PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — One day after having her committee assignments taken away, a member of the South Dakota Senate had her voting privileges in that chamber removed.
A motion to strip Republican Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller of her voting powers was approved by more than two-thirds of the Senate Thursday afternoon. It does not remove her from office.
The motion to strip Frye-Mueller of Senate voting powers passed 27-6 with 2 excused.
Frye-Mueller spoke against the motion and said she doesn’t know what has been said against her and she has a right to defend herself.
Republican Sen. Tom Pischke also called for more due process. He said it was a “she-said, she-said situation.”
The motion to establish the select committee came from Republican Sen. Herman Otten and Republican Sen. Michael Rohl. Lt. Governor Larry Rhoden said the cart was moving before the horse. He ruled the motion out-of-order, but Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck challenged the ruling of the chair and had a majority of support.
Schoenbeck said the authority to strip Frye-Mueller of her voting rights came in rules explained by the LRC. He said the rules allow for the Senate to protect the “decorum of the body.”
He said it’s what any employer would do if facing these issues and called it a suspension.
A select committee will investigate the conduct of Fyre-Mueller and her voting rights as a state senator will be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.
Rhoden told reporters the Senate overruled him after he ruled the motion out of order.
“That is part of the process,” he said.
Frye-Mueller is one of the leading voices in the Legislature against vaccines. She is prime sponsor of SB-125 that would prohibit any additional vaccine requirements for children. Last year, she was lead sponsor in the Senate of HB-1258 that would have treated whether a person was vaccinated against COVID-19 as confidential medical information. She also was lead sponsor in the Senate for HB-1262 that sought to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s vaccination status or possession of an immunity passport.
“She just had a conversation with an LRC staffer (about vaccines),” Pischke told KELOLAND News about why she’s now in trouble. “I truly believe Julie didn’t mean any harm or malice whatsoever, but it was taken differently. It’s unfortunate.”
Six senators who voted no on suspending the rules were Arch Beal, Frye-Mueller, Brent Hoffman, Pischke, Dean Wink and Larry Zikmund.
Excused were John Wiik and Red Dawn Foster.
Republican Sen. Casey Crabtree said during the weekly leadership news conference there is a personnel issue in the Senate and lawmakers won’t share details until they can.
“No different than what you would do in handling your business,” Crabtree said.
After the action Thursday, Crabtree issued this statement: “We were made aware of serious personnel allegations. Based on the nature of that allegation we needed to act quickly and prudently to protect the person involved. We will have due process in public with a goal to complete the process early next week.”
Frye-Mueller saw her committee assignments taken away Wednesday afternoon. She served on the Senate Local Government and Senate Health and Human Services committees.
Video, via South Dakota Public Broadcasting, shows the Senate’s action Thursday. Start at the 59:00 mark.