The South Dakota State Capitol, as seen on Nov. 2, 2022. (John Hult/South Dakota Searchlight)
One day after a state Supreme Court opinion clarified the constitutional ban on legislative conflicts of interest, Gov. Kristi Noem announced the appointment of Republican former legislator Kristin “Kris” Conzet to an empty Rapid City seat in the state House of Representatives.
Noem said the appointment is effective immediately. The Legislature is already more than halfway through its 38-day annual lawmaking session at the Capitol in Pierre. A seat in the state Senate remains empty, but Noem has pledge to fill that seat soon.
The appointment ends an unusually long and winding vacancy. Republican Rep. Jess Olson resigned from her District 34 House seat in November, citing health reasons. Noem postponed appointing a replacement for Olson and for a Senate seat vacated earlier last year. Republican Jessica Castleberry resigned from the Senate seat after Noem accused her of violating a constitutional prohibition against legislators having contracts with state government (Castleberry’s child care business received federal pandemic aid through a state program).
The Castleberry situation sparked controversy and questions about the meaning of the state constitution’s conflict of interest provisions. Noem sought and waited for a state Supreme Court advisory opinion clarifying the provisions, and the court issued that opinion Friday.
In the meantime, Republican Rep. Becky Drury relocated her residence, resigned her seat in District 32 and received an appointment by Noem to Olson’s former seat in District 34.
Conzet’s appointment is to Drury’s former seat in District 32. Both districts include Rapid City or nearby areas. Conzet will serve the remainder of the term this year, but the seat will be up for election along with all other legislative seats in the November general election.
“I am happy to appoint Kris to this role,” Noem said in a news release. “She has a robust background of public service, and I look forward to working with her as District 32’s new representative.”
Conzet previously served in the House from 2010 to 2018.
“Drawing from my previous legislative experience,” said a statement from Conzet, “I am confident in my ability to serve effectively, even with the limited time remaining in this year’s legislative session.”
Noem’s news release added that “Conzet is a strong conservative,” saying she previously voted in favor of gun rights and anti-abortion legislation.
Conzet has degrees in English and mass communications from the University of South Dakota.
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