VIP Sponsors Redo Amendment to Exempt All Budget Bills from Referendum

That’s unexpected: Attorney General Marty Jackley issued another ballot question explanation yesterday, this time for a revised version of the Voter Initiative Protection (VIP) Amendment. Sponsors Roxanne Weber of Pierre and Nicholas Rasmussen of Sioux Falls got an A.G.’s explanation of their VIP Amendment on June 5 and began circulating their petition to place the amendment on the 2018 ballot shortly thereafter. But now they have submitted a revised draft, which would require them to restart their petition drive.

How does the new VIP Amendment differ from the original?

  1. In Section 1, the original amendment would have made any law subject to referendum except for “the general appropriation bill.” The new amendment expands that exception to include “any budget bills.”
  2. Also in Section 1, the original amendment says, “A law enacted with an emergency clause but referred to a public vote shall remain in effect until the law is voted upon by the people.” The new amendment changes that wording—”The law enacted with an emergency clause shall remain in effect until the law is voted upon by the people”—but appears to have the same effect.
  3. Section 2 of both versions requires than laws changing how many electors must sign ballot question petitions, how much time is available for such circulation, or how many votes a ballot question must get to be enacted must be submitted to the voters for approval. The original VIP amendment refers to “any law effectively changing” those criteria; the new version refers to “any law amending” those criteria. I am open to a debate about the legal definition of “amend” and whether this word change has any practical effect.
  4. Section 3 of both versions seeks to change the 10% signature requirement from a minimum to a maximum. The original VIP amendment says, “A number of qualified electors of the state not greater than ten percent of the total votes cast for Governor in the last gubernatorial election shall be required to sign the petition to submit an amendment to a vote of the electors of the state.” The new version says, “Not more than ten percent of the total votes cast for Governor in the last gubernatorial election shall be required to sign the petition to amend the constitution.” As with the second and third changes above, this fourth change appears to have the same practical intent but simply streamlines the language.

Attorney General Jackley appears to agree that the revised draft’s only substantive change is the broader exclusion of all budget bills from referendum. His explanation for the revised bill notes this change and indicates no other practical impacts of the revised language. A.G. Jackley may even find the language changes helpful: to the sponsors’ certain relief, Jackley drops the words “lack clarity” and “Judicial or legislative clarification may be necessary” and keeps only the warning, “Some of the amendment’s provisions may conflict with existing state and federal election laws.”

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs hasn’t added the revised Voter Initiative Protection Amendment to the ballot question roster yet. But if Weber and Rasmussen really are starting over, they’re giving up two months of circulation time and signatures. They’ll have three months left (deadline November 6!) to hit the fairs this month and the fall events following to collect the 27,741 signatures necessary to put a constitutional amendment to next year’s general election ballot.