SD Senate Committees Kills Bills To End Death Penalty, Raise Minimum Wage


      The South Dakota State Senate Judiciary Committee has voted 8-1 on party lines to send a bill ending the death penalty to the 41st legislative day, effectively killing it since there are only 40 days in this year’s session.

     An hour of emotional testimony from both sides saw supporters of the bill argue that the death penalty is not a deterrent and is irreversible while backers of capital punishment said it is a deterrent, especially to protect prison staff from inmates who have already been sentenced to life in prison – the maximum penalty under the bill

       Lynette Johnson, whose prison guard husband Ronald “RJ” Johnson was murdered during a prison escape attempt in 2011, showed a photo of him after the deadly beating and discussed the impact the murder has had on her family.

      Another 8-1 party line vote, this one in the Senate Commerce and Energy Committee, sent a bill increasing the state minimum wage to $15 an hour over the next 3 years to same same 41st day limbo.

         Democratic Senator Reynold Nesiba of Sioux Falls based the bill on the initiated measure passed by Nebraska voters 2 years ago. His version would have ramped up the minimum wage to $12.50 this year, $13.50 next year, and $15 in 2026. Nesiba said South Dakotans should be paid at least as much as Nebraskans.

      Bill supporter Sister Lynn Marie Welbig of the Presentation Sisters order of nuns told the committee many of the societal problems the legislature deals with happen because people don’t have enough money. .

      Representatives of numerous business groups testified against the bill. Some argued the marketplace is handling the issue, pointing to wages over $15 an hour being offered at many places in Sioux Falls. Others said the increase would harm small businesses, especially those in rural communities.