Somebody Call The Waaambulance

Governor Rounds is still mad about getting his hand slapped by South Dakota voters and he wants everybody to know it.

We all remember Initiated Measure 5, which sought to restrict the use of the government owned aircraft and even though supporters spent almost no money during the campaign, it still passed easily.

Well Rounds continues his complaining in an op-ed piece in yesterday’s RCJ.

For me personally, it complicates the scheduling of many events that governors are requested and expected to attend. Being on duty 24 hours a day, including many night and weekend events, it becomes even more difficult.

Because there are no exceptions to the state law, I cannot go to church if I use the state airplane for government business in another town on the weekend. I cannot swing by the hospital on the way back to the airport to visit a friend who is sick. I cannot attend a charity event unless it is official state business only. Simple conversations about family become illegal because I am on state business.

Unfortunately, the biggest impact is not on me. It will be on any state employee who uses any kind of state vehicle.

If a state employee does something of a personal nature on a trip, even if it is unintentional, they are in violation of the new law. If they stop at a drug store for aspirin, that is a violation. If they missed lunch and stop at a grocery store for a late snack, that is a violation.

Nowhere to be found in his rant is the fact that the new law basically only changes the penalties and changes the wording so that state owned aircraft (which was previously not specifically mentioned) is now included. This would make his claims on how it affects other state employees nothing more than a scare tactic as they were already required to follow these restrictions.

From the Secretary of State’s explanation: (underlined portions are the only changes to the current law)

For purposes of this section, any aircraft owned or leased by the state may be used only in the conduct of state business. None of the exceptions listed above are applicable regarding the use of any aircraft owned or leased by the state or any of its agencies.

A violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor. The violator is also subject to a civil action by the State of South Dakota in circuit court for the recovery of a civil penalty of not more than one thousand ($1,000) dollars plus ten times the cost incurred by the state for misuse of the vehicle. An action for the recovery of a civil penalty or compensatory damages shall, upon demand, be tried by a jury.

Here is the rest of the state law which remains unchanged:

5-25-1.1. Vehicles owned or leased by the state may be used only in the conduct of state business. No state officer or employee, except the Governor, law enforcement officers of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, law enforcement officers of the Division of Criminal Investigation, and conservation officers may use, or permit the use of, any state-owned motor vehicle other than in the conduct of state business. Nothing in this section prohibits any use of any state vehicle, if, in order to provide for the most efficient use of state equipment or personnel, supervisory personnel issue written instructions to any state employee to use a state vehicle for transportation:

(1) Between the employee’s permanent residence and work station; or

(2) Between the employee’s temporary residence or eating place and work station if assigned to a locality other than the employee’s permanent residence.

Not being a lawyer, it sure sounds to me like Governor Rounds is just blowing smoke up our you know what in an effort to conceal the fact that he got his hand slapped by the Argus and others in our state who were fed up with his unfettered use of government owned aircraft. But if any lawyers out there can show me where in the above voter approved changes in the state law supports his claims, I’d be happy to be corrected.

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