Senators Russell, Jensen on Vehicle Bills, Gov. Daugaard Schmoozing, Strongarming Legislature

South Dakota Senator Lance Russell

During the legislative crackerbarrel meeting in Rapid City yesterday, South Dakota Senators Lance Russell and Phil Jensen discussed how the RINO leadership of the legislature uses “vehicle bills” that are voted on with no significant language and later have significant language inserted into them shortly before final approval. They also discuss how Governor Dennis Daugaard brings the RINO leadership to his mansion for dinner, schmoozing them and strong arming if necessary to get the leadership to implement his agenda in the legislature. (VIDEO BELOW)

Russell said that every Sunday night, as the members of the legislature come back to Pierre and prepare for another week of lawmaking, Gov. Daugaard invites all of the “Republican” leadership to the governor’s mansion for dinner. Russell said that the branches of our state government are supposed to be different, but there are ways to manipulate people–especially citizen legislators who work all weekend to get things caught up at home, only to drive back to the state capital for another week of legislating.

Russell said the governor tells them, in a private meeting where there is no public scrutiny, what his agenda is for the week. Then these people, who Russell says are normally good people, try to convince other legislators that the governor’s agenda is what needs to be done.

Also, there are deadlines on when bills have to be submitted, but sometimes legislators submit “vehicle bills” that have no significant language in them when they are submitted, but are “filled in” later. HB 1115 is one such example. The stated title or purpose of HB 1115 is “enhance South Dakota.” The language of the bill is as follows in its entirety”:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to enhance South Dakota.
Section 1. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:
The Legislature shall pursue opportunities to enhance the state.

Very informative.

Woodrow Wilcox


Russell mentioned another bill like this, SB 176, which, when submitted, said this:

FOR AN ACT ENTITLED, An Act to accommodate legislation relating to the protection of the public safety.
Section 1. That the code be amended by adding a NEW SECTION to read:

    In case a title regarding the protection of the safety of the citizens of South Dakota is needed to accommodate the legislative process, this bill is being introduced to accomplish that purpose.

It was then “hoghoused” (or gutted with completely new language inserted) with the changes listed here.

Russell pointed out that “vehicle bills” are not allowed by the South Dakota Constitution. He said every bill is required to have one subject, and bills have to be submitted by a deadline, and the RINO leadership avoids these requirements by using these “vehicle bills.” Russell said right before the deadline when bills have to leave one chamber of the legislature for consideration in the other (i.e. the House to Senate, or vice versa), they quickly insert the new language in the bill, and the public has no time or opportunity to know what is in the bill or have people testify before the committee regarding the bill.  Russell said not just the people have to abide by the South Dakota Constitution, but the executive and legislative branch must obey the state’s highest law, as well.

Senator Phil Jensen added that the members of the South Dakota Senate elected leadership with the specific understanding that those leaders would not take marching orders from Governor Daugaard, but that’s what has ended up happening anyway. When an audience member asked what the people of South Dakota could do, Jensen encouraged people to contact the members of the leadership and let them know they are displeased with this behavior.

Russell also encouraged people to write letters to the editor of the local newspapers to bring attention to what is going on, because most people don’t know about these antics of the RINO leadership.

Jensen said the governor has a “kill list” of bills he doesn’t like, and the RINO leadership then works to kill conservative bills in committee if possible, or on the chamber floor.

This kind of activity has been the status quo for years under the Dennis Daugaard Administration, and before that, the Mike Rounds Administration.

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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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