Rep. May, GOP Leaders Make Us Pay for Them to Watch Committee Hearings

Why did at least ten legislators (Rep. Elizabeth May, Rep. Sue Peterson, Rep. Sam MartyRep. 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.

South Dakota Legislature Executive Board, agenda, 2017.08.28, p. 1, retrieved 2017.09.03.
South Dakota Legislature Executive Board, agenda, 2017.08.28, p. 1, retrieved 2017.09.03.
South Dakota Legislature Executive Board, agenda, 2017.08.28, p. 2, retrieved 2017.09.03.
South Dakota Legislature Executive Board, agenda, 2017.08.28, p. 2, retrieved 2017.09.03.

74 Responses to Rep. May, GOP Leaders Make Us Pay for Them to Watch Committee Hearings

  1. Owen Reitzel

    May has been urged to run for Governor. Do you really think things would change in Pierce with her as governor? Don’t think so

  2. Stace Nelson

    The key to fixing the corruption in our government is getting legislators to take note and do something about it. We have a legislative branch that has been intentionally emasculated by the executive to give it a free pass on anything it wants.

    These legislators werent at some boondoggle in Florida or Vegas. They were gritting it out in shove pens in your eyes GOAC hearings.

    Instead of complaining about our legislators making the long trek to Pierre, showing the administratin they are engaged and greatly concerned? How about encouraging our Democratic legislators to get off the bench and support efforts to hold people responsible? Or? We can do things the same way EB5 was handled and have everyone put their hands over their eyes, ears, and mouth?

    Each legislator has a travel budget amount of several thousand a year. We should be happy and supportive of them chosing to spend their budgets here in SD to try and correct the corruption, and not sunning themselves at some conference.

  3. Stace Nelson

    @Owen Such a statement is ignorant of reality and the same tired partisan rhetoric you are enslaved to.

    Rep. May, Sen. Russell, Rep. Kaiser, etc.? Each one has proven time and time again that they are not business as usual, turn a blind eye politicians. We have reached across the aisle repeatedly to advance GOvt accountability.

    I commend my Democratic colleagues Sen. Sutton & Rep. Wismer for taking more aggressive stances on the GEAR UP corruption. How about folks put away the petty war on the (R) and reciprocate. Then maybe, we can get to the bottom of this corruption.

  4. I am sure I do not know all the “ins and outs”of this story; however, it seems like such a boondoggle we taxpayers are told to spend money on sending legislators to Pierre so they can watch proceedings in person but we have absolutely NO money to pay Community Support Provider employees a sustainable living wage to support our most vulnerable citizens with disabilities. If any of these legislators want to get a “feel” or “narrative” for the real life of CSP’s how about doing some volunteering

  5. I’m not complaining about legislators’ paying attention to what’s happening in Pierre. I’m complaining about legislators’ thinking they are entitled to more taxpayer dollars when they are attending events in an unofficial capacity, the same as citizens who get no compensation would. Remember the phrase “citizen-legislator”?

    We should reimburse travel only when it happens in support of carrying out official duties. GOAC members attending GOAC meetings deserve travel reimbursement. Rep. May attending the one meeting her State-Tribal Relations Committee has held all interim deserves travel reimbursement. Legislators sitting in the audience performing no official function do not. Legislators traveling to optional conferences in other states do not. (If we go there, I’m willing to argue there is no event outside South Dakota that a legislator’s oath and duties require him or her to attend.)

  6. Stace Nelson

    @CAH Legislative oversight is a core legislative duty. Legislators are supposed to be the people’s branch of government. The reason we have EB5, GEAR UP, etc corruption? Isn’t because we had too much legislative oversight, but too little. The medicine to cure what ails corrupt government is more public servants involved in fighting it, not less.

    We have this corruption because the executive branch pushed the mantra that their pet legislators are only there to carry the executive branches buckets and has no comparable authority like the judiciary and executive branch. Your post plays into that. I disagree 100%. It’s the core responsibility of legislators to provide oversight and a check on the executive branches’ corruption. We can’t do that by legislators not being fully engaged.

  7. Stace Nelson

    Anybody who thinks traveling to Pierre at 0500 AM, and sitting through 10 hours of GOAC hearing is some kind of luxurious “boondoggle?” Leads an extremely boring life. Consider this my personal thanks to everyone of those legislators who drove 4-8 hours round trip to do so, and sat through those grueling 10 hours.

    Rep. May and others have been instrumental in feeding some of us questions and notes during these hearings. She was also the driving force this spring coordinating a bipartisan letter to refocus efforts to get this corruption looked into.

    Let’s not cut our nose off to spite our face.

  8. Agreed, let’s not lose sight of the main issues. Legislators can and should conduct this oversight. They can get all the facts they need from SDPB’s free service, without imposing any extra expenses on the taxpayers.

    My problem is accountability. If we’re going to call “legislative oversight” a reimbursable duty, then what counts? Do legislators get reimbursed for attending school board, city, and county meetings as mere listeners? Do we reimburse them for driving across the state to have private meetings with individuals with useful information? Do we reimburse legislators who can’t make it to Pierre for taking time off work to listen online and feed committee members questions and notes by Twitter or e-mail from home? Do we only reimburse legislators who sit in the audience and actively help the committee by producing documents, or do we also reimburse the legislator who drives to Pierre, pokes her head into an interim committee meeting for five minutes of discussion of an issue she’s never been involved with, then bugs out to spend the rest of the day fishing on Lake Oahe before driving back to Minnehaha County? The problem here is just like that with the money Rick Melmer and Keith Moore got from Mid-Central: what evidence of actual work can we cite to justify reimbursing the legislator?

    The Legislature creates interim committees for the express purpose of oversight. If interim committees can’t do the job themselves, then sure, let’s convene a year-round Legislative Session and raise legislator pay commensurate to full-time duties. I’d support an honest, up-front request to increase legislator pay and time on the job. But that’s not the system we have, and until we do, sneaking little treats under the radar of public oversight (again, where was this item on the E-Board’s agenda? Where is Rep. May’s request?) and paying legislators just for sitting in an audience doesn’t pass muster, and the legislators who go out of their way to attend hearings of committees of which they are not members will have to settle for our personal thanks.

  9. And Stace, be careful not to slip into Bolin-esque exaggeration of the specialness of being a legislator. Guys who spent ten hours Tuesday laying asphalt or shingles in the hot sun will snort at the characterization of sitting in a meeting room for ten hours as “grueling.”

  10. straight outta ridge

    I noticed in reading the agenda that there were a couple people who shared the same last name. (Mehlhaff), are they related? And is this the same Jeffrey Mehlhaff who does home construction in Rapid City?

  11. Mr. Lansing

    Republican Rep. Elizabeth May ~ “The ONE meeting her State-Tribal Relations Committee has held all interim?” Only ONE? One meeting for tribal relations but an expenses paid trip to Pierre to support Sen. Nelson when the meeting was telecast? Doesn’t pass the smell test …

  12. Tara Volesky

    Well, I think the taxpayers want the Legislators to put their money where their mouth is. There are mountains of information that has surfaced. Sitting in on these meetings will do little good unless you go to the media, write some op-eds, do press releases, call for a meeting at USD. Use fb, twitter, blogs, radio, tv, publicly supporting Stace Nelson, Susan Wismer, Billie Sutton Liz May along with former Legislators Lora Hubbel, Darrell Solberg , Kathy Tyler etc…whatever it takes to bring these people to justice. I just posted the late Patrick Duffy press conference on the EB-5 scandle. Not a time to be quiet with all these scandals going on.

  13. Donald Pay

    This is the mindset that lead inevitably to the corruption and overspending that happens in government. “Citizen legislators” finagling additional pay to go to a meeting they want attend, but aren’t required to attend, are corrupt actors. Go to the meeting if you want to, but pay your own way. As a citizen, I went to many meetings held by the Legislature. I had to pay every cent of my own costs. And Cory is right about sending Legislators on the state dime to conferences. Spend that money on solving state problems, like government corruption.

  14. Kristin Conzet

    I declined reimbursement in writing at the LRC office.

  15. Stace Nelson

    The executive branch has got a battalion of people working nonstop to support opposition to a handful of legislators working on their personal time to try and drag this mess into the daylight. They are even contracted and paying a private attorney Mr Paul Bechand big bucks to run interference!

    $62 Million disappeared into bureaucrats pockets over 12 years with no identifiable results. The executive branch is spending hundreds of thousands to defend itself from its own corruption and the judiciary is spending tends of thousands of dollars to adjudicate it.. but the legislature shouldn’t spend a couple hundred dollars to get
    Legislators involved, educated, and engaged?! How are we supposed to stop this corruption if legislators aren’t engaged!?

    The good guys are losing the battle of accountability and your shooting at those coming to the rescue!

    I’ve spent countless unpaid hours working on GEAR UP and I know others have also.

    The criticism should NOT be towards those going above and beyond, but toward those who are MIA!

  16. Stace Nelson

    Porter Lansing! As usual, you are clueless! Sen. Troy Heinert (D) is to blame for Tribal Relations not meeting in Vermillion as proposed by the committee, and requested repeatedly by Rep. May, myself, and others over the last several months! That not passing the smell test problem is your inability to differentiate from your BS in a Colorado. Rep. May is a blessing to her family, the great state of SD, and one of the finest people I’ve ever met.

  17. Thank you, Rep. Conzet. You did provide information on the record to the committee. May we ask why you declined the reimbursement and what prompted you to attend and put your involvement in writing the first GEAR UP grant on the record?

  18. Donald Pay

    When legislators repeal initiated laws that deal with corruption, they indicate exactly what side they are on, and just who is corrupt. They fuel the very corruption they say they oppose. Putting the spotlight on past corruption is past due, but don’t kid yourself that focusing on past misdeeds is going to stop the next scandal. The problem is endemic and structural to the executive and legislative branches. Start support real reform through structural approaches, as in IM-22.

  19. Mr. Lansing

    Stace Nelson … blah blah blah. You talk about yourself, yourself, yourself. Elizabeth May is a known oppressor of Indians. The testimony of her discriminative treatment of native customers in her store is endless. Her attempts to remove food stamps and drug test the needy is a selfish throwback to the crooked Indian Agents of the 1800’s. She thinks Common Core is responsible for suicides on the reservation when her oppression and suppression is more at fault. In short, she’s as much of a kook as you and the rest of your buddies in Pierre, the list of which declines daily.

  20. Young Ms. May doesn’t really have a job. Of course she wants a free ride to stay in a motel and eat for free and sit there and snicker. I say, let the legislatures pay the way to the shows for everybody who wants to go. Why do these free-loading politicians, like Mr. Nelson, want to go on boonedoggles at taxpayer expense? I say, put a bowl of broth out in the rotundas and a few mattresses in the hall and let them stay over for free like that. All this hoitie-toitie gallivanting is just lining the pockets of the legislatures.

  21. Roger Elgersma

    I have no problem with legislators getting paid for travel when doing their job. I am encouraged that some came to listen. When they come to listen they also have the chance to talk in the hallways to ask questions and give opinions. This is a serious problem of corruption and cover up and will need the attention of more than a couple legislators to fix the problem. The more faces seen watching is more reason for the leaders to not do this again, is like the difference of seeing cops in a bad neighborhood or not seeing any. There is some deterrent effect by their interest and at home you can be distracted by the dog wanting to go out. This shows they are serious. They also do not get paid much and are not getting a stipend to show up a few extra days. Congratulations to those who showed up.

  22. mike from iowa

    let loobyists pay for it. They are, afterall, the ones who most likely will benefit from any changes made. They will write it into state law for themselves.

  23. Mr. Mike, who is from Iowa, occasionally has a good South Dakotan idea and I, for one, am not afraid to acknowledge Mr. Mike’s ideas.

    Let the legislatures come up with their own lobbyists to pay for their junkets when they aren’t really working. Otherwise, people, why shouldn’t the legislatures be paying for Ms. May to drive from one end of her district to the other to chat in coffee shops under the guise of “serving her people?”

    This is one of the poorest decisions by Mr. Mickelson ever since he quit deciding to run for Governor out of fear of Ms. Noem

  24. mike from iowa

    Where would the lege get the money, Grudz. Allowing corruption seems to be more palatable than raising taxes.

  25. They print the money, Mr. Mike. They’d get it from the same place they will get the moola to pay Ms. May to take a vacation away from her Kyle grocery store. I don’t know how they print it, but they decide how much to spend and then they spend it. It’s amazing.

  26. Wait? Mr. Mike! You may be from Iowa but you could be onto something. I hear your question as basically a statement that if we pay for Ms. May to get a free trip, the alleged “corruption” ends. I would personally pay for Ms. May to stay in the finest hotels and eat at the finest diners in Pierre if Mr. Nelson would go on the TV and say he will stop squawking like a Sibbyesque parrot.

  27. Donald Pay

    Yes, it’s a serious issue that crooked Denny ran a sloppy Ed shop that allowed this corruption to go on and on and on.

    Also serious is the fact that there was no public disclosure of this legislative payoff on the publicly available agenda. That, it seems to me, violates the law for which I’d like to see some serious time for the E-Board in the slammer. I wonder how many folks would have wanted to weigh in on paying “Citizen Legislators” to come to Pierre on the taxpayers dime any time they felt the urge. Say I’m in Sioux Falls and I hear about a meeting in Rapid City. Maybe I want a little Hills vacation, so I show up for a few minutes at this meeting, collect my $100+ dollars and go to Deadwood.

  28. Darin Larson

    Cory, if you cry wolf too often, you lose credibility when the wolf is actually at the door. You’re making an issue out of a per diem payment for travel to Pierre and meals when you should be keeping a sharp focus on the actual corruption at issue–a subject which you have excelled at examining. If you want people to take this scandal seriously, why distract from that focus with a story about mileage and meals? If it is an important issue, which I believe to be the case, why wouldn’t you support the close oversight of legislators? Saying that legislators should stay home, listen on the radio, and save the state a few hundred dollars is, dare I say, small-minded.

  29. Kristin Conzet

    I attended because I could offer more information and every part I played in writing the original grant is an open book. I was never a contractor and I find the ineendo of my connections to the “President to Wells Farago bank” a sad piece of writing. He is my husband. So I assume whomeve wrote that was trying to take a map, some push pins with some yarn.

    I was a state employee at the time and had no intention to run for public office.

    Committee members were very professional and I answered all committee questions.

    I also attended the meeting and refused reimbursement because it was my intention to come as a private citizen and support the proceedings as well as the process.

  30. Darin, we need to cover as much as we can. Legislators don’t get to dip a toe in the crony-corruption pool and excuse it as a minimal perk in their pursuit of larger corrupt figures. Taking taxpayer money to sit and watch interim committee hearings for which a suitable free online alternative is available undermines these legislators’ integrity as corruption watchdogs.

    “Crying wolf” refers to claiming something exists that does not exist. May’s request for spectator pay and the E-Board’s approval of it exist. Mention of that new legislator perk does not exist in the August 28 E-Board agenda, and as Donald notes, that’s a real problem, too.

    Rep. Conzet offers a proper response: she attended the hearing as a private citizen and was able to help offer information that supported the fact-finding process. We regular citizens don’t get our mileage paid for doing that, just the satisfaction of supporting democracy and accountability.

  31. Thank you, Stace. Well written. Well argued. The South Dakota legislature was/is sleeping dog for decades and it’s well past the time that we kicked it off the porch.

    Three things would measurably strengthen the legislature. Bar the governor from direct appointment of judges; rather his nominations should have senate approval (advice and consent) prior to approval. Bar the governor from direct appointment of legislators; rather the local jurisdiction should have an election. Exercise subpoena and contempt powers; rather than allow folks testify by letter or choose to not appear at all. The threat and actually tossing a person in the slammer for 24 or 48 hours often changes attitudes an will immeasurably help with investigations and co-opting officials to do-the-right-thing-the-right-way.

  32. owen reitzel

    I have no problem Stace, with May being there. Good for her but she shouldn’t get paid for being there. She’s not on the committee. She’s the same as I would be if I went there.
    She a hypocrity.

  33. Bob Newland

    I don’t think a state legislator should be named “Taffy.”

  34. I agree, Bob—important elected officials should have to use their full names: Taffeta, or Taphanie, or Taphzibah… ;-)

  35. Darin Larson

    Cory, you are acting as if these legislators that traveled to Pierre even though they aren’t on the GOAC committee are making money on the deal. It is not a perk. It is expense reimbursement! The mileage and per diem reimbursement are for expenses incurred–not salary or profit. If you think that the mileage rates and per diem are overly generous, then that is a different argument which you have not made. They are taking their own time that could be spent with family, work or play and going to Pierre to look after our concerns with corruption and mismanagement. You should be pleased if not overjoyed that someone in state government is taking your corruption concerns seriously.

    As an aside, I would further argue that any generosity in the expense reimbursement rates is more than offset by the fact they are not being paid any more salary to attend the meeting in person. State legislators are also underpaid in this state which makes it more likely that only the independently wealthy can afford to join the legislature.

    You saying the corruption and management is a big deal is undermined by the fact you claim it is not worth the small expense to send the legislators to Pierre to see the testimony and evidence first hand. You seem to never let an opportunity to criticize on a minuscule matter go unmentioned even though it undermines a larger and more important point you are trying to make. This is no way to win a debate or to maintain credibility for the next important argument that you confront.

  36. Bob Newland

    “Homade Salt Water Taffy”

  37. Darin Larson

    PS You have to admit that there is value in being there when witnesses testify. There is a reason that court of appeals generally give deference to trial court decisions based upon the credibility of witnesses that the trial court viewed testify in person and the appeals court can only read or view tape of witness testimony.

  38. And there is no need to reimburse employees for performing optional activities not required by their duties.

    Shall we reimburse teachers for mileage to school board meetings? There is great value to teachers being present to watch their school board members make decisions about their salaries, curriculum, and other school policies. But school board meetings are not part of teachers’ assigned duties.

  39. Mr. Lansing

    Irony … Legislators that fight tooth and nail to keep teachers from an equitable wage, even though teachers donate many hours and dollars worth of materials to their job and your kids but authorize reimbursement money to themselves for the same thing, without even letting the public know. If not for Cory they’d have gotten away with another secret Santa money grab.

  40. Ben Cerwinske

    As an educator, Cory and Lansing make an intetesting point. However, to be fair, are your arguments “what-aboutism”?

  41. Darin Larson

    Cory, your analogy with teachers is off base since the teachers do not serve on the school board and will not be called upon to make decisions based upon what happens at the school board meeting for the school district.

    The proper analogy in the school board setting is what if a committee of the school board meets and a member of the school board who is not on the committee attends the meeting. To me, this is helpful in general, because the board member not on the committee may eventually have to vote on the matter addressed by the committee and they presumably would be better informed when the matter eventually reaches the full school board. (Although it may be problematic in practice because of state open meetings laws that kick in if you have a quorum of the school board members at a meeting which would then require publication and notice for what may be intended as a less formal school committee meeting.)

    It is still baffling to me that you would quibble with the manner of legislative oversight when the in-person viewing shows more scrutiny is taking place. Not unlike the school board analogy that I referenced, legislators that are not on GOAC could eventually have to vote on whether to fund or direct further investigation by the legislature as a whole. It is not at all like the situation where it might be helpful for a teacher to attend a school board meeting, but where the teacher would never have the opportunity to apply that experience in the context of a school board decision.

  42. Porter Lansing

    Darin Larson … Let’s be honest, huh? These legislators didn’t drive to Pierre to sit in on these meetings to help South Dakota. They drove to Pierre to sit in these meetings to figure out a way to keep their Republican Party from looking like a crook … again. Pure self-defense. No altruism of any kind.
    Ps … It’s obvious, Darin that’s what you’re trying to do also. The more you get boxed into a corner the more you blurt out and the more anxious your tone gets.

  43. Darin Larson

    Porter, I would think that if the legislators who made the trek to Pierre were trying to bury this thing, they would avoid attending so as to not lend any credence to the notion that this is an important topic that people should be watching.

    Here I thought I had Cory boxed in a corner? :-)

  44. Mr. Lansing

    You might think that, Darin. I think they showed up to let the Republicans on the commission know they’ve got an eye on them. This is on the brink of taking down the party and it damn well better get distracted and the truth diverted. It was like a gang of bullies come to enforce the “Big Red Line”.

  45. Donald Pay


    Your school board analogy has a problem. This happened on the Rapid City School Board when I was there. There is a committee structure for a purpose.

    First, there’s the quorum issue. If you get a quorum at a committee meeting, you may have violated public meeting laws. Committees are meant to tease out the important pros and cons of an issue, get some initial input, draft up policy/legislation. If all the board members are going to attend, you have to call a meeting and go through public notice requirements.

    Second, there’s an added cost for every additional member. Do you want money going to school board members, or to teachers and students. One member, who was extremely devoted to her work on the board, attended just about everything. Our district had to set a strict policy of no stipends for attending meetings in the community or board committees to which you hadn’t been appointed.

  46. It seems more likely they went for the political theater. Review what May said: being there in person is about getting the “feel”, the “narrative.”

    Darin, I agree my teacher/board meeting analogy, like every analogy, is imperfect. So let’s seek more apt examples of reimbursing individuals for performing actions that are beyond their assigned duties.

    A school board votes to send one of its members to represent it at the ASBSD annual meeting and to make a presentation on school finance. Two of the dispatched school board member’s pals on the board tag along to watch. Should the school district reimburse those two other board members for making a trip they were not assigned to make? And should the school board issue that reimbursement without placing that expense on the public agenda for discussion at its next meeting?

    A school board member drives to every football game his school’s team plays out of town. Arguably, the school board member is conducting oversight of school-funded activities. Should the board reimburse that member’s travel expenses?

    The local teachers union selects seven teachers to serve on the negotiations team. The union provides those teachers a stipend for the time they spend on that task. A few teachers drop by to watch the negotiations team in action. Should those spectators also receive the negotiator stipend?

    Senator Al Franken holds a field hearing for his Senate Judiciary Committee in St. Paul on police shootings. Representative Kristi Noem, who does not serve on Senate or House Judiciary, travels to St. Paul to sit in the audience at Senator Franken’s field hearing. Should taxpayers pay for her travel to St. Paul?

    There are lots of things legislators can do to exercise oversight. They can subscribe to four South Dakota newspapers, download numerous court cases on PACER, drive around the state every week to attend various public meetings, maybe even hire their own detective, accountant, and lawyer to review the Mid-Central documents and track down information that GOAC doesn’t. I would admire and re-elect a legislator who devoted that much time and personal resources to the job. But those activities aren’t required by the state constitution, state law, or the rules of the Legislature and thus should not be reimbursed.

    But if we are going to adopt a policy reimbursing legislators for non-essential travel, we at least should see that policy change on the public agenda before legislators vote to do it.

  47. I don’t know Ms. May’s age but surely she has heard or read the quote President Kennedy delivered in his 1960 inaugural, “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country”,
    Kennedy’s immortal quote would surely apply to state government, would it not?

  48. Tara Volesky

    Why didn’t any Democrats attend the GOAC meeting?

  49. Darin Larson


    I think my school board analogy is more apropos than Cory’s teacher/school board analogy.

    The only significant reason to have committees is to divide up the work load. During session, it is impossible for every legislator to attend every committee hearing. In the middle of summer, there is no reason that legislators can’t attend a hearing if the subject of the hearing is important enough and there are further actions that may result from the hearing that the legislature may be called to vote upon.

    Most of us that are interested in the matter would agree that this was a very important hearing. Also, the credibility of witnesses that appeared at the hearing may be at issue in determining further actions. These actions may come before the legislature as a whole for consideration. Given all of these considerations, I’m not going to fault these legislators for going to Pierre and getting their expenses reimbursed. If they start doing it for every little matter under the sun, that would be different.

    I would also rather these folks work on the public’s business in Pierre and get reimbursed for their expenses rather than take trips out of state to participate in partisan conferences and conventions on the taxpayer dime.

    If the nitpickers on here want to complain about every supposed abuse, the boy who cried wolf is apropos.

  50. Darin Larson

    Cory says “But if we are going to adopt a policy reimbursing legislators for non-essential travel, we at least should see that policy change on the public agenda before legislators vote to do it.”

    What is “non-essential travel?”

    We need to consider what is reasonable based upon the importance of the issue and the relative cost of the attendance at the hearing in question. Given the relatively tiny amount of money in travel expenses expended by the state, juxtaposed against the importance of the issue and the potential importance of seeing evidence on the important issue first hand, I think a reasonable person would conclude that the travel expenditure was justified.

    Cory, you are sending a clear message, even if unintended, that this issue is not that important, given your reluctance to condone reimbursing a few hundreds of dollars in travel expenses. You haven’t addressed the fact that seeing the evidence and witnesses in person is different than hearing a podcast or reading a transcript.

  51. Darin Larson

    PS Cory, your other analogies border on the absurd. Most of them do not involve an important and compelling issue that the person in question will be called upon to exercise authority on and thus do not warrant travel and reimbursement. If you do not think a hearing on major state government corruption is important and compelling enough for a legislator to come to Pierre to exercise oversight, than your analogies could be viewed as helpful. If you do think this hearing was important and compelling, then you should applaud a modest expenditure to focus the legislature’s attention on this issue. Why is this so hard to understand?

  52. Mr. H, a law bill for your pretend list that you talk about:

    “Hereby Be It The Law That: all payments to the legislatures have to be posted on the internet showing all the dollars received by each person for meetings and food and spectator pay, showing their name and date of payment and amount of money given.”

  53. Porter Lansing

    Hi, Tara. :)

  54. The spectator pay for the legislatures could be illegal meeting topics, with the GOACians having violated open meeting rules. Mr. Mickelson needs to look hard at giving Ms. May the money for junkets to the far reaches of the state or the next thing you know Lora Hubbel will want money as a former Senator with floor privileges.

  55. Tara Volesky

    Hubbel may even want the state to buy her a plane too.

  56. Hubbel wants the plane that makes the contrails.

    Legislators who aren’t on a committee shouldn’t be paid to attend that committee – not even mileage reimbursement. Raise their pay to a reasonable level so they can quit finding ways to nickel and dime the taxpayer for non essential stuff.

  57. Chemtrails, Mr. Rorschach. Ms. Hubbel thinks they are chemtrails.

    And legislatures not on the committee should be at their jobs, unless they are over 70 and then they should have saved up enough to foot their own bill for their gallivanting around the state. And if we boost their pay then they should have mandatory attendance at all meetings. And roll should be called and put on the internet.

  58. Now all of the retired people in the legislature will start going to meetings in Pierre because they can make more than they spend on gas and not claim it as income or pay taxes on it.

  59. Grudz, you wish you were still there

  60. Ms. May doesn’t do anything to help the health, housing, education or employment opportunities for the people of her district, which includes some of the most impoverished people in america, the first americans, whom she thinks she represents? It’s just an ego trip. Get a feel for the tone of the hearing versus watching online? HA THATS HILARIOUS!! She’s a republican elected to a state legislature by most of the non-indians in her district and some natives loyal to her family name. The people of Pine Ridge could care less about the state legislature. And to the natives this business of money being siphoned off is nothing new.

  61. Darin, the problem with your line of reasoning is that you are making a spending decision hinge on a subjective judgment of “the importance of an issue.” My standard is explicitly assigned duties.

    Rep. Conzet thought the meeting was important enough to attend, and she did more than just watch, but she declined the May spectator pay.

    Is every issue before a committee important enough to pay every legislator to attend and listen in person?

    Shall we reimburse legislators who don’t make the drive but who take the day off work to devote their attention to the SDPB livestream?

    My analogies, far from absurd, invoke the same standard of “important issues” that Darin invokes. The school board member will be called on to vote for funding for the football team. The teacher will need to decide whether to accept or reject the negotiated contract. Rep. Noem will vote on whatever legislation passes the Senate.

    I can critique legislators seeking stipends for optional, non-essential activities (again, why not listen to the livestream?) without contradicting one word about my critique of the corruption in GEAR UP, Mid-Central, and DOE.

  62. Ben, I am indeed asking, “What about…?” However, in this case, I’m not trying to distract anyone from an issue. Instead, I’m trying to find policy analogies that help us understand the issue we’re talking about. The what-aboutism practiced by Trump and his followers is meant to confuse, not enlighten.

  63. Darin Larson

    Cory says “Darin, the problem with your line of reasoning is that you are making a spending decision hinge on a subjective judgment of “the importance of an issue.” My standard is explicitly assigned duties.”

    Of course we are making a subjective judgment of the importance of the issue. The legislature does it all the time. They allocate committee resources, committee hearing time, debate time, staffing, LRC resources, etc. based upon the importance of the issue. Here we have one of the most important issues of government corruption in this state and the state being on the hook for potentially, what $4 million? to the feds, so the importance of the issue and the potential state liability at issue support the small expenditure for travel expenses.

    Your standard of “explicitly assigned duties” is more subjective than you are admitting. The legislature has oversight responsibility for the subject of the GOAC hearings and may be called upon to vote on further action on this issue. Furthermore, the testimony of the witnesses and the veracity of different witnesses could very likely be at issue. The legislators that didn’t attend the hearing in person will be at a disadvantage in terms of weighing the testimony if it comes down to who was telling the truth and who was not.

    Your example of a teacher being called upon to vote on a negotiated contract does not rest on the veracity of witnesses, nor does the observation of the football team. Your Noem example is the least far-fetched. If the importance of the issue and the veracity of witness testimony was important to the decision on that issue, then Noem would be justified in attending the field hearing in Minnesota. But the rules of the House of Rep. may not support reimbursing her expenses.

    I’m surprised that you are arguing for less expenditure of resources and less participation in governmental oversight of this important issue for our state. Move over Grandpa Cheap, there is a new champion of penny-pinching in this state!

  64. mike from iowa

    SPiKE! Welcome back, Sir.

  65. Porter Lansing

    Good to hear from you, SPIKE. Meet Old Sarge, the newest “public piñata”. Feel free to take as many swings as you like but beware. He’s full of Ol’Beer not candy. LOL

  66. Darin Larson

    Just getting around to answering your peripheral questions, Cory::

    Cory says “Is every issue before a committee important enough to pay every legislator to attend and listen in person?”

    NO!, see discussion of importance of the issue at hand and the importance of seeing the witnesses testify in person.

    Cory says “Shall we reimburse legislators who don’t make the drive but who take the day off work to devote their attention to the SDPB livestream?”

    No, they have no travel expenses. Furthermore, they are already paid a salary from the state. The state has no duty and the legislators are not requesting to be reimbursed for their time off of their day job. Furthermore, they can listen any time to the SDPB archive. They can only see the witnesses testify in person at the time and place of the hearing.

  67. Donald Pay

    I just find the excuses being provided for paying off legislators as ridiculous, and dangerous. It’s why SD has so much corruption.

    Over the years, SD invested in a statewide telecommunications network expressly for making important government meetings like this available to legislators and everyone else. It was meant to save money and to make government more available and responsive. I don’t know why these “Citizen Legislators” think they are so special that they can’t listen in on the same link that the poor peons of the state have to use. These communications technologies were investments set up to save tax money. Now it’s not good enough for them. These folks are conservative? I call B.S. on that.

  68. Mr. Lansing

    Maybe there are lots of Pierre girlfriends and boyfriends that need some lovin’ when Legislature isn’t in session? Gotta get “The Chosen” back to the river and take care of the side work, ‘ya know.

  69. Terri Haverly

    I declined payment and attended as a private citizen. I routinely listen to the summer meetings so I have background prior to the legislative session. As an Appropriator, I’m concerned these meetings have not been budgeted prior to authorization.

  70. Senator Haverly, thank you for checking in. If I may ask….

    1. What prompted you to attend last week’s GOAC hearing in person?

    2. The money for legislators’ travel reimbursements under SDCL 2-9-4(9) is included in the legislative budget line, right? It sounds like you are saying that when Appropriations calculated that budget line, it did not envision reimbursing legislators for traveling to Pierre to watch hearings of interim committees of which they are not members? Has such travel been reimbursed previously?

  71. Maybe, along with my proposed Blog Bill #1, we should include not just publishing each of the legislatures travel payments and reimbursements on the internet just like we do for contracts with businesses, but we should give each of them some set dollar amount and let them use it for out-of-state junkets; or for spectator pay. Their choice. They all get the same amount and we list it on the internet what they did with it.

  72. Darin, I don’t get what’s subjective about assigned duties. Committee’s meeting, you’re on the committee, you need to be at the meeting. Pretty objective.

    As for penny-pinching, note what I said to Senator Nelson at 9/3 10:57: I’m willing to expend a great deal more on the Legislature in the form of raising their pay and making them year-round legislators (or at least extending the Session) to attract more qualified applicants for the job and get more oversight out of them.

    I’m also willing to spend more resources to publish every legislator’s reimbursement requests and payments.

  73. Darin Larson

    What’s subjective about assigned duties is that the legislature as a whole is assigned to oversight of our state government. It is not just limited to the members of the committee. You expect all members of the legislature to be interested, informed, and ready to make decisions with regard to this issue and then you quibble with whether they should be there in person or listen to the audio at home. It is subjective whether the assigned duties of governmental oversight necessitate traveling to Pierre for a hearing of a committee of which a given legislator is not a member.

    You have subjectively decided that listening to audio of a hearing which includes witness testimony is equal to being at the hearing in person. You have not addressed my analogy of our court system in which courts of appeal routinely give deference to findings of fact by trial courts. This is because the trial court has an opportunity to view the witnesses and testimony, which is different than reviewing a cold written record or even an audio recording.

  74. Mr. H, if you look back people will tell you it won’t cost more to make these things be shoved on the internet when the money is spent. I wouldn’t be surprised if there aren’t web pages that show it already. We just need to find them.

    I agree with Mr. Rorschack about old people getting paid more to go sit in the legislatures.
    I agree with Mr. Nelson about the the legislatures being more special than most. Or thinking they are.