State AG declines legislators’ request that he halt South Dakota broadband grants

Capitol News Bureau

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — They’re all Republicans. But South Dakota’s attorney general decided he couldn’t block $5 million of broadband assistance that some state lawmakers didn’t want the governor to distribute yet.

Representative Taffy Howard of Rapid City led a group of legislators who requested the do-over.

Governor Kristi Noem had already allocated the funding to various Internet providers.

The lawmakers sent a letter asking Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to halt the process. The letter said they intended to further discuss the funding in the 2020 legislative session.

But Rownsberg declined. In his response letter, Ravnsborg said he didn’t have authority under state law to prevent any other state official from carrying out the transfer of funds that the Legislature approved.

He said the legislators should have instead asked a court for a writ of prohibition.

That in turn would have put Ravnsborg officially on the governor’s side.

“The filing of a petition for a writ of prohibition challenging the constitutionality of a legislative, however, triggers the Attorney General’s duty to defend against that petition,” Ravnsborg wrote in the response to Howard.

He added, “The Attorney General is statutorily required to appear on behalf of the State and defend in those proceedings when the State is an interested party.”

The attorney general is also “obligated” to defend the constitutionality of the act of the Legislature affecting the public interest, Ravnsborg said in the letter.

“It would be inappropriate for the Attorney General to opine on the constitutionality of a legal matter the Attorney General’s Office may (be) obligated to defend in court,” he wrote.

Other House who signed the request to Ravnsborg were Tom Brunner of Nisland, Drew Dennert of Aberdeen, Julie Frye-Mueller of Rapid City, Chris Johnson of Rapid City, Isaac Latterell of Tea, Steve Livermont of Martin, Sam Marty of Prairie City, Tina Mulally of Rapid City, Carl Perry of Aberdeen, Tom Pischke of Dell Rapids and Kaleb Weis of Aberdeen.

Senators on the letter were Phil Jensen of Rapid City and Lance Russell of Hot Springs. Ravnsborg defeated Russell and Lawrence County State’s Attorney John Fitzgerald for the Republican nomination for attorney general at the state convention at Pierre last June.

The $5 million was part of a supplemental appropriations bill, SB 180, that took effect today (June 28).

Noem announced recipients of the Connect South Dakota broadband grants in a May 28 news release. Receiving grants were:

Alliance Communications
Serving northeastern Minnehaha and southeastern Moody counties

Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Telephone Authority
Eagle Butte
Serving Timber Lake

Interstate Telecommunications Cooperative
Clear Lake
Serving rural Codington County

Midco Communications
Sioux Falls
Serving rural Clay and Union counties

Mitchell Telecom
Serving rural Davison County

RC Technologies
New Effington
Serving Kranzburg and rural Codington

Vast Broadband
Sioux Falls
Serving Irene Wakonda & Alsen areas

Venture Communications
Serving rural Hughes County

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