State constitution on special sessions and impeachment

KELOLAND.com Original

(file/MGN photo)

SIOUX FALLS, SD (KELO) — A letter has been sent by South Dakota House Majority Leader Kent Peterson, calling for a special session of the state legislature to consider the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg following his no-contest plea to charges of improper lane change and using an electronic device while driving.

Page 1 of House majority leader calls for special session
Contributed to DocumentCloud by Karen Sherman (KELO-TV) • View document or read text

Ravnsborg was sentenced to the maximum fine of $500 on each charge, which stemmed from the September 12, 2020, crash in which the car Ravnsborg was driving struck and killed Joe Boever.

With this letter sent, the wheels are in motion for potential impeachment proceedings to begin. But what do these processes look like? The state constitution lays out the requirements and processes for both the calling of a special session and the implementation of an impeachment.

Calling a special session

There are two ways within the South Dakota state constitution that a special session of the legislature can be called.

First, according to Article 4 of the constitution, a special session can be called by the Governor.

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.

Article 4, Section 3

The process becomes slightly more elaborate if the session is to be called by the legislature itself. This process is laid out in Article 3 of the state constitution and requires approval from two-thirds of the members of each chamber of congress.

Convening of special sessions upon petition. In addition to the provisions of Article IV, § 3, the Legislature may be convened in special session by the presiding officers of both houses upon the written request of two-thirds of the members of each house. The petition of request shall state the purposes of the session, and only business encompassed by those purposes may be transacted.

Article 3, Section 31

This the option currently being pursued by Peterson.

KELOLAND News spoke on the phone with State Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, who gave a short description of the process, saying that the House Speaker would ask the Legislative Research Council, which would then send out the request to the state’s 105 legislators, who will need to respond in writing.

One important note with the methods of convening a special session is that a session initiated via petition must include both the House and Senate, while a session convened by the governor can include just one or both chambers of congress.

The impeachment process

The process for impeachment and removal from office is laid out within Article 16 of the South Dakota state constitution.

As with the federal government, impeachment of an official in South Dakota must be carried out by the House of Representatives, and a majority is required. Once an official has been impeached in the House, a trial will be conducted in the Senate.

Article 16, section 2 lays out the way a trial would be conducted, describing the oath taken by the senators and the standard which must be met for conviction.

When sitting for that purpose the senators shall be upon oath or affirmation to do justice according to law and evidence. No person shall be convicted without the concurrence of two-thirds of the members elected.

Article 16, Section 2

Article 16 also describes what should happen in the interim between impeachment and acquittal/conviction. Under section 5, it is stated that “no officer shall exercise the duties of his office after he shall have been impeached and before his acquittal.”

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