Press "Enter" to skip to content

Gosch Seeks Per Diem for Legislators to Attend Budget Address and Inauguration

I mentioned earlier the three bills that House State Affairs passed yesterday to put more money in legislators' pockets. I'd like to focus for a moment on House Bill 1145 and the stretchy arguments offered by its sponsor, Rep. Brian Gosch (R-32/Rapid City).

HB 1145, which drew no questions and no opposition in committee Wednesday, would give legislators the per diem reimbursement, $123, for attending the Governor's budget report in December and the inauguration of constitutional officers in January. In his testimony before committee, Rep. Gosch said legislators are currently spending their own resources to do their jobs and that reimbursing them for taking off work and traveling to these two events would be appropriate.

I agree that we should pay for legislators' time and expenses when they are doing the people's work as required by law. But Rep. Gosch made a couple of statements that seemed to exaggerate the requirements under which he and his colleagues labor. He opened his remarks by claiming, "I've learned recently that although certain statutes would require legislators to perform certain tasks and do their duties as legislators, they were not being reimbursed for the same." Rep. Gosch cited the budget address as an example of one such obligation, saying "many if not all Legislators make that appearance as required by statute."

Are legislators required by statute to attend the budget address? SDCL 4-7-9 requires the Governor to submit a budget report by the first Tuesday after the first Monday in December. The statute also requires that "copies thereof shall be transmitted to each member of the Legislature." But that statute contains no language requiring legislators to attend. Indeed, legislators have skipped the address with no apparent consequences (well, maybe consequences for the general welfare, but not for the legislators themselves). Legislators can watch the coverage on South Dakota Public Broadcasting. They can read the Governor's budget speech and review the budget documents online. Attendance at the budget address appears to be a choice to participate in political pageantry, not an obligation under state law.

Nor does there appear to be any legal obligation for legislators to attend the inaugural ceremonies on the Saturday before Session begins. Legislators get to take their oath on that same day before hearing the Governor's inaugural address and heading out for balls and booze in Pierre. But statute appears not to set any requirement that legislators take their oath at the inauguration.

SDCL 3-9-7 mentions the inaugural among "political meetings" for which the state shall not reimburse state officers' or employees' travel expenses unless their duties "necessarily require" their presence. Article 3 Section 8 says legislators must take their oath of office "before they enter upon their official duties." They would appear not to have any official duties until the Legislature convenes, per Article 3 Section 7, at noon on the second Tuesday in January. Taking the oath the same day as the Governor may be fun and pompy, but it does not appear to be a statutory mandate.

I'm not trying to rain on anyone's parade. Legislators should be paid more to make running for and serving in the Legislature affordable for a wider array of working citizens.

But House Bill 1145 asks us to spend $12,915 to ensure a full House for a gubernatorial budget speech, then another $12,915 to pay legislators to spend a day hobnobbing and hoedowning in Pierre. At neither event do legislators make laws, hear formal testimony, or perform any duty explicitly demanded by law.

I invite you to review Article 3 of the state constitution and Title 2 of state law governing the Legislature to see if I've missed anything, but I can't find any language supporting Rep. Gosch's claim that he and his colleagues are required to attend either of the events for which HB 1145 seeks per diem reimbursement. Without more detailed legal clarification, the Legislature should kill HB 1145.


  1. mike from iowa 2015.02.05

    Once again-teachers spend their own resources to do their jobs and they don't have much luck getting help from Pierre. Educators are with children learning them stuff. Legislators do more harm,it seems,than good.

  2. Nick Nemec 2015.02.05

    Expecting to be paid for attending the inauguration of constitutional officers is silly. The only reason to attend the inauguration is to get a place at the head of the food line at the after party. I served two terms in the State House of Representatives and both times I was sworn in on the first day of the session shortly before the Governor's address.

    There may be a good argument for paying legislators to attend the pre session budget address, Rep. Gosch has yet to make it. For the record I attended, with out remuneration, the budget address each of the four years I served. In one of those years Governor Mickelson took the budget address on the road and gave it several times at various locations across the state. That practice allowed interested citizens to more easily attend.

  3. MC 2015.02.05

    Nick, that might not be such a bad idea, maybe its time to bring it back.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.05

    MC, when I'm Governor, I'll take the budget address to every town I can to get people talking about the budget and involve them in the process of setting priorities.

  5. Rod Hall 2015.02.05

    Cory, You have got my vote!

  6. leslie 2015.02.05

    what would KATHY TYLER do?

    this appears amended 1976, 1939, 1913 or something. did dems or repubs do that before?

    "inaugural" include the big hoedown, too?

  7. leslie 2015.02.05

    the republican party should pay its own way.

  8. Douglas Wiken 2015.02.05

    They can watch it at home on SDPB-TV. Maybe even call in their comments when SDPB reporters hit dead air.

  9. MC 2015.02.05

    With the magic of this internet thingy, they can stream the address.

  10. leslie 2015.02.05

    ALEC legislation slashs, defunds union activites, but Gosh seeks to pay his party to fund state GOP (republican "union") activities.

  11. Joan Brown 2015.02.05

    If they want to attend the stupid, expensive inauguration, let they pay their own expenses. My heart cries for those poor, underpaid legislators. Ha!!!

  12. Rorschach 2015.02.05

    They ought to amend the inaugural out of the bill and pass the part that pays legislators to attend the budget address. The taxpayers need not pay legislators to attend a party held on a weekend.

    This is the type of bill you only see in odd-numbered years. Something like this would not be brought in an election year, but if it passes this year most everyone will forget about it before they vote next year.

  13. grudznick 2015.02.05

    I see little harm in letting the legislatures, of any party, attend this inaugural and have a little fun. Maybe it should be mandatory. That might chase a few of them that are insaner than most from running if they knew they had to wear a tie and dance on the steps on TV.

  14. grudznick 2015.02.05

    Mr. H has some really exact French math going on saying it would only cost $12,915 to let the legislatures go to this party. Mr. H, was that the number from the Legislatures Research group? You did not say "about 13 grand" or something so I have to call into question "Is this French math?"

  15. Deb Geelsdottir 2015.02.05

    Grudz, I see no harm in the legislatures" attending a party either. When I am paid to attend parties, then those esteemed legislatures" should too.

  16. rollin potter 2015.02.05

    Hey Cory, I want to see NICK NEMEC,S name on your ballot for LT. governor!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2015.02.05

    Rollin, put me on a team with Nick, and I would gladly yield the top slot to him.

  18. Nick Nemec 2015.02.06

    If nominated I will not run, if elected I might consider serving.

    Grudz, I don't know why I should engage a troll but here goes. Every legislator who wants, can (and does) attend the inauguration. I just don't think it's necessary for the state to give them the cash they need to buy drinks and a hotel room to sleep it off in.

  19. Douglas Wiken 2015.02.06

    Only if they require the women to wear lower-cut gowns. No sense hiding their navels. Time to celebrate wardrobe catastrophes. Then hold it during TV sweeps days.

  20. JP 2015.02.06

    As and educator it baffles me that they want to be paid more for the work that they do/don't do! How gutsy to ask for more when our state is so adamant about not paying the ones that are raising up the future leaders. I would be interested to know the average annual income of our leaders before they get their state pay. I would imagine it far outweighs the average teachers pay. And they want more?? It their decision to be a part of running this state, typically as a second job/hobby!
    Get real South Dakota! I don't get paid for the hours I spend in the summer working/learning new materials or the hours at home spent correcting or planning. #letsbe49

Comments are closed.