UPDATE: SD state senator responds to removal from committees, is suspended from duties

Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Rapid City) is responding for the first time after being stripped of her committee assignments by Senate leadership Wednesday.
Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Rapid City) exits the Senate during floor debate
Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Rapid City) exits the Senate during floor debate(Austin Goss DNN/KOTA)
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 11:47 AM CST
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PIERRE, S.D. - Senator Julie Frye-Mueller of Rapid City has been indefinitely suspended from her duties in the South Dakota Senate because of an interaction that she had with a LRC staffer.

UPDATE: The move to suspend Frye-Mueller came after contentious debate between senators on the floor Thursday.

Allies of Frye-Mueller like her seatmate Tom Pischke rose to speak in favor of her. She gained the support of Lieutenant Gov. Larry Rhoden, who issued some cautionary words against suspending the Rapid City area senator and moved to try and block the suspension.

“We are denying a member of a long-standing legal principle in the United States of America of due process,” Rhoden said. “We have put the cart ahead of the horse, suspending a member and taking away their ability to serve the people who elected them, before they have had the ability to get the support of a jury of their peers or a board.”

Although Rhoden attempted to overrule the motion, senators ultimately were able to overrule him with two-thirds of the member elect, paving the way for Frye-Mueller’s suspension.

No date has been given for when a select committee will investigate her, but Senate Majority Leader Casey Crabtree has proised a public process they’d like to be completed by early next week.

PREVIOUSLY: A South Dakota State Senator is responding to a decision by Senate leadership to remove her from her committee assignments.

In a statement to Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory, Sen. Julie Frye-Mueller (R-Rapid City) accused Senate President Pro Tempore Lee Schoenbeck (R-Watertown) of “stripping the people of District 30 of representation on important topics that effect our district.”

“To date, I have not received any formal written complaint or charge against me,” Frye-Mueller continued.

Frye-Mueller acknowledged that the reason for the controversy stemmed from a conversation that she had earlier this week with a Legislative Research Council (LRC) staffer, but said that that conversation did not revolve around the COVID-19 vaccine and it’s efficacy, as has been speculated in the State Capitol.

LRC Director Reed Holwegner declined to comment on the incident, or any subsequent investigation.

“That is a political issue,” Holwegner said.

“It is a sad day in America when advancing freedom becomes a crime,” Frye-Mueller said, vowing to keep the public updated on the situation.

In addition to being removed from her committee assignments, Frye-Mueller has also been barred indefinitely from attending Senate Republican caucus meetings, which happen every day of session before Senators go to the floor.

Both Schoenbeck and Majority Leader Casey Crabtree (R-Madison) have declined to comment on the matter.