Lawmakers are backing a bill that would aim to eliminate future situations in which conflicts of interest in state boards spur scandal in South Dakota.
The House State Affairs Committee unanimously approved a measure Wednesday that would require appointed or elected officials on the state's authorities, boards and commissions to disclose conflicts of interest they may have in dealing with those agencies' goals.
The bill's prime sponsor in the House, Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, said the measure was created to help prevent perceived conflicts like those discovered in the EB-5 and Gear Up scandals in recent years. He said the measure allows officials to disclose a conflict of interest without asking them to step down from a board or agency in some cases.
Members of those bodies, including third-party education groups that handle state or federal dollars, would have to acknowledge any conflicts they or their spouse might have or they could face Class-1 misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to one year in jail, $2,000 fine or both.
"I think that there are many people that are put in a place that wonder if they have a conflict of interest," Mickelson said. "I think the public would be happy knowing we have a process in place."
Rep. Spencer Hawley, D-Brookings, said the measure wasn't as strong as he'd like, but was a step in the right direction.
"Adding more light to those situations has to be helpful," Hawley said.
House Majority Leader Brian Gosch, R-Rapid City, said the measure accounts well for the state's small size and the inability at times to get enough volunteers for boards and agencies.
"We don’t want to discourage them and make it too difficult to do so," Gosch said.
The bill now moves to the House floor.
The committee defeated a stricter measure brought forth by Rep. Paula Hawks, D-Hartford, Wednesday.
- South Dakota
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