PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A fellow senator filed a written complaint early Tuesday morning that said Senate Republican leader Kris Langer of Dell Rapids was publicly intoxicated at the state Capitol during the final hours of the 2020 legislative session.
Senator Phil Jensen, a Rapid City Republican, made the accusation, at first in an open conversation on speakerphone, and later on paper, to Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden at about 3 a.m.
Also on the call and sd.net audio were about 30 other senators. The lieutenant governor is Senate president.
An hour earlier, several Republican and Democratic legislators had told KELOLAND News to check out Langer’s behavior.
She was seen barefoot in room 413, which was the Senate’s base of operation during the final day. She also was spotted barefoot in the hallway outside, and in room 499.
Her diction was loose, her walk unsteady.
Alcohol is banned at the state Capitol except at special occasions. No alcohol was served last year at the Capitol inaugural ball when Governor Kristi Noem took office.
The lieutenant governor told Jensen there were no legislative days left for a disciplinary committee to act.
Replied Jensen, “Maybe it should be done immediately.”
Rhoden left the room. When he came back, he and Jensen talked again by speakerphone.
“I had been advised we really need to pursue this,” Jensen told Rhoden. Jensen added, “I’m sorry. I feel this is what we have to do now.”
Rhoden said Jensen needed to submit in writing his motion for a disciplinary hearing. “Obviously you’re not able to present to us that request in writing,” Rhoden told him.
Senator Brock Greenfield and Langer had just come from a private meeting with other Republican leaders and then a conference committee meeting in room 412.
Greenfield, a Clark Republican, told other senators and the public as he sat next to Langer that nothing was wrong.
“I just want to assure you, I’ve been with the senator for the balance of the evening,” Greenfield said. “We have not over-indulged. We have not indulged. I just want to set the record straight, lest there be any confusion.”
He appeared less than steady.
“Beyond that, there’s been no tomfoolery,” Greenfield added. He said it was the long hours. “I want to assure the public the senator has been nothing but professional throughout the day.”
Langer didn’t say anything.
“I’m in the process of having something drafted right now,” Jensen told Rhoden.
Rhoden said he and Jensen spoke earlier and that Jensen had the option to take the issue to the Legislature’s Executive Board.
Rhoden ruled Jensen’s motion out of order.
Senator Blake Curd said there are mechanisms at the disposal of the Legislature to address a charge as serious as this.
Langer replaced the Sioux Falls surgeon as the Senate Republican leader two years ago.
Curd said it would be appropriate to pursue the matter through the Legislature’s Executive Board.
Any fact-finding, dismissal or exoneration could be done through the board, Curd said.
Jensen said he wished to challenge the lieutenant governor’s ruling that his motion was out of order.
Meanwhile Rhoden received a document that Jensen said was his written request.
Rhoden held a roll-call vote: A yes supported Jensen’s challenge, and a no backed the lieutenant governor’s ruling.
Senators voted at 3:29 a.m. on the question. The count was four yes and 26 no, with five excused. “The ruling of the chair is upheld,” Rhoden said.
Greenfield said the day had been arduous.