Senator Wismer sponsors bill on freedom of speech

PIERRE, S.D. (KXLG) – Are state employees being gagged by their higher ups? Democratic State Senator Susan Wismer of Britton says it appears so and that’s why she sponsored Senate Bill 148 which provides for state employee protections from retaliation for certain communications.  Appearing before the Senate State Affairs Committee Monday morning Wismer listed several examples where employees freedom of speech was prevented and or scripted by higher ups.

Wismer says all legislators hear from department heads and other state supervisors is that everything is fine and under control. What they don’t hear are the high workmen’s comp claims in the state’s understaffed care facilities and the loss of institutional expertise the state suffers when it decides the definition of pocketbook means to cut faculty and keep salaries below market. She says that’s only feeding the other state’s work force with South Dakota’s children.

Wismer says the legislature should be sharing power with the executive branch equally, even though South Dakota’s constitution calls for a weak legislature. Aaron Arnold, who is the Director of Human Resources with the South Dakota Department of Human Resources, opposed the bill.  He says the legislation really gets to the heart of whether or not the state, as an employer, has the ability to establish clear effective communication policy.

He said the legislation isn’t needed because the state already has whistleblower protections.  However, on a 6-2 vote the measure was approved and is now headed to the Senate Floor with a due pass motion.