PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — South Dakotans now know the names of the 49 state House of Representatives members who supported calling the special session that opened November 9 to begin considering the potential impeachment of South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.

Senator Lee Schoenbeck released the names of the House members Saturday. Schoenbeck took the action in his role as Senate president pro tem, the chamber’s presiding officer. Schoenbeck on October 4 released the names of senators who supported holding the special session.

House Speaker Spencer Gosch had refused to release the names of the House members. Gosch, in his role as the House presiding officer, has publicly cited the correspondence exemption in South Dakota public-records laws as his reason for keeping the names from public knowledge.

The South Dakota Constitution, through a 1990 amendment, sets the process for the Legislature to call itself into special session. It says that a special session may be convened by the presiding officers of the two chambers “upon written request” from two-thirds of the members of each chamber — 24 of the 35 senators and 47 of the 70 representatives..

Still unresolved are legal challenges from KELOLAND News and several other news media organizations on the broader question of whether the names of those members who requested a special session are a public record.

Normally the state attorney general represents the Legislature in legal challenges. That Ravnsborg now is the subject of a special session on impeachment complicates the situation.

For the Ravnsborg special session, the Legislative Research Council office posted the petition form in an internet portal that the 105 lawmakers could access and decide whether to make a request. Requesting the special session wasn’t necessarily a signal of where a lawmaker stood on the specific question of what should happen to Ravnsborg.

The House members who formally supported holding the special session, according to Schoenbeck, were: Aaron Aylward, Hugh Bartels, Doug Barthel, Rocky Blare, Shawn Bordeaux, Kirk Chaffee, Ryan Cwach, Sydney Davis, Drew Dennert, Mike Derby, Fred Deutsch, Becky Drury, Linda Duba, Caleb Finck, Mary Fitzgerald, Tim Goodwin, Spencer Gosch, Jon Hansen, Erin Healy, Charlie Hoffman, Chris Johnson, Jennifer Keintz, Lance Koth, Trish Ladner, Oren Lesmeister, Liz May, Rhonda Milstead, Will Mortenson, Tina Mulally, Jess Olson, Marty Overweg, Carl Perry, Kent Peterson, Tom Pischke, Peri Pourier, Tim Reed, Taylor Rehfeldt, Rebecca Reimer, Lynn Schneider, Jamie Smith, Tamara St. John, Richard Thomason, Larry Tidemann, Richard Vasgaard, Kaleb Weis, Mike Weisgram, Marli Wiese, Mark Willadsen, and Nancy York.

The Ravnsborg case is believed to be the first time the Legislature has formally proceeded on impeachment.

The South Dakota Constitution gives the Legislature the power to remove state officials, judges and justices. A simple majority of House members is required to impeach. The official then is suspended until the Senate reaches a decision on removal. A two-thirds majority of senators is required for removal.

The listed offenses for possible impeachment cover a broad range that includes “drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office.”

Ravnsborg was driving a car that struck and killed pedestrian Joe Boever on the night of September 12, 2020, as Boever walked along U.S. 14 at the west edge of Highmore.

Ravnsborg told the 911 dispatcher that night he didn’t know what he had hit. He drove a private vehicle, borrowed from the Hyde County sheriff who had responded to the crash, back to Pierre that night. Ravnsborg reported finding Boever’s body the next morning when he was returning the sheriff’s vehicle to Highmore.

Investigators determined that Boever was on the shoulder when Ravnsborg’s car struck him and that Boever’s glasses came through the windshield and landed in the front passenger seat of Ravsnborg’s car during the crash.

Ravnsborg had his defense attorney plead no-contest to two second-class traffic misdemeanors. That was after the attorney suggested in a motion filed with the court that Boever had jumped in front of Ravnsborg’s car while it was still in its lane and raised questions about Boever’s mental health. Ravnsborg never appeared in court. His insurance company reached a settlement with Boever’s widow.

Governor Kristi Noem has repeatedly called for Ravnsborg’s resignation and has urged the House to consider impeachment if he doesn’t step down. Both are Republicans, as are Gosch and Schoenbeck.

Schoenbeck received on Saturday the House names from Reed Holwegner, director of the Legislative Research Council that serves as state lawmakers’ professional staff.

Holwegner earlier denied a request from KELOLAND News for names of the legislators who supported opening the special session. KELOLAND News appealed the denial to the state Office of Hearing Examiners for an administrative decision. That matter is pending. State law allows the office’s decision to be further appealed to circuit court.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader and South Dakota Newspaper Association meanwhile went directly to the South Dakota Supreme Court and requested an order directing the release of the House names — or in the alternative, an order declaring that the special session on impeachment couldn’t be held.

The Supreme Court denied both requests, saying the Argus Leader and SDNA already had a route available in state law to pursue. The Argus Leader then proceeded with a plan to file a civil suit in circuit court, rather than the hearing office.

During the 2021 regular session, Mortenson brought a resolution for impeachment, with House Republican leader Kent Peterson and House Democrat leader Smith as co-sponsors. It was amended so that any further action could be considered at a later time.

House members voted 58-10 on November 9 for a resolution creating a special committee, chaired by Gosch, to advise the House on whether to impeach Ravnsborg. Gosch appointed the other members. The committee hasn’t yet reported.

The Legislature opens its 2022 regular session January 11. Some lawmakers had wanted the House to get the impeachment question decided before the 2022 session begins.

South Dakota voters will elect an attorney general in November 2022. Ravnsborg won election to the open seat in 2018, after defeating two challengers for the Republican nomination that summer at the South Dakota Republican state convention. Marty Jackley, who lost to Noem in the 2018 Republican primary for governor, has said he plans to seek election in 2022 to another term as attorney general.