PIERRE | South Dakota lawmakers rejected two resolutions Monday asking for rule changes.
One asked the Legislative Research Council to compile a voting record each year for each legislator. The other called for the House of Representatives or the Senate to hold a vote when a lawmaker objected to a commemoration.
The House State Affairs Committee killed both. No one testified against them.
The tally was 11-1 against the voting records Rep. Julie Frye-Mueller, R-Rapid City, sought. Tonchi Weaver of Rapid City, a lobbyist representing South Dakota Citizens for Liberty, spoke for it.
On the commemorations change, Rep. Liz May, R-Kyle, lost 12-0. Her proposal came after Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, used a legislative rule to block a commemoration by Sen. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, honoring an investigative TV reporter.
May said the current rule isn’t fair because it lets one lawmaker overrule another. “I would like to see it changed,” said May on HCR 1013.
Rep. Julie Bartling, D-Gregory, asked May why she proposed a resolution rather than go through the standard rule-making process.
“I guess I don’t have an answer for that. It’s the way I chose to do it,” May answered.
Rep. Isaac Latterell, R-Tea, asked May if her approach would cause “debates all the time” on what had been “perfunctory” matters.
“It would take the majority to make it happen,” May replied.
May ran into more opposition from Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, and Rep. Tona Rozum, R-Mitchell. “Commemorations should not be controversial,” Rozum said. “I don’t think they belong on the debate calendar.”
Frye-Mueller and Weaver testified by telephone on voting records because they weren’t able to get through the storm that swept into central South Dakota early Monday.
“This is a positive step toward more open government,” Frye-Mueller said. She asked House members to “lift the roadblock” that prohibits the Legislative Research Council from putting together voting records by lawmaker.
“The data can be organized by any relevant statistic,” Weaver said. “Most people just want to know how does their legislator vote.”
There wouldn’t be any additional expense, according to Weaver. But, she added, “It would take some time to set up.”
Weaver said she was willing to accept a report after each legislative session.
Rep. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, picked apart Weaver’s group. The committee chairman said a scorecard assembled in the past by Weaver was “extremely distorted.”
Weaver said her group, which some have described as aligned with the Tea Party, assembled two scorecards. One focused on legislation regarding gun rights. The other was comprehensive.
She said Rhoden was one of a few lawmakers who scored 100 on gun rights.
“I will tell you this: I chose the bills,” Weaver said. She considered perspectives from some lobbyists and from her board.
Mickelson again urged defeat.
“To this point, our legislative research staff has been nonpartisan. That is very important to the impartiality they bring to the work they do for all of us,” Mickelson said. “There’s a lot of judgment compiling a voting record.”
Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City, said in his 10 years as a House member he’s never had anyone ask him for a complete voting record. “There’s absolutely no need,” Lust said.
Rep. Steve Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls, said all the voting information is on the Legislature’s website. Haugaard said legislative staff could “feather” the data into reports.
Latterell however said more transparency would be an improvement. “I think it’s a good bill,” Latterell said.
Bartling again turned back to how rules should be set. “We have a process through Legislative Procedure and I think that should be followed,” Bartling said, referring to the committee that handles rule-making.
Rhoden said it was easy to track his record. “And it continues to get easier,” he said.
Rhoden added that he was “extremely, extremely disappointed” by the Weaver group’s attempt to reach “a predetermined outcome.”