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!
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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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Weekly Legislative Update

Weekly Legislative Update

It has been a tough battle in Pierre this week. We have had some wins, but there have also been some last minute losses. Next week is the last week of session, though, and there is a very concerning bill coming up in committee Monday morning which is imperative to defeat either in committee (preferable) or on the House floor. Read about it below.

ALERT: SB176 Hearing in House State Affairs Early Monday Morning!

SB176 is the Governor’s “Public Safety Zone” bill–a piece of legislation enabling the governor to create a “public safety zone” of ANY size ANYWHERE in the state (including on private property) in order to control the movement of people in and out of that zone. Additionally, it creates a new crime–that of “aggravated criminal trespass” for those who enter the zone unauthorized–a charge that comes with an automatic, non-suspendable 10-day jail sentence if convicted. If they do it more than once (or they have been convicted of trespass in the previous two years anywhere in the country), the charge is immediately increased to a felony.

The bill was developed in collusion with North Dakota’s administration following the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. It is specifically targeted against farmers, landowners, and tribal members who may protest the future installation of pipelines (including Keystone XL)–even on their own land–though with these kind of unlimited powers to violate First Amendment rights, anyone who challenges the use of eminent domain for private gain or any other administration policy could be targeted. We already have laws to deal with protesters who turn violent or destructive; creating a new charge of “aggravated criminal trespass” is simply a way to chill freedom of speech and assembly and further cripple private property rights in the state.

This is not just a bad bill, it is an unconstitutional and deeply disturbing bill. Contact members of the House State Affairs Committee THIS WEEKEND, and ALSO contact your Representatives individually (in case it gets through committee) to tell them to deny this unconstitutional over-reach of executive power. If you have a legislative coffee or cracker barrel in your district this weekend, talk to them in person!

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Senate Democratic Caucus supporting a floor amendment to require TransCanada to pay into the Federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.

The Good, Bad, and Ugly of this Week at the Capitol

SB 66 The Governor’s bill to establish a tax incentive for planting of riparian buffer strips passed its last hurdle on the House floor and will be signed into law.

HB 1130 This was a bad bill to establish a series of hearings and public comment period for ballot initiatives (though with no actual process for revisions)–basically just inserting the legislature into a process where they don’t belong. It was amended in committee to remove a thirty-day delay of petitioners’ ability to gather signatures, but that delay was added back in later in the process! However, the bill was soundly defeated on the Senate floor.

HB 1071 This bill requires the legislature’s approval to store or process high-level nuclear waste in the state. Previously, the governor was the sole decision-maker on this issue. The bill passed unanimously on the Senate floor.

SCR 13 resolved, “To require the payment into the federal oil spill liability trust fund for the Keystone One Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline and to recognize dilbit as oil.” The resolution, brought by Senators Frerichs (D-Wilmot) and Kennedy (D-Yankton) was tabled in committee; however, Senator Frerichs attempted to bring it back as an amendment to another, pro-KXL construction resolution (HCR1013) on the Senate floor. The move was unsuccessful, but it was greatly appreciated by those who think TransCanada should participate in a fund to help clean up their potential messes.

SB 59–This bill delays the effective date for initiated measures and referred laws until July 1st. An amendment brought in House State Affairs Committee by House Minority Leader Spencer Hawley would have prevented legislators from repealing any voter-initiated measure with an emergency clause (as happened with IM22) was discussed and supported by many members. However, after the bill was deferred NINE times in the House, that support dwindled and the bill passed un-amended.

SB 154–A bill encouraging the State Department of Transportation to use native vegetation on rest stop remodeling projects in the state. Here is one where more education for our legislators is definitely in order. It died on the House floor amid concerns of “weediness” and the misperception that native vegetation is more attractive to rattlesnakes.

HB 1204–The Industrial Hemp Pilot Program bill made it through the House side with flying colors (and a ⅔ votes on the floor) only to be killed in Senate Ag & Natural Resources Committee after SD Department of Agriculture officials cast doubt on states’ ability to continue such pilot programs with so much uncertainty coming from the new federal administration.

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Legislative Update

Headway on Ballot Measure Bills

We are making headway against the many bills chipping away at citizen tools for direct democracy. Between your calls and emails and the testimony of Dakota Rural Action members and allies, legislators are feeling the heat. Don’t let up! We’re at the halfway point of session now!

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SB59 A bill to delay the effective date of ballot measures until July 1 of the following year. Recognizing that the bill was unlikely to be killed outright, DRA lobbied to have the date moved back to January 1st after an attempted amendment to that effect by Minority Leader Billie Sutton on the Senate side. In House State Affairs, Minority Leader Hawley proposed instead an amendment to leave the date July 1, but include language that no initiated measure could be repealed with the use of an emergency clause (which denies the voters right to refer) before that date. The amendment was favorably received by committee members, but the language needed more work, so it should be coming to the House floor next week.

HB1074 This is a bill to cap out of state contributions to ballot question committees to 75% of the total. DRA was prepared to testify against, but because the line of opponent testimony ran out the hearing time, the bill was re-scheduled to next week (2/13) in House State Affairs.

HB1153 Was killed in committee. This was a bill that required no less than 50% of an initiated measure’s petition signatures come from no fewer than thirty-three counties (and with a separate signature sheet for each county).

HB1130 This bill proposed a thirty-day delay in the gathering of petition signatures for initiated measures and constitutional amendments while a public comment period was opened on the secretary of state’s website. The bill was amended in committee to remove the thirty-day waiting period for signature-gathering, but it still requires an unnecessary public comment-plus-hearing process that stands to undermine petitioners’ efforts.

Passed on the Senate Floor

SB66–riparian buffer strip incentive program bill and SB154–bill encouraging the use of native vegetation during state rest area remodels.

On Our Watchlist

House Bills 1187 & 1188: These are the “other shoes” we’ve been waiting to see drop. The first “revise[s] the process by which courts consider appeals of decisions regarding conditional use requests.” The second is titled simply, “Accommodate legislation to promote agricultural development.” Neither is scheduled for a hearing yet, but we are watching closely because we think it’s likely there will be an attempt to slip them through quickly.

HB1141: This bill proposes a legislative task force for considering further proposed changes to the initiative and referendum process in South Dakota. It’s scheduled in House State Affairs Monday morning.

SB158: A bill imposing tariffs on crude oil pipelines constructed in the state if they are built using foreign steel. The tariff would create a pipeline spill clean-up fund. Scheduled in Senate Taxation Monday.

SB135: “Revise certain meat labelling requirements” aka the Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) bill from SD Stockgrowers. It has bipartisan support, and states in part that, “All beef and ground beef sold for retail sale within the state, except prepared foods for immediate sale or ready to eat, shall bear a label of country of origin.” We are hearing that this bill will come up in Senate State Affairs on Wednesday, Feb. 15 at 10am, and we’d LOVE to have some members come and testify in support! Let us know if you can join us there.

HB1204: Authorizes the production and sale of industrial hemp. Also not yet scheduled.

We’ll keep you posted about any fast-moving developments.

Watch for Action Alerts in your e-mail box!

DRA Member Post: South Dakota Ethics

Carl Kline is a weekly columnist for the Brookings Register and  a Dakota Rural Action Brookings Chapter member. He is an adjunct faculty member at Mt. Marty, Watertown, and serves as interim pastor of the UCC Church there, as well as coordinating the Satyagraha Institute.

I have to say a word of thanks to State Representative John Wiik for his recent legislative report in the January 31 Brookings Register about “Why IM22 Just Has to Go.” Although his arguments weren’t very satisfying to this writer, at least he tried to explain why this initiated measure passed by South Dakota voters was unconstitutional.

Wiik mentioned that the description of a “gift” to a member of the legislature in IM22 was too broad. He suggested that because his children might be in a public school and the school was lobbying the legislature, he would be in violation of IM22.

This seems quite a stretch. I’m sure SD citizens are not lining up to take their legislators to court for having their children in a public school that lobbies them. And if the courts are in such bad shape that they would accept such an interpretation, they need as much help or more than the legislative branch.

On the other hand, it’s not unheard of for persons in government to put the needs of special interests above the needs of the larger community when it comes to education. Consider the continuing struggles over who uses what bathroom or how public schools teach science. Do people receive “gifts” for promoting these causes? Personally, I’d like to know.

IM22 helps provide greater transparency. With transparency comes understanding. And if the gifts in these battles are simply the appreciation and toasting of their supporters, so be it. We can respect that. And we can respect personal integrity on an issue and voting one’s conscience. And although some legislators might not believe it, the great majority of SD citizens are not out to say “got cha.” They want to know that their voice is not drowned out by “gifts.” They are simply asking for some modest assurances of legislative integrity and the reality of one person one vote.

Another argument for IM22 being unconstitutional some have put forward is that the public financing proposal forces tax payers to support candidates they don’t like, as well as those they do. If only this argument were carried to its logical conclusion. I don’t want any of my tax payer money going to help the legislature assume the role of refugee police, a job I know Lutheran Social Services in Sioux Falls does amazingly well (after a long and extensive vetting process by the government). Why don’t I have a choice now as to how my money is used? What’s so different about public financing of elections?

Those against IM22 also claim the initiative as written allocates tax payer monies for public financing when only the legislature is allowed by the constitution to do that. Simple enough! Since the citizens of the state asked for public financing, let our representatives just allocate the money. I’m sure that will be the first item on the legislator’s agenda, after repealing the initiative, but saying they want to abide by the will of the people.

One other constitutional argument has to do with the independent ethics commission. Critics of IM22 claim it allocates an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. They claim the only ethics commission constitutionally allowed is one the legislature creates to police itself.

Honestly, South Dakotans know we live in a one party state. We know we have recently seen some serious violations of the public trust, resulting in deaths and disgrace and the misuse of public funds. If the legislature is not able to adequately root out ethical concerns in state government, the people need their own independent option. Since the party in power seems so resistant to this idea, perhaps members of the media, the clergy and the business community need to establish their own ethics commission. Some citizens are getting tired of having an F rating among the states on government accountability and transparency.

One final concern, opponents of IM22 are fond of pointing out most of the funding for the initiative came from out of state. Using that argument, how is it that all of the leadership in the Legislature were OK with taking campaign funds from Energy Transfer Partners, a Texas corporation? After all, ETP has not treated all of our SD citizens so well. They coerce our farmers and ranchers with threats of eminent domain if they can’t put a pipeline through their backyard. They threaten our waterways and aquifers. They ignore the wishes of our Native American residents. They continue to take fossil fuels out of the ground when our climate and children require they stay put. Let us at least know how much these massive corporations put into the pockets of those who claim to represent us.

I’d still like to know what kinds of “gifts” the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) provides legislators. Am I as a taxpayer still paying to help them get to ALEC meetings? And shouldn’t there be a cap on what one can receive from PAC’s and individuals? What’s unconstitutional about that?

An independent ethics commission could help answer these questions for citizens deeply concerned about the ability of governments to function. Partisans, ideologues, and money from special interests are undermining our democracy. If our representatives are determined to make the initiative process harder and repeal what the people approve, let’s create our own commission to do ethical investigations.

Legislative Update

IM 22 Repealed

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Senator Troy Heinert (D-Mission) stands in opposition to the repeal.

Despite hundreds of calls and e-mails, a packed Senate Gallery, and even a “Shame On You! Respect Our Vote!” banner flying over the Capitol building, HB 1069, a repeal of the voter-approved anti-corruption passed on the Senate floor. Voting against the repeal were Democratic Senators Sutton, Heinert, Frerichs, Kennedy, Killer, and Nesiba, along with Republican Senators Nelson and Russell.

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The Senate Gallery fills up with citizens for the IM22 repeal vote, many wearing yellow shirts emblazoned with, “Respect Our Vote!”

SB67 Withdrawn

Thanks to massive citizen outcry, SB 67, a measure to dramatically increase the number of signatures needed to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, was withdrawn by its sponsor (Jeff Partridge R-Rapid City). DRA members, lobbyist, and many other citizens and groups were on hand to testify, but thankfully this was one battle we didn’t have to fight.

SB 66 Governor’s Buffer Bill

The bill to establish an incentive program for riparian buffer strips passed out of committee on a unanimous vote Thursday morning. Several farm and conservation groups (including DRA) testified in support of the bill, with some comments on possible future changes. There was no opposing testimony, though there was an amendment by Senators Klumb and Frerichs to reduce the minimum mowing height to 4” from 6”.

COOL Legislation & Midwife Bill

South Dakota Stockgrowers Country of Origin Labeling bill (SB135) is out, though not yet scheduled for committee. Read the bill here, and let us know if you have questions or might be interested in testifying when it is scheduled.

Also of interest to our members, SB136, allowing for the licensure of Certified Professional Midwives, has been referred to Senate Health & Human Service Committee.

 

Legislative Update

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The Fight for IM 22

This week brought intense committee hearings on HB 1069, a total repeal of Initiated Measure 22–the anti-corruption and government accountability measure, approved by voters last fall. It contains an emergency clause, making it exempt from referral by voters.

The bill was filed last Friday, and the Republican super-majority seemed determined to rush it through committee and pass it into law by the end of the week. While the measure did pass the House, the intensity of calls and e-mails from citizens coupled with unflattering media attention both in state and nationally resulted in the Senate’s vote being deferred until next Wednesday. The new “spin” you may hear by supporters of HB 1069 this weekend is to suggest that without its passage, the state is in a kind of legal vacuum in regard to campaign finance law. That’s simply untrue: Judge Barnett’s injunction on IM 22 (resulting from Republican legislators’ lawsuit against it) means that we are operating on old law as the case makes it way through the courts. Once again, there is NO emergency. This bill should be killed, or at the very least, the emergency clause should be removed.

Your voice DOES make a difference!  Keep up the calls and e-mails, and with a four-day recess this weekend, it’s an excellent opportunity to talk to your legislators in person as well.

The Next Attack on Direct Democracy

SB 67, which was scheduled for hearing last Wednesday, was deferred for another week due to the large amount of testimony on HB 1069. This bill dramatically increases the number of signatures needed to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, and contains an emergency clause barring voter referral. Once again, this is NOT an emergency.

While it may seem like a good thing to make it harder to change the constitution, South Dakotans have shown great restraint about doing so at the ballot box. Changing the number of required signatures from 10% of the gubernatorial voters in the last election to 10% of registered voters in the entire state (an increase of nearly 88% using last election’s figures) raises the bar to the point where only those well-funded groups (e.g. payday lenders) who can afford to hire petition circulators are likely to have a chance to get an amendment on the ballot.

Not Too Late!

SB 59 in its original form would have allowed the governor to veto initiated measures passed by voters. That most egregious piece was amended out by the sponsor thanks to backlash by citizens even before it landed in committee. However, the first section of the bill, which delays the effective date of initiated measures to July 1 of the following year, did pass the Senate, and has been referred to House State Affairs.

The argument by supporters is that because initiated measures go into effect almost immediately after the election, state government needs more time to plan for what changes they bring. The problem is that such a lengthy delay tempts legislators to tinker with voter-approved measures before they are engrossed. Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton offered an amendment to move back the effective date to January 1st, but it was rejected.  This measure does NOT contain an emergency clause YET.

And So Much More…

Black Hills Chapter members strongly oppose the Governor’s Spearfish Canyon/Bismark Lake land swap. SB 114 is a $2.5 million appropriation to swap state-owned grasslands for U.S. Forest Service property in the Hills for the purpose of creating a new state park, and the administration is pushing it hard, despite budget constraints.. Yesterday, Governor Daugaard announced that, if approved, there would be no entry fee for the new park, which he said was the bulk of citizen complaints. SB 114 has been referred to the Joint Committee on Appropriations.

The Governor’s anticipated Buffer Bill (SB 66) is out. While it’s a first, tentative step toward watershed protection by tax adjustments on buffer strips, it’s a small one. That said, most conservation groups agree that it should be supported.

Several bills bringing back extensively revised pieces of the anti-corruption and government accountability act (IM 22) have also been filed. It’s hard to determine how to approach those until the HB 1069 debate concludes.

Good news: SD Stockgrowers has again introduced SB 135, Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation for beef, with a good number of sponsors on both sides of the aisle. It has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Legislative Cracker Barrels This Weekend:

Mitchell–TODAY–Fri. Jan 27, noon, City Council Chambers

Spearfish–Sat. Jan. 28, 9am, High Plains Western Heritage Center

Brandon- Sat. Jan. 28, 9am, Legislative Coffee with District 10 & 25

Brookings–Sat. Jan. 28, 9am, City-County Government Building

Vermillion–Sat. Jan. 28, 9am, City Hall

If you know of any other Cracker Barrels this weekend, please let us know.

Thanks for all the calls and e-mails you’ve made and thanks for the good work you do!
Rebecca Terk, DRA Lobbyist

Action Alert: One More Call on HB1069

 

Senate

Republicans in Pierre are trying to ram through HB 1069 before the week is out. This bill is a repeal of Initiated Measure 22, the voter-approved anti-corruption and government accountability act.

This morning, despite the fact that some members of the committee have potential conflicts of interest due to their involvement in a personal lawsuit against IM 22, HB 1069 passed the Senate State Affairs Committee along party lines with none recusing themselves.

Because the bill contains an emergency clause, it cannot be referred by the voters. HOWEVER, the emergency clause also requires the bill to have a two-thirds vote to pass on the Senate floor.

We need more calls NOW to peel off votes from that majority.
Call the Senate lobby and tell your senator to VOTE NO on House Bill 1069, and “fix, don’t nix” Initiated Measure 22.
Senate Lobby Number: (605) 773-3821

If you can’t call, e-mail your Senator. Find your Senator’s e-mail at this website: http://www.sdlegislature.gov/Legislators/Who_Are_My_Legislators/default.aspx?Session=2017

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