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Does the Governor Need Us to Define “State Business”?

Seth Tupper notes that one reason Governor Kristi Noem may be escaping consequences for using the state plane to fly herself, her son, and his teenage friends to her daughter Kassidy’s wedding in Custer State Park is that the law restricting use of the state plane to state business doesn’t define “state business”:

Any prosecutor, judge or jury confronted with allegations of a misused state aircraft would seemingly have to consider what constitutes “state business.” And in the absence of a legal definition, state business would, presumably, be whatever the governor says it is.

…The governor has defended all of those and her other uses of the state airplane as – you guessed it – state business. During the wedding weekend, Noem used the plane to get from Custer to official functions, including youth leadership events in Vermillion and Aberdeen where she was invited to speak. Regarding the out-of-state political functions, Noem’s office has said she attended those not as a mere politician but rather as an official representative of state government [Seth Tupper, “The Key Words and Missing Definition in the Noem Airplane Controversy,” South Dakota Searchlight, 2022.10.31].

Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls), progenitor of the 2006 ballot measure by which voters sought to curtail aerial corruption, tells Tupper he may “bring a proposed statute to tighten that up.”

I would think “state business” is self-explanatory: officials duties of state employees carrying out government functions. But let’s help Senator Nesiba out: readers, what do you think we need to include in a formal definition of “state business” to prevent another L’état, C’est Moi dictatress from defining every little thing she does as state business?

32 Comments

  1. grudznick 2022-11-02

    The Governor is always on the clock. Going anywhere, except home for the Christmas Holidays, is state business.

  2. Donald Pay 2022-11-02

    So, Grudz, when she feels the need to couple with Lewandowski, that’s state business? State taxpayer paying the cost of the Governor’s sexual perversion seems a bit much. There is such a thing called “common sense.” A judge or most rational people can figure out what falls into the “state business” category. Going on booty calls or to kids’ weddings ain’t state business.

  3. scott 2022-11-02

    One way to control this is for the legislators to set a smaller budget for the governor’s office. Noem has much more staff than previous governors. Set a travel budget for the governor, so she does not have all this money to go all over the nation.

  4. John 2022-11-02

    scott and Donald have it right . . . but since there is no common sense in Pierre, Ryan will have to define state business for them.

    scott reinforces my unanswered call for legislative oversight of the rampant, run wild executive branch. The legislature ought to cut the governor’s budget to an average inflation indexed of what that budget was over the 20 years prior to neom.
    The legislature ought to cut the governor’s transportation budget similarly. In both cases force the governor to call a special legislative session to justify why the positions and duties require more funding.

  5. All Mammal 2022-11-02

    Business is commercial activity or trade. The judge should, like, totally look for evidence of South Dakota gaining dividends and/or goods- tangible income/bitchin new things we all need, that is. Like, no doy. So, like, everytime the state plane leaves, it should totally come back measurably heavier. Oh yeah, and like, getting fatter and adding more people doesn’t count. Shyeah, right. Like, totally bring home some bacon or pay your own travel expenses, Governor lady. Stop your steal or go to the state pen where everyone will notice your beard.

  6. Donald Pay 2022-11-02

    Well, I have to say this: common sense does go out the window when officials are given too much freedom to define for themselves what is “business” That is why a definition of what is, but more importantly what isn’t, “state business” might be in order.

    When I was on the school board, we went to various conferences. We got a certain stipend (thanks, taxpayers) to go to these things. Of course, conferences tend to mix socializing with real business. There were some differences of opinion about what one should do during these conferences. I attended the various seminars, took notes and reported back to our school board about what I learned. Others went golfing, hit the bars and, needless to say, didn’t disclose what they learned. I’m not saying that you can’t learn anything on a golf course or bar. Maybe such schmoozing is key to being an effective public servant. I don’t know. I know they didn’t charge the taxpayers for their golf rounds and drink rounds, so maybe that’s something. Still, if taxpayers pay your way to a conference, you should attend and pay attention.

  7. DaveFN 2022-11-02

    To begin to answer Cory’s question, cut the slack out of the system and qualify as “official state business subject to legislative scrutiny. “

  8. AmyB 2022-11-02

    She would spin anything into “state business”…so think there should be something that defines partisan political events as not state business. Fundraisers and campaigning for others is not state business. I’m sure some smart aide would schedule legitimate work around these events.. But I’m sure a solution to that could be figured out. It seems these days, unless things are made specific, politicians find a way to twist and bend things to fit their agenda.

  9. P. Aitch 2022-11-02

    Let her use the plane. What good is an airplane sitting in a hangar? Admit it. You’re just being jealous because you don’t get to use a company plane. Think about what you can do to help someone else and stop dwelling on criticism and negativity. Enough, already. We liberals exude dignity. Show it! Sure. Cory’s blog is 90% negativity but it’s enough negative input just to read it. Commenting as venting is bad for your mental health.

  10. larry kurtz 2022-11-02

    South Dakota’s governor is a unitary executive who needs diddly squat from constituents except votes of confidence or no confidence.

  11. bearcreekbat 2022-11-02

    Actually the duties of the South Dakota Governor are specifically set forth in Article IV, Section 3 of the South Dakota Constitution, and in State statutes. The Constitutional provision reads in full:

    § 3. Powers and duties of the Governor. The Governor shall be responsible for the faithful execution of the law. He may, by appropriate action or proceeding brought in the name of the state, enforce compliance with any constitutional or legislative mandate, or restrain violation of any constitutional or legislative power, duty or right by any officer, department or agency of the state or any of its civil divisions. This authority shall not authorize any action or proceedings against the Legislature.

    He shall be commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the state, except when they shall be called into the service of the United States, and may call them out to execute the laws, to preserve order, to suppress insurrection or to repel invasion.

    The Governor shall commission all officers of the state. He may at any time require information, in writing or otherwise, from the officers of any administrative department, office or agency upon any subject relating to the respective offices.

    The Governor shall at the beginning of each session, and may at other times, give the Legislature information concerning the affairs of the state and recommend the measures he considers necessary.

    The Governor may convene the Legislature or either house thereof alone in special session by a proclamation stating the purposes of the session, and only business encompassed by such purposes shall be transacted.

    Whenever a vacancy occurs in any office and no provision is made by the Constitution or laws for filling such vacancy, the Governor shall have the power to fill such vacancy by appointment.

    The Governor may, except as to convictions on impeachment, grant pardons, commutations, and reprieves, and may suspend and remit fines and forfeitures.

    I note that Governor Noem referred to explicit language in the first paragraph of this section to justify her use of taxpayer dollars to attack Amendment A in Court not long ago, so either she or her team members are aware of this Constitutional grant of authority and listing of duties.

    And it seems quite important that there is no explicit language granting her the power or duty to attend business, partisan political, social or other private gatherings using State resources simply because she is invited to speak even if such events or gatherings can be found to constitute “state business.” Taxpayer funded public speaking “as an official representative of state government” or so-called “ambassador” might be a good idea for the Governor but it is not a listed explicit power or duty. And, of course it was the lack of explicit language in the U.S. Constitution that justified the conservative majority of the SCOTUS in overruling a woman’s “right of privacy” in Dobbs.

    And no such language authorizing such tax funded behavior seems to be listed in SD State statutes setting forth the duties and powers of the Governor. SDCL 1-7-1 reads:

    The Governor shall possess the powers and perform the duties entailed upon him by the Constitution and by special provisions throughout this code and among others, but without limiting other prescriptions of his powers and duties, as follows:
    (1) He shall supervise the official conduct of all executive and ministerial officers;
    (2) He shall see that the laws of the state are faithfully and impartially executed;
    (3) He shall make appointments and fill vacancies in the public offices as required by law;
    (4) He is the sole official organ of communication between the government of this state and the government of any other state of the United States;
    (5) He shall issue patents for land as required by law and prescribed by the provisions of this code;
    (6) He may offer rewards, not exceeding one thousand dollars each, payable out of the general fund, for the apprehension of any convict who has escaped from the penitentiary or for any person who has committed or is charged with the commission of an offense punishable with imprisonment for life;
    (7) He is authorized to appoint a private secretary and to employ such clerks and stenographers as he shall deem necessary for the proper discharge of his official duties, each of whom shall serve during the pleasure of the Governor and receive such compensation as shall be provided by the Legislature;
    (8) He shall have such other powers and must perform such other duties as are or may be devolved upon him by law.

    Perhaps there is another SD statute explicitly “devolves by law” the power or duty upon the Governor to act as a State “Ambassador” or “official representative” and use tax dollars to attend private business gatherings, social events, or out of State partisan political rallies. I believe she argued these gatherings should be characterized as “State business.” That seems odd since SDCL 5-25-1.1 explicitly exempts the Governor from the statutory restriction against using a State means of transportation for other than “State business,” hence that label would be irrelevant anyway, so long as there is some other explicit statutory authorization (that complies with the limits of the SD Constitution) to attend private business gatherings, social events, or out of State partisan political rallies using taxpayer funds.

    But absent such a statute it appears that SD law already clearly defines the limits of a Governor’s powers and duties and neither the direct language in the State Constitution nor State statutes explicitly include either the power or the duty to attend such events on the taxpayer dime. And there may be some older State Supreme Court decision that found such a power to use tax dollars to travel to these types of gatherings to be an “implied” power, but I have never seen such a Court decision mentioned in any articles or stories that reported how the Governor claimed to justify these trips.

    Perhaps a mandatory State Bar remedial class, or CLE, for prosecutors on the grants and limitations of powers by the SD Constitution and statutes would be more helpful than adding another statute to be forgotten or ignored.

  12. larry kurtz 2022-11-02

    Thanks, bat. So, Mrs. Noem can do whatever she wants unless someone sues her?

  13. Donald Pay 2022-11-02

    If you believer in correct pronouns the HIllsdale way, Noem can’t be doing anything, unless “she” is a “he.” Who is going to do the gender check on Noem? I don’t want to hear about “he” being all inclusive. We can’t have that in South Dakota, where sexes are distinct, and only “he” can carry out the duties of the Governor or enter a “Men’s Restroom.” The sex on Noem’s birth certificate constrains Noem’s powers under the SD Constitution to nada, zilch, nothing. She can be an ambassador for the state in her own mind, but since she is not a “he,” she can’t be using the state airplane to flit around ambassadoring with Lewandowski.

  14. Richard Schriever 2022-11-02

    State business should be defined as things in which the state has a “material interest” – I.E., some official function of the state as a whole – not simply one office holder stands to attain or disburse a monetary or other material sum. It might also apply to law enforcement functions.

  15. Richard Schriever 2022-11-02

    And how can a “she” be the commander of the SD militia (renamed National Guard) when membership in the state militia is restricted constitutionally to “able-bodied males” between the ages of 18 and 35?

  16. Arlo Blundt 2022-11-02

    Thank you, bearcreekbat….when discussing the application of the laws descriptive of the duties of the Governor, remember the concept first delineated by that great Constitutional scholar, Mel Brooks, “It is good to be King.” No laws or rules should be applied to limit the activities of the Governor nor her “Ministerial Officers”. Those officers who are “exempt” from the State Civil Service statutes and administrative rules, are like the Governor always “on the clock.” As they are always on the clock, they may be doing “state business” anyplace, anywhere, at any time.

    That’s how it is now. Change would require legislative action.

  17. All Mammal 2022-11-02

    Use the definition of the word business. Along with the definition of the word work. Do her trips fit those definitions? If not, she isn’t working for SD and should can it.

    Her stuck up behavior and lack of concern for her people reminds me of the story of hell my mom would tell- ‘Everyone has long chopsticks, instead of arms and hands and they’re all sitting around a table piled high with a banquet of food and drink in the center. Yet the people are all arguing and starving because they still haven’t figured out how to feed each other….. those who argue instead of helping feed the hungry are miserable and that can’t spread to heaven because there’s no room for selfish misery there.’
    Religious or not, the story sticks with you.

  18. Arlo Blundt 2022-11-02

    The real issue in this controversy is “Can the Governor use state property (airplane, aviation fuel, pilot etc.) solely to transport family members and family friends to a private family wedding exclusive of any “state business” being conducted on the trip. As I understand it, part of the many “trips” during the time of the transportation of family members and friends to the wedding were done exclusively to transport the guests to the wedding. Is this allowed?? While one would think not, we do have to keep in mind the overriding concept brought to us by Mel Brooks…It IS good to be King.”

  19. larry kurtz 2022-11-02

    If a legislator or group of legislators sue the governor which party does the AG represent?

  20. O 2022-11-02

    We can quote statute and rule until blue in the face, but the bottom line is that as a political entity, the Governor’s actions are OK as long as her constituents approve of her. The moral decay of the GOP has green lit the actions of this Governor just as they green lit the actions of the last President. As long as the GOP chooses to enable corruption, corruption shall be the norm, and all the after-the-fact chasing of the wrong doing shall be a day late and a dollar short as President Trump continues to demonstrate.

  21. grudznick 2022-11-02

    Just because you fellows don’t get airplane rides is no reason to be petty and spiteful about those who do. Mr. President Uncle Joe Biden, of course, flies around on a whim on a much nicer and more expensive jet and you don’t hear grudznick whining about it.

    Sit down and face the music…Extreme Mr. Smith will lose and Ms. Noem will win and things will just go on like usual. And you will be just fine.

  22. Arlo Blundt 2022-11-02

    Grudznick..I’m pleased you have finally admitted that you are, above all else, a member of the establishment.

  23. grudznick 2022-11-02

    grudznick has been established for a very long time. I am nearly older than dirt.

  24. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-11-02

    I’ve never heard or read President Biden called “Uncle Joe,” Grudz, because I’m too busy cutting up fire wood, helping hungry people (some of them with brown skin and no political affiliation) get fed, and reading library books. I don’t belong to any social media other than this.

    I am not a “fellow” and I’d rather stab myself in both eyes than get on an aircraft again. Spent too much time in them in the past. You are probably right about the outcome of this election, given the stupidity of South Dakota voters much like you; your jerkenoff fantasy is a thief, liar, cheat, and dull narcissist. She shall certainly be selected.

  25. P. Aitch 2022-11-02

    Bonnie – Thank you for helping hungry people. You may not have a lot of material things, but you have some things your Governor doesn’t have.
    SELF RESPECT and DIGNITY
    Carry on, fine person …

  26. Mark Anderson 2022-11-02

    Oh grudz, I’m always fine, fine, bootpolish fine. I like The way Kristi approaches corruption. It’s just family business with farmer Noem. Jobs, weddings, most people in South Dakota are fine with that also. South Dakota is in a little corrupt state of mind. Fireworks for all, in the hills too.

  27. grudznick 2022-11-02

    You should use electric heat, Ms. Fairbank. Less ecologically damaging, if you listen to the electric car libbies. Stop pumping all that carbon into the Hot Springs air, degrading air quality, and creating that haze that lingers over the Lake of Angostura on nice fall days.

  28. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-11-02

    FU, grudz. Oh, did I mention FU GRUDZ? You don’t know a damned thing about the WaterFurnace Premier heat pump that was origanally installed in my house in 1986 that NO CONTRACTOR within five states or Canada can fix or replace. Not SD, ND, MN, ID, MT, or Alberta. Since I’d truly not like for my animals and I freeze to death, I carelesslyand thoughtlessly use firewood in my wood stove.

    But I thank you for helpful and timely suggestion. I’ve only seen Lake Angostura twice, and was not impressed. You have a wonderful day.

  29. M 2022-11-03

    Thanks, bearcreekbat for that info. I don’t see “ambassador for the state” in the governor’s duties. But I do see that “of the state” is repeated within the duties described. To me it seems quite clear.

  30. Richard Schriever 2022-11-03

    Change the terms/language from “state business” to “performing official duties of the office”.

  31. Jake 2022-11-03

    “Winning” and “degrading the opposition” is the business of the day for the GOP and their mouth-pieces like grudz and has been for 40 years or more in SD. And, P. Aitch, pointing out the failings of the GOP to serve society as a whole well, isn’t a bad, but necessary thing…

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