Gosch, Smith’s trip to Hawaii prompts the introduction of a bill requiring non-returning lawmakers to obtain special permission to attend parliamentary trips

A bill requiring non-returning lawmakers from South Dakota to obtain permission from the Legislature’s Executive Committee to attend out-of-state conferences will be passed by a House committee this morning (January 30, 2023).

The House Affairs Committee passed the measure by an 11-2 vote. House Bill 68 had previously passed the Senate.

The bill follows a legislative trip to Hawaii by former House Speaker Spencer Gosch and former House Minority Leader with fellow lawmakers for a legislative conference in Hawaii in December. Gosch was defeated for the Senate in the 2022 Republican primary, and Smith, a Democrat, lost to Gov. Kristi Noem in her 2022 re-election campaign.

Supporter Rep. Hugh Bartels, Republican Speaker of the House and a co-sponsor of the bill, is currently deciding whether House Representatives can go to an out-of-state event. In the Senate, co-sponsor Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, the President of Pro Tem, makes that decision.

The bill’s backer, Republican Rep. Taylor Rehfeldt of Sioux Falls, said the measure is about accountability of lawmakers. She said there might be times when a non-returning legislature might be appropriate to represent the state at an extrastate conference.

Chamberlain Republican Rep. Rebecca Reimer, an opponent, said, “The more we fix things, the more they break.” She called the bill “reactionary.”

Legislators not returning to Pierre could be due to term limits, a loss in an election, or a choice not to run again.

The measure now goes to the Senate.

(The South Dakota Broadcasters Association contributed to this story.)

JANUARY 20, 2023:

A legislative trip to Hawaii last year (2022) by two South Dakota lawmakers who did not return to the legislature in 2023 became the basis for a bill introduced at the state capitol in Pierre.

Senate Bill 68 would require the legislature’s board to authorize out-of-state travel for any legislator who does not return for the next legislative session.

Bill sponsor Senator Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown says the bill came from former House Speaker Spencer Gosch and former State Representative Jamie Smith, who made the trip although they did not return to Pierre for the 2023 session. Schoenbeck says the bill doesn’t ban travel for “lame duck” lawmakers, but it would provide another layer of consent to ensure members don’t abuse legislative travel, particularly to interesting or exotic locations.

The measure went 9-0. It now goes to the Senate for consideration.

(The South Dakota Broadcasters Association contributed to this story.)