PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A former House speaker is defending his decisions last year to authorize travel to a national convention after he and another South Dakota lawmaker had lost their elections.
Republican Spencer Gosch approved the trips to the Council of State Governments meeting December 7-10 in Honolulu, Hawaii, for himself after he lost a June primary for a state Senate nomination, and for then-House Democrats leader Jamie Smith, who lost the November general election to Republican Governor Kristi Noem.
Neither Gosch nor Smith attended the governor’s budget address on Dec. 6. Gosch said Sunday that the legislation that Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck has filed is unnecessary.
Schoenbeck, the Senate president pro tem, wants the Legislature’s Executive Board to decide on travel requests from legislators who no longer are eligible for election.
Currently, the Senate president pro tem and the House speaker have the responsibility for deciding whether legislators from their respective chambers travel at state expense.
If the Senate approves it, the legislation would head to the House of Representatives, where Republican Rep. Hugh Bartels, the new House speaker, is the sponsor.
Schoenbeck on Friday called Gosch’s actions “an abuse of power.” Gosch on Sunday told KELOLAND News he was fulfilling his responsibility as speaker.
“I simply allowed elected officials to attend these meetings — as is the policy — to complete their work throughout the years and to speak for the people of South Dakota,” Gosch said.
“These meetings often have national policy implications as other elected leaders from around the country are in attendance. If we are going to continue to be a part of these organizations, we need experience and leadership at these meetings to represent South Dakota on a national scale,” he continued.
“Any legislation the Lee Schoenbeck is introducing isn’t necessary as it requires a mere policy change of the E-Board, if they deem it necessary. Even then, the presiding officers would still be able to use discretion. Any legislation passed would simply limit his own ability to do exactly what he is proposing, making this legislation entirely unnecessary,” Gosch said.
“Examples of national policies that come out of it are the compact that I and Montana ran for meat sales across state lines, a conversation that continues to go forward with many other states. In fact, I am still involved in those conversations, even though I am no longer a legislator,” Gosch said.
“If you want my honest opinion, why isn’t Lee looking into the quarter to half million dollars we pay a year in membership fees to these organizations. If they are going to pay that much money annually, shouldn’t people go to the meetings?”