Initiative & Referendum Task Force Final Meeting Wednesday–Contact Members NOW

No fewer than twenty bills are on the docket for consideration in the final meeting of the Initiative & Referendum Summer Task Force on Wednesday, August 23rd in Pierre.

And there’s no time slated for citizen input.

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A number of these bills were already discussed in the last meeting. However, the July meeting agenda provided for up to two hours of public comment on the draft bills; this final meeting agenda provides no room for citizen input on the plethora of new bills under consideration–many of which would undermine the citizens’ tools for direct democracy in this state.

This is the final meeting of the task force, where bill drafts will be recommended for consideration during the 2018 legislative session.

The more bad bills we kill now, the fewer bad bills we’ll have to fight in committee and on the House and Senate floor come January. That means you should contact Task Force members BEFORE Wednesday!

The Legislative Research Council has prepared a summary of all of the bill drafts under consideration, accessible here.

Contact information for the members of the task force is here:
Initiative & Referendum Task Force Contacts (PDF)

Dakota Rural Action’s stance is first and foremost to protect the initiative and referendum process. South Dakota was the first state in the nation to enshrine these tools for direct democracy, and they have been invaluable in dealing directly with issues the legislature won’t touch, as well as checking the legislature when they go in directions we don’t agree with.

Here’s a run-down of the bills under consideration. The numbers are the Legislative Research Council’s draft numbers. Our comments are in italics, and our stance is in boldface:

  • #77–Board of Elections can determine petition size and font size. Members of the task force who are on the Board of Elections have indicated this is already under their purview. NO.
  • #82–Requires initiated measures being circulated now for the 2018 ballot to go back to the LRC for a fiscal note. Last session, the requirement for IM’s to have a fiscal note passed, but did not go into effect until July 1st. So, this is basically cluttering the process for ballot measure committees who’ve already gone through the LRC process and are collecting signatures now (as well being a pain for the LRC). NO.
  • #83–Revise the attorney general’s recitation of “yes” or “no.” This may actually have some benefit, as previous initiators have indicated concern over the AG’s ballot wording of what a “Yes” or a “No” vote does. This bill would simplify (and potentially neutralize) that language. YES.
  • #84–If two ballot measures on the same subject but with conflicting language pass in the same election, the measure receiving the most votes supersedes. Seems reasonable. MAYBE.
  • #87–Moves the filing deadline for initiated measure petitions from one year to the second day of May prior to the next general election. More time for circulating and gathering petitions=more opportunity for direct democracy. YES.
  • #96–Allows petition circulation to begin 30 months (rather than 24) prior to the next general election. Again, more time for circulation means more opportunity for grassroots groups to gather signatures. That’s a YES.
  • #97–Allows the LRC to provide substantive assistance as well as style and form assistance to petition sponsors. This could be useful, so long as sponsors retain the right to say “no” to comments they disagree with. MAYBE.
  • #99–Removes the requirement for the full text of the measure to be on the petition form; allows circulators to provide the full text in a separate document. The measure would still require the attorney general’s summary to be printed on the petition itself. This could be helpful in terms of the costs associated with the printing of petitions, since the law now requires the petition and full text to be contained on a single piece of paper–leading to what Secretary of State Krebs referred to as “beach towel petitions” in cases of more lengthy measures. YES.
  • #80 & #81 (Constitutional Amendments)–Requires initiated constitutional amendments to pass with 55% and 60% of the vote, respectively. Proponents of these amendments argue that the constitution is too easy to amend (though to our knowledge none of those folks have been involved in an attempt to get one on the ballot). Initiated constitutional amendments already require double the number of signatures to get on the ballot, which on the ground (in order to account for a margin of error) means about 40,000 signatures. And then a majority of the voters actually have to agree. NO.
  • #95 & #96 (Constitutional Amendments)–Same as the two above, but with the addition of a 2/3 vote requirement for legislature-proposed constitutional amendments. For the reasons stated above, NO.
  • #73–Deadline for LRC comments on ballot measures determined by the length of the ballot measure. Due to a number of factors (including the possibility of an initiated measure that creates or amends several similarly worded sections), the contention that a lengthier ballot measure is necessarily more complex is false. NO.
  • #100–Provides for the automatic generation of a fiscal note for ballot measures. Since the requirement for ballot measures to have a fiscal note passed last session, this is a way to make that automatic rather than a separate step for initiators. YES.
  • #110–(Constitutional Amendment) Limit of two constitutional amendments per ballot. This actually limits to four total–two from the legislature and two from the people. It also sets up a situation where those with the most money to hire paid circulators get their petitions in first and claim those two spots. NO.
  • #113–(Constitutional Amendment) Initiated amendments passed in multiple legislatures/multiple elections. Requires that initiated amendments be passed in two consecutive general elections and that legislature-proposed amendments be passed, passed again in the next session after the general election, and then referred to voters. This overly complicates the process and puts too much time lag on issues that are of immediate concern. NO.
  • #114–(Constitutional Amendment) Initiatives may not be amended except as provided for in the language of the initiative. This blocks the legislature from repealing or amending initiatives passed by the people unless the language of the initiative itself allows for it, or the legislature has a 3/4 majority vote of both houses on an amendment or repeal. YES.
  • #101, #107, #108–Citizen review panels for initiated laws and initiated constitutional amendments. All of these unnecessarily complicate the process by setting up yet another hoop to jump through and a potentially biased one at that. There is nothing that currently blocks folks from having public discussions about what’s on the ballot, so it’s of dubious merit to have the legislature setting up a forum that forces initiators to go through a process they make up. NO.

Dakota Rural Action lobbyist Rebecca Terk will be at Wednesday’s hearing in Pierre to report on the task force’s decisions. The members of the task force should hear from YOU before then with a strong message about protecting the process, and specific input about the bill drafts that should be scrapped.

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Report Out: Initiative & Referendum Task Force July Meeting

The Summer Task Force on Initiative & Referendum met for a second time last week in Pierre to discuss research reports and draft legislation prepared by the Legislative Research Council (LRC) at the request of task force members.

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By the time the Task Force reconvened on Wednesday, July 19th, no fewer than twelve bill drafts were posted to the LRC’s website–some of which were simply different iterations of similar ideas. For example, Senator Jim Bolin submitted two joint resolutions on raising the percentage of votes needed to pass a constitutional amendment–one that raised the percentage to 55% and one that raised it to 60%.

Proposed Changes to LRC’s Role

Another topic raised by multiple bills was the amount of time the LRC has to comment on proposed initiated measures and the types of comments provided. One such bill changed the LRC’s comment deadline from fifteen days to fifteen working days; another bill draft proposed that the LRC would not provide comment on initiated measures during the legislative session.

A third bill suggested a time frame based on the number of words in the measure, and a fourth bill dealing with the LRC’s role made provision for substantive comments on initiated measures to “minimize conflict with existing laws.’ It should be noted that in current statute (and none of the bill drafts amend this), the sponsors of initiatives “may, but are not required to, amend the initiative or initiated amendment to the Constitution to comply with the [LRC] director’s comments.”

Otten’s Unpopular Proposals

Roundly rejected by the task force (including by its own author–Senator Ernie Otten) was a measure to limit the number of ballot measures (initiated laws, referred laws, and constitutional amendments) that could appear on the ballot. None of the members could get behind what would likely turn out to be a race–most likely to be won by the biggest monied interests hiring the most paid circulators–to be the first to collect signatures and submit them to the Secretary of State.

Otten also brought forward a bill to back-date the requirement for fiscal notes (passed last session and effective July 1 of this year) on initiated measures and amendments to include those already in process before July 1st of this year. Technically, it’s possible to do this–if the bill passed without an emergency clause in the next session, it would become effective July 1, 2018, but one wonders if legislators would risk a legal challenge by telling ballot question committees that got out of the gate early this year to go back to the LRC a few months before the election for a fiscal note.

More Time for Petitioners?

A draft bill introduced by Senator Reynold Nesiba would push forward the due date for signed petitions on initiated measures (not constitutional amendments, which require twice as many signatures as proposed laws) from one year prior to the next general election to the last day of June prior to the election. Secretary of State Krebs was adamantly opposed to moving the date forward because of local elections and other requirements of her staff’s time, but did suggest that allowing the submission, comment, and petition process to start earlier might be an option she could get on board with.

Streamlining & Conflict Resolution

Two draft bills appearing the day before the task force met embodied ideas of attorney Will Mortenson, who in 2016 led the campaign to defeat Amendment V (non-partisan races and open primaries). Mortenson’s contributions to the raft of bills included a measure to resolve conflicting initiated measures on a single ballot (if both are passed, the one with the most votes takes precedence), and another to change the ballot recitation (the language developed by the attorney general describing what a “yes” vote and a “no” vote does) to, in the simplest of terms, indicate that a yes vote passes the measure and a no vote rejects the measure.

A full list of the draft bills and research information from the Initiative & Referendum Task Force’s July 19th meeting are available on the Legislative Research Council’s website here.

The Task Force will reconvene for what is likely its final meeting on Wednesday, August 23rd, 9am, in Room 362 (Appropriations Committee Room) of the State Capitol. Discussion at the July meeting indicated that members will consider new bills as well as those already posted and make final decisions on which to recommend to the 2018 legislature.

We hope to see you there.

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Initiative & Referendum Task Force: Take Two

The Summer Task Force on Initiative & Referendum meets again at the State Capitol, Room 414, on Wednesday, July 19th to discuss draft legislation and take public testimony. Dakota Rural Action’s lobbyist will be there, and we invite members to join us at the Capitol, and to contact task force members.

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Since the first meeting of the task force in June, the Legislative Research Council (LRC) has drafted no fewer than ten bills at the request of committee members, as well as fulfilling several research requests. You can read the compiled research and full text of bill drafts on the LRC’s website by clicking here.

The members of the task force need to hear from South Dakotans (that means YOU!) that these tools for Direct Democracy should not be weakened or undermined. Contact them using the link below.

Initiative & Referendum Task Force Contacts (PDF)

Here is a short summary of the ten bills drafted thusfar:

  1. Lengthens the amount of time the LRC has to review initiated laws and constitutional amendments from fifteen days to fifteen working days.
  2. Ties the amount of time the LRC has to review initiated laws and constitutional amendments to the number of words in the initiated measure.
  3. Exempts the LRC from reviewing citizen-initiated laws and constitutional amendments during the regular legislative session–reviews of any initiated measures submitted during the session would be due 15 days following the close of session.
  4. On initiated measures submitted to their office, directs the LRC to provide comments not only on style and form (required at present), but on the “substantive content” of initiated measures, “in order to minimize any conflict with existing law and to ensure the measure’s or amendment’s effective administration.”
  5. Limits the number of initiated measures, referred laws, and constitutional amendments that can appear on the ballot.
  6. Directs the State Board of Elections to promulgate rules concerning petition size and font size.
  7. Moves the dates for completed petitions to be submitted to the Secretary of State’s office from one year ahead of the next general election to the last day of June prior to the general election (increasing the amount of time petitioners have to collect signatures).
  8. A resolution increasing the number of votes required to pass an initiated constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 60% (if passed, this resolution would go to the voters for approval).
  9. A resolution increasing the number of votes required to pass an initiated constitutional amendment from a simple majority to 55% (if passed by the legislature, this resolution would go to the voters for approval).
  10. Requiring initiated laws and constitutional amendments submitted before July 1 of 2017 to include a fiscal note (this covers those measures submitted before SB77 went into effect).

Remember, Task Force members need to hear from you!

And, so do we!
Dakota Rural Action’s work at the capitol is 100% funded by members.
We help bring the voice of the people to Pierre.
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ACTION ALERT: Protect Initiative & Referendum

The Summer Task Force on Initiative & Referendum is Meeting This Week.

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Today was the first meeting. Tomorrow, public testimony is being heard in Room 413 at the State Capitol.

Contact the members of the Task Force NOW and tell them South Dakota’s Direct Democracy is important to all of us. They must PROTECT our right to initiate and refer laws–NOT weaken it or make it more difficult to access.

There are plenty of problems in South Dakota’s government, but the initiative and referendum process is not a problem–it’s a solution–a tool for voters to fix what’s not being addressed by the legislature.
Contact the Task Force TODAY to say you want Direct Democracy protected!

Initiative & Referendum Task Force Roster:
Legislator Members:
Senator Jim Bolin
Jim.Bolin@sdlegislature.gov

Representative Don Haggar
Don.Haggar@sdlegislature.gov

Senator Reynold Nesiba
Reynold.Nesiba@sdlegislature.gov

Senator Ernie Otten
Ernie.Otten@sdlegislature.gov

Representative Tim Reed
Tim.Reed@sdlegislature.gov

Representative Karen Soli
Karen.Soli@sdlegislature.gov

Non-Legislator Members:
Dr. Emily Wanless (Chair)
ewanless@augie.edu

Pam L. Lynde
plynde@itctel.com

Linda Lea M. Viken
llmv@vikenlaw.com

Yvonne Taylor
yvonne@sdmunicipalleague.org

Duane Sutton
sutton.duane@gmail.com

Will Mortenson
will.mortenson@gmail.com

James W. Abbott
james.abbott@usd.edu
(Jim Abbott was absent from the initial meeting)

Access the agenda and documents for the Task Force via the Legislative Research Council here.

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