Bob Mercer’s report on the Legislative Executive Board’s meeting Monday contains a number of interesting nuggets.
First, the Legislature’s Initiative and Referendum Task Force will be chaired by a non-legislator:
Emily Wanless, a faculty member at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, will chair the task force on initiatives, referendums and constitutional amendments. Several Executive Board members recommended a non-legislator. Wanless is a libertarian.
Mickelson said Wanless is “very impressive” and “has a passion for these issues.”
Bolin urged support, saying, “I think it would be a very good move on our part.”
The vote was 13-1, with Partridge opposed [Bob Mercer, “Plan to Study Workforce Housing in Small Communities,” Rapid City Journal, 2017.05.16].
A Libertarian in charge of a Legislative interim committee—congratulations, Dr. Wanless! That makes you the highest-ranking Libertarian in South Dakota!
Dr. Wanless did say of the plethora of ballot measures in 2016, “For a time in which people are complaining about the inefficiency of government and the lack of trust with legislators, this is a more direct process.” That line suggests a recognition of the value of initiative and referendum as a popular check on Legislative power. But a true Libertarian might be no more willing to give the people expansive power to make laws than she is to give government such power. Given that the Legislature created this task force with an eye toward curbing our constitutional right to make our own laws, and given that the committee’s vice-chair is Rep. Don Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls), who wants to hamstring voter power and makes the laughable assertion that putting measures on the ballot is easy, all small-d democrats should pay close attention to this committee’s actions over the summer.
One would think that a non-legislator would be a good choice to chair the Government Accountability Task Force as well. But no—legislators think they can keep themselves accountable. The Executive Board chose rookie Senator Jordan Youngberg (R-8/Sioux Falls) to head that panel as it discusses changes in campaign finance law. Senator Youngberg is one of two rookie legislators on the task force; the other six are veteran legislators who have more experience with campaign finance and the changes it has undergone not just this year in the wild churn of IM 22 repeal and replacement but in past campaign cycles. Picking a rookie to lead the effort suggests the Republican leadership is more interested in boosting the profile of another Lake County Prostrollo-machine golden boy than in pushing hard for significant changes in their campaign finance rules.
Finally, the Executive Board drastically narrowed the scope of Speaker Mark Mickelson’s (R-13/Sioux Falls) workforce housing committee by deciding to focus only on housing issues in towns of 5,000 people or fewer… meaning the committee will look at towns where the majority of South Dakotans don’t live. Trust me: if there’s anyplace where we need to study the challenges of finding affordable housing for workers, it’s not in the flat housing and labor markets of our smallest towns; it’s in the bigger towns where demand boosts housing prices faster than wages (oh! there’s that word legislators and business people will try to avoid bringing up during the committee hearings!).