When pressed on the repeal of Initiated Measure 22 at Aberdeen’s crackerbarrel yesterday, our District 2 and 3 legislators often resorted to painting the protestors against repeal vehicle House Bill 1069 as bad people.
Senator Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) said the protestors came from out of state, that a Harvard professor (hey! it’s Lawrence Lessig!) paid for the plane that towed a protest banner over the Capitol, that protestors had planned to throw fake money at legislators from the gallery. “The circus came to town,” he complained, planning civil disobedience. He said protestors were emotional, but the “cooler heads” of the legislators prevailed. He thanked Democratic leaders for tamping down protest “that could have gotten ugly.”
Remember that things didn’t get ugly. No arrests occurred in connection with the Legislature’s rush to overturn the will of the people (although the Constitution Party thinks impeachment is in order for certain legislators). No one appears to have acted outside the bounds of the First Amendment. And even if civil disobedience or lesser violations of gallery decorum had taken place, such outbursts, however offensive to our legislators’ sensibilities, would not have affected the merits of House Bill 1069 one bit. The fact that a protestor is emotional or teaches at Harvard or makes Al Novstrup cry by calling him corrupt does not change the fact that HB 1069 overturns the will of the voters and violates the Constitution by addressing multiple subjects and by invoking a fiscal emergency clause when no fiscal emergency exists.
In other words, crackerbarrel attendees yesterday were saying, HB 1069 sucks! and Senator Greenfield and his fellow legislators were saying, No, you suck!
One woman challenged this ad hominem attack directly. She took the mic to tell Senator Greenfield that she attended the HB 1069 protest in Pierre. She sat in the gallery. She said that she and many of the people with her were South Dakotans. She said she heard none of the dire plots for civil disobedience that Senator Greenfield alleged. She asked Senator Greenfield where he got his information.
So challenged on his illogic and disrespect, Senator Greenfield spun hard, trying to apologize without walking back any of his errors other than saying he shouldn’t have said, “The circus came to town” (I don’t think he was saying he didn’t mean it; I think he was acknowledging the line was not politic).
Senator Greenfield admitted some of what he alleged was hearsay. He then said with some caution that some protestors had contacted a Pierre law office to retain legal counsel in case they were arrested for civil disobedience. He mumbled something about attorney-client privilege, then said that staff had relayed the information about the protestors’ request, apparently to the Legislature.
I think we could use some clarification here. Citizens went to a Pierre law office, seeking legal counsel. Someone at that law office shared information about those conversations between citizens and the attorneys they sought to hire with other people.
Senator Al Novstrup said again yesterday that there is no corruption in Pierre. (We’re all scum, but legislators are sterling seems to be Novstrup’s view of himself and the world beneath him.) But the fact that I can’t seek legal counsel in Pierre without worrying that my lawyer or his staff will run to political leaders at the Capitol with details of our conversation seems to be a first-class example of corruption.
I have contacted Senator Greenfield and asked him to clarify his statement. I have also asked him to indicate whether he has reported this possible breach of attorney-client privilege to the state bar association.
Alleged misconduct by a Pierre law firm has as little to do with the merits of HB 1069 as do alleged misconduct and out-of-state origins of HB 1069 opponents. But protestors, if you’re heading to Pierre and are worried about the Legislature over-exerting its authority to quash your First Amendment activities, Senator Greenfield is signaling that you might need to engage lawyers from out of town, since at least one Pierre law firm reports directly to the Legislature.
Two Republicans voted against HB 1069, Senator Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton) and Senator Lance Russell (R-30/Hot Springs). Immediately after the Senate’s vote Wednesday to overturn the will of the people, Senators Nelson and Russell filed a formal dissent and protest, placing on the record arguments they made during floor debate that HB 1069 violates the U.S. Constitution by infringing on anonymous campaign speech and violates the South Dakota Constitution by addressing multiple subjects. They also contend that the seventeen Senators suing the state to overturn IM22 violated Legislative Joint Rules by voting on a bill that would allow them to escape further legal costs:
Pursuant to Joint Rule 1-10, we, the undersigned Senators, do hereby respectfully dissent from, and protest against, the rulings of the President of the Senate, Lt. Gov. Matthew Michels, in ruling against Senator Nelson’s point of orders that 17 Senate members be excused from voting due to their personal conflict of interest in the legislation to overturn IM22 due to their admitted public record of personal pecuniary interest in a lawsuit to overturn IM22, violating Joint Rule 12-1 and Section 521 (2)(3) & Section 522 (1) of Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure (enacted as SD Legislative Joint rules via Joint Rule 11-3). Lt. Gov. Michels’ ruling, in the face of such conflict of interests, promotes a practice that undermines the very foundation of our State Constitution, weakens the rule of law, and besmirches the reputation of the South Dakota Senate. Furthermore, we, the undersigned Senators, do hereby respectfully dissent from, and protest the passage of House Bill 1069 in that it clearly violates Article III, Section 21 of the South Dakota Constitution (which 17 Senators acknowledge in section 10 of their lawsuit contesting the mirror image of HB1069, IM22 was unconstitutional for violating this constitutional provision) states: “No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.” Members voted to pass House Bill 1069 knowing that provisions of it contained sections which require citizens to declare their names, address, etc., on campaign material, which the Supreme Court of the United States of America has ruled explicitly violates persons’ 1st Amendment rights (see McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334 (1995)). We therefore believe that the passage of House Bill 1069 is in contravention of both the United States Constitution, South Dakota’s Constitution, and is therefore null and void. We thus dissent from, and protest against, the erroneous rulings, the unconstitutional aspects of House Bill 1069, and the appearances of improprieties used to pass House Bill 1069. We respectfully request that this dissent and protest be printed in the Senate Journal as required by Joint Rule 1-10 [Sen. Stace Nelson and Sen. Lance Russell, Dissent and Protest to Passage, Senate Journal, 2017.02.01].
Democratic Senators Billie Sutton (D-21/Burke), Troy Heinert (D-26/Mission), and Jason Frerichs (D-1/Wilmot) followed suit but took a little longer to type. Their dissent and protest appears in yesterday’s Senate Journal:
Joint Rule 1B-2 states the legislators must comply with all Constitutional and statutory requirements regarding conflicts of interest. Voting upon HB 1069 presents a conflict of interest because the legislators currently in litigation against the implementation of Initiated Measure 22 would thereby receive a pecuniary interest due to the passage of HB 1069. Thus, they will no longer have to pay to continue the lawsuit and will thus receive a financial benefit with the repeal of IM 22.
In addition, the South Dakota Constitution, Article III, Section 1 has been used by the courts as the standard to determine when an emergency exists. Article III, Section 1 of the South Dakota Constitution allows a referral of a legislative act to a public vote before going into effect unless it is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health, or safety or the act is necessary for the support of the state government and its existing institutions. Since this law is enjoined we contend that no emergency exists, and the use of the Emergency Clause is unconstitutional in HB 1069. We therefore believe the passage of this act is in contravention of the Constitution of South Dakota and the Joint Rules and is such null and void.
We respectfully request this dissent be printed in the Senate Journal.
Nelson and Russell’s argument about anonymous speech is not really an expression of support for IM22. Both IM22 and current campaign finance law require disclaimers and disclosure of sources of campaign communications. The 1995 Supreme Court case they cite said that Ohio’s ban on anonymous speech was too broad but still allowed states and the federal government to impose disclaimer and disclosure requirements tailored to meet overriding state interests. For over two decades, states and the FEC have done just that, and the courts have not thrown out “Paid for by….”
The conflict-of-interest argument tantalizes but probably gets nowhere. Passing HB 1069 appears to end the lawyer bills for Novstrup and the other IM22 plaintiffs, but HB 1069 was not the only vehicle at their disposal for reaching that goal. They could have dropped their lawsuit at any time.
The state constitutional arguments on multiple subjects and the bogus emergency clause are the most solid. The IM22 plaintiffs themselves agreed in their anti-IM22 brief that IM22 addressed multiple subjects; they are logically bound to agree that a bill doing the exact opposite of IM22 also addresses multiple subjects. And for all their rhetorical gymnastics, not one Republican has addressed the 1996 LRC Issue Memorandum that clearly explains the funding requirement for the emergency clause HB 1069 invokes.
But are those two constitutional arguments worth taking HB 1069 to court? Get a court to overturn HB 1069 on the multi-subject argument, and we grant the court grounds on which to overturn IM22.
Get a court to overturn the emergency clause, and we may only delay enactment of HB 1069 until July 1, like a normal bill. IM22 would still be enjoined, and the South Dakota Supreme Court might not rule on the IM22 case before July 1, so even for the next few precious months, we’d still be laboring under the status quo that HB 1069 affirms.
The only impact of a no-emergency-clause delay is the opportunity to refer HB 1069 to a public vote. But that referral would be a disaster. We would place the exact text of HB 1069 (the inverse text of IM22) on the ballot. The South Dakota Supreme Court would then rule a line or two of IM22 unconstitutional (and I’m confident the plaintiffs will win at least one of their claims). Our campaign would then be in utter confusion, as we’d be voting on a Swiss-cheesed bill that includes provisions that we cannot constitutionally enact.
A key part of that pivot is for Nelson Republicans and Sutton Democrats to look for ways to turn their cooperation in protesting HB 1069 into practically constructive and/or obstructive collaboration.
Update 11:26 CST: Senator Stace Nelson expands on his dissent with this op-ed, circulated today:
February 1st was a “dark day” for the South Dakota legislature. The passage of House Bill 1069, brought to repeal the voters’ enacted Initiated Measure22, culminated the ugliest partisan bums-rush of legislation since Obamacare. I publicly opposed IM2 during the election for many reasons. The solution to bad government is not more government, and IM22 did nothing to combat the ugly corruption of the last two governor’s EB5, and Gear Up scandals. Circumstances made me a grudging opponent of HB1069.
Early on I encouraged Senators to go slow repealing IM22. We govern at the permission of the people. While the people give us permission to act on their behalf by electing us, we shouldn’t be so arrogant as to act rashly with out proper respect for their will. I suggested 5-6 single subject constitutional bills to review IM22 and afford the many subjects the proper, respectful, deliberate public hearings that voters deserved. That sage advice was cast aside and HB 1069, the mirror image of IM22 (which they contested was unconstitutional because it was multi-subject), was brought forth to repeal IM22. Immediately streams of dishonest rhetoric was pushed spinning the repeal and claiming a contrived “emergency” demanding the immediate passage of HB1069. Politicians who blithely voted for unconstitutional multi-subject bills previously, now claimed they must repeal IM22 to protect the people’s constitution, from the people!
Despite 24 legislators being personally involved in the lawsuit against IM22, they refused to recuse themselves from the obvious conflict of interest of pushing HB1069 through the legislature. They did everything possible to bend to breaking every rule possible to rush HB1069 through. To add injury to insult, Senators voted to knowingly keep unconstitutional provisions within HB1069, which require personal identifying information the Supreme Court of the United States of America has ruled explicitly violates persons’ 1st Amendment rights (see McIntyre v. Ohio Elections Comm’n, 514 U.S. 334(1995)). IM22 was allowed on the ballot by the Governor, Attorney General, and Secretary of State. That tacit support, in my opinion, removes blame of unconstitutionality from citizens who brought IM22. Legislators brought the unconstitutional HB 1069 mess. They were obligated to abide by legislative ethics rules and our US & SD Constitutions. The inappropriate conflicts of interests, the gross appearance of improprieties used to pass HB1069, and the provisions of HB1069 which were in explicit contravention of both the United States Constitution, and South Dakota’s Constitution, showed who was the real threat to our Constitutions. Principle demanded that I was duty bound to oppose HB1069, which I did.
The manner in which HB1069 was passed was disgraceful, and a “dark day” as Senator Lance Russell (R-Hot Springs) appropriately lamented. Politicians claimed there is no corruption in SD, in support of their rush to pass HB1069. The EB5 corruption and death of Richard Benda; the Gear Up corruption and deaths of Scott, Nicole, Michael,Connor, Jaeci, & Kailey Westerhuis; the recent scandal of a two year legislative cover-up of a legislator sexually preying on pages & interns; and, the same legislators repealing the will of the voters in such a corrupt fashion, refute those assertions upon utterance.
In that “dark day” there was a ray of principled sunshine. The honorable gentleman, Senator Lance Russell (R), stood tall on the Senate floor and opposed the partisan stampeding herd. In the end, we earned the wrath of politicians for refusing to compromise the ethical principles of your government in their demands we go along to get along. The good news is, Senator Russell and I sleep like babies at night and we can look each one of our constituents in the eyes when we go home.
After disposing of amendments, Senator R. Blake Curd opened debate (SDPB video 1:51:00) on the main bill praising the vigorous, dare-he-say unparalleled public participation that he witnessed on HB 1069. He then yielded the floor to a bunch of colleagues who would join him in rejecting the legitimacy of public participation as expressed in a fair, democratic, statewide vote of 349,800 South Dakotans.
Senator Brock Greenfield (2:11:10) expressed shock and appallment (appallation? appallance?) that supporters of IM 22 are raising money for more advertisement and litigation. What?! Political activists raising money to support political activism? Perish the thought!
Senator Justin Cronin (2:38:58) said he’s “torn” about respecting the will of the voters. “Torn.” Just chew on that for a moment.
Senator Cronin actually justified his comment by pointing that his District, 23, rejected IM 22 by 68% majority. That’s actually an interesting point. If only Senator Cronin had told his fellow legislators to apply the same principle of fealty to their districts’ voters on IM22, we would have seen a very different outcome.
Senator Jeff Monroe said (2:53:48), “I darn near starve to death every year we do this.”
On tonight’s Legislative Social Calendar: American Legion Legislative Reception, Realtors’ Legislative Appreciation Chili/Oyster Stew Feed, and School Superintendents Buffet.
Senate President Matt Michels thanked Senator Monroe for his “very eloquent” commentary.
Senator Al Novstrup said (2:42:30), “Every election I’m called corrupt.” Expect that single sentence to appear on every campaign postcard from Novstrup’s opponents in 2018… along with pictures of gold watches and bags of cash. Several Republicans spoke seethingly of the gold watches and bags of cash that appeared in the pro-IM22 ads last fall. Whew—criticism and metaphors drive Republicans like Al bonkers!
Senator Novstrup went beyond the “sure, there’s a problem, but we gotta protect the constitution” line his GOP colleagues were adopting and claimed there is no problem. He bragged about how there’s only been one conviction for public corruption in fifteen years on the same day that Joop Bollen pled guilty in Novstrup’s hometown to misusing money he held for the state.
Senator R. Blake Curd (2:57:07) closed debate by going to great arithmetic and telepathic (reading the minds of folks who did not mark a ballot) pains to explain that only a minority of South Dakota voters—47.66%—in November actually supported Initiated Measure 22, so repealing IM 22 is really an expression of the majority’s will.
Donald Trump received only 45.94% of the vote in November. Hmm… what conclusions shall I draw from the Curd Principle about the President’s legitimacy?
I’d better stop. My Republican friends have me laughing so much it hurts.
“It’s a real stick in the eye of the people of South Dakota,” said Liz Kennedy, director of the democracy and government reform program at the liberal Center for American Progress. “It’s one thing when it’s a policy change like minimum wage, but this is the voters saying ‘our government is not working for us right now,’ and the government is saying ‘we reject the rules that you have imposed on us.'”
…”It’s pretty blatant, this attempt to shut down citizens’ voices and their role in direct democracy,” said Kellie Dupree, communications director for the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center, a progressive group that sponsors ballot measures. “You don’t get to decide which election results you’re going to accept. I would go so far as to say it’s lawlessness” [Alan Greenblatt, “Don’t Like the Ballot Measure Voters Approved? Just Ignore It, Some Lawmakers Say,” Governing, 2017.01.31].
It’s not just South Dakota getting bad press for legislative overreach. Apparently legislators in Maine and Arizona are also trying to nullify the will of their voters. That trend just isn’t cool:
…Catie Kelley, an attorney with the Campaign Legal Center, called the trend of overturning the will of the voters “disturbing” and suggested that lawmakers must think they’re safe for re-election and unaccountable to voters.
“The whole idea of having ballot initiatives is that there’s some vehicle for voters to move a policy if lawmakers are unwilling to move it themselves,” said Kelley. “If lawmakers are going to repeal it, or undermine it through the administrative process, it’s really a lost tool for voters” [Greenblatt, 2017.01.31].
But don’t think Represent South Dakota, one of the groups fighting to defend the Anti-Corruption Act, isn’t just a bunch of Democrats shilling for the SDDP. Represent SD’s Friday press release opens fire on a flurry of replacement bills, including the Democratically sponsored House Bill 1128.
Prime sponsor Representative Dan Ahlers (D-25/Dell Rapids) proposes to forbid legislators from voting on bills that involve a conflict of interest. HB 1128 says a conflict of interest exists when a legislator has a “substantial financial interest by reason of ownership, control, or the exercise of power over any interest greater than five percent of the value of any corporation, company, association or firm, partnership, proprietorship that is uniquely affected by the proposed legislation.”
Represent SD says nuts to that:
…HB 1128… sets a toothless standard for barring legislators with conflicts of interest from casting votes, and creates no consequences if they do so. It specifies that conflicts of interest for legislators exist only when they have a significant financial interest in an entity that is “uniquely affected by the proposed legislation.” This loose “uniquely affected” standard not only creates a huge loophole, but could likely be overturned by the courts for vagueness [Represent SD, press release, 2017.01.27].
I don’t want to see HB 1128 used as an excuse by legislators to repeal the full package of anti-corruption measures that legislators want. However, even if HB 1128 doesn’t have clear enforcement, it establishes a standard that voters can use to discourage legislators from voting in their self-interest.
HB 1128 has five Democratic sponsors and four Republican sponsors, including Senate Pro-Tem Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark). HB 1128 was introduced Thursday and awaits assignment to committee.
Related Reading: A Yankton Press & Dakotan poll promoted by Represent SD on its Facebook page (that’s how I found it!) shows opponents of the Legislature’s effort to overturn the Anti-Corruption Act outnumbering supporters 6 to 1:
Former Political Science Professor Bob Burns says the emergency clause is unnecessary – and that’s not all.
“I view the legislature’s actions as humorous right now as an extreme form of arrogance,” Burns said.
Bob Burns has followed South Dakota politics for decades. In that time, he’s seen state lawmakers pass many laws, even after being warned that bills were unconstitutional and could lead to lawsuits.
Yet, when it comes to House Bill 1069, lawmakers aren’t willing to take a chance.
“You know, it may well be that the court in the end will find provisions to be unconstitutional, but to just arbitrarily declare it so, without a judicial ruling particularly by the South Dakota Supreme Court is certainly premature,” Burns said [“Political Scientist Weighs in on HB 1069,” KELO-TV, 2017.01.27].
But we know how Republican legislators feel about scientists.
Despite massive public backlash, politicians in the South Dakota Senate are still attempting to use “emergency powers” to repeal IM-22, a statewide Anti-Corruption Act passed by voters less than three months ago.
With the Senate’s repeal vote scheduled for Wednesday, we need hundreds of South Dakotans to rally at the Capitol and pack the Senate to demand that our elected officials #RespectOurVote [Represent South Dakota, “RSVP: Rally Against Corruption,” retrieved 2017.01.29].
So I have an interesting perspective to share on what transpired today in the Capitol. IM22 has been adjoined by a judge back in December. This means IM22 is not in affect and hasn’t been for over a month. IM22 was the law after the election but is not available for enforcement because of the Judge’s ruling. The old laws regarding campaign finance and ethics were gutted by the passage of IM22.
The end result right now is; we do not have enforceable campaign finance or ethics laws in place in SD today.
We are trying to repeal IM22 and put at least the old campaign finance and ethics laws back into statute so we have a rule book that is not in the courts for us to follow. That IS an emergency. That is why we need something to pass right away [emphasis mine, grammar errors Deb’s; Senator Deb Peters, Facebook post, 2017.01.26].
Senator Peters is plaintiff #2, right behind her Majority Leader R. Blake Curd, on the Republican lawsuit against IM22. (Yes, Republicans are using all three branches of government—judicial, legislative, and executive—to kill IM22.) She should thus be keenly familiar with what Judge Mark Barnett said when he ruled in Peters and Curd’s favor:
“The motion for preliminary injunction is granted, and implementation and enactment of IM22 is therefore stayed in its entirety,” ordered Judge Barnett.
IM22 consists of 70 sections, ordering that several sections of South Dakota Codified Law be amended or stricken. When IM22 became law on November 16, it amended and struck those sections. When Judge Barnett issued his injunction (orally on December 8, in print on December 21), he rolled back everything IM22 did, including all that amending and striking.
The core logic here: If we were to accept Senator Peters’s suggestion that, say, SDCL 12-27-17 on political communications is no longer law, then we would be accepting that Section 17 of IM 22, which sought to repeal that statute, has been implemented. Judge Barnett enjoined that implementation; therefore, SDCL 12-27-17 has not been repealed.
Neither the plaintiffs, the defendants, nor the judge said anything about the injunction creating a legal vacuum. The Secretary of State, who studiously avoids taking any action not explicitly authorized by law, has sent out notices to candidates and committees reminding them of their legal obligation to file campaign finance reports, per sections of Codified Law that IM22 would have modified, and Senators Peters, Jim Bolin, and Justin Cronin, all litigants against IM 22, have complied with campaign finance law by filing their year-end reports. (Cronin just filed his Wednesday.) Campaign finance law remains in effect.
Senator Peters and her Republican colleagues sound a lot like David Novstrup last year when he tried to convince me that his attempt to undo the voter-approved minimum wage was anything other than an affront to the voters. Republicans are claiming that campaign finance law has disappeared, when in fact Judge Barnett only erased changes and reset campaign finance law to its pre-IM22 state. Republicans are claiming there is an emergency, when in fact there is none. Republicans are claiming HB 1069 is constitutional, when in fact it by their own logic is not.
Republican are cloaking their repeal of IM22 in concern for the constitution and the will of the voters, when in fact HB 1069 embodies no such concern.
Prime Senate sponsor Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark) opened debate on HB 1069 with brief remarks. He avoided details of the repeal and simply said passing HB 1069 will allow bipartisan discussions and “upgrades to the law” to “embody the spirit of the vote of the people.”
Senator Ryan Maher (R-28/Isabel) then offered Amendment 1069wd, a retention of a definition and an insertion of an interpretation that appear to have no practical effect on the repeal or the resulting law. Senator Maher spoke for just few seconds, calling his amendment “clean-up.”
The Legislature is taking a four-day weekend and does not reconvene until Tuesday, January 31. That means Senators head home tonight, spend four days back home at crackerbarrels hearing from constituents, and don’t resume debate on HB 1069 until Wednesday, February 1.
IM22 backers, you now have six full days to keep up the pressure.
Permit me to put on my old Republican hat and make a purely Machiavellian suggestion. Republican friends, maximize your return on HB 1069. Use the long weekend to show you care. Come back Wednesday swearing that you have heard the people’s concerns. Respond to those concerns by amending HB 1069 (as Minority Leader Sutton tried yesterday in committee) to remove the emergency clause that prevents them from referring your decision.
Then pass HB 1069, sit back, and laugh. Voters won’t refer HB 1069. Even if they do, the referral will collapse under the complications of the impending Supreme Court ruling (which you are confident will find the whole thing unconstitutional, right?) and the new campaign finance and ethics and lobbying laws that you’ll pass (and you are committed to those bills, right?). You’ll gain points for acting in the public interest without doing any harm to your agenda.
HB 1069 seeks to repeal every provision of the Anti-Corruption Act. If the Republican plaintiffs believe what their lawsuit says, if the Anti-Corruption Act really does encompass multiple subjects, then HB 1069 encompasses multiple subjects.
We already know that HB 1069 violates the constitution with its invocation of a bogus “emergency” clause. Republican legislators have been citing their oath to uphold the state constitution as the basis for their rejection of IM 22. But by supporting multiple-subject HB 1069, are they not doubly violating their oath to support the state constitution?
But the South Dakota Legislature’s effort to strip voters of their constitutional right to legislate and make Pierre the sole lawmaking authority is not limited to fast-tracked House Bill 1069. Here is the list of bills filed so far that either tinker with voter-approved laws or revise petition and election law to weaken voter power. I mark in red the worst bills, those that definitely deserve a NO vote.
Tinkering with Voter-Approved Laws:
HB 1069: An Act to repeal and revise certain provisions related to campaign finance and to declare an emergency.
Intent: Repeal IM22’s $100 limit on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers and immediate family and replace it with a soft $100 cap on gifts riddled with exceptions (including all those free meals on the Legislative Social Calendar).
HB 1175: “An Act to revise the method of establishing certain interest rates.”
Originally a carcass bill, HB 1175’s title suggested possible tinkering with the 36% rate cap on payday lending. An amendment offered Monday, Feb. 13, showed the bill targets the interest rates used to figure damages in court cases. No harm, no foul.
SB 131: An Act to revise certain provisions concerning the period of time elected officials are prohibited from lobbying after leaving office.
Intent: now nearly replicates IM 22 Section 65 lobbyist revolving-door limits; originally offered a significantly weaker replacement. Forbids any “No elected officer, department or agency head, or division director, or the highest paid employee reporting to such person” from lobbying for two years after leaving government service.
HB 1034: An Act to establish certain fees for receiving electronic files of petitions, to revise certain provisions concerning filing petitions and other documents, and to revise certain provisions concerning elections and voting.
Intent: mixed bag!
On the bad side, HB 1034 strikes the Secretary of State’s obligation to include Pro and Con statements from interested parties on the official state ballot question pamphlet. While these Pro/Con statements can include utter bushwah, they are also one opportunity for honest, low-budget grassroots campaigns to reach every voter in the state with a few paragraphs explaining their measure.
On the good side, HB 1034 improves openness by establishing fixed, affordable fees for obtaining copies of petitions that citizens can review for fraud and grounds for challenges.
HB 1074: An Act to provide for limits on certain out-of-state contributions to ballot question committees.
Attacking: funding for ballot measure campaigns.
Intent: Amended to cap contributions from out-of-state residents to ballot question committees to $100,000; originally imposed an unworkable and unconstitutional limit on out-of-state contributions to ballot question committees.
SB 77: An Act to provide for a fiscal note for any initiated measure or initiated amendment to the Constitution that would have a fiscal impact on the state.
Attacking: initiative process.
Further delay circulation of initiative petitions by making sponsors wait for Legislative Research Council to complete a fiscal analysis;
Make it harder to circulate initiative petitions by requiring circulators to “provide notice to any person who signs the petition that the initiated measure or initiated amendment to the Constitution may have an impact on revenues, expenditures, or fiscal liability of the state or its agencies and subdivisions”;
Deter voters by cluttering ballot with fiscal impact statement; committee amendment limits statement to 50 words.
SJR 2: A Joint Resolution proposing and submitting to the electors at the next general election amendments to Article XXIII, of the Constitution of the State of South Dakota, relating to amendments to the Constitution.
Attacking: process of passing constitutional amendments.
Raise the vote required for the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment to a public vote from simple majority to two thirds of each chamber;
Raise the vote required by the public to amend the constitution from simple majority to 60%.
There a couple faintly pro-democracy measures in the hopper. One such exception to the Legislature’s anti-democratic rampage: Senator Stace Nelson has proposed a constitutional amendment that may increase voter power a smidgeon. Senate Joint Resolution 1 would put on the 2018 ballot an amendment to make the Secretary of Veterans Affairs an elected office instead of a gubernatorial appointment.
SB 171 would create a task force to study “government, campaign finance, lobbyist restrictions, and ethics,” the subjects of IM 22. (Status: passed Senate, referred to House State Affairs.)
I’m no fan of task forces, but I would prefer to see killed all of the above proposals on I&R and perhaps all of the “replacement” bills offered to compensate for the Legislature’s hasty repeal of IM 22 in favor of empaneling these task forces and conducting public hearings statewide to give voters another chance to tell legislators what they really want.