PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — A total of 27 senators put their names on a petition for a special session of the South Dakota Legislature that will begin November 9 to investigate whether state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg committed any impeachable acts in the crash that killed pedestrian Joe Boever last year.
Senate president pro tem Lee Schoenbeck released the names Monday morning. House Speaker Spencer Gosch has said he doesn’t plan to release names of representatives who supported the petition.
A two-thirds majority in each chamber is necessary for the Legislature to call itself into special session. That means at least 24 of the 35 senators and at least 47 of the 70 representatives. KELOLAND News requested the names from each chamber so the public can know whether the two-thirds requirement was met.
This appears to be the first time that South Dakota lawmakers have formally looked at an impeachment.
Governor Kristi Noem, a Republican, has repeatedly called for the Republican attorney general to step down. The governor said he should be impeached if he doesn’t resign.
The senators supporting the special session included three Democrats — Red Dawn Foster of Pine Ridge, Troy Heinert of Mission and Reynold Nesiba of Sioux Falls — and two dozen Republicans.
Those 24 are Jim Bolin of Canton, Bryan Breitling of Miller, Gary Cammack of Union Center, Jessica Castleberry of Rapid City, Casey Crabtree of Madison, Blake Curd of Sioux Falls, Michael Diedrich of Rapid City, Helene Duhamel of Rapid City, Mary Duvall of Pierre, Jean Hunhoff of Yankton, Timothy Johns of Lead, David Johnson of Rapid City, Joshua Klumb of Mitchell, Herman Otten of Lennox, Michael Rohl of Aberdeen, Arthur Rusch of Vermillion, Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown, Kyle Schoenfish of Scotland, V.J. Smith of Brookings, Wayne Steinhauer of Hartford, Marsha Symens of Dell Rapids, Erin Tobin of Winner, David Wheeler of Huron, and Larry Zikmund of Sioux Falls.
The South Dakota Constitution says a majority of the House — 36 — is necessary for an official to be impeached. At that point, the person is suspended from office. The Senate then conducts a trial, with a two-thirds majority needed for conviction. The official remains suspended until the Senate issues a verdict. A guilty finding removes the person permanently from all public offices in South Dakota. A not-guilty verdict means the person can return to the office.
Several senators previously explained on Twitter their reasons for supporting the special session.
One was Wheeler, an attorney. He wrote, “Ever since the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg became a real possibility during the last regular session, I have endeavored to maintain impartiality because I would be a juror in a Senate trial. Signing the petition is not an indication that I will vote to convict the Attorney General if an impeachment trial occurs. Likewise, my efforts to remain impartial are not a sign that I will acquit him.”
Wheeler continued, “If it gets to the Senate, I will review the facts as they are presented at trial, apply the law fairly, and arrive at a just conclusion. I did not take this act lightly. The Legislature can call itself into session only with the support of 2/3 of each house. Allowing the House to begin their process now will help avoid delays to our usual legislative business during the next regular session.”
Schoenbeck has previously said the most-likely time period for a Senate trial would be the first week of the 2022 legislative session that opens Tuesday, January 11, and is scheduled for 38 working days.
Tobin, a nurse practitioner and rancher, wrote, “I voted to include this topic in special session so that we don’t have to work on this during regular session, if possible. I would like our regular session to be dedicated to bettering SD and not wasting our short time in Pierre on this task.”
Senators whose names weren’t released Monday included Republicans Julie Frye-Mueller of Rapid City, Brock Greenfield of Clark, Jack Kolbeck of Sioux Falls, Ryan Maher of Isabel, Al Novstrup of Aberdeen, Jim Stalzer of Sioux Falls, Maggie Sutton of Sioux Falls, and John Wiik of Big Stone City.