Senators ready to proceed on Ravnsborg impeachment

Capitol News Bureau

Patrick Callahan, SDBA 2020.

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota Senate has agreed to a special session to consider the impeachment of state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.

Senate president pro tem Lee Schoenbeck, the chamber’s top member, told KELOLAND News on Tuesday that 24 senators have approved the call for a special session. There are 35 senators.

The South Dakota Constitution requires that two-thirds of the members of each chamber of the Legislature must agree for a special session to proceed.

House Speaker Spencer Gosch released the petition Friday through the Legislative Research Council’s internal system.

Forty-seven of the 70 members in the House of Representatives are now needed for the special session to happen.

The House would need a majority of 36 to impeach Ravnsborg and send the decision to the Senate whether to convict. At least 24 senators would be needed for a conviction that would remove Ravnsborg from office and bar him from holding a state position again.

Representative Will Mortenson of Pierre, who brought the initial resolution in February seeking Ravnsborg’s impeachment, told KELOLAND News he favors going ahead.

“Like most South Dakotans, I continue to believe that the attorney general should step down and let our state move forward,” Mortenson, a lawyer, said.

“I would prefer we didn’t have to start these impeachment proceedings, but it appears we have no choice. I’m glad the speaker and (legislative) leaders are charting the course toward fair and transparent impeachment proceedings,” he continued.

The special session would be to consider whether Ravnsborg committed impeachable acts when the car he was driving hit and killed pedestrian Joe Boever at the west edge of Highmore on the night of September 12, 2020.

Ravnsborg was returning from a Republican event in Redfield. State investigators determined his car was partially on the shoulder at the time of the crash.

He initially pleaded not-guilty to three charges and his defense attorney at one point suggested Boever had committed suicide by jumping into the road.

Ravnsborg had his attorney plead no-contest last month to two second-class misdemeanors of improper lane driving and operating an electronic device while driving, while the third charge of careless driving was dropped. None of the charges directly tied to the death of Boever.

Ravnsborg never appeared in court on the charges. He received no jail time and was sentenced to pay nearly $5,000 in fines, court costs and investigation expenses. Days before the no-contest pleas, he was arrested in Pierre for driving 57 miles per hour in a 35-mph zone.

Ravnsborg, who won the Republican nomination and the general election in 2018, is listed as one of the candidates planning to be at the Fall River County Lincoln Day dinner October 2 at Oelrichs High School.

Republican Governor Kristi Noem has repeatedly called for Ravnsborg to resign. She said he should be impeached if he doesn’t resign.

Marty Jackley, who was attorney general and lost to Noem in the 2018 Republican primary for governor, has announced he plans to run again for attorney general in 2022.

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