On Thursday, Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch blamed his lackadaisical prosecution of the Ravnsborg impeachment investigation on the media, saying that journalists’ lawsuits to get him to release the names of House members who called for the Special Session on impeachment were taking up “a ton of our time.”
On Saturday, Senate President Pro-Tempore Lee Schoenbeck mooted that excuse by releasing the House impeachment-Session-callers’ names himself:
South Dakotans now have a complete record of lawmakers who did and did not support a special session of the Legislature to consider the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck has released to the Argus Leader the petitions formally calling for the special meeting that took place Nov. 9 and established a nine-member panel to investigate Ravnsborg’s conduct surrounding a fatal crash in 2020 [Joe Sneve, “South Dakota Senator Defies House Speaker, Releases Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg Impeachment Petitions,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2021.12.11].
Schoenbeck released the names of the 27 Senators who called for the impeachment Session back in October, thus demonstrating his commitment to transparency and assuring the voters that the Special Session has the constitutionally mandated two-thirds support from his chamber. Schoenbeck now provides us the same assurance that the House convened legitimately, as 49 out of 70 Representatives signed the Special Session petition:
Aylward, Bartels, Barthel, Blare, Bordeaux, Chaffee, Cwach, Davis, Dennert, Derby, Deutsch, Drury, Duba, Finck, Fitzgerald, Goodwin, Gosch, Hansen, Healy, Hoffman, Johnson, Keintz, Koth, Ladner, Lesmeister, May, Milstead, Mortenson, Mulally, Olson, Overweg, Perry, Peterson (Kent), Pischke, Pourier, Reed, Rehfeldt, Reimer, Schneider, Smith, St. John, Thomason, Tidemann, Vasgaard, Weis, Weisgram, Wiese, Willadsen, and York.
Thus, these 21 Representatives did not sign the petition:
Anderson, Beal, Chase, Greenfield (Lana), Gross, Haugaard, Howard, Jamison, Jensen (Kevin), Jensen (Phil), Karr, Marty, Mills, Miskimins, Odenbach, Otten (Ernie), Peterson (Sue), Randolph, Soye, Stevens, and Wink.
All of the abstainers were Republicans. The abstainers include the two Republican House members who have announced primary challenges of statewide GOP incumbents; Steven Haugaard is challenging Kristi Noem for Governor, and Taffy Howard is challenging Dusty Johnson for South Dakota’s U.S. House seat. When the House met for its Special Session on impeachment, the nine of the ten votes against investigating killer Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg came from non-signers—Gross, Haugaard, Howard, Phil Jensen, Karr, Marty, Mills, Odenbach, and Soye. Overweg was the only Representative to call for the Special Session but vote against investigating Ravnsborg. Eleven of the non-signers still voted for the investigation—Anderson, Beal, Chase, Lana Greenfield, Jamison, Kevin Jensen, Miskimins, Ernie Otten, Randolph, Stevens, and Wink. (Republican Sue Peterson skipped the impeachment Special Session on November 9, as did Democrat Peri Pourier.)
The nine-member committee that Gosch named and leads to lead the impeachment investigation includes three members who did not sign the call petition—Haugaard, Kevin Jensen, and Stevens—and two members who voted against the investigation—Haugaard and Jensen.
Senator Schoenbeck’s release of the impeachment Special Session petitions may not end the lawsuits. The Argus and the South Dakota Newspaper Association also asked for petitions from past Special Sessions, and the Legislative Research Council is still hiding those documents.
But Senator Schoenbeck’s intervention sends a clear message to Speaker Gosch that the Senate (and Senator Schoenbeck is sitting in his Louis XIV chateau on Lake Kampeska whispering, “Le Sénat, c’est moi!“) will not tolerate Speaker Gosch’s dilly-dallying on impeachment. That doesn’t necessarily signal that the Senate will cook Ravnsborg’s goose if/when the House impeaches and sends Ravnsborg to the upper chamber for trial, but it does signal that Senator Schoenbeck plans to deliver swift justice and get on with the Senate’s regular business, and he expects the House to do the same.