PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Copies of settlements by state government officials would have to be turned over to two South Dakota legislative committees within 30 days after they are signed, the state House of Representatives decided Monday.
The 64-6 vote sends HB 1041 to the Senate for further action. The Legislature’s Executive Board and Government Operations and Audit Committee would get the copies. “This is just an oversight we need to have,” said the bill’s prime sponsor, Representative Ernie Otten, R-Tea.
The legislation follows the discovery by an Associated Press reporter of a $200,000 settlement that Governor Kristi Noem’s administration paid last year to Sherry Bren, after Bren was forced to resign as executive director for the state’s real-estate appraisers certification program. Otten never mentioned his reason for the bill.
Representative Will Mortenson, R-Pierre, asked House members to reject Otten’s proposal. Mortenson, a lawyer, said it would go too far. “The bill is a shotgun blast when this Legislature already has a rifle in its hands,” he said, because the two committees already have the power to get settlements. Mortenson added that the Legislature should be careful about interfering with the executive branch’s settlements.
Otten said the proposed law would set a mechanism requiring all settlements be disclosed to the two committees. “Right now, as the Executive Board, we have to find out about it,” he said.