South Dakota lawmakers have blocked a proposed rule that would have banned sexual contact between legislators and their young interns and pages.
State Sen. Stace Nelson (R), who sponsored the proposed ban, told fellow legislators the rule is necessary to prevent a repeat of an ugly incident from 2007, when a member of the state Senate was censured after being accused of fondling an intern.
“There’s been events in history that indicate these rules should have been put in stone and they haven’t,” Nelson told the Joint Committee on Legislative Procedure, according to the Argus Leader. “This is a rule we brought forth to address this so that there is no gray area.”
Those who voted against the proposal said inappropriate sexual advances are already banned under state rules. The committee voted to defer the proposal for more than a month, a step that effectively kills the idea.
“I’m hesitant to pass something when we get into itemizing every potential wrongdoing that a legislator could commit, lest this become a criminal code rather than a code of ethics,” said state Rep. David Lust (R), a member of the committee.
South Dakota lawmakers are also engaged in an effort to block a package of ethics reforms approved by voters in November. A state judge has blocked the law, saying it violated South Dakota’s constitution.
The package of reforms includes provisions giving citizens public financing vouchers, creating an ethics commission and preventing outgoing legislators from lobbying their former colleagues for two years after they leave office. Several legislative leaders sued to block the law after it passed with almost 52 percent of the vote.