Senator Jim Bolin keeps crying that we need to protect our state constitution, and yesterday the interim task force on initiative and referendum mostly agreed with him, approving his proposed 55% vote threshold to pass constitutional amendments.
But I keep asking: protect our state constitution from what?
“Our constitution needs protection against a wide range of efforts to change it and to reform it and to alter it in ways that I think the general public is not really appreciative of,” Bolin said during yesterday’s task force meeting. But what “wide range of efforts” are we talking about? What harmful amendments have been piled onto our constitution?
Out of five amendments proposed last year, only two passed. One, the relatively innocuous clarification that allowed Bolin and his fellow legislators to move vo-tech governance from the Regents to a separate board, passed by only 50.6%. With his 55% threshold, does he mean to say that the vo-tech board that he prime-sponsored was a bad idea?
The other amendment that passed last year was the crime victims bill of rights. That measure, branded as “Marsy’s Law,” was backed by one rich California billionaire who hired Kelsey Grammer to pitch it in TV ads. It won 59.6% of the vote. With his 55% threshold, does Bolin mean to say that this clear writing of one Californian’s vanity bill into our constitution is not an ill from which we need protection?
As I wrote in my July 25 analysis, South Dakotans since 1972 have been more willing to use their voting power to change their constitution than to change their laws. Is Bolin saying we need to protect South Dakotans from themselves? If so, how does a conservative Republican like Bolin justify such nanny-statism by anything other than an elitist disregard for the wisdom and rights of the people who vote to put him in office?
Amending our constitution is hard enough. We don’t need to impose any additional patronizing hurdles to the people’s right to govern themselves.