Although the 97th legislative session won’t start until January, the legislature will meet in two separate special sessions on November 8 and 9. Special sessions have a single purpose, which is set forth ahead of time.
I’m sure most folks will find this reassuring – we can’t propose any tax, regulation, or mandate that springs to mind. We are constrained to considering a specific topic. The November 8 session is for redistricting – drawing legislative district boundaries. The November 9 session is for initiating an impeachment inquiry regarding the Attorney General.
Redistricting is a process that only takes place every ten years. I was working in Governor Daugaard’s office when the last redistricting took place but was more of an observer than a participant. In fact, only a dozen of the one hundred five legislators have ever voted on redistricting.
Compounding our lack of experience, redistricting is not like other issues. When considering taxes, education, or hunting, I have a set of common sense, conservative principles to guide my decision-making. In redistricting, we are merely drawing electoral boundaries. The principles of small government, local control, and individual liberty do not really apply.
Given that it’s an unfamiliar topic, here is my framework for redistricting. We should keep counties together as much as possible. We should aim for districts that look like squares. We must pay absolutely no attention to political party or the residence of incumbent legislators. We should keep in mind where people shop for groceries and do their business. Whichever map best meets these criteria will have my support.
If both houses of the legislature fail to pass the same map by December 1, the Supreme Court will draw the redistricting map instead of the legislature. That outcome would be unfortunate. South Dakota has a long history of common sense, reasonable governance in South Dakota. We need to uphold that tradition.
The November 9 special session will begin an impeachment inquiry into the Attorney General. This effort was prompted by Legislative Leadership.
I have been assured this will be a transparent process now that all legal proceedings are over. The vast majority of the investigative file should be made public. Transparency is key: no one should play hide-the-ball. Many legislators have personal relationships with the Attorney General, so we need to show the public that nothing is being covered up.
While the process will begin on November 9, I cannot say when the work will be concluded and a vote taken by the House of Representatives.
I am sure you will read plenty more on these topics in the weeks and months to come. In the meantime, I’m going to keep my eye on the ball: making South Dakota an attractive place for hardworking young families. That means quality education, strong agriculture, and a good measure of freedom. I’ll never forget our debt to the men and women in uniform and those keeping us safe at home.