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SB 97: Boot Democrats from State-Tribal Relations, Give Schoenbeck and Gosch Control over Committee Chairs

It’s bad enough that the Legislature isn’t willing to cross the Governor and require that her Tribal Affairs Secretary occasionally report to the Legislature’s State-Tribal Relations Committee. Even worse, Senate President Pro-Tem Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown) wants to make that statutory committee more partisan and less responsive to the voices of the tribal people that the committee was founded to amplify.

Schoenbeck’s Senate Bill 97 takes two whacks at the bipartisan responsiveness of the State-Tribal Relations Committee. First, it raises the cap on partisan membership from 60% to 80%. Schoenbeck can argue, as he did when excluding rare Democrats from Judiciary, Taxation, and Veterans Affairs, that allowing the minority party at least one member from each chamber on the ten-member committee still grants the current Democratic caucus representation disproportionate to its meager numbers: cutting Democrats from their current four seats back to two still beats the proportion they’d get if President Pro-Tem Schoenbeck could whittle them down to the single seat their combined 10% of all Legislative seats would entitle them to in a system of pure proportional representation. But SB 97 will still cut the number of minority party voices on State-Tribal Relations by half… and concomitantly, since the four of the five tribal members on the committee are Democrats, cut the number of tribal voices on the committee by 40%.

Senate Bill 97 takes a second, arguably bigger whack at bipartisan checks and balances by changing who picks the chair and vice-chair of the committee. Currently, the committee elects its own leadership, and Democratic Representative Shawn Bordeaux (D-26A/Mission) and Senator Red Dawn Foster (D-27/Pine Ridge) have been able to win those posts. Schoenbeck says no way to that sort of bipartisan cooperation putting Democrats in charge of a statutorily independent committee’s agenda; SB 97 would put the power of picking State-Tribal Relations’ leaders back in the hands of the Speaker of the House and the President Pro-Tem.

Having too many Native voices and Native leaders on State-Tribal Relations constitutes an emergency in Schoenbeck’s mind: SB 97 comes with an emergency clause to give him and Speaker Spencer Gosch the chance to kick troublemakers Bordeaux and Senator Troy Heinert off State-Tribal Relations and replace them with more compliant Republicans immediately.

Former State-Tribal Relations chairman (and long-standing financial friend of this blog) Stanford Adelstein writes from Rapid City that Senate Bill 97 “would destroy the effectiveness of the State-Tribal Relations Committee”:

…[SB 97] would not only diminish the effectiveness of the committee’s activities, but represent a terrible example of strengthening antagonistic partisanship.

…Should SB 97 pass, the committee’s leadership would be selected politically, rather than from the membership by the membership. The current process of allowing the committee to select its own leadership helps to create an environment that fosters recognizing each other’s interests and an honest recognition of problems. [SB 97 is a] plan to deliberately destroy 28 years of success that recognized the true needs and problems of nearly 9% of the population of our state.

Having had the opportunity to have served on the State-Tribal Relations Committee for four terms, two terms as chairman, our effectiveness resulted from a willingness to ignore party differences. We did not always agree, but communication was open and public.

From my decades of South Dakota political experience, it is clear that the only purpose of this piece of legislation, the first amendment in 28 years, is to reduce honest public expression and examination of the needs and problems of the poorest and most stressed of our neighbors [Stanford Adelstein, press release, received by DFP 2021.02.12].

The Republican caucus already has more power than it knows what to do with. The occasionally independent expressions of the minority leadership of the State-Tribal Relations Committee pose no real threat to the one-party monolith’s ongoing electoral domination; they simply serve as a minor megaphone for voices that otherwise would go ignored in state government. SB 97 does not serve the interests of state-tribal relations or give more voice to those who need more voice; it only serves the single-minded dedication of South Dakota Republicans to the complete eradication of any locus of dissent in state government.


  1. grudznick 2021-02-15 14:30

    I am sure it is Mr. Bordeaux’s rudeness to his fellows and his partisan bumbling that has caused this. Have you ever even listened to one of his meetings? They go off the rails at minute 0 and the Council of Legislatures staff cannot get them back on the narrow. I highly recommend them for the entertainment value.

  2. John Kennedy Claussen, Sr., 2021-02-15 20:11

    The Republicans are becoming increasingly cocky. Just wait until they come out with their redistricting map for the state legislature. They most likely will draw it so that the only Democrats who can win will have reservation addresses; and that reality will only be protected due to federal civil rights acts.

    Sioux Falls should gain a legislative district seat beginning in 2022 due to the 2020 census, but I look for the Republicans to bring in more than one district to Sioux Falls proper, so they can dilute and stymie the blue Sioux Falls vote with a further red rural reality.

    Many hope these redistricting fears can eventually be stopped with the help of the LoWV efforts, which I support, but if such efforts only received 43% of the vote in a presidential year in South Dakota, then how are they to get 50+% in a non presidential year?

    Redistricting needs to be fought in the courts. The SCOTUS has already said this issue is a political one, which the courts shouldn’t address, but is it political in terms of blue versus red? Isn’t it actually a question of rural versus urban and the logic of a federal system – or a republican system, federal or state – that seeks to find a balance between rural and urban interests through the electoral college and the realities of the Connecticut Compromise as examples?

    If the South Dakota Republican Party does to redistricting, what I fear they will do, won’t it be in violation to the logic, and thus, the intended harmony of our small “r” republican principles, or better yet, unconstitutional?

  3. grudznick 2021-02-15 20:26

    Do not fear, Mr. Claussen. People will be watching, and there are knowledgeable and experienced in the districting. Mr. Bolin comes to mind, he of the second best haircut in the legislatures, as one with much experience in these matters. I only hope they move the districts numbered 30 and 33 around a bit.

  4. jake 2021-02-15 20:47

    Haircuts really aren’t paramount to voters that I know, but the person under the haircut and what they stand for and do is. Hypocrisy, greed, and power seeking rubes are what the voters are to be wary of, and in South Dakota, for decades now, they have carried sadly, the R behind their name on the ballot.

  5. grudznick 2021-02-15 20:57

    Perhaps, Mr. jake, you aren’t reading deeply enough into what grudznick is trying to teach you. Try harder.

  6. jake 2021-02-15 21:21

    Thankfully, I don’t feel any need for your teaching, g.

  7. RST Tribal Member at 57572 2021-02-16 09:12

    So when a Native legislator talks up and gives input it is termed “off the rails”. It is unfortunate the 1 party inbred Republican legislators don’t have Twitter, newspapers, radio, tv or talk outside their party they would have seen, heard, read about a nut case who was really off the rails in Washington. Heck ask the 1 party governor as she was basking under his shadow since 2020. Good story on MSNBC on the lady trumper who thought the state plane was air force 1 as she jetted around the country for her personal need to be out of the state. Now back to the Native legislator twisted up the staff of the legislative council. The staff was probably accustomed to the stoic Native pointing with her/his lips and not using them to bring the staff out of their white privileged stumper. Let’s repeat history by letting a bunch of white privileged people who not lived on a reservation tell us how to live, tell us what is best for us, enact legislation that benefits us. Natives benefit from SD 1party bunch, hasn’t happened, will never happen. Change the name of committee to White Privileged for the Betterment of Our Merciless Indian Savages (description found in the Bill of Rights).

  8. leslie 2021-02-16 11:16

    RST 572, in one post, demolishes the primary racist poster here and all of his years of navel-gauzing posts, ad nauseam, every day, every thread, with the mere comment: “the stoic Native pointing with her/his lips and not using them to bring the staff out of their white privileged stumper.”

    Remember when the very existence of the concept of “white privilege” was debated here and everywhere, over pages and pages of emotional whining. Republicans are so sensitive, and thin skinned, when deserved criticism hits home. Every time.

    Now we merely look at 1.06.21 for the example. Pissed off white male bar flys dressed in GI Joe costumes carrying guns, tasers, knives, bombs, swinging hockey sticks, baseball bats, brass knuckles, molotov cocktails, ropes, steel barriers, smashing bullet proof Capitol windows with American flag poles, spears, two by fours, and pipes. Killing Capitol Police. The Republican party, voters and leaders.

    Aside from a few rich people who flew in on private or government jets, most of these idiots were working class stiffs in their Carhart carpenter overalls who could not even afford to be there, spun up in rage by Kristi Noem and Trump who were on the public dole shouting amplified political lies of incitement.

    The inciters did not pay their own way.

    The public paid. Same as in South Dakota. A new jet. Pffssttt! And these insurrectionist pawns will be paying for this folly for decades. They will not be pardoned.

    *** RST 572 continues:

    “Let’s repeat history.

    Letting a bunch of white privileged people who have not lived on a reservation tell us how to live.

    Tell us what is best for us, enact legislation that benefits us.

    Have Natives benefitted from SD 1 party bunch?—hasn’t happened, will never happen.

    Change the name of the committee to White Privileged for the Betterment of Our Merciless Indian Savages (description found in the Bill of Rights).” ***

    There is not a single South Dakota Republican that can withstand the scrutiny of White privilege. Racism. Misogyny. Ageism. Hate.

    Brace yourself for the Republican onslaught that will madly try to patch holes in the GOP fabric revealed by the last 4 years debacle, and the previous 8 years of Republican obstructionism. JCK said: “Redistricting …SCOTUS has already said this issue is a political one, which the courts shouldn’t address….”

    The GOP, in its expensive death spiral, will hide behind incompetent Trump judges. The Democratic party has a monumental job ahead to 1) clean up the mess and assess accountability, 2) restore and harden all the norms and repair constitutional vagaries, 3) and move ahead on all fronts of necessity and policy for people of good conscience. During a pandemic.

    Noem, Thune (McConnell), Rounds and Johnson will continue to hinder progress as long as we permit them.

  9. “Sisseton-Wahpeton Tribal Member” 2021-02-17 21:10

    I don’t know Mr. Grudznick, but it is unfortunate that when a person such as Shawn Bordeaux speaks up for any issue, he is characterized as rude or aggressive. Oh, but wait, how dare he speak up..he should go sit in the corner like a good little Indian. When will South Dakota ever understand that the “civilizing” of Indians in the 19th century and still exists to this day involved the use of various techniques of domination based on the Doctrine of Discovery. Some white politicians have learned this quite well. The use of those techniques by the United States was intended to end the very existence of the Oceti Sakowin and other Native Nations. Shoenbeck is only doing what he he has so skillfully learned from his ancestors…how dare the Natives of S.D. can think that they have a voice in what happens in this state.

  10. Spike 2021-02-18 11:33

    Grudz’s reps and senators from the Black Hills Region are some of the rudest, trump loving, most redneck government officials around. They try to espouse minimum government then impose all kinds of weird crap called “legislation” on the people of SD. Whom vote republican because they don’t want the kind of dictatorship that actually comes out of Pierre.

    Those are the true rude aggressive clown car occupants in Pierre. Now driven by Kristi “its the green new deals fault” Noem. Bordeaux and others have no say in legislation whereas the clown car continues to run over the people that elect them. But let’s vote repub because its whats best for SD (except for the farmer welfare, COVID money, crop insurance racket, Ellsworth AFB, various other federal subsidies, etc). Those don’t count cause we are so dang special here.

    I don’t even know what a Republican is anymore.

  11. Jenny 2021-02-18 12:01

    Don’t listen to Grimy, he is most likely in the beginning stages of dementia. We need more Native Americans in the legislature to speak up like Shaun Bordeaux. I like him, he’ssmart, clever, funny and not to mention goodlooking. Don’t ever let those old white man on the republicanside intimidate the 8 democrates in Pierre. If anything Bordeaux needs to speak out more.
    Yes, Grimy says the Dems must bow to the fat pubs. Only in your dreams, Grime. Now move it, the family will be called if you keep fighing with the nurses.

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