Governor Dennis Daugaard cheers final passage yesterday of four bills relating to corruption:
Today #SDLeg gave final passage to HB1052, HB1073, HB1076, and SB27 – all important ethics reform bills that replace portions of IM22.
— Gov. Dennis Daugaard (@SDGovDaugaard) March 8, 2017
HB 1052 purports to protect state employees who blow the whistle on “a violation or suspected violation of a law or rule, an abuse of funds or abuse of authority, or substantial and specific danger to public health or safety….” HB 1052 allows state employees who feel their superiors have retaliated against them for reporting such malfeasance may file a grievance with the Civil Service Commission. Section 41 of IM 22 provided a telephone hotline and website through which anyone could anonymously report corruption to the IM 22 ethics commission, thus reducing the risk of incurring any retaliation in the first place. HB 1052 does not replace IM 22.
HB 1073 caps gifts from lobbyists to public officials and their immediate family members at $100 per year. Section 31 of IM 22 also capped lobbyist gifts at $100. HB 1073 adjusts that cap for inflation each year. HB 1073 exempts a variety of things of value, including food, entertainment, and beverage. An earlier version of HB 1073 at least capped meal value at an exorbitant $75; the final version of the bill allows unlimited wining and dining. HB 1073 is a pale replacement for Section 31 of IM 22.
HB 1076 creates a State Government Accountability Board. Section 3 of HB 1076 limits SGAB’s purview to conflicts of interest, misuse of public funds, bribery, and malfeasance. The IM 22 ethics commission would have had the authority to investigate those instances of corruption as well as violations of campaign finance law and lobbying gift restrictions.
HB 1076 empowers SGAB to investigate and punish violators. Section 8 limits that “punishment” to issuing a public or private reprimand, directing a violator to “engage in coursework or community service,” or making a recommendation to the Governor. The IM 22 ethics commission could seek civil enforcement of legal violations, monetary penalties, and orders requiring corrective action. The IM 22 ethics commission could also impose fines for violations of campaign finance law.
SGAB and the ethics commission overlap, but characterizing HB 1076 as a replacement for part of IM 22 is like serving French fries to replace mashed potatoes.
SB 27 is the Attorney General’s bill clarifying that misusing public funds for direct personal financial gain is not just a conflict of interest but theft. No provision of IM 22 dealt with this particular legal definition. SB 27 is thus not a replacement for anything voters approved in IM 22.
The biggest identifiable replacement for portions of IM 22, the campaign finance reforms of SB 54, remain in conference committee. The four bills Governor Daugaard highlights from yesterday’s action barely replace portions of IM 22, if at all.