An open government bill fell a single vote short of passage Tuesday, after a spirited debate that divided both parties in the South Dakota House of Representatives.
House Bill 1113 would require members of public boards to treat discussion of official business through email, text messages and other electronic means as public records.
A product of an open government task force assembled by Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Attorney General Marty Jackley, HB 1113 faced opposition from some lawmakers who view it as a dangerous overreach.
“It’s a solution looking for a problem,” said Rep. Charlie Hoffman, R-Eureka.
He and others alleged that the bill would make boards less efficient by barring innocuous emails seeking clarification about something discussed at an official meeting.
Supporters of the bill said they were trying to prevent board members from using email to decide important issues in private.
“This bill is targeted at addressing the increase in the proliferation of technology,” said Rep. David Lust, R-Rapid City. “We should be for openness, and that’s what this bill does.”
HB 1113 split the House Republican leadership. Lust, the House majority leader, was a vocal supporter, as was Rep. Scott Munsterman, R-Brookings, and another member of the GOP leadership team. Meanwhile House Speaker Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City, was a vocal opponent, along with Rep. Kristin Conzet, R-Rapid City, another member of the leadership team.
The final vote had 35 representatives in favor and 34 against. A bill takes 36 votes to pass, meaning HB 1113 failed.
Three Democrats and 31 Republicans voted against the bill, while 14 Democrats and 21 Republicans voted for it.
After the razor-thin defeat, Munsterman notified Gosch of his intent to reconsider the vote. That gives supporters another day to round up one extra vote and try again.
This was the second extremely close vote on HB 1113. It passed out of the House State Affairs Committee on a 7-6 vote.