Senate Bill 69, the main component of the big petition reform package, almost died yesterday. This bastard child of good intentions and incumbent ass-covering lurched to the House floor, where Rep. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls) piled on its already hunched back three more amendments, the thrust of which were the following:
- change the primary petition filing date for statewide and Legislative candidates to the third Tuesday of March, knocking three weeks off the full month Secretary of State Shantel Krebs had originally advocated in SB 69 to facilitate the new petition reviews mandated by SB 68 (in which the House a couple hours earlier had joined the Senate in approving without dissent);
- fully remove the option for candidates to submit their petitions by registered mail on the filing deadline;
- clean up messes (said Rep. Mickelson of his third amendment, “This is what happens when you try to change a bill in committee.”).
Rep. Spence Hawley (D-7/Brookings) offered a fourth amendment to temper the impact of the anti-placeholder provisions added by Republicans to beat up Democrats. House Majority Leader Brian Gosch said Rep. Hawley’s proposal, which would have allowed party chairs to nominate candidates for ballot slots that remained empty after the primary, only encouraged “indolence, procrastination, and delay.”
Rep. Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown) called Rep. Hawley’s amendment the “party-boss option.” He encouraged his colleagues to vote no on that amendment and then “keep your finger hard on that red button.” When the majority rejected that amendment, Hawley and Schoenbeck both spoke against SB 69 in toto. Rep. Hawley said SB 69 is a bad pro-incumbents’ bill:
It’s quite obvious now: you need to vote the bill down. I agree with my good friend from Watertown. We were just trying to put a band-aid on a bad bill. The band-aid wouldn’t be accepted, so now you need to kill a bad bill [Rep. Spence Hawley, remarks on Senate Bill 69, South Dakota House, 2015.03.10, timestamp 3:53:40].
Rep. Schoenbeck said he’s received numerous calls from folks in both parties opposed to SB 69 based solely on the anti-placeholder provisions. He said no placeholder has won an election, so why bother?
“I don’t know what the problem is that we’re so concerned about fixing. It’s a legitimate use of the political process the way it is. There isn’t a better option anybody’s proposed. This bill certainly isn’t a better option [Rep. Lee Schoenbeck, remarks on Senate Bill 69, South Dakota House, 2015.03.10, timestamp 3:55:00].
Rep. Steve Hickey (R-9/Sioux Falls) noted that SB 69 arose in response to his April 2014 petition challenge “against that Bosworth candidate.” He said he was excited about petition reform, but SB 69 has morphed into something else. With the expanded challenge window largely erased from the bill, Rep. Hickey said he could no longer support the bill.
Rep. Peggy Gibson (D-22/Huron) said that even Secretary of State Shantel Krebs was disowning her legislative child. She said that just prior to this floor debate, “I spoke with our Secretary of State and she said this bill is such a mess she’d like to see it just disappear.”
Rep. Gosch directly contradicted this statement, claiming, “I also spoke with the SOS recently, and there was no such words about scrapping the bill.”
Whatever the Secretary’s current position, a general lack of enthusiasm for SB 69 led to a tie vote, 34–34, with 23 Republicans joining the 11 present Democrats in voting down the petition reform proposal.
Rep. Gosch immediately signaled he would move to reconsider and dispatched his whips to change minds. Two bills later, on the second try, SB 69 passed 41–25. Below is the roll call for each vote, with the eight Republicans who succumbed to whip pressure at the top:
|Rep||Party||First Vote||Second Vote|
Senate Bill 69 now heads to conference committee, where we can only hope three Representatives and three Senators can pare SB 69 back down to focus its original intent to ensure the integrity of the petition process.