Libertarian Professor Chairs Initiative/Referendum Committee; Rookie Gets Campaign Finance Chair

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!).


3 Responses to Libertarian Professor Chairs Initiative/Referendum Committee; Rookie Gets Campaign Finance Chair

  1. Porter Lansing

    The workforce housing committee should develop a program to help teachers become first time home buyers.

  2. I have a very bad feeling that citizens of South Dakota are going to rue the day that they let the opportunity to take IM 22 to court with an effort to take it all the way to the US supreme court slip through their hands. I can’t believe that Dems and everyone else have stood back and watched what has gone on with this measure and have therefore sent the message to the GOP that they can pretty much do as they please.
    The initiative and referendum process in this state has produced more meaningful legislation than anything that has come out of Pierre in some time. Between guns, trans gender bathrooms and trying to take away citizens rights what has been accomplished. Lets get rid of them and run the state through the ballot box!

  3. Clyde, I don’t know if we would have gotten anywhere with a lawsuit over IM22 itself. Once the Legislature repealed it with HB 1069, that lawsuit was moot. Besides, it was initiated by Republican legislators, so it wasn’t up to Democrats to keep that lawsuit going.

    We could have sued over the improper use of the emergency clause and the multi-subject nature of HB 1069, but that move might only have forestalled repeal of IM 22 until July 1 of this year. Plus, by the time we would have gotten a lawsuit in motion, the Legislature had already passed numerous other bills affecting campaign finance, ethics, and lobbying, creating a knot of legalese probably uncuttable by overturning HB 1069 via lawsuit or referendum.

    We do need to capitalize on the Legislature’s error, and that capitalization happens on the campaign trail, not in court. Whatever money might have been spent on lawyers is better spent on candidates and ballot measures that remind the voters why they should be mad, at whom they should be mad, and what they should do to relieve their anger constructively.