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January 21, 2020

Chamber: Transgender Bill May Impede Economic Development

Announces Opposition to HB 1057

It is not speculation.  There are multiple examples of conventions, tournaments, entertainers boycotting communities and even entire states when passing laws aimed at select classes of people for special legal sanctions.  There is a growing list of national/international companies that follow inclusive workforce policies and will not invest in states that pass laws discriminating against classes of people including gay, lesbian and transgender individuals.

These new realities bring the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry to urge caution when reviewing proposed laws to assure that they avoid being viewed as draconian and treating selected people harshly.

While understanding the proponents of HB 1057 are sincere in their desire to protect young people in South Dakota, the state has too few examples in the affected population to be the best venue for developing the correct language.  A rush to be first to pass this legislation, based on such limited examples, may lead to the exact kind of rewriting that has plagued other states and does little to correct the impressions of the initial controversy.

Here is the Chamber's official statement that was released last Friday:



PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry announced today that it is opposing House Bill 1057 because the legislation would jeopardize economic development by creating an impression that families with transgender youth will be more persecuted than protected in South Dakota.

HB 1057, introduced in the South Dakota Legislature this week, would ban doctors from performing gender-affirming or gender-changing operations and treatment on minors, threatening medical professionals with a Class 4 felony.

David Owen, president of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry, said legislation such as HB 1057 carries potential consequences beyond the bill’s language, and those consequences can adversely impact economic opportunities in South Dakota.

“South Dakota is home to a growing number of national and international businesses, including banks, research firms, manufacturers and health care systems, that believe workplaces and communities need to be inclusive and use the talents of everyone, ” Owen said. “When South Dakota considers draconian rules that affect a limited number of people, we run the risk of triggering economic consequences that include the loss of conventions, tournaments, top-level entertainment and business investment from outside industries.”

The Chamber has consistently opposed legislation that creates regulations or discriminates against specific classes of people. Past issues have included defining participation in extracurricular activities and the use of bathrooms and locker rooms. HB 1057 would give the state government power to regulate the relationship between families with transgender young people and their professional medical and psychological providers.

The Chamber is a conservative organization that views HB 1057 as government overreach. Although the bill’s sponsors seem sincere in wanting to offer protection to young people, South Dakota has an extremely limited number of these situations and is not an appropriate place to use the power of state government to control issues that are personal and extremely complicated.

“South Dakota needs to continue to invite people and investment into the state to give everyone the strongest future possible,” Owen said. “HB 1057 has too much potential to adversely affect those goals.”

About the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry

The South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry promotes, fosters and encourages economic development in the state of South Dakota. The organization acts as an advocate and watchdog for business and industry on statewide issues ranging from legislation to ballot measures.

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The Chamber’s concerns seem to have been affirmed.  The headline below was on social media Monday evening.

South Dakota bill would make trans health care for minors a felony

Doctors could face up to 10 years in prison if they prescribe puberty blockers or hormones to a transgender person under 18.

Coalition of Local Businesses, Chambers of Commerce and Economic Development Organizations Renew Call for Driver’s Licenses/Tests in Spanish

Businesses need workers.  Legal immigration can help fill that need.  Spanish speaking people make up approximately 4% of South Dakota’s population which is more than 35,000 people, half of which could be in the workforce.   This growing coalition wants these legal immigrants to be able to study for and take the driver’s test in their native language because they believe being at work is the fastest way for them to lean English. 

South Dakota is one of only six states that have an “English only” policy for getting a driver’s license.  North Dakota, of all places, publishes the driver’s manual in Spanish and allows people to take the test in eight foreign languages!   The Chamber called the driver’s license office in North Dakota and found out that people in that office use English as their primary language.  Using English, we asked “How did North Dakota start testing in all those languages and printing the manual in Spanish?”   “I’m not sure.  I think we just wanted to help,” he answered.  Hopefully that’s contagious. 

“How will we know that drivers can read highway signs?” is another objection often heard to allowing the test to be taken in Spanish or other languages.  The coalition points out that most traffic signs are international symbols designed to convey information without being “read”.



The lobbyists working on the Spanish Driver’s license bill are still lining up sponsors and reviewing the final draft so there is no specific bill number.  We need you!  The future of this bill will depend on real live businesses contacting legislators to make sure this issue is not some academic wonk-ish policy debate; but it actually has support from employers.  Click here to share your thoughts and support.  Messages sent will be printed and taken to the legislative mail room.


Governor Noem and the Week of Work 

April 20-24 

The South Dakota Week of Work will introduce 10th grade students to career opportunities in their communities through job shadows, industry tours, and other business-classroom connections.  The week will provide employers opportunities to engage with youth and develop connections with the state’s future workforce.  More information at sdweekofwork.com


Join us for Business Day at the Legislature, Thursday, February 20, 2020

Business Day has existed for well over 40 years and continues to be the largest event for the South Dakota Chamber.  The purpose of the day reflects our role as a leading voice of business by bringing local business and community leaders to Pierre for updates on legislative activities and participation in the Business Caucus.  Business Day includes speakers on timely and business-related issues, networking opportunities, recognition of business and legislative advocates -- and of the manufacturing industry -- and provides an opportunity to spend time at the Capitol during session. 


1:30 PM  Registration
2-3:30     Business Caucus & Legislative Update
3:30-5     Time at the Capitol
4:00        Special Legislative Topic Discussion at the Capitol
5-7:00     Economic Developer's Reception and Manufacturer's Showcase -- Jobs and Innovation
               Program at 6 o'clock
                    Annual Chamber Awards (recipients announced next week)
                    Guest Speaker Bob Sutton, President and CEO, Avera Health
7 PM       Adjourn

Business Day is made possible by the following generous sponsors:

First PREMIER Bank/PREMIER Bankcard
Black Hills Energy
Fredrickson & Byron, P.A.
NorthWestern Energy
Williamson Management Group

Thank you for your support of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry!





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