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Gag Law — 2001

RESOLUTION: REPEAL OF THE SOUTH DAKOTA GAG LAW ON STATE AGENCIES

WHEREAS in 1995 and 1996 the South Dakota Legislature passed South Dakota Law 1-27-27 through 1-27-32 (commonly known as the “gag law”)  which says that any state agency which is authorized by law to investigate, examine, or audit the papers, books, records, financial condition or other information held by or concerning a private entity may not disclose that it is conducting such investigation, examination or audit: and

WHEREAS violation of this law is classified as a felony offense: and

WHEREAS the gag law was passed due as a result of a disagreement between elected officials: and

WHEREAS this law had to be amended in 1997 because it was found to be unconstitutional and made it impossible for environmental inspectors to comply with federal law which requires full public disclosure of companies that pollute the environment: and

WHEREAS it is possible that other state officials may be unable to comply with other federal regulations and agency directives, which may affect federal funding: and

WHEREAS this law has since been used to block citizens from knowing if specific enforcement measures are being taken by state agencies, including information related to any investigations which may be occurring within South Dakota: and

WHEREAS it has been recognized by the Argus Leader and others that this law creates a situation in which “any state official may be perceived as being handcuffed by the law while using it to assure that the interests of the rich and powerful are not held to the same standard as average individuals, or the cloak of secrecy could be used to hide the fact that the state doesn’t care to address a ticklish issue”: and

WHEREAS the public has a right to know whether state agencies are enforcing the law: and

WHEREAS there are other state and federal laws to protect the rights of individuals under investigation: now

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the South Dakota Resources Coalition calls for repeal of South Dakota Codified Law 1-27-27 through 1-27-32 (commonly known as the “gag law”).

Adopted by the membership of the South Dakota Resources Coalition at the October 20, 2001 Annual Meeting.

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