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House kills study for Native families

Rep. Tony Venhuisen and Rep. Peri Pourier debate SB 191 in the House of Representatives
Rep. Tony Venhuizen and Rep. Peri Pourier debate SB 191 in the House of Representatives

A bill to create a study committee to improve Native children’s lives was killed in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, March 1.

Senate Bill 191 was approved on the Senate side and then received unanimous approval in the House Judiciary Committee, but two days later it died on the House floor.

SB 191 required a 17-member committee to meet at least eight times before November 2024, with the Legislative Research Council coordinating the effort.

Rep. Tony Venhuizen said that the bill required too much.

“Nine of the 17 members are from the tribes, just over half,” he said. “Two from DSS, two from the court system, then just four legislators. So, four legislators on a 17-person committee, but we’re paying for it.”

Rep. Peri Pourier justified including all nine tribal nations with land inside South Dakota’s borders.

“They have their own independent taxation compact agreements, they have their own agreements with DSS, and they all have their own policies,” she said. “They have their own constitution.”

Pourier said tribal families are in crisis, with Native Americans in the top tier of problems such as incarceration rates, dropout rates, and health issues.

“This is a problem that the tribes cannot solve on their own,” she said. “They still need the state of South Dakota. And this is not a problem that the state of South Dakota can address on its own. You need the tribes. We need each other.”

Pourier noted that the commission might find a way to assist Native children and families to prevent those failures, but instead, the state spends millions to deal with negative outcomes.

“We’re allocating hundreds of millions of dollars for new state prisons,” Pourier said.

Representatives Scott Odenbach and Oren Leismeister also spoke in favor of the bill, but the House killed it on a vote of 42 to 26.

Rapid City freelancer Victoria L. Wicks has been producing news for SDPB since August 2007. She Retired from this position in March 2023.