Impeachment Proceedings

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Our State Constitution spells out the broad structure for impeachment proceedings of the Governor and other state and judicial officers.   The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeachment for the offenses of drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office.  A simple majority of members elect is required to impeach.

The Constitution requires the Senate to try each impeachment and requires each Senator to take an oath of affirmation to do justice according to law and evidence.  Convicting someone of an impeachable offense requires a two-thirds majority and may include removal from office and disqualification to hold any office of trust or profit under the state.

On April 12, the House of Representatives adopted two Articles of Impeachment for Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.  As soon as the vote became public, Senate leadership began polling Senate members to find the earliest date we could begin our part of the process.  The Senate met on Tuesday, April 26, and adopted a resolution to resolve itself into a Court of Impeachment.  The Constitution requires a 20-day interval before a trial can be held.  Based on a survey of when Senators would be available, the trial has been set to start on June 21.

The Senate also adopted a resolution setting out the rules for the trial.  Because South Dakota has never had an impeachment trial before, we are adopting rules based on research of other states’ proceedings.  The Constitution specifies that the Lieutenant Governor presides over the trial.  For this trial the Senate has hired former Lieutenant Governor Matt Michels to assist with questions of procedure.

Under the rules we adopted, the prosecution and respondent will each have an hour for opening statements, four hours for presenting witnesses and exhibits, and an hour for closing statements.  If the Attorney General chooses to testify, he will not be subject to any time limitations.

The first article of impeachment deals with crimes causing the death of Joseph Boever; the second pertains to malfeasance in office following the death of Mr. Boever.  For each article, the Senate will vote on whether to sustain the article and remove Jason Ravnsborg from the office of Attorney General.  If the article is sustained, a second question will be whether Mr. Ravnsborg shall be disqualified from holding any office of trust or profit under the state.  Each vote will require a two-thirds majority to pass.

This is not a criminal or civil proceeding, but a constitutional obligation.  Senators have been encouraged to begin reviewing the evidence that has been presented so far.  Any questions we have of either party need to be submitted by June 13. 

The rules adopted by the Senate are available on the Legislative Research Council website, as is the file of evidence we will consider.  You may find them at sdlegislature.gov.

Investing in South Dakota’s water infrastructure

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This past week the Board of Water and Natural Resources – a seven-member citizens board appointed by the Governor – approved more than $406 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) grants, plus nearly $700 million in additional grants and low-interest loans, to benefit South Dakotans by investing in water infrastructure projects.

The ARPA grants stem from legislative approval of SB 62, which set aside $600 million in federal fund expenditure authority for eligible water, wastewater, storm water, and nonpoint source projects.  This is believed to be the largest single appropriation in the state’s history.  It passed both floors unanimously, paving the way for investments that will benefit South Dakotans for decades.

Among the projects approved were improvements in several regional water systems, including the West River Lyman Jones Rural Water System which serves Mellette, Haakon, and Lyman counties, the WEB water system, serving much of northern South Dakota from the Missouri River to the east, and the BDM Rural Water System serving northeast South Dakota.  These rural water systems are bringing good-quality drinking water to thousands of South Dakotans but are at or near their maximum capacity. 

Another significant project approved by the board was $8 million in ARPA funds for preliminary studies and engineering reports to evaluate whether it is feasible to pipe water from the Missouri River to western South Dakota.  The West Dakota Regional Water System is a newly organized entity working to find ways to provide long-term drought resiliency for the western part of the state.  This is a project that will take decades to complete, similar to the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System in southeastern South Dakota and neighboring states.  This system was incorporated in 1990 and authorized by Congress in 2000.  Groundbreaking was held in 2003; it is currently about 90 percent complete.

The Board also approved an additional $1 million to expand enrollment in the riparian buffer strip program. Those who own land along certain targeted waterways can receive incentive payments if they provide a vegetative buffer next to the stream, as a way to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria, and other nonpoint source pollution. 

In all, nearly 100 entities in all areas of the state received approval to provide clean drinking water, manage wastewater and storm water, or address nonpoint source pollution.  These investments are going to create new opportunities for South Dakotans for decades.