The ongoing battle between South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and her state’s Freedom Caucus is one of constitutional authority and the power of the legislature. The caucus, made up of conservative Republicans, is accusing Noem’s office of circumventing the legislative process by sponsoring bills without a legislative sponsor, which they say could hurt her potential 2024 presidential bid.
“A battle has ensued in the South Dakota Legislature, and tensions are escalating,” the South Dakota Freedom Caucus said.
At the heart of the issue is the current lawmaking process, which the Freedom Caucus claims is being exploited by Noem and her executive agencies. According to the group, agencies are introducing bills without a legislative sponsor, thereby bypassing the power of the elected officials.
The Freedom Caucus has argued that the current process is flawed and that it allows for masked lobbyists to introduce bills without any input from elected representatives or a way of knowing whether the bill was legally introduced. This is what happened last week when the state’s Department of Labor and Regulations introduced two bills to the Commerce and Energy Committee without a legislative sponsor.
The chairman of the committee then sent the bills to the House floor without committee consent. Rep. Tina Mulally of the Freedom Caucus argued in a hearing that both bills were being sponsored by an executive agency that lacked constitutional lawmaking authority and said the move circumvents the power of the legislature.
The Freedom Caucus is not alone in its criticism of Noem. Former South Dakota Attorney General Roger Tellinghuisen, who has stayed involved in legislative affairs as a lobbyist, has also defended the state’s 35-year lawmaking process and said he opposes the idea of doing away with it.
Noem’s spokesman, Ian Fury, has said that state agencies are merely following the same process that has been used for decades and that committee members introduce all bills. However, the Freedom Caucus is adamant that the current process is flawed and needs to be updated.
Noem is a great possible VP, and she could use the 2024 primary to elevate herself into the position. But this battle isn’t going to help.