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Latterell Advocates Wasting Legislative Time with Three Hours of Constitutional Recitation

Representative Isaac Latterell’s (R-6/Tea) primary Legislative agenda appears to be to waste our time. In the midst of busy-busy Crossover Week, when each chamber must rush final votes on all of the real bills it has originated, Rep. Latterell threw into the works House Concurrent Resolution 6018, a measure to require his fellow legislators to sit through a complete reading of the South Dakota Constitution during Session.

My quick copy-paste-computer count of our august founding papers finds HCR 6018 would require the recitation of over 26,000 words. At Senator Al Novstrup’s delivery rate of 150 words per minute, reading the South Dakota Constitution aloud in its entirety would take 176 minutes—three hours, with reasonable pauses every fifteen minutes to wet the constitutional whistle. This recitation would include a description of the legal boundaries of the state, the provisions under which we chose Pierre as the state capital over a century ago, and the now utterly useless provisions for transitioning from territory to state.

Three hours is longer than the full House and Senate meet on many Legislative days; HCR 6018 could thus reduce the effective working time of each chamber by a full work day… and another day removed from a 37-day calendar is a significant sacrifice.

Latterell sought not just some cursory speed-reading from staff at the podium; HCR 6018 would have required one or more members of each chamber to read while a quorum sat quietly at their desks tweeting their sweeties back home about Representative Latterell’s monumental waste of time.

Isaac reads aloud
Isaac reads aloud, mighilty impressing his House colleagues. (Rep. Isaac Latterell, House floor, 2020.02.26; screen cap from SDPB.)

Representative Latterell demonstrated the import of HCR 6018 Thursday by reading aloud from the House floor Article XIV on State Institutions and Article XV on the Militia. (See SDPB video at 1:01:40.) Representative Latterell’s unoriginal recitation dragged for over three minutes, until Majority Leader Lee Qualm (R-21/Platte) raised a point of order: “I’m not sure that this is necessary.” Speaker Steven Haugaard (R-10/Sioux Falls) ruled that the Representative from Tea was making his point with regards to the Constitution and permitted Latterell to continue his show. Latterell concluded his reading seconds later… then with a couple prefatory remarks proceeded to read his resolution aloud verbatim. Latterell said reading the state constitution for five minutes each day from the floor would help educate the public and affirm legislators’ oath to uphold the constitution.

I think Latterell suffers from a sort of cognitive dyslexia: he’s mistaking uphold the constitution for hold up the execution of constitutional duties.

Finckemite is my name, and reading the constitution is my game….

The only person who felt Latterell had not wasted enough of the Legislature’s time was Representative Caleb Finck (R-21/Tripp), who rose to offer 55 seconds of commentary in support of HCR 6018.

The resolution then failed on a 34–35 vote… meaning the House was two votes shy of having a majority think that reading aloud from a piece of paper is the best way to teach.

And these people make education policy. Yikes.

After the vote, Speaker Haugaard did “commend our membership to review” the Constitution “each time you take the oath. It’s a good exercise. It does take a long time to read through it—about three hours.”

If Representative Latterell feels his colleagues and the electorate are not sufficiently educated on the South Dakota Constitution, he should seek to educate us all before ignorant legislators get to Pierre or even get on the ballot. Perhaps Representative Latterell should bring a bill requiring candidates to pass a test on the state constitution before the Secretary of State may place their names on the ballot. And since we would want a deep assessment not just of potential legislators’ knowledge and comprehension of the text but also of their ability to apply, analyze, synthesize, and evaluate our constitutional principles in making good public policy, that test should not be a mere multiple-guess bubble test. It should be a combination essay/presentation assessment, evaluated by independent committees of educators from other legislative districts. I will be happy to serve on the scoring committees for districts other than my own.


  1. Richard Schriever 2020-02-29 09:28

    When I ran against Ernie Otten several years ago, I encouraged him to read Article XV (on the militia) to get a sense of what a “well-regulated militia” means in SD in relation to the 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution. He declined to do so. Perhaps Mr. Latterell was simply “representing” the same sentiment (I would posit subconsciously – because – well, he is typically a sort of un-self-reflective soul).

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-02-29 09:33

    Richard, even when they read our constitutions, state and federal, our Legislature doesn’t seem to care about following it. They just want to roll the dice and hope they get the right mix of Trump/Bush judges to back their partisan agenda.

  3. Buckobear 2020-02-29 10:17

    How ‘bout they divvy up the Constitution, assign each legislator a portion and they then read them simultaneously ??
    I figure about ten minutes tops….. and about as effective.

  4. jerry 2020-02-29 10:24

    “Finkenmite” boy is that ever pitch perfect. Good one Cory, made my day. Boy is gonna have to talk to Chubby about a longer tie.

  5. Donald Pay 2020-02-29 11:56

    Isn’t this another Republican recycling effort? They do this Constitution gimmick periodically. I remember it from the 1980s and again in the 90s. A number of states did the same thing. It must be a good political gimmick because, unless I’m misremembering this, the Democrats have done it as well in the House of Representatives.

    It seems, rather than behaving in a constitutional manner, politicians like to make a spectacle of “believing” in the Constitution. It’s not a bad idea to review the Constitution, but a better time for it might be the first week of session. And just reading it out loud is rather boring. Debating some particularly sections of it might be more rewarding.

  6. scott 2020-02-29 16:33

    I bet when Fink walks in the chambers everyone shouts, “Norm!”

  7. Buckobear 2020-02-29 18:01

    If our republican masters are forced to submit to a real debate, the results will be devastating.

  8. grudznick 2020-02-29 18:18

    grudznick likes Mr. Buckogear’s idea. In fact, they could do that every day by shaving an extra sandwich off their free caucus lunches and showing up to the grand meetings on time. I might add, if you cut that prayer to the Christian God out of there, and had 30 seconds of silent reflection, you would be more inclusive to the Wiccans and Buddhists and Lutherans of other sorts. Stop praying to your god in my temple!!!

  9. o 2020-02-29 18:54

    How about each legislator has to pass a test on the Constitution before he or she can cast a lot in the House or Senate? Make the reading homework.

  10. PlanningStudent 2020-02-29 20:16

    Hold up, is that picture of Finck altered? Or is that seriously how he’s grooming and maintaining his hair..?

    I’m not normally one to judge personal grooming but that’s nuts..

  11. Debbo 2020-02-29 21:58

    PS, I had the same question about Mr. Finckemite.

    Really? Really?

  12. Nick Nemec 2020-03-01 09:55

    That is Rep Finck’s real hair. I was in the Capitol this past week and couldn’t help but notice it. I do not know if he is sporting a perm or if his hair is naturally this curly. A shorter cut would make for a more professional look, as would better ties. This tie looks like the one he wore when he was 5 foot tall and in eighth grade.

    Rep. Latterell is a wingnut and his proposal is an extreme waste of legislative time. Get a life and address the real problems our state faces.

  13. Donald Pay 2020-03-02 10:57

    I think his ‘fro is fine if he likes it that way. Same with Novstrup’s cut. It’s their style. My concern is we not get bogged down like middle school mean girls. But then I always preferred Ally Sheedy’s look in “The Breakfast Club” before Molly Ringwald gave her a makeover.

    The real problem is not hairstyles recycled from the 70s, but time wastage on gimmicks, votes on bad legislation, etc.

  14. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-03-03 20:34

    Monday’s SDPB video shows Finck got a serious buzz cut over the weekend.

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