Denise Ross hates closed caucuses, but the SDNA chief thinks they're ok.
Read all of this long article here.
For an hour or so before each day's floor session, the lawmakers in each chamber meet in separate, private party caucuses to discuss bills, strategies and other issues.
And in the final days of a legislative session, the lawmakers frequently will stop public debate and disappear into private caucus meetings, said Denise Ross, a former reporter for the Rapid City Journal. The legislators then reappear and decide the fate of the year's most important bills, she said.and...
Ross, who covered the Legislature for six years, said she objects because lawmakers hold closed meetings in the Capitol, the most public of all buildings in South Dakota.and..
Dave Bordewyk, general manager of the South Dakota Newspaper Association, said he is not bothered by the closed caucuses because such discussions are just part of the Legislature's organizational process.
I can tell that it's a really, really slow news time when reporters are dragging this one out. I think it's an almost annual thing when the MSM complains about caucuses being closed. And then it goes back in the vault for a year or two until they decide that the quotes need to be updated.
The legislature is not like a non-partisan school board. It is the most obviously partisan political arena that exists within our governmental structure, and that give and take between parties is also part of the function.
I'd look at it as the great filter for ideas. There are so many ideas coming from the people they represent; revolutionary ones, mild changes, goofyness of all shapes and flavors, and so on. The structure and process seems almost intentionally designed to filter out those ideas that are too radical for the moment, as well as those that are too ridiculous for any point in history.
The bills are dissected and discussed at many levels - at the point of committee, on the floor - and YES, there is information provided in caucus.
From my observations, at the caucus level it's more informal. The caucus leader might take the time to note "many of you question this part of a bill - this is why it's that way." Or legislators might ask what they think to be stupid questions that they'd never ask on the floor, and this is the place they get to do it.
Are there political discussions? On both sides, absolutely there is. There's also momentary hissy fits, harsh language, and many other things that are said that aren't appropriate. But if every moment of every day in a legislator's professional life required that they guard their thoughts and words, lest something be taken incorrectly, I'd argue you'd see much less done. You'd see legislation where no one would take a risk. Or you'd have absolute anarchy where you'd never know what someone was coming with next because communication between legislators would cease.
But that's what the caucuses do. That's what they're for. It's a place for the free exchange of ideas between colleagues. It's for unguarded moments when you're otherwise in the spotlight 24-7.
It's not like the a newspaper like the Argus or Rapid City Journal is going to invite the public into their editorial meetings to hash out stories, and let people follow them around as they cover events just out of someone's morbid curiosity. It would be impossible for them to get their jobs done.
Just as the legislators need a few moments to get stupid questions and the political stuff out of the way before they go do the people's work.