South Dakota Senate votes to disenfranchise member

PIERRE, SD (KELO) — A day after being stripped of his committee assignments, a member of the South Dakota Senate was stripped of his right to vote in that chamber.

A motion to strip Republican Senator Julie Frye-Mueller of her voting rights was approved by more than two-thirds of the Senate on Thursday afternoon. This does not remove her from her duties.

The motion to strip Frye-Mueller of Senate voting powers passed 27-6 with 2 excused.

Frye-Mueller spoke against the motion and said she did not know what was said against her and had a right to defend herself.

Republican Senator Tom Pischke also called for more due process. He said it was a “he said, she said” situation.

The motion to establish the select committee came from Republican Senator Herman Otten and Republican Senator Michael Rohl. Lieutenant Governor Larry Rhoden said the cart moved ahead of the horse. He ruled the motion out of order, but Republican Senator Lee Schoenbeck challenged the president’s decision and won majority support.

Schoenbeck said the power to strip Frye-Mueller of his voting rights stems from rules explained by the LRC. He said the rules allow the Senate to protect the “decorum of the body.”

He said that’s what any employer would do if faced with these issues and called it a suspension.

A select committee will investigate Fyre-Mueller’s conduct and her voting rights as a state senator will be suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.

Rhoden told reporters the Senate overruled it after ruling the motion out of order.

“It’s part of the process,” he said.

Frye-Mueller is a leading voice in the Legislature against vaccines. She is the lead sponsor of SB-125 which would ban any additional vaccine requirements for children. Last year, she was the top Senate patron of HB-1258 who allegedly treated whether someone had been vaccinated against COVID-19 as confidential medical information. She also served as the senior Senate sponsor of HB-1262 which sought to prohibit discrimination based on a person’s vaccination status or possession of an immunity passport.

“She just had a conversation with an LRC staff member (about vaccines),” Pischke told KELOLAND News of why she is now in trouble. “I really believe Julie didn’t mean any harm or meanness, but it was taken differently. It’s unfortunate.”

Six senators who voted against suspending the rules were Arch Beal, Frye-Mueller, Brent Hoffman, Pischke, Dean Wink and Larry Zikmund.

Excused were John Wiik and Red Dawn Foster.

Republican Sen. Casey Crabtree told the weekly leadership press conference that there was a staffing issue in the Senate and that lawmakers would not share details until they could.

“No different from what you would do in running your business,” Crabtree said.

Frye-Mueller had his committee assignments cut Wednesday afternoon. She served on the Senate Local Government Committee and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

The video, via South Dakota Public Broadcasting, shows the Senate action on Thursday. Start at 59:00.