The fact that Dusty Johnson is running for Congress is pretty cool. But even cooler is the likely reason that we know he’s running now: the swift enactment of (most of) Initiated Measure 22.
We South Dakotans passed four ballot measures last week; they took effect yesterday. Immediately we are seeing the impact of our making laws via direct democracy:
Amendment R, the “Regents don’t run the vo-techs” clarification isn’t doing much yet, just delaying the state Board of Education’s rewriting of its statement of purpose.
But Amendment S, the crime victims bill of rights, is straining county budgets with a hiring boom of victims’ assistants. Attorney General Marty Jackley is spending a half-million dollars to send every crime victim a notification card and hoping he can get the sponsors of Amendment S to foot some of the bill. (It shouldn’t be hard for Jackley to get in touch with S sponsor Jason Glodt, since Glodt is treasurer for Jackley’s gubernatorial campaign.)
Initiated Measure 21, the 36% rate cap on payday loans, is shutting down payday lenders across the state. I hear from a knowledgeable neighbor that not one of the dozen or so short-term lenders is Aberdeen is giving offering loans. Perry Groten reports an impending bubble of available commercial properties in Sioux Falls as payday lenders cancel their leases. Payday/pawn mogul Chuck Brennan has stopped offering new loans, gone back on his post-election word, and started pressuring lawmakers to repeal what 76% of South Dakotans approved last week.
Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act, provoked Rep. Kristi Noem to announce her candidacy for Governor, just six days after South Dakotans elected her to concentrate on South Dakota’s needs in Washington, D.C., for another two years. Noem had to announce because she had to transfer her hundreds of thousands of out-of-state campaign dollars from her federal fund to her new gubernatorial fund before Wednesday, when IM 22’s new committee contribution cap of $40K kicked in. Those new limits, plus Noem’s early announcement and campaign committee formation, forced Marty Jackley to do the same to get his own money in the IM 22-legal chute and to flag down donors before they all rush to the Kristi train. And Kristi’s pre-abdication opened the door for Dusty Johnson to say he wants Kristi’s job. Lucky Dusty—he’s running for federal office, so he won’t have to sweat IM 22, which only governs races from Governor on down to county commission (county candidates face new contribution limits, but they don’t get to compete for Democracy Credits). But Dusty’s in the news right now in no small part due to IM 22.
And to water the garden of democracy with crocodile tears, the GOP spin machine is weeping profusely over all the pauses lobbyists are putting on their fancy dinners and luncheons for lawmakers and the divorces they say IM 22 will cause.
The public probably won’t notice those hyperventilations, but they are seeing plenty of public activity resulting directly from the votes they cast just one week ago. That’s pretty cool. When voters see their ballot measures take effect and make big changes right away, they see in the most vivid light possible that their votes matter. That immediate action should build voters’ interest and faith in initiative and referendum and inspire them to take their direct democratic power seriously.