PIERRE, S.D. —Two South Dakota lawmakers apologized Friday, April 24, for being intoxicated during the last day of the 2020 Legislative session and were given a firm warning and reprimand by their peers.
Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, and Sen. Kris Langer, R-Dell Rapids, issued an apology during Friday’s legislative investigative committee meeting for drinking and returning to the Capitol building in Pierre drunk in the early morning hours of April 1. March 31 was the scheduled Veto Day, and the actual legislative session ended at about 3 a.m. on Wednesday, April 1.
Nine state senators formed the investigative committee and heard testimony from members of the state House of Representatives, including testimony from Rep. Steve Haugaard, R-Sioux Falls, who also serves as Speaker of the House.
Questioned by Marty Jackley, the attorney representing Langer and Greenfield, Haugaard said that he witnessed Langer and Greenfield slur their words during a conference meeting with Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden.
Sen. Arthur Rusch, R-Vermillion, as chairman, Sen. Troy Heinert, D-Mission, as vice chairman, Republicans Sens. Jim Bolin of Canton, Jim Stalzer of Sioux Falls, Maggie Sutton of Sioux Falls and Jim White of Huron and Democratic Sens. Red Dawn Foster of Pine Ridge, Craig Kennedy of Yankton and Susan Wismer of Britton voted 9-0 for admonishment of Langer and Greenfield.
Langer admitted to drinking at a location outside of the Capitol building during a break on Veto Day. “Please accept our deepest apology and know that we are committed to serving you in the interest of our citizens,” Langer said.
Greenfield echoed Langer’s sentiments and said he was “truly sorry” for his actions.
“I am sorry for the time and energy that so many people have spent dealing with this matter, especially with these current times,” Greenfield said. “There is important work to do for the people of South Dakota.”
Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City, formally called out Langer and Greenfield during Veto day and requested that a Senate committee look into whether the two violated any state rules.
Jensen was not present at the Capitol during Veto Day, but participating electronically like the majority of lawmakers in an effort to maintain social distancing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jensen said he was alerted of the two lawmaker's potential intoxication via text from Rep. Lee Qualm, R-Platte, who was present for Veto day's hearings in Pierre.
There was no evidence found that the lawmakers consumed alcohol on Capitol premises, but Haugaard testified that the two had likely consumed alcohol at a residence not too far from the Capitol.
Rep. Fred Deutsch, R-Florence, tweeted during Friday’s meeting that the lawmakers should not just make an apology to the House, but to all of South Dakota.
“We are elected to do the people's work, not to booze it up. The tradition of lobbyist-provided all-you-can-drink free booze needs to stop,” Deutsch tweeted.
Haugaard also said during the meeting that he holds great respect for the Legislature, and Greenfield and Langer’s conduct served as a great disrespect to the lawmaking body.