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Haugaard Gets Coronavirus, Still Thinks Legislature Can’t Work Remotely

Speaker of the House Steven Haugaard has had coronavirus for two weeks. He says he’s had a fever the whole time and has lost sixteen pounds. He tells that Sioux Falls paper, “It’s been the most devastating stuff I’ve ever had in my life.”

Yet Speaker Haugaard still thinks the Legislature should get together in person for the regular Session in January:

Haugaard says he would not prefer a virtual session. He says valuable things take place inside of the capitol building.

“You can only convey about so much over a video link,” Haugaard says. “Then, there are conversations that you have in the hall or during breaks that make a world of difference. Plus, you know, if we’re expecting to have the number of bills we normally world, there’s no way we’re going to be able to get through those effectively.”

Plus, several legislators will be first time lawmakers. Haugaard says those in the capitol during session must be prudent in how they interact with others [Lee Strubinger, “Speaker of the House Recovering from Covid,” SDPB, 2020.10.19].

We have here another glaring example of our leaders’ inability to adjust their wants and habits to the demands of a changing reality. Sure, we’ve never done a full Session by videoconference before, and getting through hundreds of bills by wire would likely take some extra effort. Besides, going out to Pierre for Session is fun. Working in the Capitol is civic and aesthetic thrill.

But, Speaker Haugaard, you now recognize from personal experience how hard coronavirus is on people. You should be keenly interested in reducing the chances that your colleagues, your interns, and the citizens who want to testify before committee might suffer that disease. Now is the time to put aside your personal preferences and assumptions and make an extra effort to legislate safely.

And look at the positives of a remote Session:

  1. The Legislature allows remote testimony right now, but folks who have the time and leisure to make the trip to Pierre may enjoy an advantage with in-person committee testimony. Taking all testimony online would put all citizens on an equal footing before committees and potentially widen citizen participation.
  2. Legislators would not have to travel as much, and you’d still get your per diem (which, of course, you could all agree to donate to medical research, masks for school children…).
  3. Legislators would be better rested sleeping in their own beds.
  4. When a blizzard bears down on Pierre, you won’t have to recess early so everyone can race home before the roads close; you can keep on speechifying and voting right through the storm.

We need to adjust our thinking to the reality of the pandemic. Our state has embraced policies that guarantee coronavirus will not subside in time for Session. We thus cannot count on business as usual, especially not business that, in Haugaard’s inflexible conception, has to happen with great dropletty face-to-face conversations in one crowded building in winter.

Of course, if Speaker Haugaard lacks the imagination and flexibility to learn from his disease and adopt new ways of legislating, maybe his challenger, Michelle Hentschel of Brandon, can show more ability to adapt to changing times and public health imperatives.


  1. jerry 2020-10-21

    The Hag, perfectly describes the republican legislator of South Dakota.. Stupid. Speaking of Stupid, Melania trump has a “persistent cough”. Maybe she should get together with the Hag and discuss Stupid, like how in the hell you got the trump virus.

  2. jerry 2020-10-21

    The Hag sez ““You can only convey about so much over a video link,” Haugaard says. “Then, there are conversations that you have in the hall or during breaks that make a world of difference.” Translated means, you cannot get your hands on the money/gifts from the lobbyists without holding out those hands to have them greased.

  3. Bob Klein 2020-10-21

    You won’t have to put up with the new legislators who are liable to have the idea that their vote counts as much as yours. You can create your own small virtual group where you can make all the decisions without inviting more than a few people. And no one will be able to see you coming and going from the Zoom room. If you happen to be waiting for something else to happen, you can have a couple of drinks all by yourself without sharing your obvious intoxication with your colleagues. You can even shut your video down so you cannot be watched. Your phone will still be available to call your favorite lobbyists to get their permission. You can put your own computer off to the side so you can take and solicit campaign contributions during your downtime.
    What could go wrong?

  4. Jenny 2020-10-21

    Yes, Haugaard, you mean like valuable ‘secret’ converations take place in Pierre that the Club will miss. Oh no, the republicans can’t have their highly secret sleazy Club only meetings. Bless their hearts.

  5. Loren 2020-10-21

    Who needs those”hallway meetings,” these days? Can’t grifters just have lobby money direct deposited to checking accounts? No need for face-to-face. Then, again, that does leave an electronic foot print. ;-)

  6. Donald Pay 2020-10-21

    In person is best, but not in a pandemic. I can’t figure out how today’s leaders are so backward,almost Medieval about disease. They figured this stuff all out far before Shakespeare’s time, back under Edward III in Chaucer’s time. They closed the theaters down during disease outbreaks and the Royals and Court skedaddled to the country. Social distancing kept many folks alive. Plague spread differently than covid, but I bet they would have worn masks gladly back then, if they had to.

  7. leslie 2020-10-21

    Alaska is seeing record coronavirus case numbers. At a time when Americans are growing fatigued by months of restrictions, the state’s struggles provide a warning that winter could bring the most devastating phase of the pandemic

  8. Herman Otten 2020-10-21

    How about offering Steve some empathy for what he is dealing with instead of making fun of him. It sounds like a repeat of your comments about former Representative Dan Kaiser and his son while he was going through cancer treatments. I feel sorry for you and your like.

    Representative Herman Otten

  9. jerry 2020-10-21

    Ah Mr. Otten, The Hag deserves no sympathy as he refuses to give the same. His reckless behavior caught up to him and now he wants to pass it on to the rest of the stupid in the republican legislature. The Hag is the problem that we all face, so, no soup for The Hag. Mr. Otten, feel sorrow for the over 300 dead South Dakotan’s that have fallen because of your party’s indifference to them. You fellers could have prevented much of the carnage, and still could if you were not so blood thirsty.

  10. Debbo 2020-10-22

    Hey Otten? Everything Jerry said. Everything.

    “Taking all testimony online would put all citizens on an equal footing before committees and potentially widen citizen participation.”

    Now see, that’s a big part of the problem with a virtual session. Equal footing and wider participation is a BIG PROBLEM in the eyes of the SDGOP.

  11. Herman Otten 2020-10-22

    Ah Jerry, Where to start. Where i don’t always agree with our speaker politically he is a God fearing man, wishes no ill will towards anyone and only has empathy for those in need or not. You state his reckless behavior caused him to be infected by the Covid -19 virus, what behavior was that? Do you know if he wears a mask or not and in what settings? Wash his hands, uses hand sanitizer, practices social distancing and so forth? Guessing not unless you are a stalker. You comment about the lack of feeling sorrow for the over 300 South Dakotan’s who have passed away because of completions due to contracting Covid-19 Is just completely anti Republican dribble. Just because Myself and the Speaker are Republican’s you believe we don’t care about those we know and don’t know who have passed away doesn’t cut the muster. We all feel sorrow for those who have lost loved ones and for those who are suffering with the virus as we speak. I have fears everyday that my parents who are in there 70’s will contract the virus, my dad no longer wants my 14 year old son to come over after school. My daughter has had the virus and i have had too many friends who either have had or are currently battling the virus today, so your implication that we are blood thirsty and indifferent just because we are Republicans is frankly a bunch of BS.

  12. Herman Otten 2020-10-22

    Debo, apparently you do not know how committee hearing work today or in the past. A person can either show up in person to provide testimony or they can call in to give there testimony. The legislature does everything it can to assure that every person has the ability to provide testimony. Once again a bunch of misguided dribble.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-10-22

    Representative Otten, do you believe the Legislature should convene fully in person during the 2021 Session? Should it allow members who prefer to stay socially distanced to participate entirely online? Should the Legislature mandate that all Session activity take place online?

    Representative Otten, if elected to the Senate this time, do you plan to participate in person or online amidst the ongoing pandemic?

    (Note, Rep. Otten: I’m not making fun of your speaker. I’m pointing out that he is recommending a reckless and unnecessary course of action and suggesting the advantages of alternative action, advantages which the gravity of his very real illness should make abundantly clear.)

  14. Rep. Otten:

    While you say: “Where i don’t always agree with our speaker politically he is a God fearing man, wishes no ill will towards anyone and only has empathy for those in need or not.” I think if you look at the voting history of Rep Haugaard, you’ll clearly see otherwise. He is not a fan of equality and in my opinion, has a great lack of empathy.

    I’m excited to see District 10 to come out and show that we’re ready for change! We’re pro inclusion and want diversity in our state. Unlike Rep Haugaard.

    It’s 2020 – things have to be different this year to not only protect yourselves, but your families / friends etc.
    1. Masks work. Maybe Rep. Haugaard will understand that now and start wearing one.
    2. Zoom works. You don’t have to be “in person” to have effective meetings.

  15. Dicta 2020-10-22

    LOL at “misguided dribble.” Lebron James have cataracts or something?

  16. mike from iowa 2020-10-22

    So drumpf has been elevated to god status? Wingnuts fear drumpf far more than any imaginary conjected critter.

    Wingnuts sure define empathy different from normal people. Or maybe they don’t include women as humans.

    If wingnuts really feared their god they would not dedicate their political lives to feeding and staunchly supporting the wealthy from cradle to grave while tap dancing on the heads of the elderly and poor.

  17. jerry 2020-10-22

    When Rep. Otten and The Hag push Medicaid Expansion into the law of South Dakota, The Hag, and indeed you sir, will get the sympathy you so desire. Until then, to hell with the lot of you.

    If you get the trump virus, you have the resources to deal with it. The poor do not have that luxury and get shuttled about like a commodity rather than our fellow citizens, like you sir. The Hag didn’t have to leave the state or his digs for treatments, correct? The poor do not even get to see doctors because they cannot afford to. The Hag, and your uncaring whiney lot, make them suffer at home. Use the Zoom, take a break from the handouts in Pierre and your damn per diem. No soup for you. Booyah!

  18. jerry 2020-10-22

    Rep Otten, “The US reported more than 1,100 new COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday — the highest daily toll recorded in more than a month.” Rapid City Journal 10.22.20

    So when are you fellers gonna do something about South Dakota rather than bitch at us for pointing out your failures? How can you stand by while the biggest trump virus spreaders are being allowed to continue without hesitation? Do your damn job and legislate or go home…and practice social distancing, wear a mask and wash those mitts. Try to set an example while chastising your fellow kool aid drinkers.

  19. Debbo 2020-10-22

    Oten, apparently you do not know that there is a notable advantage to showing up in person to testify before a committee v. testifying electronically. I’ve seen that advantage in my experiences as a witness. Of course that advantage multiplies when one’s testimony pleases the SDGOP.

    Once again you’ve offered a bunch of misguided dribble while South Dakotans get sick, disabled and die.

  20. mike from iowa 2020-10-22

    More milestones today in drumpf’s body count…

    United States
    Coronavirus Cases:

    Should easily pass 230k deaths this weekend and drumpf and Noem still refuse to act like decent human beings.

  21. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2020-10-22

    Holding Session remotely would be a great way for the Legislature to lead pandemic prevention efforts by example. It would also make it harder for the Governor to send her minions out to strongarm the caucus or to call Legislators who balk at Executive overreach into her office for a tongue-lashing.

  22. Jake 2020-10-22

    Cory, she doesn’t have time now to do her job while she’s gallivanting around speaking Trump talk all over the US and raising millions for her ego (hope) chest in out of state fundraisers while her people in South Dakota wonder if they are next to catch Covid. I would wonder if she would change
    her travels after Trump gets beaten in the election. She and Lew boy have burnt many miles up lately in a lost cause while Covid ravishes our state and the first responders. Sycophants like Mr. Otten and others of his ilk are no better as they let her have the purse strings to a billion dollars of fed money recently. Such a legacy,,,

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