Senate leadership picks nine for “Committee on Discipline and Expulsion”

Nine South Dakota state senators will be a part of the “Committee on Discipline and Expulsion” next week, which is tasked with considering whether or not Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Rapid City) should be removed from the body.
Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Rapid City) speaks to her colleagues before a vote to consider...
Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Rapid City) speaks to her colleagues before a vote to consider suspending her from the state senate.(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: Jan. 27, 2023 at 4:46 PM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. - Nine South Dakota state senators will be tasked with making a recommendation as to whether or not Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Rapid City) should be expelled from the body.

According to a press release from Majority Leader Casey Crabtree (R-Madison) the Senate “will adopt the rules on Monday, and the Select Committee intends to provide a report back to the full Senate before the end of the fourth week of the legislative session.”

The last day of the fourth week in the state legislature is February 3rd.

“We were made aware of serious personnel allegations,” Crabtree said in a statement Thursday. “Based on the nature of that allegation we needed to act quickly and prudently to protect the person involved.”

The “Committee on Discipline and Expulsion” will be made up of nine members, two of which are Democrats, as required by legislative rules.

Those lawmakers are; Senators Jim Bolin (R-Canton), Sydney Davis (R-Burbank), Helene Duhamel (R-Rapid City), Red Dawn Foster (D-Pine Ridge), Brent Hoffman (R-Sioux Falls), Liz Larson (D-Sioux Falls), Tim Reed (R-Brookings), and Dean Wink (R-Howes). Sen. David Wheeler (R-Huron) will chair the committee.

Of the nine senators selected, only two voted against suspending the rules and indefinitely suspending Frye-Mueller from the senate.

Crabtree’s release confirms previous reporting that the interaction and subsequent ban stems loosely from an interaction Frye-Mueller had with a Legislative Research Council (LRC) staffer about vaccines.

“On Jan. 26, Senate Republicans received a detailed report from an LRC staff member alleging inappropriate behavior and harassment related to private maternal matters, including childhood vaccines and breastfeeding, which took place in the LRC office inside the State Capitol Building,” Crabtree writes. “Senator Frye-Mueller was given an opportunity to speak to the Senate Republican Leadership on Jan. 25. Comments made by Sen. Frye-Mueller in that private discussion are inconsistent with her public statements and the report received from the LRC staff member.”

While debating whether or not to suspend Frye-Mueller Thursday, Frye-Mueller said that she had not been shown the allegations against her, nor had she had been provided the opportunity to defend herself to the caucus. Frye-Mueller was banned from attending the Republican caucus meeting as part of her initial punishment on Wednesday.

The announcement of the committee follows a dramatic showdown on the Senate floor Thursday, where at least two-thirds of Senators agreed to override Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden’s attempt to block the resolution creating the committee from going through.

“The rules have been written deliberately and meticulously to keep us within the boundaries of laws that are on the books in our Constitution,” Rhoden explained from the dais. “By suspending the rules, we are denying a member of a longstanding legal tradition in this country of due process.”

State lawmakers will return to Pierre on Monday, before voting to adopt the rules of the proposed committee during floor debate at 2 PM CST. Select Committee hearings will be open to the public, and the final report will be made a public record.