Republican Senators Casey Crabtree and Lee Schoenbeck are justifying the Senate’s suspension of Senator Julie-Frye-Mueller by likening it to the action any employer would take against inappropriate workplace behavior. That analogy fails, of course, because Crabtree, Schoenbeck, and the Senate as a whole are not the employers of Frye-Mueller; the people of South Dakota are. The voters of District 30 hired Frye-Mueller (albeit by a slim, recounted primary majority last June); absent some pretty solid, documented, and published proof, the voters of District 30 ought to be the ones to fire her.
Alas, voters would have to wait until the 2024 elections to fire Frye-Mueller, since the Legislature does not trust the voters with recall power. South Dakota currently only allows voters to recall municipal officials.
But wait—legislators have a splendid opportunity to give up that mistrust and empower the people to decide Frye-Mueller’s fate right now. Senators Crabtree and Schoenbeck could propose emergency legislation to allow voters to recall legislators. There’s even a bill coming up for hearing Tuesday that they could use as a convenient vehicle for this useful reform.
Senate Bill 96 seeks to allow the recall of school board members. SB 96 says a recall petition must state that the targeted school board member has committed misconduct, malfeasance, nonfeasance, crime, impropriety, gross incompetency, corruption, theft, oppression (like banning books?), gross partiality, or conflict of interest in the conduct of official duties. A recall petition would require signatures from 15% of district voters and trigger a recall vote 45 to 60 days after certification.
SB 96 is the only item on the agenda of Senate Education on Tuesday at 9 a.m. There thus would be plenty of time for Crabtree or Schoenbeck to come to committee to hoghouse SB 96 to cover legislators. Replace “board member” with “legislator”, “business manager of the school district” with “county auditor” or Secretary of State”, tidy up a few other details, and we’re in business! Plus, the GOP leaders could add an emergency clause so District 30 voters outraged by Frye-Mueller’s alleged misconduct could start circulating a petition to recall their Senator the moment Governor Noem signs the hoghoused bill. Y’all want due process? What process could be more due than a public referendum on Frye-Mueller’s conduct in office?
Making this hoghouse all the more appealing is the fact that SB 96’s two Senate sponsors are Freedom Caucus pals Tom Pischke and Julie Frye-Mueller.