Legislators flip flop on S.D. teacher pay increase

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Governor Dennis Daugaard’s plan to raise teacher pay is moving forward to the South Dakota Senate, after the bill initially failed by one vote in the House of Representatives last week.

The half-cent sales tax hike passed a revote Monday 47-21, which hit the required two-thirds majority needed for tax hikes.

“Thank you to the bipartisan House majority who voted to pass HB1182. This is an important first step. #BeBold,” Daugaard tweeted.

Teacher pay has become a hot-button issue in South Dakota after the governor’s Blue Ribbon task force found South Dakota ranked last in the country for teacher pay.

It this tax passes the Senate, it will become the first permanent increase to the state’s sales tax in nearly half a century.

Two Republican lawmakers switched their votes to support the measure, while a Democrat flipped to oppose it.

“It’s one of the most exciting days of my career in education,” said Mary McCorkle, president of the South Dakota Education Association.

House Republican Leader Brian Gosch is against the tax hike. Instead, he wants to raise teacher pay without increasing taxes.

“It’s what I expected, and the sun will come up tomorrow,” Gosch said.

Transgender student bathroom bill

Another highly-debated issue in the Legislature is the transgender student bathroom bill – which is heading to Daugaard’s desk after it passed both chambers.

“Tell @SDGovDaugaard to protect trans kids by vetoing #HB1008,” tweeted reality television star and former athlete Caitlyn Jenner Monday night.

Transgender Olympic gold medalist Jenner has called on Daugaard to veto a bill that would require transgender schoolchildren to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their sex at birth.

Transgender advocates were in Pierre on Tuesday to meet with Daugaard.

Ashley Joubert-Gaddis of the Center for Equality said the goal of the event is to show support for transgender people. She said it’s important that advocates make lawmakers feel their presence.

Thomas Lewis is a transgender high school student from Sioux Falls who is meeting with the governor. Lewis told the Associated Press he wants Daugaard to understand that transgender people are human beings who want to use the bathroom where they feel they belong.

The Center for Equality requested the meeting because Daugaard said he hadn’t knowingly met a transgender person. Daugaard said it’s always good to have more information.

Heather Smith, executive director of the ACLU of South Dakota, delivered a petition meant to show Daugaard that there are more than 80,000 people who want him to stop the measure from becoming law.

She said that “discrimination isn’t a South Dakota value.”

Daugaard has also met with the sponsors of the bill. The governor said he hasn’t decided how to act on the measure.