Many remarkable things happened during yesterday’s historic online Veto-Plus Day meeting of the South Dakota Legislature, which rolled into the wee hours of this Tuesday. Among them is this final motion, ruling, and vote, as recorded in the Senate Journal and recorded at 3:22:50 in the SDPB video:
Sen. Phil Jensen moved to convene a disciplinary committee to investigate claims that Senator Langer is intoxicated and is tending to interrupt proceedings of both the House and Senate adjacent to South Dakota Codified Law 2-4-14, subsection 2.
President Rhoden moved that Sen. Phil Jensen’s motion was out of order.
Sen. Phil Jensen appealed the ruling of the President.
The question being “Shall the ruling of the President be sustained?”
And the roll being called:
Yeas 4, Nays 26, Excused 5, Absent 0
Phil Jensen, Monroe, Ernie Otten, and Youngberg
Blare, Bolin, Cammack, Castleberry, Curd, Duhamel, Ewing, Brock Greenfield, Heinert, Kennedy, Klumb, Kolbeck, Lake, Langer, Nesiba, Novstrup, Partridge, Rusch, Schoenfish, Soholt, Stalzer, Steinhauer, Sutton, White, Wiik, and Wismer
Foster, Maher, Russell, Schoenbeck, and V. J. Smith
So the question having not received an affirmative vote of a majority of the members-elect, the President declared the ruling of the President was sustained [Senate Journal, 37th Legislative Day, 2020.03.30–31].
President Larry Rhoden said he was at a loss at why Senator Jensen would move for such an action at the last moment of the hearing. He advised there were no legislative days left for convening a disciplinary hearing. Senator Jensen suggested the hearing take place immediately.
Rhoden left his seat in the Capitol meeting room, and the legislators and other unrecovered Craig Ferguson fans still following the show were left with a quiet livestream until Rhoden returned with a parliamentary trick to evade this thorny accusation: the President ruled that the motion could not be considered because Senator Jensen, who was calling in remotely like the majority of the body, was not able to present the request in writing.
This position is absurd: if the Legislature was able to conduct its most important function, voting, from any corner of the state, it should have been able to take a motion for a disciplinary hearing remotely as well. Jensen banged out a written notification and submitted it via Speaker Steven Haugaard. The video shows President Rhoden taking a piee of paper from the secretary and acknowledging that he had received a notification. “My ruling stands,” said President Rhoden.
Prior to that stubborn and disorderly ruling, Senator Brock Greenfield assured the Senate that, while everybody was a little bit punchy, nobody had “indulged”. Evidently Greenfield and Langer were both at the Capitol. Greenfield said that there had been a recess six and a half hours prior to this late-night wrap-up, but beyond that, “there’s been no tomfoolery.” Greenfield assured the public that all Senators had been doing the people’s business throughout the day and that “the Senator has been nothing but professional throughout the day.”
There was perhaps no tomfoolery, but Bob Mercer saw barefootery and other behavior that caught several lawmakers’ attention:
An hour earlier, several Republican and Democratic legislators had told KELOLAND News to check out Langer’s behavior.
She was seen barefoot in room 413, which was the Senate’s base of operation during the final day. She also was spotted barefoot in the hallway outside, and in room 499.
Her diction was loose, her walk unsteady [Bob Mercer, “Lawmaker Accuses Senate Republican Leader of Intoxication at South Dakota Capitol in Session,” KELO-TV, 2020.03.31].
At 3:24 a.m., on the SDPB video, a female voice was heard to whisper, “Can I talk?” President Rhoden ignored that voice and ruled Senator Jensen’s motion out of order.
Senator R. Blake Curd said it would be appropriate to pursue this serious allegation through the Executive Board after adjournment and ascertain the facts. He said a disciplinary hearing at the end of this Legislative day could disrupt the timing of the relief bills being passed… which seems specious, since the bills had already passed and were on the way to the Governor. Senator Curd noted that a complaint should have two complainants and that he hadn’t heard the name of the person who seconded Jensen’s motion.
President Rhoden abused parliamentary procedure to protect a Senator from an unseemly but serious accusation that is supported by independent observation. Senator Jensen should pursue his complaint with the Executive Board, and we should hear whether Senate Majority Leader Langer carried out her duties to the people of South Dakota with all due seriousness and sobriety.