PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota House of Representatives said Monday that a legislative watchdog panel should be able to independently issue subpoenas for witnesses and information.
State law currently requires the committee to seek approval from the Legislature’s Executive Board to issue a subpoena.
Republican Rep. Randy Gross, a past GOAC co-chair, said a summons from a committee wasn’t the same as a subpoena.
“A summons says, We’d like you to come. A subpoena says, Come,” Gross said.
Republican Rep. Gary Cammack argued that state law never gave subpoena power to GOAC until 2018. “This proposal is not a reinstatement but a change in procedure,” Cammack said.
Republican Rep. Chris Karr, a past GOAC member, said the committee of 10 — senators and representatives, Democrats and Republicans — voted unanimously last year to pursue the change.
“There has to sometimes be a stick,” Karr said.
Republican Rep. Phil Jensen said an internal disagreement among GOAC members over how far to pursue the GEAR UP scandal led to the law requiring GOAC to ask the Executive Board for approval.
“We were denied subpoena power to get to the bottom of that,” Jensen said.
Democrat Rep. Linda Duba, who remains on GOAC, said the committee had to hold several additional meetings to get a subpoena in 2021 and act on the information received.
That investigation dealt with Governor Kristi Noem’s actions on behalf of daughter Kassidy Peters, who sought a higher level of real-estate appraisal license.
House Republican leader Will Mortenson said the system isn’t broken and urged the legislation be defeated. He said it was okay for legislators to be cautious.