Sioux Falls, SD (Nov. 3, 2012) – Back room meetings. Secret decisions. Silenced legislators. This is just the beginning of allegations made by a Republican legislator in a tell-all letter about how Republicans in Pierre stifle the voice of the public in the state legislature.
Rep. Lance Russell (R-Hot Springs) sent a letter to state legislative colleagues dated Oct. 29 that decries the secrecy and lack of democracy in the halls of the state capitol in Pierre.
Russell cited a lack of fair and free debate, secret meetings and marginalization of legislators who disagree with the party.
“Secret and organized pre-committee meetings [that are held] on bills without the benefit of testimony should not occur,” he wrote. “These organized pre-committee meetings held by majority party members to determine which members will vote for and/or against bills without first hearing proponent or opponent testimony on the bill absolutely undermines the basic principles of the legislative process.”
Ben Nesselhuf, Chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party, lauded Russell’s honesty. “We have been making the point that the one-party Republican monopoly in Pierre is hurting our state,” he said, “but Rep. Russell has made the point eloquently: We need a more balanced legislature, not for the good of Democrats but for the good of our citizens.”
Nesselhuf said it’s fortunate that Russell’s letter came out on election eve, “because we can all do something about this on Tuesday. Go to the polls and send a message that you don’t believe in secrecy, deceit and stifling of debate. If people come to Pierre to testify on a bill, they’d like to think that the minds of the legislators on the committee aren’t already made up. This is a shocking revelation that should be cold water in the face of every voter.”