PIERRE, S.D. — The South Dakota Legislature plans to convene in a special session on Nov. 9, one day after a separate redistricting session, to consider opening an impeachment inquiry into Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg.
"That's the plan," House Speaker Spencer Gosch, R-Glenham, said Tuesday, Sept. 28.
The special session would need a proclamation signed by Gosch and Senate Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck, as well as approval of two-thirds of the members in each chamber. On Saturday, Dakota News Now reported the House hit that threshold, only days after enough senators also agreed to the meeting.
"We haven't had an impeachment, so that forces Spence [Gosch] to sort of make it up as you go," Schoenbeck, R-Watertown, said Tuesday. "It's also going to be unchartered territory having two special sessions at the same time. Most legislators never see one."
Ravnsborg in August pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges in the death of pedestrian Joe Boever in 2020. Ravnsborg struck and killed Boever, who was walking on the shoulder of a highway west of Highmore, South Dakota. A third misdemeanor against Ravnsborg was dropped.
The process for wrangling votes for the special session has been kept in secret, drawing criticism from open government advocates. Some lawmakers, including Sen. David Wheeler, R-Huron, and Reynold Nesiba, D-Sioux Falls, went public with their votes to convene a special session.
State Rep. Will Mortenson, R-Pierre, initially brought an impeachment resolution in February, days after prosecutors announced criminal charges against the Republican attorney general. But that effort was sidelined after retired Sixth Circuit Judge John Brown, overseeing the proceedings, slapped a gag order on all state employees.
While lawmakers will meet in November an impeachment trial is no guarantee and could be far off, even as late as the legislative session in January. First, say persons familiar with the process, lawmakers in the House would vote whether to convene a nine-member select committee to investigate the facts surrounding Ravnsborg's criminal behavior.
Any select committee would have access to the accident investigation released by the Department of Public Safety.
"We will be setting up a committee to look into impeachment of the attorney general," said House Minority Leader Jamie Smith, Sioux Falls-D. "We don't take the task at hand lightly."
Impeachment, according to the state constitution, can be brought for "drunkenness, crimes, corrupt conduct, or malfeasance or misdemeanor in office."
Ravnsborg has, thus far, eschewed calls to step down — including from the very top of leadership in his own party. A spokesman for the attorney general did not respond to an email requesting comment.