Elitist SDGOP Plans Attack on Voters’ Right to Legislate

The South Dakota Legislature’s enhanced Republican supermajority plans to wage more war on democracy. Rep. Don Haggar and Rep. (soon to be Senator) Jim Bolin are already banging the drum to weaken the people’s constitutional power of initiative and referendum:

“I feel like the process has been hijacked by people not from South Dakota,” Republican Rep. Don Haggar said. “I think in light of what’s happened here this past campaign season, in particular, it’s a reason to look at it.”

Haggar said the Legislature will likely examine the issue during the next legislative session, which begins in January. He would support “raising the bar” for South Dakota citizens to propose a change to state law, but said it’s unclear what a bill might look like.

One idea would be to require that signatures are gathered from a wider geographic area of the state, he said.

…Incoming GOP Sen. Jim Bolin, who currently serves in the state House, wants to see more stringent requirements specifically for constitutional amendments. “We have to reform our system — not abolish it — but reform it,” he said [James Nord, “Ease of Ballot-Initiative Placement a Source of Concern for SD Voters,” AP via Pierre Capital Journal, 2016.11.14].

Ah, geographic distribution—Rep. Bolin floated that idea in the 2016 Legislature. That plan and other higher bars to placing measures on the ballot will do nothing to prevent out-of-state money from dominating our initiative and referendum process. Tougher petition requirements will only increase the dominance of big money, which can hire lawyers and professional circulators to overcome any strictures, while crowding out the grassroots South Dakotans who already struggle enough to meet the signature requirements and other rules on ballot measures. (The headline of Nord’s article is misleading: there is no “ease” in placing measures on the ballot, and it’s Republican legislators, not “SD Voters”, who are mislaying these concerns.)

Rep. Haggar’s fears of big-money hijackers are not borne out by the results of this year’s election. Of the five citizen-initiated measures on which sponsors succeeded, only one, Amendment R, the crime victims bill of rights, was a clear hijacking of the initiative process by a California billionaire with no regard for existing statutes… and that hijacking was facilitated by one of the SDGOP’s own consultants. If the Republicans wanted to shut down that big money, they could have.

The other four successful citizen measures all had South Dakota roots. Both referred laws went on the ballot because Aberdeen blogger and Democratic activist Cory Allen Heidelberger (yes, little old me!) took out petitions, got the South Dakota Democratic Party to help, and simply spoke the truth about two bad laws the 2015 Legislature passed. I had almost no budget, and I still got more than 70% of South Dakotans to agree with me and vote down those two bills (which Haggar and Bolin supported—ah! so that’s why they want to squeeze us out of ballot measures!).

Initiated Measure 21, the 36% rate cap on payday loans, came from South Dakota activists Steve Hildebrand, Steve Hickey, and Reynold Nesiba. They had a piddly budget and faced multi-million-dollar opposition from out-of-state payday lenders on 21, but they still won and beat back the payday lenders’ attempt to hijack the constitution with their fake Amendment U.

Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act, had lots of out-of-state money for and against it. But it came from Rick Weiland, a South Dakota guy through and through, and South Dakotans decided by a narrow margin to try out a state ethics commission, lobbying restrictions, and tighter campaign finance limits, and voluntary campaign financing. That’s hardly a hijacking by outsiders.

There’s the point our elitist Republican legislators keep missing. Big money interests don’t get to simply buy an election. Ultimately, South Dakotans decide whether ballot measures become law or not. This year and in past year’s South Dakotans have done a pretty good job of separating good locally grown wheat from outside big-money chaff. I don’t see the need to make it harder to put measures on the ballot, because I trust South Dakotans to read ballot measures and make good decisions. Republicans do not trust South Dakotans, especially when so many of our decisions on ballot measures break against what those Republican power-grabbers want.

Don, Jim, leave initiative and referendum alone. Your party already has far more than its fair share of power; why not let the people have this one, already difficult check on your Legislative overreach, and trust the people to decide for themselves what laws they want to write?

21 Responses to Elitist SDGOP Plans Attack on Voters’ Right to Legislate

  1. Darin Larson

    My headline for this story would be: GOP Members Think Voters Stupid; Controls on Democracy Necessary; Bolin and Haggar would be Kings

    Ya, it is a little long.

    I’m not surprised these power mad fellows want to limit the rights of citizens. They are all about the Constitution when it favors their views, but discard the Constitution like used toilet paper when the people go against their views.

    Maybe if the GOP had spent some of their millions on the fight against Amendment S, instead of spending money on hit piece negative advertising against Cory, we would not have seen its passage. As it is, the people have spoken. The legislature should get about the work of making the new law fit with our system of laws instead of plotting their next effort to undermine democracy.

  2. Darin Larson

    Wouldn’t Bolin’s plan requiring signatures from certain areas of the state violate the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection clause?

    In essence, requiring signatures of voters in one area of the state over the signatures of other voters in another area of the state would discriminate between voters. One voter would not be equal to another voter.

  3. BoliN wants people to have no voice.

  4. Well then, who gives a care what these bozoheads want. The question should be, why should they get it?
    Cory showed what the power of one can be, He got stuff done. While some take pleasure out of the fact that he lost to Sharia Al, I say so what, he won and he won big! Not to hard to say when you look at what matters. What the snicker doodle troll pro’s want all to think is that a feller like Cory is irrelevant, he waves his hands and knows stuff. Don’t believe me, believe Jim Bollin and Don Haggar in their efforts to quell the kinds of issues Cory bought to the forefront and took the establishment to the friggin cleaners. They know where the power is and it ain’t with them, so they want to crook their way into taking away another basic right. Yeah, troll on dummies, we all have your number and we ain’t gonna fall for it. You might get Mr. Deplorable, but you ain’t foolin’ the rest of us.

    So then, how much money we have in the SD Dem cash box? Whoever has the keys to that thingy, contact one Cory H and give him some love man. He can get this up and running and flush this pos where it needs to go.

  5. bearcreekbat

    Darin, here is my headline and lead:


    Following the successful battle to stop out of state Medicaid expansion dollars from coming to SD, GOP Members now advocate restricting out of state money that funds the initiative and referendum rights from coming into SD – financial experts ask whether ending the Sturgis Rally will be the next brilliant financial move to further put a stop to the unwanted influx of out of state dollars.

  6. That’s pretty damn funny. They do well in filling legislative seats in elections, but their track record on referendums and initiated measures is pretty murky. It’s tough for them to push their agenda when the electorate keeps voting against them in how our state should actually be run. We have an identity crisis in this state.

  7. Donald Pay

    If they attempt this, it will be on the ballot. It will never pass a vote of the people. But, to drive home the point, people should take a top priority for the Governor, the Republican legislators who sign on, and the special interests who are lobbying for it, and refer them. A big F.U. to them all might cause them to think twice.

  8. Roger Cornelius

    Again the SDGOP shows it hypocritical stripes. They don’t want outside money influencing our state ballot measures but they are comfortable with Thune and Noem’s huge campaign war chests made up of out of state money.
    If the SDGOP wants to limit the contributions of out of state money to our ballot measures, they sure as hell better limit Thune and Noem’s out of state money to buy elections.

  9. bearcreekbat

    Excellent point Roger!

  10. Mr. Pay, Democrats need to change their m. o. When you are so predictable, someone sets a tack under you. Wait sank the boat. Get after it now!

  11. mike from iowa

    Aren’t all SD wingnuts dues paying members of outsider ALEC?

  12. Steve Hickey

    I oppose any increase in signature numbers or geographical areas. Those who would propose these things have never been in the middle of a real from-the-people signature drive in South Dakota. Nothing they propose along those lines will make it harder for out of state bigger interests to get something on the ballot. It would just mean they had to spend a little more money, something they have plenty of. It would only hurt those of us in South Dakota trying to to put something on our ballot.

    The only changes needed are to a) eliminate the possibility of the out-of-state circulators hiding behind South Dakota residents acting as “witnesses” who sign off on their collection of signatures b) step up investigation and enforcement of complaints against unscrupulous collecting practices like we saw with the people who brought us Amendment U, south dakotas most unscrupulous petition drive. They got away with murder last time and no one could stop them.

  13. Donald Pay

    I think Hickey had it about right, but I would go further.. I would think repealing most of the legislation on I&R passed since 2000 would be a good start. Get the AG out of the people’s legislative process. Give those duties to the LRC. The deadlines for initiatives should be returned to after the Legislature.

    We do still need to deal with petitions for candidates. How about geographical requirements for statewide races, as well as legislative candidates? Get the amendments ready.

  14. The 85% GOP Party legislature will repeal the new 36% interest cap first thing in 2017, and the voters will forgive and forget by 2018.

  15. Donald Pay

    You just refer it. More likely that the filthy usurers will try to use the courts in some way.

  16. “GOP Members Think Voters Stupid”

    They voted Trump into office. How else would you describe them? I am ok with preventing ballot initiatives from changing the state constitution, particularly given this state’s dumb proclivities (say hi to litigation costs on Marsy’s Law, folks).

  17. Remember you always get what you vote for.C.H.are these guys wingnuts or what.

  18. Roger Elgersma

    Would the Godly republicans listen to their own Pastor Hickey on payday lending? NO But the people had a conscience so not we stopped payday lending. This scares the Christian right? Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.

  19. I would think we could recruit circulators to refer any such Haggar/Bolin restrictions to a vote. But don’t forget: the Legislature can tack an emergency clause onto their anti-initiative/referendum bill and make referral impossible.

    Indeed, anyone bugged by out-of-state money should make Kristi refund any out-of-state money from her Congressional fund before she transfers it to her gubernatorial contest fund.

  20. Donald Pay

    No, Cory. They can try to stick an emergency clause onto any bill, but a court decides what’s an emergency. No court is going to go for an emergency clause because the emergency is to prevent the people from exercising their constitutional rights. You just refer any such bill as usual, and take it right to court if they don’t accept the petitions.

  21. But it’s automatic that the SOS won’t accept the petitions. Would she even approve circulation of referral petitions in the first place if there’s an emergency clause on the bill?

    Would the court accept an “emergency” argument if Haggar and Bolin argued that their bill is needed to immediately address what they view as weaknesses in the I&R process and to ensure equal rules for all participants in efforts to get measures on the 2018 ballot?