South Dakota Municipal League exec Yvonne Taylor sent an e-mail to League members yesterday explaining how Speaker Steven Haugaard has taken outrageous retaliatory action against her for exercising her First Amendment rights:
Something very disturbing has happened this week. On Monday, I was called into the office of the Speaker of the House, Representative Steven Haugaard (R), Sioux Falls, asked to close the door, and a conversation ensued about a column I wrote for our magazine, SD Municipalities, in May, 2018. The Speaker told me that I had made the Legislature look like “a bunch of buffoons” and that I was allowed to think the thoughts expressed in the column, but that I could not publish them. He then asked me to not be on the House Floor during the times it was open to the public until further notice [Yvonne Taylor, e-mail to South Dakota Municipal League members, 2019.01.17].
Memo to Haugaard: when you act like buffoons—and now when you say buffoonish things like, You can think your thoughts but you can’t publish them—it’s not the person who points out that you are acting like buffoons who makes you look like buffoons. Your buffonery stands as an independent and obvious fact.
Taylor tells League members she’s not taking this retaliation lying down:
Yesterday, after consulting with multiple attorneys, I had a letter delivered to the Speaker saying I disagreed with the premise of his action, and stated that I wanted to have a written justification of his authority to ban me from the floor by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, January 16. I received no response [Taylor, 2019.01.17].
Nonetheless, Speaker Haugaard is threatening Taylor with contempt charges:
This morning at 9 a.m., I approached the Sergeant at Arms and asked if I could come onto the floor. I was told he had been instructed not to let me on the floor. I asked who had given that order, and he replied “The Speaker.” He further handed me a section of Mason’s Rules that refer to Contempt and maintaining order [Taylor, 2019.01.17].
…and impacting her ability to do the job she’s paid to do:
I am unable to adequately represent you without being able to speak to members on the Floor of the House when it is open to the public. I am seeking legal counsel on this situation, but if you would like to communicate with your legislators on this issue, I would appreciate your support [Taylor, 2019.01.17].
It sounds like Haugaard is taking a page from Donald Trump’s thin-skinned tyranny. Only a tyrant uses his power to punish people for expressing opinions. Only a tyrant misuses his power to selectively deny individuals who disagree with him their right to participate in their own government. Only a tyrant would say, You said something negative about me, so I’m going to threaten you with professional and legal consequences.
Speaker Haugaard has moved well beyond the “wacky” description that he earned with his poorly informed and hyper-partisan votes last Session. He is now moving to ominous, overbearing tyranny that should not be allowed to wield the honorable gavel of our august House of Representatives. Like Trump, for using his power to work out his personal grudges and punish citizens for expressing honest opinions, Haugaard should be removed from office.