South Dakota enacts citizen privacy protection law

March 24, 2021 | PUFP Staff

This week, Governor Kristi Noem signed a bill to protect the privacy of South Dakota citizens.

Senate Bill 103 “provides for the confidentiality of personal information of persons affiliated with nonprofit corporations.” Sponsored by Senator Casey Crabtree and Representative Kirk Chaffee, the Act affirms the privacy rights of South Dakotans who support nonprofit organizations as guaranteed by the United States Constitution. Under this law, state agencies are prevented from requiring individuals and nonprofits to report personal affiliation information, and any such information that may be in the possession of an agency cannot be publicly disclosed.

Senator Crabtree explained why this bill was one of his priorities during the 2021 legislative session: “This bill allows donors to remain private if they choose to do so but even more so, it is about freedom of speech and the freedom of association. These are rights worth preserving and this provides protections for all South Dakotans regardless of their political beliefs, religious or other ideologies…Put simply, transparency is for the government, privacy is for the people.”

In an op-ed for the Rapid City Journal, Dale Bartscher, Executive Director of South Dakota Right to Life, wrote, “With the passage of this legislation the privacy of South Dakota citizens would be protected, and information about the causes we support – whether it’s a church, local food bank, or social issue organization such as South Dakota Right to Life.  This legislation would assure that our protected private information – would be kept away from the prying eyes of government officials, the media, and activists who want to target us for our beliefs.”

The Act does the following while not impacting existing campaign finance laws in South Dakota:

  • Bars public agencies from requiring individuals and nonprofit organizations to provide “personal affiliation information.”
  • Prohibits public disclosure of any such information a public agency may already possess.
  • Prohibits requiring a current or prospective contractor to provide a public agency with a list of the nonprofits “to which it has provided financial or nonfinancial support.”

“South Dakota’s universities, schools, churches, local hospitals, arts organizations, and many others have benefited greatly from the generosity of those who wish to share their treasures anonymously. People have a constitutionally protected right to support and associate with groups they believe in. This is good policy and a proactive step to allow the generosity of South Dakotans to continue improving our communities,” said Senator Crabtree.

South Dakota is the seventh state to enact a law that proactively protects the privacy of supporters of nonprofit organizations.