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House leadership asks AG Ravnsborg to review Noem’s spending authority

In a letter from 11 members of House leadership and members of the House Appropriations committee, lawmakers ask Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to review the constitutionality of Noem’s authority to spend funds.
Gov. Kristi Noem (R, S.D.) delivers her 2022 State of the State address on the floor of the...
Gov. Kristi Noem (R, S.D.) delivers her 2022 State of the State address on the floor of the House at the Capitol building in Pierre.(Dakota News Now)
Published: Mar. 28, 2022 at 3:48 PM CDT
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PIERRE, S.D. - Members of South Dakota House leadership believes that Gov. Kristi Noem broke the law when she dispersed grants to daycare providers without further legislative approval.

In a letter to Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg by members of House leadership, lawmakers call for Ravnsborg to appoint either “an assistant attorney general or outside counsel” to review the legality the disbursement of the grants.

“We therefore request that a court action be commenced seeking a declaratory judgment or other appropriate action, including a potential writ of prohibition, to ensure all state spending is undertaken with lawful authority,” the letter reads.

SD House leadership has asked Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to have counsel look into...
SD House leadership has asked Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to have counsel look into whether or not Governor Kristi Noem's spending authority throughout the 2022 state legislative session has been legal.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
SD House leadership has asked Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to have counsel look into...
SD House leadership has asked Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg to have counsel look into whether or not Governor Kristi Noem's spending authority throughout the 2022 state legislative session has been legal.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)

Both Speaker of the House Spencer Gosch (R-Glenham) and Speaker Pro Tempore Jon Hansen (R-Dell Rapids) are among the 11 House Republican lawmakers who signed onto the letter.

House Appropriations Chair Chris Karr (R-Sioux Falls) spearheaded the effort.

“They (the governor’s office) came to us and asked for the authority to spend these dollars in the supplemental bill, then the governor and the Executive branch sent these dollars out prior to the supplemental bill being signed, and claimed the authority came from last year’s budget,” Karr explained. “The issue is the daycare grants came from American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, we did not receive those until late last year, well after the budget process of last year wrapped up.”

The request to the Attorney General’s office came immediately after the end of the regular legislative session. Noem vetoed a bill, HB 1281, that would have required oversight on federal funds coming in going to new programs. The House failed to override Noem’s veto.

The fight around the governor’s spending authority came to a head during the 2022 legislative session when the Department of Social Services (DSS) signaled their intent to send up to $100 million to state registered daycare providers. The Senate unanimously passed a resolution suggesting that Noem already had the authority to send those dollars out, but Ravnsborg sent an unofficial memorandum hours later disagreeing, almost upending the grants.

Given the stark contrast on the issue between Noem and the House, Karr believes it is time for the judicial branch to step in.

“I think we’re outside the lines here and this needs to have another look at it from a legal perspective,” Karr said.

Ravnsborg’s Chief of Staff Tim Bormann confirmed receipt of the letter.

“We are in receipt and it (the letter) is going through the necessary channels for a decision to be made,” said Bormann.

Noem’s spokesperson Ian Fury called the effort “irrelevant.”

“Four of the co-signatories to today’s letter are members of the House Special Committee on Investigation, tasked with weighing the impeachment of the Attorney General. The conflict here is beyond obvious,” Fury said in a statement. “The Noem Administration will continue to act according to the law and longstanding budget procedures.”

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