Represent South Dakota wasn’t able to stop the Legislature from repealing Initiated Measure 22, the anti-corruption measure voters passed last November. Thus, they are proposing a constitutional amendment to restore some of what the Legislature took away, strengthen some of what the Legislature passed to “replace” IM22, and, in a reach beyond what IM22 did, protect the initiative and referendum process from Legislative meddling.
Represent SD spokesman Doug Kronaizl of Vermillion says his group filed language for an initiated amendment with the Legislative Research Council this morning. Represent SD has not made that draft available for publication yet, but their press release summarizes the main provisions as follows:
- Protect voter-approved laws from legislative meddling. Prohibit the legislature from changing or repealing laws passed by the voters without going back to the voters for their approval.
- Ban lobbyist gifts to politicians. Close loopholes created by the legislature that currently allow lobbyists to provide politicians with lavish meals and alcohol.
- Ban foreign money in South Dakota elections.
- Ban union and corporate contributions to political candidates. Reinstate the longtime ban on contributions from labor unions and corporations to candidates quietly repealed by the legislature in 2017.
- Lower campaign contribution limits to ensure that large donors can’t buy South Dakota’s elections.
- Create an independent citizen ethics commission. After repealing IM-22’s ethics commission, the legislature offered the people a weak, toothless replacement, and then exempted themselves from its oversight. The amendment replaces it with an accountable, independent citizen ethics commission that has oversight over all three branches of government [Represent South Dakota, press release, 2017.04.06].
Item #1 appears to be a “Don’t Mess with Us” amendment, akin to what I proposed in February. Imagine what would have happened if the Legislators would have had to submit their repeal of IM 22 to a vote of the people!
Item #2 appears to pounce on the lobbyist-gift ban passed in House Bill 1073, which does indeed exempt wining and dining. (See what happens when you let legislators write laws to curb their own corruption?)
Item #3 takes a step federal law already has, meaning I wouldn’t be able to ask my Canadian friends to contribute to my next campaign. (Send those loonies now!)
Item #4 responds to one of the gravest errors of the 2017 Legislature, which went the opposite direction that voters signaled in IM 22 and opened the door for more big money in South Dakota campaigns instead of less.
Item #5 would place in the Constitution the lower campaign contribution caps that our Legislature completely ignored in its reforms this year (but which Senator Brock Greenfield assures us he wants to take up in 2018—gee, Brock, maybe Represent SD is about to save you some work?).
Finally, Item #6 challenges House Bill 1076, which creates the Government Accountability Board. Represent SD points out a remarkable fact about the GAB that our legislators said would replace the IM22 ethics commission: HB 1076 gives the GAB authority to “review and investigate any person holding a statewide office, as defined in § 12-27-1, and employees of the executive branch.” That scope conveniently leaves legislators outside the reach of their ethics commission.
Hmm… after this Session, do we really believe the Legislature can get by without some external review? Again, do you see what happens when you let legislators write laws to curb their own corruption?
Notice that these points do not mention public campaign finance, a key component of IM 22 that Republicans universally panned and refused to consider in their “replacement” legislation this year. I will wait to see a full draft to confirm that “Democracy Credits” are not part of this show.
In submitting their draft to LRC, Represent SD starts a 15-day review period, by the end of which LRC must provide its comment on the amendment draft. Represent SD may then submit its draft to the Attorney General, who will have another 60 days to review and provide his public explanation. So by June 21, if government takes all time allotted and Represent SD moves with all possible alacrity, we could see petitions on the street for this Amendment. Represent SD will need to gather 27,742 signatures from registered South Dakota voters by November 6 to place this amendment on the 2018 ballot.