Revisions to Submitted Initiative Drafts Reset AG’s 60-Day Review Clock

As he shared the text of the five initiated measures (four laws, one really good constitutional amendment) with Dakota Free Press yesterday, Attorney General Marty Jackley cautioned that those initiatives are still drafts, not the final language that will appear on the ballot if approved by the Secretary of State. Initiative sponsors can still revise their proposals before final submission to Secretary Krebs.

However, revision at this point could cost a lot of time. I checked with AG Jackley, and he confirmed that if any of the sponsors change the language of the ballot measures currently on his desk, they must resubmit that text to the AG and start his review process anew. State law gives the AG sixty days to review those ballot measures and write his explanation of each measure for the voters. If sponsors submit new text, the sixty-day clock resets.

At this point, any revised text submitted might not emerge from the AG’s office for the Secretary to approve until July 15. That would leave the sponsors with just three and a half months to circulate their petitions.

That’s still a snudge more than we referendum drivers have to get the same number of signatures (at least as the initiated laws; the constitutional amendment will require twice as many signatures, nearly 28,000 instead of nearly 14,000). But that possible lost month is worth weighing against the value of tweaks to the proposals as currently written.

32 Responses to Revisions to Submitted Initiative Drafts Reset AG’s 60-Day Review Clock

  1. CH,

    I’m sensitive to the issue of lost time to circulate petitions. At the same time, I believe that not allowing drafters an opportunity to “tweak” the bill to be in the best form possible is a greater threat to good ideas dying for reasons they shouldn’t.

    Principle sponsors of initiatives should value this time to get input and make “tweaks” to their initiative and the AG’s office should have this period to give the initiative as finally drafted adequate time to again make sure it is proper for style and form and other considerations with regard to items such as Constitutionality or unintended consequences.

    it’s hard to make everything perfect but net-net I think the current is pretty fair with regard to considering all factors. You are correct the principle sponsors should weigh the value of tweaks vs. lost time but my gut is “tweaks” are likely to out-weigh lost time. But, it is the principle sponsors call, as it should be.

  2. Troy, does the attorney general really need 60 days to review the proposals and write the explanations? Could a good lawyer turn that job around in four weeks? Two weeks?

  3. Donald Pay

    BS. Complete and Total. The job should be turned over to the LRC. You get entire rewrites of legislation in the last couple days of the Legislature. There is no 60 day delay required. The entire task can probably accomplished the task in one day to one week. The whole thing is just an excuse to delay folks.;

  4. mike from iowa

    Whose unintended consequences are you speaking about? The original writer’s or whatever a one party legislature can dream up?

  5. Bob Newland

    Don Pay has it right on this one. The 60-day delay at the AG’s office is nothing but a waste of valuable time for those who want to change the law.

    The fiscal-impact statement requirement for any proposal that might “impact jail populations” has no turn-around requirement. The LRC informed me that they plan to submit the FIS on the alcohol and tobacco issues by the end of the 60-day AG hold-period, but the LRC could delay the FIS until October 15, if it wanted to.

  6. Donald Pay


    Maybe you think you’re being cute with your smarmy nonsense. Maybe it sounds reasonable to the ignorant, but you’re not fooling the folks that have had experience with this process.

    The added time is not meant for sponsors of initiatives. You don’t need that much time to revise an initiative, and not even the dumb AG presently in office needs that much to do his job. The LRC could do it in a couple hours.

    No. That added time is meant to provide the opponents of an initiative to lobby the AG for language in his explanation. If it was just lobbying, it could take a week. What the well-heeled special interests do, however, is much more sophisticated. They need that time to engage in focus groups and polling, in order to test market various options for their campaign. Then they develop a public relations campaign around language that they are going to feed to the AG for his explanation.

    Don’t kid yourself that the AG is coming up with the explanation on his own. In many cases, especially where there are special interests involved, he’s getting the AG’s explanation force fed to him by the special interests. Some AGs are less corruptible than others. Some are just ciphers.

    Anyone who sponsors an initiative should have it in pretty good shape before they submit it. Most of the initiatives I was involved in went through the LRC, so those should be in pretty good form, don’t you think? That’s what ought to happen, rather than having the AG clog up the process just so the special interests can have enough time to sway the AG.

  7. Bob Newland

    Just imagine what the AG is gonna say in his “explanation” of these proposals.

  8. CH,

    I think it a fair question why they need 60 days. There may or may not be a good reason.

    The time does seem long to me.

    Don, I can’t even follow your comment. I am obviously not as smart as you. Sorry.

  9. Donald Pay

    “The time does seem long to me.” Ya’ think? What if the Legislature had a 60 day requirement for a bill, and any amendment meant the clock started over. You know what that would mean? Very few, if any, bills would pass. There would be no general appropriations bill, for one, so no one in Pierre would get paid.

    You can’t follow my comment? It doesn’t take being smart. It takes being involved in the process over a number of years and finding out how sleazy and rotten the system can be because of a complete lack of transparency at the AG’s office. You don’t think the AG is lobbied hard and in secret regarding the wording of his explanation? Both the mining industry and the solid waste industry were very clearly trying to steer the AG’s explanation, and they need that 60 days in order to get their public relations campaign up and running.

  10. Donald’s comment reads pretty clearly to me. Donald makes a very good point about the LRC’s ability to turn bills around during Session. Why do we have an elected partisan official reviewing and writing explanations for initiatives instead of the nonpartisan LRC?

    Donald’s explanation persuades me that LRC could do this job in well under 60 days. And if what Bob says is correct, that the fiscal impact statement is not required before circulation may begin, then I have an even harder time figuring out why we allow the AG to take away up to 60 days of valuable circulation time.

    If lobbying is going on, early submission deadline also seems to facilitate that interference to initiatives. If we have this review process, why require sponsors to submit initiative petitions a full year before the general election instead of allowing them to petition up to the end of June (90 days after end of Session) of the election year, just like referendum petitioners? That time requires sponsors to do more re-education after their petitioning (people forget about the measure from the time they sign to the time they vote), the Legislature gets a full Session to throw roadblocks, and opponents get more time to tear the thing apart.

  11. Bob Newland

    I didn’t mean to imply that the FIS is not required before circulation can begin. I think it is required before the Sec. of State certifies the petition. I was trying to explain that the FIS could effectively kill a petition by not being available until too late for the petition to have a chance of success.

  12. Bob Newland

    Troy says: “Don, I can’t even follow your comment. I am obviously not as smart as you. Sorry.”

    Most of us didn’t need that note to assess your ability to absorb information.

  13. Steve Hickey

    Yep sixty days is thirty too long. Revisions and tweeks are done before it gets to the AG. The AG gets the final form. In our case, the AG already wrote a paragraph when we began the process to put this on the 2014 ballot. It’s bascially the same bill this time with some clarifications we asked for this time. Should be a short turn around time. Our clock started ticking April 1.

  14. Bob Newland

    You’ll see your petition about May 29, Steve.

  15. My point was Don is an idiot. This part of the process had nothing to do with writing the explanation of the initiative because that is done after it has gathered signatures.

    Further, Don knows better if or should. I just tried to have a conservation stating I think proponents need to get the bill right. If the time can and should be shortened, do it.

    But the other gibberish just confirms why nobody wants to give the SDDP keys to the store.

  16. larry kurtz

    a conversation about conservation with a conservative is like peeing into a haboob.

  17. happy camper

    For some/many people there’s just no gray. Yes Larry I’m talking to you:

  18. Troy, was your comment to Don the ad hominem attack that you despise so much?

  19. happy camper

    Cognitive bias: Cory, Deb, Roger, ……..

  20. Roger Cornelius

    Happy Camper,

    Huh? What did I say to set you off?

  21. Pot meet kettle happy camper.

  22. larry kurtz

    when pp spits venom it’s okay with earth haters like troy and crappy camper but when i do it it’s why sddp can’t have the keys to the store.

  23. larry kurtz

    When Marty’s staff writes the attorney general’s explanation of a ballot measure where cannabis is singled out expect copious references to its being illegal under federal law but if certain medical procedures that represent a chilling effect on a woman’s rights to make a decision Marty’s staff will argue that no federal law supersedes the Tenth Amendment guarantee of a state’s rights to pass legislation abridging the constitutional right to privacy protected by the First, Fourth and Ninth Amendments.

    Hypocrisy is not just a river in southern Dakota.

  24. larry kurtz

    if restrictions on certain medical procedures represent a chilling effect on a woman’s rights to make a decision Marty’s staff will write reasons why that is good for the South Dakota Republican Party, rather.

    Gray matters are just so tedious sometimes.

  25. Bob, I notice that the AG has to do fiscal impact statements on referred laws, but said they are not prereqs to referendum circulation (see SDCL 12-13-9. Barring explicit language to the contrary for initiatives, I’d argue by analogy that initiatives can circulate before fiscal impact statements just like referenda.

    Does such explicit language exist? SDCL 12-13-25.1 seems unclear on the timeframe for the fiscal statement for initiated measures. It says the fiscal impact statement has to be included after the explanation on the printed ballot. It does not say that the AG must submit that fiscal impact statement with the explanation to the SOS pre-approval and pre-circulation.

    SDCL 12-1-19 says “A fiscal impact statement shall be attached to any bill or amendment or measures proposed by ballot initiative that may impact state prison or county jail populations…. The sponsor of such legislation or such ballot initiative shall request and allow sufficient time to prepare a fiscal impact statement from the Bureau of Finance and Management or the Legislative Research Council. The fiscal impact statement shall be completed no later than the day the bill is submitted to the committee with subject matter cognizance. Any ballot initiative shall have a fiscal impact statement attached to the Attorney General’s statement required pursuant to § 12-13-9 or 12-13-25.1.” Maybe I’m just being wishful, but even there, I don’t see the explicit language saying the SOS has to see the fiscal impact statement before approving the initiative for circulation.

    Did the SOS or AG tell you its required? If so, did they cite statutory authority for that claim?

  26. Bob Newland

    I’ve no time for further research for a couple of weeks, Cory. I must go on the road and try to keep things safe for convenience store customers for a couple of weeks.

  27. No problem, Bob! Double-check those wienie rollers; we’ll try to figure out the fiscal impact statement rules here. :-)

  28. Interestingly, I find myself arguing against my own interpretation from 2013, when the Legislature tucked these fiscal impact statement provisions into Governor Daugaard’s criminal justice reform bill. Hmmm, who’s right, me 2013 or me 2015?

  29. Donald Pay

    Troy is right, at least this once. I am an idiot. I did confuse two parts of this process, one of which (the pre-petitioning part) was added since I left the state. My defense is that I had no understanding of how cuckoo the entire process had become as a result of Republican tinkering since I left. It’s even a worse process now than it was then, and even more subject to special interest corruption.

    So, Cory, probably you in 2015 have a better understanding of how Republican efforts to “reform” the I & R process generally work against citizens who use it. Once Republicans figured out they could outright kill I & R, they went about a decades-long piecemeal approach to kill it by small “reforms,” all of which have worked against people who use the I & R process. To really reform the process, you have to repeal and replace all those “reforms” with something that actually works for citizens, rather than for special interests and their bought and paid for politicians.

    The real issue is how do you make the system better for the citizens. The LRC has been a non-partisan office with expertise in writing legislation, although I guess their has been some issues there since I left the state. Many of the folks at LRC have decades of specialized experience in certain areas of law. The AG, a partisan political office, should not have any part in the process.

  30. Don –
    It’s reassuring and refreshing to see a blog commenter admit an error. You are an honorable man.
    I wonder what would need to happen for someone like a Marty Jackley to do something comparable.

  31. happy camper

    If we have a purpose mine is to point out it’s way to easy to go to extremes. Conservative is just a label Larry, not a person. None of us are all of one thing or another. If you watched that video it illuminates especially if you like bicycle riding. Trying to see other people’s perspective is too often missing from the conversation.

  32. larry kurtz

    Stalking is creepy, crappy camper.