South Dakota senator defies House Speaker, releases Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg impeachment petitions

SIOUX FALLS, S.D.(Argus Leader)- South Dakotans now have a complete record of lawmakers who did and did not support a special session of the Legislature to consider the impeachment of Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.

Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck has released to the Argus Leader the petitions formally calling for the special meeting that took place Nov. 9 and established a nine-member panel to investigate Ravnsborg’s conduct surrounding a fatal crash in 2020.

The release of the 49 petitions, provided Saturday to the Watertown Republican who presides over the state Senate by the Legislative Research Council, comes two months after the Argus Leader and the South Dakota Newspaper Association challenged a decision by House Speaker Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, to keep the petitions shielded.

Schoenbeck, as presiding officer in the Senate, had previously released petitions related to impeachment among Senate members and has been openly critical of the House Speaker’s decision to not to do the same.

“I don’t want to waste taxpayer money on this,” Schoenbeck said Friday, referring to ongoing litigation between the Argus Leader, Gosch and Reed Holwegner, the Legislature’s head record keeper.

However, the release of the petitions might not be enough to stave off a lawsuit. Holwegner in September denied a request for petitions related to previous special sessions called by the Legislature, including special sessions on redistricting in 2011 and 2021, and the Argus Leader continues to argue transparency regarding special session petitions should not be subject to the discretion of any individual lawmaker.

“The actual names are less important to us than the principle,” said Jon Arneson, a Sioux Falls attorney who represents the Argus Leader and the South Dakota Newspaper Association.

The House Speaker did not respond to request for comment Saturday evening.

Here’s the list of lawmakers who submitted a petition supporting the Nov. 9 special session for the impeachment for the attorney general.

Representatives: Aylward, Bartels, Barthel, Blare, Bordeaux, Chaffee, Cwach, Davis, Dennert, Derby, Deutsch, Drury, Duba, Finck, Fitzgerald, Goodwin, Gosch, Hansen, Healy, Hoffman, Johnson, Keintz, Koth, Ladner, Lesmeister, May, Milstead, Mortenson, Mulally, Olson, Overweg, Perry, Peterson (Kent), Pischke, Pourier, Reed, Rehfeldt, Reimer, Schneider, Smith, St. John, Thomason, Tidemann, Vasgaard, Weis, Weisgram, Wiese, Willadsen and York

Senators: Bolin, Breitling, Cammack, Castleberry, Crabtree, Curd, Diedrich, Duhamel, Duvall, Foster, Heinert, Hunhoff, Johns, Johnson (David), Klumb, Nesiba, Otten, Rohl, Rusch, Schoenbeck, Schoenfish, Smith, Steinhauer, Symens, Tobin, Wheeler, Zikmund