South Dakota Sunshine Law

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The South Dakota Sunshine Law is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in South Dakota.

The South Dakota Open Meetings Law legislates the methods by which public meetings are conducted.

To learn more about how to make a public records request in this state, please see South Dakota FOIA procedures.

Relevant legal cases

See also: Court cases with an impact on state FOIA and South Dakota sunshine lawsuits

Here is a list of relevant lawsuits in South Dakota (cases are listed alphabetically; to order them by year, please click the icon to the right of the "year" heading).
We do not currently have any pages on litigation in South Dakota.

Proposed changes


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2011

We do not have any legislation for South Dakota in 2011.


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2010

We do not have any legislation for South Dakota in 2010.


See also: Proposed reforms in state sunshine laws, 2009

House Bill 1135: authorizing posting on the internet

House Bill 1135 was introduced on January 29, 2009, and it sought to authorize the state and any municipality, county or school district to maintain an official website.[1]

Senate Bill 143: creating a public records website

Senate Bill 143, proposed by Sen. Jason Gant (R-Sioux Falls) and signed into law by Governor Mike Rounds on March 30, 2009, requires the continued operation of Open South Dakota.[2][3] SB 143 requires the state to maintain a searchable website that provides public access to the financial information of the state, municipalities, counties, school districts and other political subdivisions.[2]

Senate Bill 144: requiring state contracts to be posted online

Senate Bill 144, proposed by Sen. Gant, was signed into law by Governor Rounds on March 30, 2009.[4] The bill requires all state contracts involving the expenditure of money to be posted online on the Open South Dakota website.[4]

Senate Bill 147: public access to records

In 2008, the Better Government Association ranked South Dakota as 50th in the nation for transparency.[5] However, things began to turn around for South Dakota when Governor Rounds signed Senate Bill 147 on March 30, 2009.[6][7] Prior to the passage of SB 147, the prevailing presumption in South Dakota was that all public records were confidential, with the burden of proof resting on a requestor to prove that he or should have access to a certain record.[5] Once the bill went into effect on June 1, 2009, South Dakota joined the majority of states where the presumption is that all records are public unless specifically exempted as confidential.[5]

The bill lists approximately 25 specific types of records as exempt from ready disclosure. These include such things as medical and personnel records, litigation documents, the phone records and memoranda of legislators, and some financial information from private entities seeking to do business with the state.[8]

Reaction to the bill

SB 147 garnered praise from the South Dakota Newspaper Association and the Argus Leader Executive Editor Maricarrol Kueter.[9] Kueter said, "The bill is a giant step forward in openness and would bring our state in line with most other states in transparency. Knudson has done an excellent job."[9] The editorial board of the Daily Republic endorsed SB 147, asking, "Who could vote “No” on Senate Bill 147?"[10] Meanwhile, Yvonne Taylor, an official with the South Dakota Municipal League, suggested that the bill went too far, and that her group would support it only with exceptions built in.[11]

Transparency report card

A 2008 study, BGA - Alper Integrity Index, conducted by the Better Government Association and sponsored by Alper Services, ranked South Dakota #50 - the worst score possible - in the nation with an overall percentage of 32.40%.[12]

A 2007 study, Graded state responsiveness to FOI requests, conducted by BGA and the NFOIC, gave South Dakota 0 points out of a possible 100, a letter grade of "F" and a ranking of 50 out of the 50 states.[13]

A 2002 study, Freedom of Information in the USA, conducted by IRE and BGA, ranked South Dakota's law as the 50th worst in the country, giving it a letter grade of "F."[14]

Features of the law

Sunshine variations Compare States: Sunshine variations
Click on the heading to compare your state's law to other state's transparency laws.

Declared legal intention

See also: Declared legal intentions across the U.S.

The South Dakota law does not contain a clearly defined legal intention.

What records are covered?

See also: Defining public records

Records as defined by South Dakota law include all records kept by public bodies in South Dakota, no matter the physical form.[15] The state also offers OpenSD, a searchable website with many public documents available.


Notable exceptions include but are not limited to:

  • Personal information of students or prospective students
  • Medical records
  • Trade secrets
  • Attorney client privilege
  • Law enforcement records
  • Appraisals of potential land sales or purchases
  • Employee information, excluding salary and work contact information
  • Security information
  • Credit card and bank account information
  • Library records
  • "Correspondence, memoranda, calendars or logs of appointments, working papers, and records of telephone calls of public officials or employees"[16]
  • Archaeological site information
  • Applicant information
  • Examinations
  • Records that "would constitute an unreasonable release of personal information"[17]
  • Inmate records

Deliberative process

See also: Deliberative process exemption

What agencies are covered?

See also: Defining public body

Public bodies are defined as all branches of government at both the state and local levels.[18]


See also: Legislatures and transparency

The legislature falls under the definition of public body found at South Dakota law 1-27-1.1 and is subject to the South Dakota Sunshine Law.

Privatized governmental agencies

See also: Private agency, public dollars and Private agency, public dollars-South Dakota

South Dakota law incorporates private entities that were both created by a public agency and perform a public function within its definition of public body found within the Sunshine Law.

Public universities

See also: Universities and open records

The definition of public body presumably includes public universities within the state. However, the law does explicitly exempt examinations at South Dakota law 1-27-1.5.

Who may request records?

See also: List of who can make public record requests by state

Anyone may request public records in South Dakota.[19] However, certain records concerning correctional facilities are not available to inmates.[20]

Must a purpose be stated?

See also: States requiring a statement of purpose

There are no requirements for a statement of purpose within South Dakota law.

How can records be used?

See also: Record use restrictions

There are no restrictions on the use of records in South Dakota law.

Time allowed for response

See also: Request response times by state

No response times are specified in South Dakota law.

Fees for records

Copy costs

See also: How much do public records cost?

Fees structures are typically left to the discretion of the agency in question. While the act is silent as to fees, certain Attorney General opinions have enforced the notion that reasonable fees can be charged for the duplication of documents.[21] Fees can also include the cost of the equipment required to transfer records across the internet and between various mediums.[22]

Search fees

See also: Sunshine laws and search fees

While the act is silent on the matter, Attorney General opinions have reinforced the notion that agencies may charge fees to cover the cost of records searches.[23]

Role of the Attorney General

See also: Role of the Attorney General

There is currently no provision within the state open records law that empowers the State Department of Law to enforce the right of the public to access governmental records.

Open meetings

Meetings of governmental agencies in South Dakota are open to the public and subject to the South Dakota Open Meetings Law.

Notable requests


State Senator Gene Abdalah requested information about the state's fleet of airplanes in November 2008. He requested the information from the state’s Legislative Research Council (LCR). The LCR then asked the Bureau of Finance and Management. The Bureau of Finance and Management told the Legislative Research Council that they would not give the LRC the records until the LRC told them who wanted the records and that, in general, they would require notification about who from the legislative branch wanted records so they could "better taylor [sic] the information towards the legislator’s knowledge and understanding of the issue."[24]

See also

External links