Al Novstrup talks a lot about how working in the Legislature is all about relationships. Maybe that’s why he keeps voting against banning sex between legislators and their young interns and pages.
Senator Novstrup voted with eight other legislators on the Joint Legislative Procedure Committee last Wednesday to reject a rule proposed by Senator Stace Nelson that would explicitly forbid legislators from having any sexual contact with any legislative intern or page.* Senator Novstrup voted against a similar rule that Senator Nelson brought to the floor Friday to protect young people from Capitol predators. Novstrup was one of seventeen Republican Senators voting no:
Democratic Minority Leader Billie Sutton* pulled his Democrats out of this fire. Senator Jason Frerichs voted against the sexual contact rule in committee but then came to caucus and said he didn’t see any reason not to support Senator Nelson’s revisitation of the rule. The five fearless Democrats present thus voted for the motion.
The rule Senator Nelson brought to the full Senate Friday was actually softer than the rule he proposed in committee Wednesday. His original rule was absolute—”No legislator may have sexual contact with any legislative intern or page”—plus language about reporting and investigating. On Friday, Nelson was willing settle for just one no-nookie sentence with a new exception: “No legislator may have sexual contact with any legislative intern or page who is not the legislator’s fiancé or spouse.”
Fiancé?! Well, that probably killed Senator Nelson’s bill right there. How could the Senate, purveyors of wholesome sexual ethics for all South Dakotans, vote for any measure condoning premarital sex?
Senator Nelson’s softened language may have been meant to carve an exception for Rep. Mathew Wollmann, whose fiancée, according to her public Facebook postings, is an intern for the SDGOP:
I neither assume, assert, nor desire to know what sort of contact the newly affianced couple may be engaging in. I only note that the gracious Senator Nelson may have softened his rule to avoid raising unnecessary questions about any happy coupling. (Or maybe he was just doing a favor for his fellow Marine. Marines, like Republicans, do look out for each other like that.)
In speaking against Senator Nelson’s second try, Majority Leader R. Blake Curd said Friday that the Joint Rules had received enough discussion and that Senator Nelson’s concerns about sexual ethics in the Capitol have been sufficiently “asked and answered.” The majority (19 yeas on accepting the rules as reported from committee) followed their leader to that conclusion.
But Senator Novstrup must feel pretty strongly about this issue, even after national media attention, to put his name a second time to a vote that, on face, says, “I do not support a rule explicitly prohibiting me from having sex with an intern or page.”
*Correction 12:16 CST: I originally and incorrectly reported that Senator Sutton had voted against the rule change in committee. Senator Sutton does not serve on the Joint Legislative Procedure Committee. Senator Frerichs does, and he cast a vote to kill the no-contact rule in committee. Senator Frerichs then changed his mind for the floor vote. I apologize for the error.
*Correction #2 12:45 CST: I originally claimed that sex with pages under age 18 would already be a crime. However, a sharp commenter below notes that the age of consent in South Dakota is 16 (See SDCL 22-22-1).