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Dems Lose Election, Lose Voice on Senate Judiciary, Taxation, Veterans Committees

There are so few Democrats in the 2021 Legislature—eight Democrats out of 70 House members, three out of 35 Senate members—that they can’t mathematically cover every committee.

Each chamber has fourteen committees, so incoming Speaker Spencer Gosch (R-23/Glenham) can assign each Democrat to two House committees, per normal rules, and give Dems a lonely voice in each room. But in the Senate, newly elected President Pro-Tem Senator Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown) would have to give Senators Tory Heinert (D-26/Mission) and Red Dawn Foster (D-27/Pine Ridge) five committee assignments each and Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls) four to ensure a Democratic vote in each meeting. (Reynold would get four, because he works Appropriations, and that’s double the work.) Such assignments would be logistically impossible under normal operating procedure: committees generally meet in two morning rounds during Session to avoid double-booking committee members. A Senator with five assignments would always be running back and forth between meeting rooms, constantly choosing which bills and testimony to hear and which to ignore.

Senator Schoenbeck says that ain’t happening:

…Senate Pro Tempore-elect Lee Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, has chosen to keep Democrats off the Judiciary, Military and Veterans Affairs and Taxation Committees.

Heinert said he’s lobbying Schoenbeck to place a Democrat on the judiciary committee, motivated by that panel’s oversight of bills dealing with the corrections system and potentially legislation related to recent passage by voters of legal marijuana.

But Schoenbeck isn’t budging. He said the Senate Democrats are already over-represented on standing committees based on the number of seats they hold.

To his point, Democrats hold just 8.5% of Senate seats while Schoenbeck is filling 11% of Senate committee seats with minority party members. To compare, 11% of House committee seats are filled by Democrats, an equal proportion to their representation as a whole in that chamber.

“The way to have more slots is to have more South Dakotans think you have good ideas at election time,” Schoenbeck said [Joe Sneve, “Senate Democrats Left off Three Legislative Panels as Minority Party Spread Thin,” that Sioux Falls paper via Aberdeen American News, 2020.12.11].

While I will challenge Schoenbeck’s suggestion that our Legislative elections have much to do with good ideas, I must accede to his primary claim: elections have consequences. If you don’t win the contest, you don’t get the prize. If you only send three Senators to Pierre, you can’t expect to have seats on fourteen committees.


  1. John Dale 2020-12-14 07:53

    Almost unimaginably, being a Democrat has become even less en vogue since the collection and distribution of voter/election fraud evidence has been circulating outside the gentle confines of the MSM.

    It’s not that Democrats are bad. Heck, I share many important elements of the social agenda.

    It’s that they allowed themselves to be bought-off by the CCP. That is the reason why, think, SD Democrats are in such a dilapidated state.

  2. Jenny 2020-12-14 10:25

    This is really embarassing that South Dakota Democrats can’t do any better than this, Good Lord!Come on, SD Dems, wake up!

  3. Jenny 2020-12-14 10:35

    John Dale, I think you have your Post Election grief group scheduled for today, you better go. You don’t want to miss it.

  4. MD 2020-12-14 12:33

    Yet the ruling party has control of the districting so they can pack and crack
    20+% of the state still identifies as democrat yet they get a large minority for representation. That is the result of policies not just poor election outcome. This is a good way to continue to have more fiascos and send more people running out of state.

  5. Mark Anderson 2020-12-14 13:11

    Its ok, any state that has this amount of one sidedness will breed corruption. You’ll have a governor that will allow so many people to die needlessly, an AG that will kill a pedestrian and not get tested after an event at a bar. Just the usual So. Dak.corruption. I’m amazed that Janklow had a problem with his crash in Trent. So how will one power rule work in South Dakota? It will be fun to watch from afar. I’m sure their fearless leader will open a hotel in Custer after pardoning himself and family from any wrongdoing for anything.. At least you can all smoke dope legally but why bother when you have all the comedy you need in Pierre.

  6. Bob Newland 2020-12-14 19:08

    “come Dems, wake up.” How does demonstrate wokeness when all about one is militantlymoronic?

  7. Lee Schoenbeck 2020-12-14 19:14

    Thank you for your fair coverage of a difficult situation. Its really a math issue. There are 35 senators and 9 serve on appropriations. Those nine do not have the time to serve on any other standing committee. The other 26 senators fill the 67 slots on the standing committees. Which means that every elected senator earned the right to be on 2.57 committees. You obviously have to round, and you can make up some of the shortage by putting people on non-standing committees where they have a strong interest.
    The two non-approp Dem Senators would be entitled to 5.14 slots. Troy and I talked. He valiantly negotiated for far more than his party won at the ballot box. Every extra seat he gets, costs some senator that voters chose – to have less of a role (fewer committee assignments).
    In the end I agreed to 40% more seats for Troy’s caucus than they won on election day, and then found ways to make that up to other senators with other appointments. Because he knew he was getting more than he was supposed to get, he agreed. I can’t account for the recent news story. I can say with a high degree of confidence that Troy doesn’t want me to go back and assign based on the straight math of the election.

  8. Bob Newland 2020-12-14 19:54

    No, Lee, but he might like you to decide potential laws based on humanity and common sense, qualities whose presence has been lacking in your decisions in the past.

  9. grudznick 2020-12-14 20:45

    When my close, personal friend Bob is in the legislatures, representing Libertarians and general conservatives, he will need Mr. Schoenbeck’s advice on how to manage an unruly caucus of one. Mr. Schoenbeck was able to herd his caucus of one, but Bob is going to have to fight a horde of demons in his brain to keep on track.

  10. JB 2020-12-14 21:35

    What’s the CCP that bought out the democrats?

    I agree democrats need to win some elections. But the corrupt republicans keep chasing intelligent electorate out of the state to Minnesota, Nebraska, & elsewhere leaving less Democrat voters. Meanwhile the state Republicans gerrymander the few urban parts of the state. You’re left over with an Idiocracy and the corruption has become so common and normal that SD sees it as the culture rather than recognizing it as corrupt.

    Meanwhile we pat ourselves on the back for not being California or Minnesota. And those states agree….SD is definitely not them.

    Keep it up. The federal democrats will continue to bail you out. Farmers would go no where without socialized farm programs and federal money.

  11. Jenny 2020-12-14 23:11

    That’s so true about MN not being SD. MN is one of the least federally dependent welfare states compared to SD. We are proud to pay our way and even prouder to be one of the most charitable (4th most charitable according to Wallet Hub here. SD is way down the ladder at 43rd. Hey I thought you had such a great economy, SD, how come you aren’t giving back more) .

    Those darn bleeding heart MN liberals! They even beat those SD (pseudo)conservatives with charitable giving, not surprised. :)

  12. Moses6 2020-12-15 06:44

    Jenny low wages great places South Dakota.A state that needs fed bucks to get by.Almost dead last in wages.Great exporters of our youth out of state for better paying jobs.

  13. bearcreekbat 2020-12-17 09:57

    In today’s Dec 17, 2020, episode of the “World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon” blog contributor el jefe has a piece that might just be relevant to the problems outlined by Cory about South Dakota’s Democratic party. For example, el jefe describes the decline and current impotence of the Texas Democratic party with the following golf analogy:

    The TDP is a textbook example of insanity – for 30 years, they’ve done the same thing over and over, with the same consultants, same party officials, and same pecking order. The results in each cycle have been predictably disastrous. . . .

    Democratic politics in Texas is a lot like golf…you hack your way from water to rough to bunker, but then on the 16th hole, you hit that beautiful lofted draw that lands the ball softly right in the center of the green. Then you 4 putt the hole for a double bogey. On 17, you hit it in the water again, and on 18 you lose your ball out of bounds. BUT, that beautiful shot on 16 keeps you coming back time after time.

    El jefe has plenty more to say and all of his comments are worth reading, thinking about, and contemplating whether perhaps some of these comments might be right on point for the South Dakota Democratic party? I confess to not having a lot of knowledge about the history of the Democratic party here in South Dakota, but based on the results of our elections in the past few years it sure looks like the South Dakota Democratic party may be a mirror image of the evolution of the current Texas Democratic Party.

  14. mike from iowa 2020-12-17 10:39

    Back when I came of age, and before, i could head for Hudson, South Dakota to tip a few too many and, as always, there was a Smiling Dick Kneipf welcoming me on the west bank of the Big Sioux River.

    Somehow, being welcomed to the land of rampant covid, grift, greed, unethical pols of the right wing persuasion, and Grudzilla does not make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I be safe enough at home and save money, too.

  15. o 2020-12-17 13:51

    I again seriously pose the solution: EVERYONE register Republican and we go to a single “party” state, but a more full democracy as every vote will count equally. Everyone would vote for candidates based on who they are — not which party they align to.

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