State Senate censures, reinstates suspended lawmaker

The State Senate on Wednesday voted 33-to-1 to censure and reinstate Republican Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller.

Sen. Frye-Mueller, who represents Rapid City, is also restricted in working with Legislative Research Council staff and legislative interns and pages for the remainder of the session. To access LRC services, she’ll need to contact the director of the LRC or their designate.

An LRC employee, a new mother, said that she had a concerning conversation with Sen. Frye-Mueller and her husband Mike, a lobbyist, last week in the LRC offices.  The employee said Sen. Frye-Mueller engaged in an inappropriate conversation about breastfeeding and vaccinating her baby. 

In adopting the report to discipline the Senator, Sen. David Wheeler of Watertown said the body needed to take these steps to protect the employee, the LRC, and the body’s integrity.

Republican Sen. Tom Pischke of Dell Rapids, the only member to vote against censure, said he did not think Sen. Frye-Mueller received appropriate due process. 

Following the vote, Lt. Gov. Larry Rhoden, President of the Senate, said he asked the Sergeant at Arms to contact Sen. Frye-Mueller so that she could return to the body. 

Senate Majority Leader Casey Crabtree of Madison said Wednesday that he is proud of the work the committee did in handling this matter.  He said there were three things he wanted to see happen with the process.

Crabtree supported the committee’s report censuring the Senator and reinstating her and said he hopes the Senate can now continue with its regular business.

As of Wednesday, there was still a pending federal lawsuit arising from the incident against Republican Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, President Pro Tem of the Senate in his official role, filed by Sen. Frye-Mueller.

February 2, 2023


(Thanks in part, Todd Epp, SDBA Legislative Reporter)