WHAT IS THE SOUTH DAKOTA LEGISLATURE RESEARCH COUNCIL, AND WHAT POWERS DOES IT HAVE IN PIERRE?
The Legislative Research Council, or often referred to, as the L.R.C was created by an act of the South Dakota Legislature giving to the organization broad powers to consider legislative policies in between sessions of the legislature of which has prescribed duties as given to it by the legislature itself.
The Membership of the L.R.C consists of all members of the South Dakota Legislature, however, shall be operated by the following means:
- 4 South Dakota Senate Legislators (2 year terms),
- 5 South Dakota House of Representative Legislators (2 year terms),
- Ex-Officio Member, Senate President Pro-Tempore,
- Ex-Officio Member, Majority Leader of the S.D Senate,
- Ex-Official Member, Minority Leader of the S.D Senate,
- Ex-Officico Member, Speaker of the House of Representative,
- Majority Leader of the S.D House of Reps,
- Minority Leader of the S.D House of Reps.
The Speaker of the House also shall act as the Chairman of the Executive Board, while the Senate President Pro-Tempore shall act as the Vice-Chairman of the Executive Board, so that means the leadership of each chamber shall set, and guide policies. The board is deemed "the" governing board of the L.R.C and shall be direct, and supervise its own staff and activities.
The board then appoints a Director of the Legislative Research Council, of whom employs the L.R.C staff, and procures all of the staff supplies, equipment, as of which should be necessary to assist the legislature itself and of which the board appoints a code counsel who is a graduate of an accredited law school and who is either admitted to the practice of law in the State of South Dakota at the time of such employment or is eligible to and becomes so admitted within one year after such employment, and finally, the legislature then utilizes a Group of College Interns of whom are chosen to foster knowledge and understanding of the governing process, let alone provides assistance to the legislative branch of the government, of which the board will set the # of interns, and apportion them to each legislative chamber as per party apportionment in each chamber.
The Legislative Research Council shall prepare an annual report to be placed on file in the Legislative Research Council Office, regarding opinions of state and federal courts issued in the preceding year which have sought to interpret the legislative intent of various South Dakota statutes. The report may include recommendations for corrective action if it is determined that the opinion of the court may be adverse to what was intended by the Legislature or if the court's opinion has identified an appropriate area for legislative action.
The Executive Board Powers Include:
- Instigate research and collect information concerning the government and general welfare of the state.
- Investigate and make recommendations concerning important issues of public policy and questions of statewide interest,
- Prepare a legislative program in the form of bills, or otherwise, as in its opinion the welfare of the state may require, to be presented to the Legislature,
- Cooperate with the administration in devising means of enforcing the law,
- Study, inquire, make recommendations and propose bills in any phase or branch of state government so deemed advisable and necessary,
- Appoint and name committees from the members of the State Legislative Research Council, and assign to such committee or committees appropriate subjects and projects of whatever character and nature the executive board deems advisable. Each member of the council is entitled to membership on one study committee of the member's choice insofar as practicable,
- Conduct legislative oversight and management analysis of the executive branch of government by means of a selective program of performance auditing and cooperate with the administration in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of administrative methods.
- Review and make recommendations for further legislative action regarding the opinions of state and federal courts which have sought to interpret the intent of South Dakota legislative acts; and,
- Allocate funds to the House of Representatives and the Senate to pay for out-of-state travel and salary or per diem costs incurred by members, and to pay for in-state travel and salary or per diem
- costs incurred by members, excluding costs associated with any legislative session. The Legislative Research Council shall make payments to representatives for costs and travel approved by the speaker of the House of Representatives, from the funds allocated to the House of Representatives, and shall make payments to senators for costs and travel approved by the president pro tempore of the Senate, from the funds allocated to the Senate. Any payment decision of the speaker of the House of Representatives may be appealed to the members of the executive board from the House of Representatives. Any payment decision of the president pro tempore of the Senate may be appealed to the members of the executive board from the Senate. No funds may be paid beyond the amounts allocated to each body.
And, while the Code Council - Provide staff assistance to and attend all meetings of the Code Commission and make such recommendations to the commission as he deems essential for the general improvement of the laws of the State of South Dakota, suggests to the legislature approved reports of laws, create and draft bills, presenting them to legislative committees, let alone advising the legislature on legal research, and preparation of bills.
So we have now learned that the Legislative Research Council is pretty much governed, managed, and operated by a group of Executive Board Members, a Director, a Code Council, and finally, a Group of College Interns of whom are tasked with working within the L.R.C Office to research, advise, and guide legislative research, let alone recommending to the legislature itself, a group of bills to be heard, and discussed each year, during legislative sessions.
Knowing now, how and from where the Legislative Research Council gains much of its power, deriving mostly from leadership from each Chamber of the Legislature, one can see that the "party" of whom controls both chambers, can in fact steer much of the activities of the State Government itself, let alone, statewide policies.
This battle between the Republican Establishment of progressive minded members of the party, versus the newly elected, and members of the S.D Republican Freedom Caucus of which is led by a new faction of South Dakotans who have latched onto the national movement to support limited, and a more constitutional, and fiscally prudent government, one can now determine, that the group of persons who have the greater majority of the legislature, can now work through this executive board, of which now has the power of controlling legislative matters coming before the legislature itself.
What we are seeing today, is this little war developing between long time, established South Dakota Republicans, versus this newly established Freedom Caucus, of whom are beginning to gain more control of the State, by means of the precincts.
And as tensions grew stronger, and more noticeable during last year's Republican Party Convention in Watertown-SD, and as the newly elected precinct committeemen and women, and the delegates began to vote more in favor of the freedom caucus, we are seeing this little 'war' beginning to develop between that more established group, and the newly elected freedom group.
“We are a simple group that desires to follow the platform,” explained Rep. Tony Randolph (R-Rapid City), vice-chair of the newly formed “South Dakota Freedom Caucus.” “Follow the platform, and do what we said we would do when we were elected.”
As the Freedom Caucus grows, and expands into more counties, districts, and begins to pick up and support new candidates, this battle for control of the governing process within South Dakota becomes more of a war of attrition, than a mild, family feud.
Recently, the Minnehaha County Republicans held an election to vote for and choose new leadership, electing to move forward with former Sioux Falls Assistant Attorney, Shawn Tornow as its Chairman, with Jennifer Foss being elected as Vice-Chair, while it now appears that the Pennington County Republicans are soon following suit.
Currently, the Established Members of the Republican Party has placed many of its members on the executive board of the Legislature Research Council, giving to them the majority power to control policies, to recommending which bills to bring forward, and acts in the best interest of party leadership itself.
In closing, the power behind the Legislative Research Council is set by statute, as read below,
In the discharge of any duty herein imposed, the executive board or its duly appointed committees shall have authority to administer oaths, require reports, issue subpoenas, compel the attendance of witnesses, and the production of any papers, books, accounts, documents, and testimony, and to cause the depositions of witnesses, either residing within or without the state, to be taken in the manner prescribed by law for taking depositions in civil actions in the circuit court. S.D.C.L 2-9-6
In an age of where political power has been narrowed down within this very small, and limited group of persons, and where this council of advisers have this great authority to provide recommendations on future legislation, it becomes more apparent, that the people of the 'State' are losing their ability to self govern themselves more and more with each passing year.
The People of South Dakota, led by their Precinct Committees, County Committees, their Duly Elected House Representatives must unite together in a fight to defend their right to be fully heard within the South Dakota Legislature. If we are to lose this fight, and the Establishment can maintain their power to control policy, 'we' will have lost our Republic