Friday, September 27, 2013

Parsing The LRC Shake Up

I'm a bit surprised these Bob Mercer paragraphs didn't generate larger responses:
Jim Fry said his job stopped being fun three years ago. That was an interesting time for the Legislature. The Senate saw the departures of veterans such as Republican leaders Dave Knudson of Sioux Falls and Bob Gray of Pierre, and newly-elected Gov. Dennis Daugaard called — alone, at first — for 10 percent cuts throughout much of state government, twice as deep as outgoing Gov. Mike Rounds had proposed. The 2010 election also marked the arrival of Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, who brought a different style to the House and in 2012 accused House Republican leaders of conspiring against members. A resolution that contained the word astrological somehow slipped through. Eventually a special investigation was called, run by then-Sen. Joni Cutler, R-Sioux Falls, and over some long hours a lot of laundry was put on the political clothes-line in public testimony.
What’s happened in the past three years is a trend toward more and more secrecy among Republican legislators especially in the House and Senate leadership. One of the complaints against the LRC in the current review was the refusal to send LRC analysts to deliver briefings and answer questions in closed Republican caucuses.  The best example of the secrecy in terms of legislation was the bill creating the South Dakota Jobs programs during the 2013 session. That legislation reached far and ultimately might be very good for South Dakota, but it was formed almost entirely in secret and in some ways over the objections of the Daugaard administration. The latest example of how the secrecy works was the LRC review process that spun to its conclusion Wednesday. There is a public report, but it wasn’t distributed to most Executive Board members until the morning of the meeting and wasn’t shared beforehand to the rank and file of representatives and senators. Less than half of the 105 legislators completed the survey tool used by the National Conference of State Legislatures reviewers. The majority of time spent by Executive Board members on the staffing matters happened in executive session. One of the recommendations from NCSL is to change state law to specifically say a two-thirds majority of the board or majorities in each of the House and Senate can vote to remove the LRC director. That clearly puts the director under the control of the Legislature’s majority party. There is more than one avenue to a more-partisan LRC staff.
The full report indicates that the LRC has shortcomings and is understaffed. However, if I am parsing Mercer's enviably terse prose correctly, this issue is about South Dakota's Republican Legislators desire to maintain a closed caucus and create a partisan LRC.

There's no evidence that South Dakota Democrats will mount a successful threat the Republican continued dominance; therefore, Republicans will have to police themselves. When South Dakota Republicans pushed Jason Gant to the sidelines, they seemingly illustrated that they possess principles other than retaining power. Creating a partisan LRC in order to keep caucusing in secret illustrates acting on those principles may be an anomaly.


caheidelberger said...

Au contraire, mon frère! Pushing Gant to the sidelines was all about retaining power. Review Shantel Krebs's threatening letter: she couched her pre-announcement in terms of ensuring that Republicans not lose their chance at total power:

"For the first time in 50 years we have an opportunity to get 100% of offices elected as Republicans in 2014.... I know you share my enthusiasm to do whatever it takes to make that happen. The biggest concern in making that a reality is the Secretary of State's office" [Shantel Krebs, letter to GOP delegates, 2013.08.27].

I wouldn't be surprised if that lust for power underlies the agitation against the LRC. The LRC serves Democrats and Republicans fairly and honestly. That helps the minority more than it helps the majority. I suspect there are some Republicans who would be happy to take that help away from Dems... because after all, Republicans don't need no stinkin' research to legislate.

Kal Lis said...

I may have too low of a bar, but pushing Gant out the door indicates there is a line that the Republican leadership believes is too far. Gant crossed it and they kicked him to the curb. I don't believe they fear losing the SOS race to the Dems. I see the Krebs move as part of the Republican internal fight for the party. Her entrance was an effort to stave off anti-Rounds forces by warning them that the only way to lose the SOS race is a really messy Republican primary.

There's no doubt in my mind that this is a power move and that Republicans want a monopoly on power to reward their friends and punish their real and perceived political enemies.

I'm not sure we're that far apart on this issue. I certainly agree that keeping the LRC bi-partisan is the right move. I think the secret caucus meetings are a prime example of terrible governance, especially when Republicans have a majority that precludes any need to think about compromise.