PIERRE, S.D — Senator Billie Sutton rallied lawmakers this week to support his efforts for open and honest government in South Dakota.
“We’ve all seen the darker side of government in our beautiful state,” said Sutton. “Most recently it showed itself in the sad tragedies and scandals of Gear-Up and EB-5.”
In a legislative package to restore Integrity in Government and Campaigns Sutton introduced three measures to add more sunshine and transparency to government and political life:
— Senate Bill 133 requires that politicians and government officials save fiscal records for at least 10 years. In the Gear-Up scandal, some records were unavailable because records were only retained for five years and the problems began more than five years before the issue came to light.
— Senate Bill 129 restores campaign finance reforms that were passed by voters in 2016 but then killed by the legislature in 2017.
— Senate Bill 192 opens state government calendars, logs, working papers and emails to the public, the latter of which has already been done in a large majority of states.
Sutton’s proposals are the latest in a longtime quest for open government. “Government should be as honest, forthright, and accountable as the good people of our state,” he said. “And many people in state government are. But, the latest scandals are proof that South Dakota needs stronger open government laws.”
The senator, who grew up on a Gregory County ranch and today raises cattle with his family and works at a local community bank, said that, “South Dakotan’s have lost a lot of trust in government. It is time that we take steps to earn that trust back.”
Sutton said people have grown weary of the tired excuse that every new scandal is a one-time anomaly. “That approach leaves us vulnerable to the next wrongdoer, and the next. Sunshine laws and campaign reforms can prevent these messes from happening again.”
Sutton acknowledged that his reforms face an uphill fight in the current legislature. In fact, SB 129 and SB 192 were killed in committee today by current state leadership.
“Change never comes easy,” said Sutton after the vote. “But I am not discouraged. South Dakotans deserve a government as open and honest as the rest of our state, and I will continue to fight for that as your Governor.”