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House leadership calls for Ravnsborg impeachment inquiry

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Steve Munsen
/
SDPB
Jason Ravnsborg

Leaders for both parties in the South Dakota House want a special session to consider impeaching Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.

That call comes after Ravnsborg pleaded no-contest to two misdemeanors for his role in a car crash that killed Hyde County resident Joe Boever.

Republican Will Mortenson, of Pierre, brought articles of impeachment during the 2021 legislative session. Lawmakers held off, wanting to wait for Ravnsborg's criminal case to conclude.

Now, Majority Leader Kent Peterson, of Salem, says he's going to petition lawmakers for a special session.

"Before we concluded the session in March, the House of Representatives voted on a resolution that stated we may evaluate the matter pertaining to the attorney general when the judicial process was completed," Peterson said in a statement. "Since that process has finished, I am asking that the Legislature convene to start the formal process of investigating the matter surrounding Attorney General Ravnsborg."

Peterson is calling for the session to begin Nov. 9. That's the day after lawmakers meet to approve new legislative districts.

To call a special session requires two-thirds approval of the members of both the House and Senate. If successful, House Speaker Spencer Gosch says he will appoint a committee to investigate the Ravnsborg case.

“We will essentially gavel out, or recess, and allow the committee to do their job,” Gosch said. “And when they’re ready to report we will come back to finish the special session. Now, we don’t know what that timeline looks like.”

Gosch said a legislative investigation could run parallel to the 2022 legislative session.

Governor Kristi Noem handed Gosch the full investigation file into the fatal crash involving Ravnsborg earlier this month. That file includes hundreds of photos, hours of video and more than 1,500 pages of investigative reports.

House Democrats support the move. House Minority Leader Jamie Smith believes all House Democrats will agree to the special session.

"We want to be very judicious with this power that the House of Representatives has. We're taking this very seriously," Smith said. "This is historic, in the fact that it hasn't been done. It also becomes a challenge when there's no precedent of how to do it or what's been done before."

Smith said this is a nonpartisan issue.

"This is looking at whether or not our attorney general can do his job," he added.

Governor Kristi Noem, several lawmakers, the South Dakota Sheriff's Association, South Dakota Police Chiefs Association and the South Dakota Fraternal Order of Police have called on Ravnsborg to resign.

If impeached, Ravnsborg would be the first constitutional officer in state history to be removed from office.

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