Sen. Michael Rohl, R-Aberdeen, testifies at the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023. (Makenzie Huber, South Dakota Searchlight)
PIERRE — A bill that would prohibit a spouse of a legislator from being employed as a lobbyist passed the Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday morning.
The bill, SB 197, was introduced by Sen. Michael Rohl, R-Aberdeen, and would apply to active members of the Senate and House of Representatives. The committee passed the bill 8-1.
Rohl argued that lobbyists who have such intimate relationships with legislators have greater access to legislators, a “path to bribe legislators” and an “undisputable advantage” compared to other lobbyists or the general public.
“This would allow us to better serve the people of our state and not just the highest bidder,” Rohl said.
At least one legislator has a spouse that is a registered lobbyist.
Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller, R-Rapid City, has a husband who is a registered lobbyist for the Citizens for Liberty. Frye-Mueller was censured earlier this month for her verbal harassment of a Legislative Research Council staffer.
The bill to ban lobbying by legislators’ spouses was introduced on Feb. 1, hours before the Senate censured Sen. Frye-Mueller.
Rohl said the bill would apply to any lobbyist who receives benefits from a lobbying firm. Lobbyists do not need to be paid to receive benefits, he said.
The bill passed the committee on an 8-1 vote, sending it to the Senate floor.
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