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SB 91: Russell Opening Door for More Frequent Raises for State’s Attorneys

Our schizophrenic Legislature is taking local control away from CAFO permitting and other zoning issues, but it is expanding local control over salaries for public prosecutors.

Among the bills on today’s House consent calendar is Senate Bill 91, a proposal from Senator and erstwhile state’s attorney Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs) to allow county commissions to amend their state’s attorneys’ salaries. Right now, SDCL 7-7-12 locks in state’s attorneys’ salaries at the beginning of their term in office. SB 91 would allow commissioners to amend state’s attorneys’ salaries during their terms, but only if the state’s attorney consents.

Counties aren’t flush with cash, so don’t expect a rush of raises for state’s attorneys after passage of SB 91. But four years is a long time to wait for a raise, especially when there’s more money to be made in private practice.SB 91 thus appears to give counties some flexibility in keeping good lawyers in charge of their prosecutions.

And I can’t help noticing that, while Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg has trouble getting support for his Legislative agenda, Senator Russell, one of the men Ravnsborg beat for the GOP-AG nod in 2018, is having no trouble moving SB 91 through the Legislature. Not one vote has gone against SB 91 yet. Better be careful, Jason: at the next GOP convention, Lance will be able to turn to your state’s attorney colleagues and say, “Hey, while Jason’s been twiddling his thumbs, I changed the law to help you get raises!” If actual qualifications can’t sway Republican delegates, maybe cold hard cash will!


  1. Debbo 2020-03-09

    Is the AG term 4 years? I wonder if the SDGOP will allow Ravsbutt to run again? Or will he decide to spend more time with his family? (Whether his family wants him to or not is another matter that I’ll leave up to them.)

    I’m betting it’s either one term or he “decides” to resign sooner than that. Ravsbutt is too inept even for the SDGOP/ALEC.

  2. Debbo 2020-03-09

    BTW, did Russell include any $ for public defenders? Somehow I doubt it. The SDGOP likes putting people in prison more than providing constitutionally mandated fair trials.

  3. grudznick 2020-03-09

    Wasn’t Mr. Russell fired as the Edgemont city attorney and sanctioned by the SD Supreme Court for being a greasy attorney? grudznick thinks this is why Mr. Russell is such a bitter young fellow.

  4. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-03-10

    Debbo, yes, we’re stuck with the AG for four years. His continued bumbling (not to mention inability to wear a necktie correctly) makes him a prime candidate for a GOP rejection à la Krebs v Gant in 2013.

    On public defenders: no, SB 91 says nothing about them. I wonder: is there any comparable statute preventing counties from raising their pay during a given period of time?

  5. Debbo 2020-03-10

    Cory, I’m guessing the SDGOP pledge requires members to deny funding to anyone who serves the poor and indigent.

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