After repealing the voter-approved Initiated Measure 22, the Legislature has thrown voters a bone in the form of Senate Bill 131, which mostly restores the two-year revolving-door lobbying ban in Section 65 of IM 22. Current law restricts only elected officials from leaving office to lobby, and that ban lasts only one year. SB 131 adds department or agency heads, division directors, and the highest paid employee reporting to each of those people to the ban and makes them sit out for two years. SB 131, like IM 22, clarifies that restriction only applies to taking pay for such lobbying… since, as I think about it, it’s probably a violation of the First Amendment to ban any private citizen, no matter what job she was doing yesterday, from going to Pierre and jawboning legislators.
Of course, this revolving-door rule passed in part because some Republicans think it’s an empty gesture:
“Perception is reality to the citizens of this state,” [Rep. Larry] Rhoden [R-29/Union Center] said. “It provides assurances to the people of this state that we are listening, that we abide by their wishes.”
…Rep. Thomas Brunner, R-Nisland, asked what the problem has been. Rhoden said he could think of one or two examples in the 16 years he’s served in the Legislature.
Rhoden said the main point is that the two-year ban reflects the perceptions of voters on IM 22.
Brunner said it really hasn’t been a problem. He said many legislators came back after one year to lobby.
“I don’t think it’s been a problem for anybody,” Brunner said. “I submit to you the one year is plenty.”
…Rep. Tim Rounds, R-Pierre, called it “a solution looking for a problem.” Rep. Larry Zikmund, R-Sioux Falls, said in his 27 years of involvement in state government he’s never seen a problem [Bob Mercer, “Legislature Expands Lobbying Ban to More Officials and Doubles Length,” Aberdeen American News, 2017.02.28].
Senator Bob Ewing (R-31/Spearfish), who voted for SB 131 a couple weeks ago, insists that lobbyists don’t influence votes, anyway:
As far as lobbyists go … they have a large base of knowledge. I try to listen to what constituents want on a bill, but what I ask is, ‘Is it legal? Is it good for Lawrence County? Is it good for the state?’ I have voted against things that are good for the state, but are bad for Lawrence County. I try to do what’s best for the community where I live. As far as influence, I don’t let them (lobbyists) influence my votes [Sen. Bob Ewing, in Jaci Conrad Pearson, “Cracker Barrel Attendees Talk SB 176,” Black Hills Pioneer, 2017.02.27].
So one could conclude that in restoring Section 65 of IM 22, Republicans are just messing with voters’ heads. They still think we voters are wrong. They don’t think recent government officials or any other lobbyists have any undue influence on their decisions. They’re just passing this particular IM 22 “replacement” bill to assuage our incorrect perceptions.
SB 131 passed the House yesterday 51–17, following a 34–1 vote in the Senate February 8. The bill now goes to Governor Daugaard, who probably won’t mind signing this peace offering to all of us hoodwinked voters.