…and other historical notes!
Senate Joint Resolution 2, Senator Jim Bolin’s proposal to make it harder for us to amend our state constitution, survived a bumpy trip through the Senate last week. On Valentine’s Day, the Senate voted 17–16 in favor of SJR 2, which was one yea shy of the majority required. Senator Bolin moved to reconsider and was able to sway three Senators—Terri Haverly, Jack Kolbeck, and Justin Cronin—to flip from nay to yea. He lost Jordan Youngberg’s yea, so the final vote Wednesday was 19–15. That’s enough to move SJR 2 to House State Affairs.
Interestingly, that’s also five votes shy of the 24 votes Senator Bolin’s own proposal would require of all future constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the Legislature.
So this week’s question of conscience: if Senator Bolin believes constitutional amendments should receive at least a two-thirds vote of each chamber of the Legislature—if a simple majority vote is not enough to make a constitutional amendment legitimate—can Senator Bolin in good conscience continue to push a constitutional amendment that has the support of only 54% of the Senate?
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Contradicting the concern I expressed yesterday that the Chamber wouldn’t mind seeing fewer ballot measures from the people, the Chamber opposes SJR 2. Chamber exec David Owen told Senate State Affairs that the Chamber is o.k. with requiring a two-thirds vote from the Legislature but thinks that requiring a 60% vote of the electorate is “too much of a filter.” “Having to do a statewide campaign is enough rigor,” said Owen, to protect the state constitution.
The Concerned Women for America and the Family Heritage Alliance both testified in support of SJR 2. Those family values crusaders might want to check their history: South Dakota’s judicially overturned gay- marriage ban passed the 2005 Senate 20–14, four votes shy of the SJR 2 two-thirds threshold, and it passed in the 2006 general election with only 51.83% of the vote, well below the SJR 2 60% threshold. Our family values crusaders are thus supporting an amendment that would have kept their anti-gay agenda off the ballot and out of our state constitution.
The gay-marriage ban is one of ten recent amendments that SJR 2 would have blocked. By my count, we voters have passed fourteen of the 31 constitutional amendments placed on our ballots from 2000 to 2016. That’s a 45% pass rate. Only four of those fourteen received both two-thirds votes in each chamber (at least 24 in the Senate, at least 47 in the House) and 60% or better from the electorate. Neither of the amendments we passed last year, the vo-tech governance change or the crime victims’ bill of rights, cracked 60% with the voters.
The table below shows the fourteen amendments we have passed from 2000 to 2016; I have bolded the four amendments that would have survived SJR 2.
|2016||Amendment R||Governance of postsecondary technical education institutes||Senate 34, House 68||50.61%|
|2016||Amendment S||Expands crime victims’ rights||Citizen petition||59.61%|
|2014||Amendment Q||Permits certain forms of gambling in the city of Deadwood upon local voter approval||Senate 25, House 37||56.69%|
|2012||Constitutional Amendment O||Changes amount taken each year from state cement-plant trust fund.||Senate 33, House 64||56.76%|
|2012||Constitutional Amendment P||Places language in the state constitution saying that the budget must be balanced.||Senate 30, House 66||64.60%|
|2010||Amendment K||Protects the right to secret ballots in federal, state, and union representation elections||Senate 22, House 44||79.13%|
|2008||Amendment I||Provides for a maximum of forty legislative days each year.||Senate 24, House 48||52.41%|
|2006||Amendment C||Makes only marriage between a man and a woman valid.||Senate 20, House 55||51.83%|
|2001||Amendment A||Establishes a trust fund for proceeds of the sale of the State Cement Plant.||unable to find vote!||78.79%|
|2001||Amendment B||Establishes trust funds for healthcare and education.||Senate 27, House 66||72.50%|
|2000||Amendment A||Establishes multiple classes of agricultural property for purposes of taxation||Senate 35, House 60||54.94%|
|2000||Amendment B||Authorizes local initiatives to provide for the cooperation and organization of local government.||Senate 21, House 39||55.28%|
|2000||Amendment C||Prohibits a state inheritance tax.||Citizen petition||80.13%|
|2000||Amendment E||Permits investment of the permanent school funds in certain stocks, bonds, and mutual funds.||Senate 30, House 60||56.10%|