Noem’s travel prompts transparency bill to force release of security costs

Jessica Wong

South Dakota lawmakers have introduced a bill that would possibly open up some information concerning Governor Kristi Noem’s security expenses while traveling outside the state. The description for house bill 1089 says it will “Authorize the disclosure of protection and security expenditures for public officials.” One of the co-sponsors says […]

South Dakota lawmakers have introduced a bill that would possibly open up some information concerning Governor Kristi Noem’s security expenses while traveling outside the state. The description for house bill 1089 says it will “Authorize the disclosure of protection and security expenditures for public officials.”

One of the co-sponsors says it was prompted by Governor Kristi Noem’s recent travel while campaigning for former president Donald Trump. The highway patrol provides security for Noem when she travels, including trips outside of South Dakota, and the governor’s office will not say how much that security costs.

For instance, members of the highway patrol were with her when a man showed up with two weapons at a campaign event in Maine in late October. A spokesperson for the governor said troopers helped keep her out of harm’s way.

House Bill 1089 clarifies the cost associated with traveling security for the governor or any other state official is not protected information. That includes meals, lodging, travel, and compensation.

“I’m one who believes that our governor is always our governor and so when she travels, she deserves to have security with her, but as an appropriator, I also think it is an appropriate question to ask, ‘how much does it cost?’” said Democratic Senator Reynold Nesiba.

Nesiba says he and Republican Representative Taffy Howard of Rapid City came up with this bill independently. It was an aide who informed them they were actually working on the same legislation.

“And at some point, one of our staffers said, you know there is somebody else interested in this bill. And Taffy Howard and I think we are both surprised who the other person was because we mostly disagree about an awful lot of things, so this was one where you know, conservative Republican and a progressive Democrat can get together to say this is just about good government the people of South Dakota deserve to know what it costs to provide security for our governor when she travels,” Nesiba said.

The bill has bipartisan support among its sponsors in both houses, with five Republicans and one Democrat. The bill is currently awaiting committee assignment.

Nesiba requested the financial information from the governor’s office but was told that it would not be released. Nesiba says under current South Dakota law, the governor can choose not to release information.

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