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Toft and Lalley Joke About Moving SD Capital… Hey! Why Not?

LEAD South Dakota co-founder Carmen Toft went on KSOO yesterday for a good conversation with Patrick Lalley about women in politics and the culture of misogyny in Pierre. Around minute 28 in the SoundCloud podcast, Toft talked about the remote location of our state capital conspires with the unpredictable Legislative schedule to make it hard to bring women and other sensible citizens out to testify and lobby for good legislation, not to mention get women to give up work and family to serve as legislators far from home for nine weeks a year. The conversation diverted briefly to another solution for sexism in Pierre: moving the capital!

Lalley: Isolation of Pierre is a huge problem in a lot of ways, and there’s really no solution to it, because until we—

Toft:—because they’re not going to move the capital?

Lalley:—they’re not going to move the capital to Mitchell as I have suggested. See, I didn’t even ask for it to be put in Sioux Falls. People think I hate everybody out there. I say put it in Mitchell. I would even say put it in Huron, which, that’s a little bit of a drive, but Mitchell’s doing o.k. Put it in Huron.

Toft:I think there’s still a bring it back to Yankton movement that’s pretty popular in those parts as well

Lalley: I could get behind that [Carmen Toft and Patrick Lalley, interview, KSOO Radio, 2017.11.03].

We already know that isolated capital cities breed government corruption. The lack of media scrutiny contributes to a “company town” culture where powerful elites can break laws and morals with impunity.

Lalley’s proposal for banning booze would be cheaper. Toft’s effort to elect more women would promise surer results. But maybe we should think about having the Legislature rotate from city to city, as the Supreme Court does with its hearings. Instead of the Governor’s mostly ceremonial Capital for a Day, let’s have a real Capitol for a Week program. Do the first two largely ceremonial and wasted weeks and the last two crazy busy weeks in Pierre. But during each of the five intervening weeks, convene the Legislature in a different South Dakota city:

South Dakota: Land of Infinite Capitols? OK, how about just six?
South Dakota: Land of Infinite Capitols? OK, how about just six?
  • January 9–19, 2018: Pierre
  • January 22–25: Aberdeen
  • January 30–February 2: Watertown
  • February 5–8: Sioux Falls
  • February 12–15: Mitchell
  • February 20–23: Rapid City
  • February 26–March 9 (and Veto Day, March 26): Pierre

Each week out of Pierre is a week with a different set of lawmakers closer to the scrutiny of their friends, neighbors, and local reporters. Shall we give it a try, and see if a little time under other watchful eyes gets our legislators to treat women a little better?


  1. Tim 2017-11-04 13:45

    If all of that extra hot air would warm January up a little then Rapid would be a good choice, otherwise, we have enough corruption here now as it is.

  2. Donald Pay 2017-11-04 15:52

    The saying is that Pierre is equally inaccessible to everyone. It just would be impossible to move the Legislature around like that, but you could have a 3-week break in floor sessions to hold some hearings out of Pierre. Any sort of travel out of Pierre would cost money, though, and it wouldn’t be cheap to cart all those legislators, staff and agency folks around the state.

    If you want to deal with corruption, you have deal with process issues and the structure of government, not where the state capitol is located.

  3. South DaCola 2017-11-04 17:04

    I have suggested 1st week in Pierre, 2nd in RC or SF, 3rd in RC or SF, and 4th week in Pierre.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-11-04 17:12

    Donald, the legislators cart themselves around, and already get per diem for it. We might save money on lower per diems for the weeks when the majority of legislators drive to closer places like SF and Watertown.

    Legislators have no staff—no transportation needs there.

    How do pages and interns get to Pierre now?

    Agency folks—let the Governor’s lobbyists testify by phone.

    But yes, I will concede that location is only a minor part of a much larger corruption problem. Location facilitates and exacerbates but does not create.

  5. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr. 2017-11-04 17:15

    This is a great idea. A “citizen legislature” should be proactively amongst its fellow citizens at all times. But what about some of our “Cricket Legislators?” Now they will have to be on top of the issues all the time if this concept is put into play – or else, always without a clue for more citizens to notice….

  6. Marin 2017-11-04 23:09

    It’s time for the legislature to come back to Yankton. I think the old Ace Hardware building downtown is still available…or if you prefer something less isolated, there’s the old Bomgaars/Kmart building on the north side of town.

  7. Donald Pay 2017-11-05 07:06

    It’s not a good idea. It actually ends up taking attention off what is going on in Pierre, which is mostly done through the government agencies and the Governor’s office.

    What is needed are smart and honest legislators, a reasonable balance between political parties and a competent press. Anything else is just a fart in a windstorm.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-11-05 08:55

    I’m certainly with Donald on that last point. No number of gimmicks or roadshows can make up for the absence of true statespeople, intelligent men and women committed to principled government and watchdoggery.

  9. grudznick 2017-11-05 17:18

    I am with Mr. H on this one. How much could it cost, Mr. Pay? How many people would need to be drug around the state and stay in hotels? Or, instead of the legislatures going to Pierre to have parties would this be a big shindig party for the state employees that would get to have galivanting excursions around? I do wonder how much it would cost for the legislatures to properly internet up the 27 or 28 rooms needed for all the meetings. I have no problem with there being no pomp and circumstance if there are legislatures meeting in the Sioux Falls arena or the pole barns at the Central State’s Fairgrounds. Our legislatures need more barns and less pomping.

  10. grudznick 2017-11-05 20:26

    I wonder if Mr. H is right that the legislatures have no staffers. That seems very wrong, just on a common sense point. Who runs the meetings and takes the notes and cleans the gold plated restrooms and types up all the law bills? Surely not just the Speakers of the Houses.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-11-06 05:16

    Legislators individually have no staff. They do have Capitol maintenance personnel; whatever facility they would meet in on the road would have its own. Each chamber has its nice ladies who sit at the front reading the bills and taking notes. They can travel as surely as the Governor brings some staff along when he does Capital for a Day.

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