Judge allows lobbyist to return to South Dakota House floor
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A federal judge is allowing a longtime lobbyist to return to the South Dakota House floor after she alleged the Republican speaker banned her over a magazine column in which she wrote that the number of “wackies” in the Legislature was increasing.
U.S. District Judge Roberto Lange on Friday granted Yvonne Taylor, who heads the South Dakota Municipal League, a temporary restraining order preventing House Speaker Steve Haugaard from barring Taylor from that chamber’s floor, the Rapid City Journal reported.
According to Lange’s opinion, both sides are working toward a settlement, but he granted the order to “avert immediate or irreparable injury” to Taylor while discussions continue. The order lasts for at least two weeks.
“The public interest disfavors elected officials retaliating against journalists or columnists who write articles encouraging people to vote and criticizing close minded legislators,” Lange wrote. “The Court hopes that Haugaard was not doing that and had some other thought in mind.”
Taylor has lobbied since 1997 for the Municipal League, a nonprofit which advocates on behalf of the state’s municipalities. She allege d that Haugaard, an attorney from Sioux Falls, objected to a column she wrote in May which lamented the “wackies” who oppose government and any taxation, and that he barred her from the House floor during a private meeting at the Capitol on Jan. 14.
Taylor alleged in a lawsuit that Haugaard said her column made the Legislature look like “a bunch of buffoons,” and she accused him of unlawful retaliation and violating her free speech rights. She said banning her from the floor prevented her from being able to adequately represent her group’s members.
The House floor is typically open to lobbyists, journalists and members of the public.
Taylor’s attorney, David Lust, declined to comment to the newspaper.
Haugaard did not immediately reply to a Sunday email from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Information from: Rapid City Journal, http://www.rapidcityjournal.com