Panel picked to probe claim that S.D. Senate Republican leaders were drunk on final day

Capitol News Bureau

March 30, 2020 | Courtesy Patrick M. Callahan

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — Political party caucuses have chosen nine members of the state Senate to investigate a complaint that two top Republican senators were intoxicated while conducting official business at the Capitol during the final working day of the 2020 session of the South Dakota Legislature.

The five Republicans selected Tuesday night are Jim Bolin of Canton, Art Rusch of Vermillion, Jim Stalzer of Sioux Falls, Margaret Sutton of Sioux Falls and Jim White of Huron.

The four Democrats are Susan Wismer of Britton, Red Dawn Foster of Pine Ridge, Craig Kennedy of Yankton and caucus leader Troy Heinert of Mission.

The Legislature’s Executive Board in a teleconference April 2 voted 12-1 that the probe should proceed. Bolin, the Senate Republican assistant leader, requested it. House Republican leader Lee Qualm of Platte seconded it.

The nine will conduct a formal investigation into whether Senate Republican leader Kris Langer of Dell Rapids and Senator Brock Greenfield of Clark were drunk the evening of March 30 and morning of March 31.

Greenfeld and Langer were at the Capitol. But most of the Legislature participated remotely, rather than at the Capitol, because of health risks posed by the coronavirus COVID-19. Representative Bob Glanzer, a Huron Republican, was hospitalized at the time with COVID-19 and later died.

Bolin wasn’t at the Capitol. Qualm was. Qualm had participated in a closed-door meeting early that morning with Greenfield and Langer.

Greenfield, as Senate president pro tem, is co-chair of the Executive Board. Langer is also a member. They participated in the Executive Board’s April 2 meeting but didn’t participate in the board’s vote for the investigation.

The Executive Board set a June 30 deadline for the investigative panel to submit its report. The board is scheduled to meet by teleconference at 10 a.m. CT Monday, April 20. An agenda hadn’t been posted as of 9 a.m. CT Wednesday.

The investigation panel’s Republicans originally were scheduled to be selected Monday night in a private teleconference caucus, but Governor Kristi Noem held a private conference-call update for legislators about COVID-19. The Republican senators rescheduled and caucused Tuesday night by teleconference.

Langer, Greenfield and Heinert, who participated remotely, represented the Senate on a conference committee in the early hours of March 31. They accepted the House version of a bill that House and Senate members previously approved in differing versions.

Senator Phil Jensen, a Rapid City Republican, attempted about one hour later to call into question the behavior of Langer and Greenfield. His motion was seconded by Senator Jordan Youngberg, a Chester Republican.

Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, in his role as Senate president, attempted to dissuade Jensen from proceeding with his motion and ultimately ruled Jensen’s motion out of order. Senators voted 26-4 against Jensen’s challenge of Rhoden’s ruling. Among those voting against Jensen’s challenge were Langer and Greenfield.

Governor Noem had picked Rhoden as her running mate during the 2018 campaign for governor.

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