I just heard Seth Tupper wonder aloud on Dakota Midday why we don’t delay the implementation of voter-approved ballot measures a little longer so state and local officials aren’t having to scramble to figure out how the new laws work, as we’re seeing now with Amendment S and Initiated Measure 22. Under SDCL 2-1-12, voter-approved ballot measures take effect the day after the official state canvass; this year, that meant our initiatives took effect on November 16, eight days after the election.
May I suggest that the ballot measures we just approved shouldn’t have caught anyone by surprise? Initiative sponsors have to submit their legal language to the Legislative Research Council, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of State more than a year before the election. The public sees that language on petitions more than a year ahead of time. Elected officials manage to deal with hundreds of bills that pop up in the two-month Legislative Session, dozens that are enacted with only four months of prep time before July 1 enactment, and more than a few that have emergency clauses making them law sooner than that. Elected officials have more than enough time to read our relatively rare initiatives, talk to the sponsors and legal counsel, and figure out what they’ll have to do if the public makes those initiatives law.
Citizens have to wait long enough to realize their initiative will. We shouldn’t have to wait even longer to put our ideas to work just because some elected officials can’t be bothered to read our initiatives until the last minute.