House kills spousal lobbyist ban after legislator calls it ‘dirty laundry’
Sens. Julie Frye-Mueller, R-Rapid City, and Tom Pischke, R-Dell Rapids, converse before the Senate session begins on Monday, March 6, 2023, at the Capitol in Pierre. (Makenzie Huber, South Dakota Searchlight)
PIERRE — A bill that would prohibit a spouse of a legislator from being employed as a lobbyist died on the House floor Monday morning.
Senate Bill 197 would apply to active members of the Senate and House of Representatives, and it would apply to any lobbyist who received benefits from a lobbying firm.
Rep. Linda Duba, D-Sioux Falls, sponsored the bill on the House side to fix what she called a “loophole” in current law. Lobbyists who have such intimate relationships with legislators have greater access to lawmakers and can have “undue influence” on the legislative process, she said.
“This does not limit a spouse’s ability from testifying or voicing personal opinions as a private individual,” Duba 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 in the session for her verbal harassment of a Legislative Research Council staffer.
The bill to ban lobbying by legislators’ spouses was introduced on Feb. 1, the same day the Senate censured Sen. Frye-Mueller.
Rep. Liz May, R-Kyle, described the bill as a reaction to a personnel issue. She added that the House is “above this” type of legislation and that the Legislature shouldn’t “be wasting our time with this stuff.”
“The Senate is trying to drag their dirty laundry over into this House,” May said.
A motion to approve the bill failed on a 24-44 vote.
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