South Dakota’s Purity Caucus

The State’s Republican governor, Kristi Noem, is being taken to task for—supposedly—overstepping State constitutional bounds in the way her executive branch agencies propose legislation and introduce it into the legislature.

South Dakota’s very own Purity Freedom Caucus is claiming that those agencies

“overstepped their authority” by exploiting a loophole in the state lawmaking process that allows agencies to introduce bills without a legislative sponsor….

In the present case, South Dakota’s Department of Labor and Regulations submitted two bills to the State’s House Commerce and Energy Committee, and the committee’s chairman then sent the bills directly to the House floor rather than first having it processed by his committee—debate and vote.

Congresswoman Tina Mulally (R), treasurer of the legislature’s Freedom Caucus, complained that all of this circumvents the power of the legislature, and

The governor and the executive agencies seem to conveniently forget we have three branches of government, not one[.]

There are a number of things about this. One is that the Caucus beef in the particular case is with the Commerce and Energy Committee chairman, not any entity in the Executive Branch. It was the committee chairman’s decision to skip the committee process, not that of anyone in the DLR.

Another is that South Dakota, indeed, has three branches of government, and they’re coequal; the Executive is not subordinate (nor superior) to the Legislative. Furthermore, the State’s legislature still has to act on the proposed legislation—to shelve it or debate it, and if debating, then to shelve it or vote it up or down. Nothing in the State’s constitution says otherwise.

But the largest thing is the internally contradictory business about executive agencies overstepping their authority by exploiting a loophole. If there is a loophole, there are no related boundaries. That’s pretty tautological.

If members of the self-identified Freedom Caucus doesn’t like the loophole being used, they should move to close it rather than whine about its being used.

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