PIERRE, S.D. - If passed by voters in November, a proposed constitutional amendment would allow South Dakota lawmakers to hold closed committee meetings without explanation or notice to the public. HJR1003, a measure that would streamline and modernize the constitutional duties and powers of the legislative branch, was passed by the Senate last week..
Originally, the measure would have required a two-thirds vote from legislators to close legislative sessions, joint sessions of both the House and Senate, and committee meetings. The initial language was recommended by the state Constitutional Revision Commission.
At the suggestion of Senate Republican Leader Eric Bogue of Faith, the Senate removed committee meetings from the list of proposed open sessions, and those hearings could be closed to the public. But no votes could be taken in any closed meetings.
Rep. Pat Haley, D-Huron, warned his colleagues Monday that the change could make voters turn against the amendment to the state constitution and reject several changes that legislators have wanted for years.
Committee meetings should not be closed, and the public won't want them closed, Haley said.
"I find it hard to believe that the Senate seriously believes that we should be able to close committee meetings, and I don't care if we're taking any action or not," he said.
Haley later told The Associated Press: "This turns the clock back."Legislators used to hold secret committee meetings years ago or close meetings and kick the public out.
The state constitution currently allows sessions of each chamber and joint sessions to be closed to the public if lawmakers think the business being conducted ought to be kept secret. The constitution does not specify that a vote needs to be taken to close any session. Nor does it specify if committee
meetings must be open or closed.
Rep. Matthew Michels, R-Yankton, said it doesn't really matter if committee meetings are closed since no action could be taken in closed meetings
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