Municipal League Executive Director banned from floor for calling legislators “Wackies”

From the South Dakota Municipal League 1-17-19 weekly legislative update, it sounds like a battle is brewing:

From: Yvonne Taylor []
Sent: Thursday, January 17, 2019 3:55 PM
Subject: 1-17-19 Update

Attached and pasted below, the update this week. Sidewalk draft is also attached. – Y

Something very disturbing has happened this week. On Monday, I was called into the office of the Speaker of the House, Representative Steven Haugaard (R), Sioux Falls, asked to close the door, and a conversation ensued about a column I wrote for our magazine, SD Municipalities, in May, 2018. The Speaker told me that I had made the Legislature look like “a bunch of buffoons” and that I was allowed to think the thoughts expressed in the column, but that I could not publish them. He then asked me to not be on the House Floor during the times it was open to the public until further notice.

Yesterday, after consulting with multiple attorneys, I had a letter delivered to the Speaker saying I disagreed with the premise of his action, and stated that I wanted to have a written justification of his authority to ban me from the floor by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, January 16. I received no response.

This morning at 9 a.m., I approached the Sergeant at Arms and asked if I could come onto the floor. I was told he had been instructed not to let me on the floor. I asked who had given that order, and he replied “The Speaker.” He further handed me a section of Mason’s Rules that refer to Contempt and maintaining order.

I am unable to adequately represent you without being able to speak to members on the Floor of the House when it is open to the public. I am seeking legal counsel on this situation, but if you would like to communicate with your legislators on this issue, I would appreciate your support.

I’m thinking this isn’t the last we’re going to hear of this. in fact, this might be the opening salvo in a battle between the legislature and the lobbyist corps.

However, Yvonne’s article that triggered the action from the Speaker wasn’t exactly what you’d expect from someone who is supposed to convince legislators to vote their way:

I’m sure Legislators didn’t appreciate a blanket statement being called “Wackies” in the State’s Municipal League newsletter.

What are your thoughts?

35 Replies to “Municipal League Executive Director banned from floor for calling legislators “Wackies””

  1. Anonymous

    Yes, not a very professional piece of writing that’s for sure. Coming from Yvonne I’m not too surprised. Having served in the Legislature nearly a decade, she was not one of my favorites. I would call her a snooty liberal, and as a principled conservative I’m sure she considered me one of the “Wackies”. The Speaker has broad power over his domain, and I’m pretty sure this is well within his power.

  2. Anonymous

    1. Not a liberal, much less a snooty liberal.
    2. When you are a legislator did you read the rules of the body and ever see something giving the speaker such unilateral authority?
    3. Free speech, it’s a bitch isn’t it.

  3. Dave

    The actions of the Speaker are out of line, and say as much about how thin-skinned he must be as how ill-advised a published statement from a lobbyist whose job it is to convince legislators to support her client’s position.

    As a lawyer, the Speaker ought to know better. See SD Const. Art VI, Sec. 5, which says in part “Every person may freely speak, write and publish on all subjects. . .” Additionally, under the guise of the rules of the House, he is denying her liberty (free speech) and property rights (the ability to do her job) without due process, which also by the way violates Sec. 2 of the same Art. VI, which is part of the SD Bill of Rights.

    It may be “good to be the king” Mr. Speaker, but it seems you may have problems dealing with critics, which can be a real bummer. Looks like you’ve made a pretty good case for being one of those “Wackies”.

  4. Tiny Dancer

    Definitely unprofessional and not sure if she thought no legislator would find out about that? That being said, she’s exactly right! If she were my lobbyist, she wouldn’t be much longer, and I have a lot of respect for Yvonne.

    Also, not to be lost in this at all, I wonder what the Senate’s response is to this?

    1. Anonymous

      Well, one Sen. with a very big mouth stuck his foot all the way in it on the radio this morning. On Watertown’s KXLG, Sen.Schoenbeck defended Taylor, and said the legislature is full of whackies and crazies, and that Speaker Hauggard is the leader of the crazies. Reps. York and Bartels were also there but fortunately didn’t pile on, with Bartels actually being quite diplomatic in explaining that Taylor was apparently complaining about those conservatives who always oppose fee and tax increases.

  5. Lincoln County Delegate

    Good for Speaker Haugaard. I’m glad he’s sticking up for his members. No one has the right to be on the floor of the Legislature (except Legislators) and the Speaker has broad power over controlling the floor.

    “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.”

    1. Anonymous

      It’s an all or nothing right. Either everyone has the right to be on the floor, or he can close it off to all. He can’t single an individual out for exercising her free speech rights. Her behavior does not rise to the level of being disruptive to the body, just distasteful to some real “wackies”.

      1. Lincoln County Delegate

        It’s not a right at all for non-legislators be allowed on the floor. It’s a privilege. And the Speaker has the authority to take away that privilege from an individual as he see’s fit. Ms. Taylor absolutely has the right to say and publish whatever she wants to but that does not mean that she is free from the consequences of her speech.

        1. Anonymous

          Equal access to legislators is a right for everyone if the legislature allows access to anyone. Where it becomes a privilege is when the person’s behavior is disruptive to the affairs of the legislature. Her exercise of her free speech rights were not disruptive in any way (except in the myopic view of a newly-minted speaker who is interested in setting a tone for his term in the chair). Badly fumbled by him, and even worse coming from someone who is a lawyer.

  6. duggersd

    I do not know what the rules are. It really does not matter. This is a case where the optics look bad and makes the SOH appear petty. Whether this is the case or not, it will probably reflect poorly on the speaker. BTW, I am not sure of who she thinks the “wackies” are, but I’m pretty sure the Senate has a percentage of at least 3%.

  7. Troy Jones

    Lincoln County Delegate: “No one has the right to be on the floor of the Legislature (except Legislators) and the Speaker has broad power over controlling the floor.”. I agree. This is within the implied (if not express) authority of the Speaker.

    Yvonne Taylor: “I am seeking legal advice.” Wholly asinine. Even if she were to win (which I can’t imagine), it would be a Pyrrhic victory.

    Anonymous: Yvonne is a “snotty liberal” and anonymous is a “principled conservative.” This former legislator is an idiot (lobbyists answer to their board and they represent their views), a liar (she is not snotty), a fool (she doesn’t suffer lazy blowhards very well), and has no principles (lest he would use his name to make this charge and certainly can’t be afraid of retaliation from Yvonne).

    Now that said.

    1). The Speaker is being hyper-sensitive. He just should have said her comment wasn’t appreciated and better words could have been used in at least respect for the Institution.

    2). Yvonne should have taken her medicine and given the Speaker a bit of time to see the error of his ways.

    3). They should have a meeting today and get it resolved.

    1. Anonymous

      The original anonymous said “snooty”, not “snotty”. Whether you know anything about Yvonne or not , isn’t calling a large number of legislators “Whackies” and not normal in and of itself being rather snooty ?

          1. Troy Jones

            You are the coward taking a shot at her because she openly rightly said you are a wackie.

            I sign my name saying th same. When you have the courage to display a modicum of principal, call her what you will.

  8. Anonymous

    An excerpt from Trump’ newest book, MAGA
    “Most Angry Guys are Authoritarians”
    “All dissenters and critics should be rounded up and disposed of”
    I totally respect her for saying out loud what everyone else knows. This action proves her point and you can decide which camp this puts Haugaard in.
    Will SDGO be next I wonder????

  9. Troy Jones

    P.S. To be clear, I think Yvonne is extremely talented and, by serving our Municipalities all these years, has been a tremendous public servant. This needs to get resolved quickly- Her Municipalities (and thus its citizens) depend on her doing her job and the Legislators (who represent the same citizens) depend on understanding the impact of their work on our municipalities.

  10. Anonymous

    An ultra-religious conservative Christian getting offended? Say it ain’t so.

    They didn’t need Yvonne’s help in looking like a bunch of buffoons.

  11. Anonymous

    What about the new dress code on the house floor?

    How is this not misogynistic when a current lobbyist paid by represent us took the the airwaves to accuse legislators in general of being corrupt? He’s fine and still walking the floor. She used a less than flattering term in what appears to be an effort to drive her members to vote in the primary. Childish on the speakers part.

  12. Brian Liss

    The floor has been mismanaged by past Speakers. When I was in the House, the Speaker permitted exceedingly loud screaming and cursing at legislators during public access.

    I hope taking on Ms. Taylor encourages civilized behavior on the floor.

  13. Anonymous

    The speaker looks like a toddler. If you can’t handle criticism in print media, you probably shouldn’t be in the legislator. What a $nowflake.

  14. Anonymous

    1) The speaker has the authority to restrict floor privages; the courts will uphold that should the matter go that far.

    2) Enough crying and handwringing. It’s the Speaker’s prerogative to make these decisions.

  15. Bumstead

    This isn’t that big of a deal really. Ms. Taylor is still free to lobby in the halls, offices, lobbies, and Senate floor. She may go anywhere all the other lobbyists go, except the House Chamber. The Chamber isn’t open all that long anyway. It’s off limits to everyone during session and two hours prior and one hour after. Many Reps aren’t there anyway, those with offices are often in their office, and others are in the private lobby for privacy. If she wants to talk to a Rep. who is in their seat during open floor hours, all she has to do is ask a page or intern to ask the Rep. if he or she wants to see Yvonne.

  16. Anonymous

    1. Ms. Taylor is not the victim here. She shot off her mouth (pen) and wanted everyone to see her comments. Guess she thought she would be “cute.”
    2. The Municipal League should take a hard look at who lobbies for them now and how they are represented by her.
    3.Then there is Lee trying to defend Taylor on his buddy’s radio station by taking shots at House Leadership. History repeats.

    1. Troy Jones

      1). I agree she is not a victim. And her response was ill-advised. So was the Speakers.

      2). Everyone should always be under evaluation and given feedback. And few entities have been as well represented as the Municipal League.

      3). I didn’t hear Lees remarks but if the essence is the Speaker over-reacted (His job isn’t to protect guys who can’t handle criticism) and has created precedent he will regret because I promise this wasnt the first or last time his minions will be criticized, I agree with Lee.

  17. Lee Schoenbeck

    This discussion is fascinating. A citizen wrote an opinion eight months ago. The Speaker was offended by the opinion, and to suppress public expression ruled that ONE citizen in the state of South Dakota is not allowed on the floor of the House. The only authority to rule is the decorum rule. The dissent against government was not in any fashion part of the decorum of the house.
    This citizen’s job includes use of the floor – access granted to the other 830,000 South Dakotans (except her).

    So first, you have a speaker opposed to the First Amendment — and the very purpose for which it was written.

    Second, content – at least to us conservatives that believe in the Constitution – is irrelevant. Americans have a near absolute right to publish dissent against the government

    Third, the legal problem the Speaker has is not about getting sued to make him stop doing what he couldn’t do in the first place. His problem is that he violated the federal law the REPUBLICANS past after the Civil War.

    SO, let’s hope the House members properly reprimand him Tuesday and get a Speaker that will follow the rules. ALSO, there are a long list of conservatives that have criticized the legislature or individual legislators – many here on this blog – some on this post. I would defend your right to do so – will you defend the right of others to do as you do??

  18. Anonny

    I agree with Lee. And Yvonne. Its overreach by the Speaker. Yes, there are some wackies. Always has been and most close observers would agree there are more now than ever. They all have freedom of speech as should the rest of us. Time for the Speaker to develop some thicker skin and respect freedom of speech.

  19. Anonymous

    Has anybody else noticed we only have her side of the story here? That it was about an op-ed she published in May?
    It took him 8 months to find out about it? Maybe somebody just happened to bring it to his attention this week. But maybe something else happened that caused her to be banished, and neither one is telling us what it is. I would like to hear his side of the story.

  20. Anon1

    She said what most of us are thinking… There are too many Wackies in the legislature. In less than two weeks as Speaker, Haugaard has lost his integrity and respect. She was not disruptive on the floor, and has the first amendment right to say what she wants. Grow up, Speaker, or step down and let an adult do the job.


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