Are pages needed?

Are pages needed?
There's talk that a written code of ethics is needed for South Dakota lawmakers.

After what's happened in the last year or two, it's easy to conclude that such a code is needed.

State Sen. Dan Sutton, D-Flandreau, was publicly reprimanded earlier this year for inappropriate behavior because he shared his motel bed with an 18-year-old page in last year's legislative session. Senators decided not to expel Sutton because charges he had groped the boy were never proven.

The latest scandal to come out of Pierre involves former Rep. Ted Klaudt of Walker. He was charged May 18 with rape and other sex offenses against two girls who had been his foster daughters.

One of the girls was allegedly molested when she traveled to Pierre with Klaudt to serve as a legislative page.

This week, the Legislature's Executive Board voted unanimously to set up a subcommittee that will study the issue and make recommendations on a code of ethics that could be adopted by the House and Senate in 2008.

"We've got to do something in black and white to protect the pages, to protect the legislators, to protect the state of South Dakota," Sen. Gene Abdallah, R-Sioux Falls, said.

The Legislature's Executive Board also agreed to create a second subcommittee that will study the page program, which brings high school seniors to the Capitol each year to run errands for lawmakers.

Perhaps the conclusions of this second subcommittee will have the most importance in this whole process.

It's time for South Dakota to seriously ask this question: Can't the Legislature operate efficiently without pages?

We believe the answer is simple. Of course it can. We aren't about to disagree with those who will point out the "educational" opportunities that the legislative page program offers to high school students each year.

Yes, it gives them a chance to be on the front lines each year, as they witness history in the making during while they work with the state Legislature in the Capitol building.

We have to wonder, though. Couldn't they learn just as much by watching the proceedings of the state Senate and state House from the galleries, or by sitting in the audience of various committee meetings?

Is there really an added educational benefit provided by running errands, making copies and doing other menial tasks for lawmakers?

Just to be safe, we recommend the Legislature put the page program on hold this year as it kicks around different ideas to provide a truly meaningful, educational experience for young people during each session – and at the same time, insure their time in Pierre will never be something they will regret.

The Vermillion Plain Talk editorials reflect the opinion of Plain Talk editor David Lias. You may contact him at

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