Last year Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) and the Republican majority in the Legislature made the error of undoing the will of the people expressed in Initiated Measure 18, the minimum-wage increase passed in 2014. This year, Sanford Health will be pressuring Senator Novstrup and his colleagues to further disrespect the voters by tinkering with Initiated Measure 17, the Any Willing Provider law that voters passed to require insurance companies to allow any health care provider who can meet their standards to participate in their coverage networks.
Even Republican Pat Powers recognizes that tinkering with successful ballot measures is a really bad idea:
The bill, which was passed, brought outrage in the state’s media, and a petition drive was initiated, where the repeal of a minor portion of the ballot measure was immediately referred for election this year. The fervor of that measure has somewhat died down over the past year, where it might not affect the election fortunes of the measure’s proponents. At least until their opponents remind the voters of it.
That happened when a minor provision was passed to slightly alter the least popular ballot measure from 2014. Anger and near-automatic referral. What do you think the reaction will be for the legislator who might attempt a major alteration of the most popular ballot measure from the preceding election, which had virtually no opposition at the ballot box? Especially coming smack dab in the middle of the election year?
Based on last years’ experience, I suspect it’s going to generate a wave of negative publicity that the legislator probably didn’t contemplate when they put their name on the line to support such a measure. And that could be a wave that might dash them on the rocks in the next election.
In that instance, taking direct aim at the will of the people in such a manner might not just be an unwise thing. It could prove to be downright painful [Pat Powers, “Initiated Measure 17 Repeal effort in the works? I don’t know if I would. The will of the people could prove painful,” Dakota War College, 2016.01.15].
It’s nice to see Powers rediscover his respect for democracy, even if that respect is purely pragmatic and partisan. Powers admits what I discovered while leading that successful referendum petition drive around Aberdeen last spring: voting to repeal the minimum wage increase for young workers could cost David Novstrup his seat this year. Supporting the unraveling of another initiated measure would only reinforce the message that Senator Novstrup and other Republican legislators do not respect South Dakota voters, and as Powers admits, that’s a potent message for anyone trying to unseat an incumbent.
Republicans, you’re in bad enough shape with Referred Law 20 on the ballot to remind voters of your fear of democracy. Take Pat’s advice: don’t make things worse by triggering another referendum on your disrespect for voters.