Why did at least ten legislators (Rep. Elizabeth May, Rep. Sue Peterson, Rep. Sam Marty, Rep. Kristin Conzet, Sen. Terri Haverly, Rep. Steve Livermont, Rep. Chip Campbell, Rep. Julie Frye-Mueller, Rep. Taffy Howard, and Rep. Nancy Rasmussen) who aren’t on the Government Operations and Audit Committee truck all the way out to Pierre Tuesday to watch GOAC’s GEAR UP hearing in person instead of just staying home and listening to the SDPB livestream?
Because conservative Republican Rep. Elizabeth May got us taxpayers to pay for their trip:
A new policy took effect last Monday for the 105 members of the Legislature.
They now are allowed to claim travel expenses for trips to meetings of legislative committees, even though they aren’t members of the committees.
The idea came from Rep. Elizabeth May, R-Kyle.
…May said the Internet simulcasts from meetings are OK – but…
“It’s just not the same as being there in person,” she said. “It makes a difference to be in person, to get the feel of the committee, and the narrative.”
Liz, as she’s known, considers Mark and Brock “pretty reasonable people.” Her logic was simple.
“We (state government) pay to go these national conferences, so we should have the funding for anybody to attend at the state level,” she said [Bob Mercer, “Legislature’s Leaders Say ‘Yes’ for Travel Expenses,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2017.09.02].
Rep. May has things backwards. If anything, we shouldn’t be paying legislators to attend cushy conferences and corporate propaganda fests around the country. Citing those extravagant expenses to justify adding more extravagant perks for legislators epitomizes the entitlement mindset of our elitist Republican legislators.
The GOAC GEAR UP hearing we paid Rep. May and friends to spectate was all about accountability in use of government dollars. Yet the new May spectator pay is another government handout to political elites with zero accountability. A legislator puts three hundred miles on her car driving to Pierre. She sits in a meeting room for a couple hours, or maybe just pokes her head in. She casts no vote, produces no documents, does no measurable work, but the state writes her a check for $126 for travel. If she leaves early enough and gets home late enough, she can claim $32 for three meals. And if the hearing starts early enough, maybe she even gets us to pay for her motel room in Pierre at the state rate of $70 for the night.
As Rep. May admits, her new spectator pay is about getting a “feel”, a “narrative.” It’s theater tickets. Sure, the audio livestream doesn’t allow us to see the sweat trickling down Senator Stace Nelson’s neck as he deftly avoids the GOP establishment’s effort to pluck his thorny pursuit of corruption from their bloated side. But tough shiskey. Front-row seats and chats with sweaty colleagues after the hearing are a luxury. We spend tax dollars on SDPB for exactly this purpose, to expand government openness without breaking the bank. Asking for more than that, asking to be paid to drive and watch, is greedy and wasteful.
Rep. May’s spectator travel reimbursement won swift approval from Speaker G. Mark Mickelson, Senate President Pro-Tem Brock Greenfield, and the Executive Board on Monday. Her request did not appear on the Executive Board agenda or among the meeting documents posted for the public prior to the meeting.