You’d think an Attorney General would be more diligent about following the law. But law-abiding is just too much for killer Jason Ravnsborg. He can’t follow the law (not to mention the conscientious and neighborly practice) on keeping his hands off his phone and his eyes on the road. He can’t follow the law on producing explanations of ballot questions.
Just last March, the Legislature passed and the Governor signed House Bill 1199, requiring the Attorney General to establish the Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons. HB 1199, now SDCL 23A-28C-16, directs the Attorney General to hire a full-time missing-person specialist, pursue federal funding for the office, guide the office, and coordinate MMIP functions with the U.S. Attorney and state and tribal law enforcement.
Ravnsborg has apparently misread HB 1199 to say, make excuses; the missing person specialist is missing:
Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg said Wednesday that he has not hired anyone to serve as a liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons, even though the Legislature passed a law last year requiring him to create the position.
Ravnsborg briefed the Legislature’s State-Tribal Relations Committee during the panel’s first meeting of the 2022 legislative session.
Last year, House Bill 1199 was signed into law to establish the Office of Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons.
“That passed, and it put the requirement on my office to staff this person, but it talked a lot about federal funding,” Ravnsborg told the committee. “And so come July 1st, it went into effect, but we have not received funding in any fashion. When I’ve talked with the various tribes in other discussions, and my office, we always bring this up to see what they’re doing to try and find funding for that, so I have basically an unfunded mandate right now.”
The attorney general said it would cost about $70,000 to fill the position. He went on to say that a new missing person website should roll out in April with improvements and better search capabilities [Richard Two Bulls, “Year After Lawmakers Ordered It, Still No Liaison for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons,” SDPB Radio, 2022.01.12].
South Dakota runs an $85.9-million surplus last year, has $65.5 million allocated to general fund expenditures that it doesn’t need, and has $18.7 million in extra Other funds and $859 million in extra federal funds that it can afford to adjust into the current budget right now, and Jason Ravnsborg can’t find $70,000 to fulfill a legal mandate to address a crisis in Indian Country?
The Governor’s proposed adjustments to the current budget include $397,650 for the Office of the Attorney General to upgrade its information technology. Instead of blaming the tribes for not doing his job, Ravnsborg could have told legislators to rededicate some of that money right now to help him fulfill that mandate.
Jason doesn’t need faster computers in his office. He already spends too much time online instead of focusing on his job. Put money for the mission-persons specialist in the emergency budget adjustments and approve it now.
And while you’re at it, fire Jason Ravnsborg so we can spend the rest of this year with an Attorney General who follows the law.