S.D. legislative panel directs Senate to open investigation of leaders Greenfield, Langer

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — An official investigation was ordered Thursday into the conduct of the South Dakota Senate’s top two Republicans during the final night of 2020 legislative session.

The Senate’s majority and minority caucuses will name five Republicans and four Democrats to look into an allegation that Senate Republican leader Kris Langer and Senator Brock Greenfield were intoxicated at the Capitol.

The report is due no later than June 30.

The Legislature’s Executive Board voted 12-1 for the motion from Senator Jim Bolin, the Senate Republican assistant leader. House Republican leader Lee Qualm seconded the motion.

The meeting was by teleconference. Greenfield, who is Senate president pro tem, chairs the board. Langer also is a member of the board. The two voted against adding Bolin’s request to the agenda Thursday.

After that procedural motion passed 11-4, the board went into executive session. When they returned, House Speaker Steven Haugaard took over the meeting. He said Greenfield had recused himself.

Neither Greenfield nor Langer voted on Bolin’s main motion. They were instead listed as excused, meaning they had left the call.

Senator Phil Jensen had brought the situation to the Senate’s attention at about 3 a.m. Tuesday as the body was wrapping up business.

Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden, the Senate president, ruled that Jensen’s motion was out of order because it hadn’t been submitted in writing. Jensen challenged the ruling and lost 26-4.

Some of those same senators who had supported Rhoden on Tuesday, including Bolin, voted Thursday to move forward with an official investigation.

Haugaard described the situation as awkward but needing “swift attention.”

Said Bolin, “I think this is a matter that should be handled strictly by the Senate.”

Representative Chris Johnson asked whether the Senate could do it outside the legislative session. Senate Democratic leader Troy Heinert answered that Senate caucuses choose leadership out of session.

“We don’t have to be in session to hold a caucus meeting,” Heinert said. 

Senator Jim Stalzer explained he opposed proceeding with the probe because two senators must file a written complaint and a special session must be called to handle such a matter. 

Representative Sue Peterson said state law gives authority to the board to appoint a committee. She said House members on the board were giving deference to senators to handle it themselves.

“We’re simply as House members respecting the interest of the Senate and their request,” Haugaard said. 

Langer and Greenfield have filed petitions for re-election to their Senate seats.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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