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Letter Claims Bill Tampering In SD Legislature

December 8, 2011, 5:59 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

Letter Claims Bill Tampering In SD Legislature
PIERRE, SD - Six South Dakota lawmakers are claiming that leadership in the House of Representatives tampered with bills before they were finalized and public.

A letter sent to the Legislative Research Council this week is asking that they turn over all of the communication with Republican leaders in the House of Representatives from the last legislative session.

The six legislators claim leadership asked the Legislative Research Council for confidential information about bills other lawmakers were working on.

Because South Dakota is made up of citizen legislators the Legislative Research Council, or LRC, is the staff that helps them turn their ideas into official bills.

When lawmakers go to the capitol in Pierre they work with the LRC to do all the research for their proposed bills. The staff members of LRC not only help with the research they also help write the bill so that the legislation is legally correct.

Once that entire process is done the bill is finalized and made public.

Rep. Lance Russell of Hot Springs, Rep. Lora Hubbel of Sioux Falls, Rep. Betty Olson of Prairie City, Rep. Stace Nelson of Fulton, Senator Tim Begalka of Clear Lake, and Senator Ryan Maher of Isabel all signed the letter claiming that Republican leadership in the House interfered with that process when the bills were still being written, and were supposed to be confidential.

"All I know, on good information, is in fact that it did occur," Russell said.

This letter says the LRC staff was told by leadership last session to provide information about bills that were being researched. The letter asks that the LRC explain what happened and provide the documents of the communication with leadership.

"I think that the Legislative Research Council has an obligation to work for all of us, and we're all elected members of the legislature, so I'm hopeful that we will in fact get that information," Russell said.

The Legislative Research Council says that when they are working on bills with lawmakers before they become public all of that work is confidential. LRC Director Jim Fry says that's always been their policy and always will be. The chairman of the legislature's executive board says it would surprise him if those claims were true.

"It would really surprise me and I doubt it," chairman of the legislature’s executive board Representative Charles Turbiville of Deadwood said.

"Any discussions between legislators and the members of the committee is absolutely, strictly confidential.”

Turbiville says the executive board will be responding to the letter and handling these claims.

“There's never been an indication of anything I've heard or seen so we will look into it and make that determination at a later date," Turbiville said.

The two members of leadership who were specifically named in the letter, House Majority Leader David Lust of Rapid City and House Speaker Val Rausch of Big Stone City, did not immediately return phone calls from KELOLAND News Thursday requesting comment on these claims.

To read the letter click on the link below.
Letter To Legislative Research Council.pdf

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