Turning a page on timing of state oaths

Tony Venhuizen, who is the governor’s chief of staff, and a leader in Pierre’s Trail of Governors statues project, told an interesting story to legislators Tuesday about how Gov.-elect Coe Crawford took office Jan. 8, 1907.

South Dakota’s early tradition had the departing governor provide the State of the State address on the opening Tuesday of the Legislature’s new session as he prepared to leave office, according to Venhuizen. Then the governor-elect took the oath.

That was the case in 1907 as Coe Crawford, a member of the Republican Party’s progressive wing, entered the governor’s office. Crawford had defeated the incumbent, Samuel Elrod, a member of the stalwart wing, for the Republican nomination and then won in November.

Venhuizen explained that Crawford’s oath marked the last time a South Dakota governor began his first term on the same day as the legislative session began. It would happen again at the start of 2019 when the next governor takes office, a situation that Gov. Dennis Daugaard doesn’t want to happen.

State law was changed at some time after Crawford. The law currently reads: “Except as otherwise expressly provided, all state, district, and county officers shall qualify and enter upon the duties of their office on the first Monday of January succeeding their election or within twenty days thereafter.”

That would mean the new governor would start one day before session opens but two days after the inauguration festivities Pierre is planning.

A proposed law the Legislature will consider today, at Daugaard’s request, in its special session would add another sentence: “However, a state officer may qualify and enter upon the duties of office on the Saturday immediately preceding the second Tuesday of January that succeeds the state officer’s election.”

The change would allow Pierre’s 2019 inaugural celebration to proceed on the Saturday before legislative session starts. Venhuizen noted the next time the calendar falls in such a way would be 2047.

He later provided to this reporter a list of governors who took office on the same day that session began:

1991 George S. Mickelson (second term)
1963 Archie Gubbrud (second term)
1957 Joe Foss (second term)
1935 Tom Berry (second term)
1929 W. J. Bulow (second term)
1907 Coe Crawford (first and only term)
1901 Charles Herreid (first term)
1895 Charles Sheldon (second term)