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Outside group to review legislative staff

PIERRE -- The organization and management of the Legislature's professional staff will be reviewed by a team from the National Conference of State Legislatures, under an agreement reached Tuesday by the Legislature's Executive Board.

Ryan Maher
Ryan Maher

PIERRE -- The organization and management of the Legislature's professional staff will be reviewed by a team from the National Conference of State Legislatures, under an agreement reached Tuesday by the Legislature's Executive Board.

One aspect of the study will be recommendations for designating positions for partisan staff who would work with the Republican and Democratic caucuses. The staff currently is nonpartisan and is assigned by issues, topics and legislative committees

Up to $20,000 was authorized by the board to be spent. Twelve Republicans and three Democrats comprise the board, which serves as the Legislature's administrative panel during the nine months outside of the annual lawmaking session.

A member of the NCSL review team said his group intends to interview or survey all 105 current legislators and some past lawmakers, as well as all members of the Legislative Research Council staff.

Recommendations are expected in September. Two members of the NCSL staff, Tim Storey and Angela Andrews, spent two days this week at the state Capitol. They huddled for an hour Monday in an executive session of the Executive Board's organization subcommittee that was created this spring.

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The board's new chairman, Sen. Ryan Maher, R-Isabel, said some matters came to light this year during a survey of legislators. He said those issues led to the new subcommittee.

Chairing it is Sen. Craig Tieszen, R-Rapid City. In presenting his report to the full board Tuesday, he said he wasn't clear what the problems and perceptions were. He said a decision was made that an outside set of eyes might be beneficial and he contacted both NCSL and the Council of State Governments.

Tieszen said NCSL has experience and a process for advising legislatures.

Storey said they will use a standard NSCL approach while keeping in mind that each state is different. Storey said there will be recommendations that could improve efficiency. Three visits are planned.

South Dakota has one of the smallest legislative staffs in the nation and perhaps the smallest of all, according to Storey.

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