Govt Lobbyists Versus South Dakota Taxpayers

South Dakota Rep. Lance Russell

South Dakota Rep. Lance Russell

Phil Jensen


A question was asked at the Rapid City Legislative Crackerbarrel meeting today in Rapid City about “separation of powers” and how the executive branch heavily lobbies the legislative branch of South Dakota government in Pierre. The questioner said that when she was at the legislature recently, during a debate on a bill, she noticed a lot of empty chairs in the chamber.  She saw a lot of legislators not “answering the call of nature” but answering the call of the governor’s lobbyists who were bending the ears of undecided legislators.

Rep. Brian Gosch said the legislative branch has the least funding and staffing of any of the branches, and they don’t have their own lobbyists like the executive branch does.  He said that there are some bills he would like to lobby for or against, but because of his other legislative duties, many bills are being considered in committee while he is busy elsewhere on legislative business.  Gosch said the way things are set up in Pierre, the legislature is very accessible to everyone, including the public.  He said he has even seen lobbyists digging through papers on his desk while he was away.  Gosch said government lobbyists have “blue badges” and the rules could be changed to disallow them access to the floor, but that legislators don’t have to meet with lobbyists off the floor.

Rep. Kristen Conzet said sometimes she steps to the side during a long debate to stretch her legs, and that the assertion that the governor’s lobbyists were calling people off the floor to bend their ear was incorrect. She said they could stop government lobbyists from having access to them, but they’d also have to stop the public from having access, too.

Rick Kriebel 2016


Rep. Lynne DiSanto said the biggest disappointment she has had about being a new legislator is the “blue badges.”  She said a good example was her dyslexia bill, brought to her by concerned citizens, but the state Department of Education came out in full force gains the bill. She said constituents sit on one side of the room and the government lobbyists sitting on the other side of the room, and the Education Department doesn’t like the bill because they feel it says the education establishment isn’t doing a good enough job. DiSanto said regular people have to take a day off work to testify, but the “blue badges” lobby on the taxpayer’s dime against the taxpayer’s interest.  She said she wonders how many taxpayers know they are paying people to lobby against their interests. She said this saddens and disgusts her. DiSanto said the “blue badges” mostly leave her alone these days, because they have learned that she doesn’t work for them, she works for her voters.

Rep. Scott Craig said no one lobbied him to change his vote on HB 1182, the education tax bill, but that “the visual presence” of supporters in favor of the tax increase was powerful and was unfair to the other side.

Senator Craig Tieszen said it was part of his job to listen to lobbyists as well as citizens. He said that if people thought they have legislators being unduly influenced by lobbyists, they probably need a new legislator.

Woodrow Wilcox


Rep. Lance Russell said the founders of our country would probably be amazed at the size and inertia of the bureaucracy which has come to characterize most levels of government in the United States today. Russell said the legislative branch doesn’t have sufficient resources for research needed to come up with intelligent plans on how to deal with big issues like the education funding question.  He believed “rubber stamping” what the executive branch wants us to do is not the best way to legislate. Russell said there is really no dialog between the legislature and the governor’s office on any plan other than the governor’s tax increase plan.  Russell said the legislature relies on the “blue badges” for information, but that information can be one-sided and designed to influence where the legislature decides to go.


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Bob Ellis has been the owner of media company Dakota Voice, LLC since 2005. He is a 10-year U.S. Air Force veteran, a political reporter and commentator for the past decade, and has been involved in numerous election and public policy campaigns for over 20 years. He was a founding member and board member of the Tea Party groups Citizens for Liberty and the South Dakota Tea Party Alliance. He lives in Rapid City, South Dakota with his wife and two children.
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