What?! I’ve got to argue against Venhuizen? O.K. fine….
As President Trump declared his Presidency is about giving power back to the people, South Dakota’s Republican Legislature moved to take power away from the people. The Senate State Affairs Committee approved Senate Bill 59, which weakens South Dakotans’ constitutional right to enact legislation by initiative.
Tony Venhuizen, chief of staff to Governor Dennis Daugaard, showed up to testify in favor of the bill; citizen activists Charlene Lund and John Fiksdal testified against this Legislative power grab. The opponents actually made progress: they convinced Senate State Affairs to strike Section 2, the constitutionally unworkable portion of SB 59 that would have subjected our initiatives to Legislative vote, gubernatorial veto, and other complications that run afoul of the people’s will as expressed in 1988’s Amendment A that removed the Legislature from the initiative process.
But SB 59 still has Section 1, which delays enactment of voter-approved ballot measures (initiative, referendum, or constitutional amendment) from the week after the election to July 1 of the following year. Prime sponsor Senator Jim White and Venhuizen testified this provision simply allows the state time to figure out what needs to be done to implement the new laws.
Opponent Charlene Lund said she opposes any effort to undermine initiatives but has no problem with the later implementation date. However, this delay does undermine our ability to enact ballot measures by making it easier for the Legislature to overturn the voters’ will.
Opponent Jon Fiksdal agrees with my analysis of how this delay could have affected the 2014 minimum-wage vote. He told Senate State Affairs that it would have been easier for them to tinker with a minimum-wage hike that had not yet been implemented because they could have sold the change as a smaller increase than an actual cut in wages. If voters haven’t gotten to see the benefits of a ballot measure in action—in the case of the minimum wage increase, if they don’t see the real dollars in their pocket—it’s easier for the Legislature to take those benefits away by repealing that ballot measure. That means more power for the Legislature and less power for the people.
Senate State Affairs approved the reduced SB 59 6–1 (Yea: Bolin, Langer, Maher, Novstrup, Netherton, and Ewing; Nay: Sutton; Excused: Curd and Heinert).
SB 59 now heads to the Senate floor. We won half the battle today; now, fellow believers in direct democracy, finish the job. Call your Senators and tell them to respect President Trump’s wishes (!!!), leave power in the hands of the people, and vote NO on SB 59.