PIERRE - The Legislature doesn't have a seat on state government's Board of Finance. That means lawmakers don't have a direct say in the rates the board sets for official travel by state government employees.
But the Legislature does have authority to make laws, including for the board. Those rates, particularly the amounts paid for lodging, are back on the Legislature's radar.
The matter came up Wednesday during a public discussion among House and Senate members of the Joint Committee on Appropriations regarding lawmakers' official travel.
"It's broader than just the legislative," Rep. David Anderson, R-Hudson, said about the reimbursements allowed. "I'm hearing from the facility, 'I stay in they can't make it.' "
State rates at South Dakota establishments have been $70 nightly during the three summer months and $55 for the other nine months since 2015.
Meanwhile state government pays substantially more for out-of-state lodging.
Anderson is appropriations co-chairman. "I think we need to re-assess where those dollars are best spent," he said.
Among its many duties, the Legislature's Executive Board handles administrative decisions and makes appointments to interim committees. By law its leaders, who are the House speaker and the Senate president pro tem, also set the limits for how much a legislator can spend in one year on official out-of-state travel.
The maximum that Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, and Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, currently allow is $4,000. Sometimes legislators slip past that threshold, however. Then Mickelson or Greenfield must decide whether to allow it.
Sen. Justin Cronin, R-Gettysburg, pressed for numbers Wednesday that would show whether the $4,000 limit is working.
"Did it actually save money?" he asked.
Kris Snyder was recently promoted to business manager for the Legislative Research Council, whose two dozen non-partisan staff members work year-round for lawmakers.
"Not everybody travels on state," she told Cronin.
What's the number?
Cronin asked how many legislators take official trips outside South Dakota.
Jason Hancock is LRC director. He said "historically" about half of the 105 legislators would travel outside South Dakota. If everybody traveled out of state, the budget would be exceeded, he said.
"It's something we re-evaluate every spring," Hancock said, based on "experience and history."
Sen. Larry Tidemann, R-Brookings, is appropriations co-chairman. Tidemann said South Dakota was "in a unique position" because Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, is chairwoman for the National Conference of State Legislature.
Tidemann said more legislators went to the 2017 NCSL convention to watch Peters take office and he expects many would go again this year.
He said there's a bigger benefit: Knowledge about what has or hasn't worked in other state governments.
"I think it's very valuable to allow our legislators to be part of this whole process," Tidemann said.
State Auditor Steve Barnett had other people from his office in the room but he went alone to the witness table for his budget presentation to appropriations members.
Sen. Jeff Partridge, R-Rapid City, asked Barnett whether his office has received more requests for more accountability and Barnett's process for handling them. Barnett's staff literally does what the name says: They audit state government spending, which are presented as vouchers.
Barnett described the "recall" on state vouchers as very low.
"Single digits, percentage-wise," he said. "Right now there hasn't been a huge demand for recalling vouchers."
Barnett said vouchers aren't publicly available online. The state website open.sd.gov provides a lot of public information, such as employee salary and state contracts, he said.
"(It) takes away a lot of the questions that would come to our office," Barnett said.
Barnett was elected state auditor two consecutive times and therefore his time in the office ends after 2018 under South Dakota's terms-limit requirement in the state constitution.
So he is lining up to seek the Republican nomination for secretary of state at the South Dakota Republican convention this summer.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs is running, after one term, for the Republican nomination for South Dakota's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Her main (and only, through 2017) opponent on the Republican side was Dusty Johnson, who resigned from an elected seat on the state Public Utilities Commission in late 2010 to serve as chief of staff for incoming Gov. Dennis Daugaard.
Johnson left the governor's office after the first term. He now works for a major Mitchell business that specializes in rural telecommunications: Vantage Point Solutions.
In recent days state Republican Sen. Neal Tapio, of Watertown, also engaged in some activities that made him look like a possible U.S. House candidate.
But those actions, such as confronting religious leaders Wednesday at the Capitol on Interfaith Day over the question of Islam's role in South Dakota, didn't find widespread acceptance in Pierre.
Tapio even called for Daugaard's resignation, which the governor laughed off, saying he wasn't going anywhere and he interpreted Tapio's remark as tongue-in-cheek.
Daugaard, too, is terms-limited. As for Noem, she is running for the Republican nomination for governor. Her principal opponent for the nomination is state Attorney General Marty Jackley, who too is up against the terms limit.
Republican voters will choose the U.S. House and governor nominees in the June primary elections.