South Dakota Senate votes to censure, unsuspend Julie Frye-Mueller
PIERRE, S.D. – The Senate voted Wednesday to censure Senator Julie Frye-Mueller (R – District 30) over comments about vaccination and breastfeeding she made to a Legislative Research Council staffer.
The Senate Select Committee on Discipline and Expulsion earlier that day had recommended censuring her, limiting her access to LRC staff, and reinstating her Senate rights. That recommendation passed the Senate by a vote of 33-1, with Tom Pischke (R – District 25) being the only ‘No’ vote.
This comes after the Committee on Tuesday heard testimony from Senator Julie Frye-Mueller, her husband Mike Mueller, and the unnamed LRC staffer who filed a complaint against Frye-Mueller. The SD Senate Select Committee voted unanimously that night to draft the recommendation.
See these photos from the Committee hearing:
Senator David Wheeler (R – District 22), who chaired the Committee, spoke in favor of the measure, explaining the wide range of power that the Senate has in determining how to discipline its own members, and arguing that censuring and reinstating Frye-Mueller was the correct level of action to take.
“We believe that is enough to appropriately address the matter and to make the statement to all legislators that your conduct with staff members must be above reproach. You must talk with them, and interact with them, professionally. There is no leeway in that,” Wheeler said.
Senator Tom Pischke spoke against the measure, arguing that the Senate did not constitutionally have the ability to do what it had done in suspending Frye-Mueller, as well as saying that he did “not believe she [Frye-Mueller] engaged in harassment”.
“I would make this speech for each and every one of you because that’s how much I care about our Constitution and this institution,” Pischke said. “This is not about party lines, this is not about ideology, this is about this body,”
With the passage of the measure, Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller is no longer suspended and has full voting rights in the Senate. She is also restricted from 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.