: 86,000
- Children: 52,000
- In 2015, an average of 43,176 households and 98,553 individuals received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly called Food Stamps) in a given month in South Dakota. In 2011, approximately 12% of the population of South Dakota was receiving SNAP benefits. The average monthly benefit per South Dakota household was $281 per household and $122 per person in 2016.
- In 2016, an average of 6,015 households, including 3,044 families and 5,433 children, received Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), which is direct financial assistance, in a given month. The average monthly benefit for a single parent with three children residing in South Dakota was $615 in 2014. Average benefits in South Dakota have fallen in value by 6.2% since 1996.
- In 2016, an average of 3,798 women received funds from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in a given month.
- In December 2015, there were 1,445 Social Security recipients in the "aged" category who received $350.86 per person on average, for a total of $507,000.
- 18,600 low-income households in South Dakota spent more than half of their income on housing.
- In 2014, South Dakota had 43 units of affordable and available housing for every 100 households categorized as “extremely low income” (at or below 30% of area median income.)
- In South Dakota, there were 1,072 homeless people in 2016, which is 0.19% of the total national homeless population.
- Of the homeless population, there were 170 families, 120 veterans, 68 unaccompanied young adults (18-24), and 44 people experiencing chronic homelessness.
- South Dakota received $67 million in federal rental assistance funding in 2014.
- In South Dakota, more than 16,000 families relied on federal rental assistance in 2014.
- Nearly all South Dakota households using federal rental assistance included children, elderly people or disabled people.
- In 2013, the Department of Transportation found that 24.8% of South Dakota’s bridges were structurally deficient or functionally obsolete, and 61% of South Dakota’s roads were in poor or mediocre condition.
- Driving on these roads leads to an additional $324 per motorist per year in increased vehicle repairs and operating costs.
- According to Governor Dennis Daugaard (R), railroads are s major infrastructure priority for South Dakota.
Women's Rights/Reproductive Justice
- South Dakota has one Planned Parenthood center.
- In 2015, no center was in a rural, medically underserved, or health provider shortage areas.
- On average, there is one Planned Parenthood for 161,000 women of reproductive age.
Policy Solutions / Issues
- There were two abortion providers in South Dakota in 2015.
- In 2014, 6.4 out of every 1,000 women of reproductive age in South Dakota had an abortion. The national abortion rate is 14.6.
Policy Solutions / Issues
- There is a 72-hour waiting period required after mandatory counseling.
- Parental notice is required for minors.
- Ultrasound requirements exist.
- Abortion is prohibited after 24 weeks except in cases of life or health endangerment.
- Mandated counseling includes misleading information.
- Medical abortion is limited.
- Private insurance coverage is limited.
- State Medicaid does not fund most abortions.
- TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws exist.
Women and Wages
- In South Dakota, 14.3% of women live in poverty. 34.3% of single mothers live in poverty, as do 9.4% of women age 65 and older.
- For every dollar made by men, women are paid $0.78, which is two cents below the national average of $0.80.
- African American women are paid $0.62 for every dollar paid to white men, while Latina women make $0.59 for every dollar made by white men.
- The lifetime prevalence of rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner for South Dakota women is 33.7%.
- Nearly two-thirds of South Dakota domestic violence homicides are committed with firearms.
- Although Native Americans comprise less than 9% of the population of South Dakota, they accounted for over 26% of victims/survivors of reported forcible rapes in 2012.
Religious freedom law
South Dakota does not have a religious freedom law. Religious freedom laws protect people's right to practice their religion and limit laws imposing on that right, and were intended to protect religious minorities. However, after same-sex marriage was legalized, conservative states have attempted to enact similar laws with provisions that allow discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals.
South Dakota lacks laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in employment, housing, public accommodations, adoption, foster care, credit, education, insurance and jury selection.
South Dakota also lacks laws protecting LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in parenting, including laws relating to second-parent adoption, surrogacy, foster care, parental presumption for same-sex couples, consent to inseminate and de facto parent recognition.
Hate crime laws
South Dakota does not include LGBTQ+ people in its hate crime laws as a protected group and doesn't have required reporting of hate crimes against LGBTQ+ people.
South Dakota has a transgender sports inclusion law, but lacks other laws protecting LGBTQ+ youth, such as protection from conversion therapy, laws to address LGBTQ+ youth homelessness, LGBTQ+ inclusive sex education laws, and LGBTQ+ inclusive juvenile justice policies. 
Health and safety laws
- South Dakota does not have certain laws protecting the health and safety of its LGBTQ+ citizens, including nondiscrimination protections in the ACA exchanges, a ban on insurance exclusions for trans health care, trans-inclusive health benefits for state employees, gender marker changes on identification documents, health data collection, and gender-neutral single-occupancy restrooms.
- South Dakota does have a law that criminalizes HIV/AIDS.
- HIV criminalization laws are those that make it illegal for an HIV-positive person to “knowingly expose” another person to HIV—in some states, this means that it is illegal not to disclose HIV-positive status to a sex partner, but many laws criminalize behaviors that are unlikely to lead to transmission. Because the laws focus on disclosure, not actual transmission, they serve no real purpose. All states have other, non-HIV-specific laws that can be used to prosecute transmission of HIV, so these laws just needlessly single out and stigmatize HIV-positive people and reinforce the image of them as “dangerous.” It also allows the saliva or blood of an HIV-positive person to be classified in court as a “deadly weapon.” HIV criminalization laws also disproportionately target people of color, mainly Black people, and gay men.
- South Dakota is ranked 41st in per-pupil spending as of 2013, with an average expenditure of $8,470 per student.
- As of 2013, South Dakota ranked last in teacher pay, with teachers earning an average of $39,580 per year.
- 90% of students in South Dakota attend public schools. As is the case in other states, students who attend private schools come from wealthier families, with private school families earning an average 73% higher income.
- As of 2014, there were no students enrolled in public charter schools in South Dakota.
- 89% of white students, 71% of Hispanic students, 73% of Black students, and 80% of Asian/Pacific Islander students graduate from high school in four years. The rate for Asian students is 9% lower than the national average, while other subgroups' rates are approximately equal to or slightly below the rates in the rest of the country.
Consumer Protections / Workers' Rights
- South Dakota has a state minimum wage of $8.65.
- South Dakota has no state law for paid sick leave.
- South Dakota has no state law for paid family leave.
- South Dakota has Right-to-Work laws, which means that the state can prohibit unions that collectively bargain on behalf of both members and nonmembers from requiring union fees for the services they provide to all workers they represent. Such laws are designed to reduce unions' income and power.
- South Dakota is a state with an at-will exemption. "At-will" means that an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, except an illegal one, or for no reason, without breaking the law. Likewise, an employee is free to leave a job at any time for any or no reason with no adverse legal consequences.
- South Dakota also has a public policy exemption, meaning that an employer may not fire an employee if it would violate the state's public policy doctrine or a state or federal statute, including refusing to perform an act that state law prohibits (e.g., refusing an employer's request to commit perjury at a trial), reporting a violation of the law (e.g., reporting an employer's fraudulent accounting practices or use of child labor), engaging in acts that are in the public interest (e.g., joining the National Guard or performing jury duty) and exercising a statutory right (e.g., filing a claim under the state workers' compensation law).
- South Dakota does allow for implied contract exemptions.. An implied contract can be created in several different ways: oral assurances by a supervisor; or handbooks, policies or practices as written assurances by the employer. This means that if there is no written contract between the employer and employee, that employee may have an exception of fixed term or even indefinite employment based on an employer's statements. As a general rule, courts disregard language promising long-term, lifetime or permanent employment as aspirational and consider the relationship to be at-will.
- South Dakota does not support the Implied Covenant of Good Faith and Fair Dealing. Courts have interpreted the covenant in different ways, from requiring just cause for termination to prohibiting terminations made in bad faith or motivated by malice.
Climate / Environment
- Approximately 73% of South Dakota’s electricity generation is wind and hydroelectric.
- South Dakota has two sites on the National Priorities List.
- Approximately 6% of South Dakota’s land is federally owned.
- In 2014, the Black population had the highest air pollution exposure indices—of 20—compared to an overall index of 10.
- In 2012, Native American adults in South Dakota were most likely to have asthma—12.4%, compared to 7.4% overall.
- The environmental agency in South Dakota is the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, which provides environmental monitoring and natural resource assessment, technical and financial assistance for environmental projects, and environmental regulatory services.
- South Dakota does not have a climate action plan.
- In 2008, South Dakota established a renewable energy goal that 10% of all electricity sold at retail within the state be renewable energy by 2015.
- 12.0% of South Dakota's residents are disabled, compared with the national average of 12.6%. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table R1810]
- South Dakota has the 2nd-highest employment rate of disabled adults in the US: 51.7%, compared to the national average of 34.9%. People without disabilities in South Dakota have a 82.6% employment rate. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Tables R1811 & B18120]
- Approximately 15.7% of eligible voters in South Dakota have one or more disabilities, compared to a national average of 15.7%.
- Of adults with disabilities in South Dakota, 30.2% live in poverty, as opposed to 11.5% of non-disabled adults. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B23024] The poverty rate for disabled children under 5 is 10.7%, as opposed to 20.6% for non-disabled children. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B18130]
- In South Dakota, 4.0% of adults between 18 and 64 receive SSI (Supplemental Security Income), compared to the national average of 5.4%. [2015 US Census American Community Survey, Table B19056]