• Tag Archives John Wiik
  • Wiik Discourages Petition-Signing, Deutsch Wants to Weaken Initiative and Referendum

    Alas, Republican representatives continue their push to undermine voters’ confidence in their own initiative and referendum process. Senator John Wiik (R-4/Big Stone City) apparently spent non-4-H time at the State Fair discouraging everyone from signing petitions:

    Sen. John Wiik, public Facebook post, 2017.09.02.
    Sen. John Wiik, public Facebook post, 2017.09.02.

    Yes, heavens forbid citizens put anything to a vote that doesn’t have legislators’ stamp of approval.

    Senator Wiik’s District 4 constituent and former legislators Fred Deutsch seconds Wiik’s anti-initiative sentiment with some false alarmism:

    Until abuse of the petition process can be reformed, I won’t be signing any of them. I really like the ability of direct citizen involvement via petitions, but the process has been corrupted by out-of-state interests and out-of-state rich people. Let’s fix the process so people know what they’re voting on – “yes” should mean “I want this to pass” and “no” should mean “I don’t.” Every ballot petition should be part of the ballot for voters to read when they vote (summaries are not sufficient) so voters can read every word and they know exactly what they are voting on; should be restricted to under one-half page in length so voting doesn’t take three hours; should be authored by people that are residents of SD; should not allow words to be redefined outside of common meaning (e.g. the suicide measure re-defines “self-administer” to mean “ingestion” – this misdirection allows proponents to say the bill requires that only the patient can self-administer the deadly drug, when in fact it means only the patient can ingest it – this allows another person to administer the lethal drug, and is consistent with euthanaisa); and should not be allowed on the ballot if the AG or court believes it is unconstitutional. The constitutional test or challenge should come “before” we vote, not after [Fred Deutsch, comment to Wiik’s FB post, 2017.09.06].

    There’s a lot of contradictory and elitist bushwah in that comment. Let’s try to pull it apart:

    1. “Abuse of the petition process”? Compared to 2015, when Jason Glodt used Henry T. Nicholas’s money to gather data for Marty Jackley’s campaign database and let his petition be used as cover for the payday lenders decoy petition and when out-of-state circulators were breaking the law and overtly harassing legitimate petitioners, I’d say 2017’s petition season has show far fewer instances of abuse and nothing that justifies a blanket rejection of any currently offered petition.
    2. “corrupted by out-of-state interests”? Again, I’ve seen far less out-of-state intrusion in this year’s petition process, nothing like Henry T. Nicholas’s and Rod Aycox’s wholesale co-optation of the process for their selfish purposes. If Deutsch won’t sign petitions that he thinks are backed with out-of-state money, he’ll have to explain why he’s willing to nominate and vote for Republican candidates like John Thune who receive a majority of their money from out-of-state PACs.
    3. “‘yes’ should mean…”—uh oh! Deutsch is pushing Will Mortenson’s Republican trick to make it harder for citizens to overturn Republicans’ bad laws. The initiative and referendum task force erred in approving Mortenson’s Draft Bill #83, which would require us to vote “Yes” to vote against a referred law and vote “No” to vote for the referred law. Not only is Deutsch arguing for a bad policy, but he’s arguing for a change to referendum which has nothing to do with any of the initiative petitions circulating this year.
    4. “every ballot petition should be part of the ballot”? Great—Deutsch would like to make the ballot dozens of pages long to include the text of every measure. I don’t mind having the text of every ballot measure available at the polling places, but including all that text on the ballot and burying the Yes/No checkboxes amidst all that text could easily result in people missing where they are supposed to mark the ballot. Besides, as with the out-of-state-money point, I’ll contend that if Deutsch thinks we need every word of every initiative and referendum on the ballot, then he must agree that we should have a full outline of every candidate’s position on every major issue written on the ballot.
    5. “restricted to under one-half page”? Here Deutsch tries to get around lengthy ballots by imposing an absurd limitation on the people’s right to legislate. In the Legislature, Deutsch regularly voted for bills (like the 2016 teacher pay formula) that run to multiple pages. By setting an effective word limit on initiatives (and referenda?), Deutsch isn’t seeking clarity; he is seeking to drastically restrict the number of issues and the kinds of policy solutions citizens can propose and enact through their constitutional right to legislate via ballot measure. Boo on that!
    6. “unconstitutional”—wow! Now Deutsch attempts to impose prior restraint on voters based on the fiat of the Attorney General! Shall we review how many unconstitutional abortion bans or discriminatory bills against LGBT citizens that Deutsch advocated in the Legislature? Shall we ask him if we should allow the executive or the judicial branch to shut down legislative debate on a bill just because of constitutional concerns? Deutsch voted for 2016 Senate Bill 106, the online sales tax that the Legislature designed to be unconstitutional. Apply Deutsch’s standard to the Legislature, and that court case about taxing remote sellers could never happen.

    Deutsch’s comment supporting Wiik’s anti-petition attitude shows that the Republicans don’t want citizens to enjoy the same rights as legislators. The South Dakota Republican Party wants to further reduce our power to check their party’s excesses by exercising our right to petition and vote. We voters need to protect our rights by vigorously exercising our right to sign petitions, by opposing Mortenson’s proposal and others from the I&R task force that hurt the initiative and referendum process, and by voting out legislators like Wiik who are trying to hoard all legislative power to themselves.

  • Wiik: Presenting Text of Legislation to Voters Distorts Opinions

    Some Minnesota IT folks have put together TakeBackYourState.com. The website’s goal is to give voters “a forum to share their opinion on the bills being discussed and voted on by their State legislators.” Registered users (no cost) get a simple page that displays links to the full text of each bill in their state legislature. Currently, TBYS’s South Dakota page only links to the PDF of the final form of each bill from South Dakota’s now concluded 2017 Session.

    The only apparent value TBYS adds over our Legislative Research Council’s simple and informative Session Bills page comes in a quick keyword search option* (restricted, it appears, to bill titles) and, the real fun, an opportunity to vote Yea or Nay and see cumulative results from other users.

    TBYS sent launch notes to legislators around the country explaining their project. Senator John Wiik (R-4/Big Stone City) dismisses the project as an effort to present “distorted opinion”:

    Sen. John Wiik
    Sen. John Wiik

    I would hope you’re offering my constituents links to the bill hearings, complete copies of the bill and complete background information on each bill you plan to offer up for public comment.

    I understand people wanting to opine on legislation, and that’s fine. This is an entirely different animal you’re proposing. You’re plugging grassroots activists into a blind stream of partial information to attempt to persuade action on legislation without providing any background information.

    I am a citizen legislator. 3 years ago, I was uninformed about the process and the bills that passed. I only got the information from the media and the legislature website. I never listened to the committee hearings or read all the background information. Now I do. I have to. I’m hired by these people to make those decisions for them. If they don’t like the decisions I’m making, they are free to fire me every two years.

    I appreciate you trying to involve people in our process, but I will say this. Unless people are involved enough to have the same information in their possession that I have, your website is just another megaphone for distorted opinion and misguided activism.

    Senator John Wiik District 4 South Dakota [e-mail, posted by Take Back Your State, 2017.05.02]

    I agree that it is difficult to understand the real intent of some bills without hearing committee testimony and floor speeches and reading the related press coverage. For instance, a straight reading of the final text of Senate Bill 149 might not make clear that it was really an effort to codify religious discrimination against homosexuals, atheists, single moms, and other banes of Christian fundagelicals’ existence.

    However, simply publishing the text of bills as submitted by Senator Wiik and his colleagues is no effort to distort the record. It is quite the opposite, an effort to let a legislative proposal speak for itself, in its own words. If a bill’s own text does not make clear its intent, is that not sufficient reason for conscientious citizens and legislators to vote it down?

    There is also nothing misguided about providing citizens with the text of legislative proposals. That’s exactly what we demand of citizens when they circulate initiative petitions, under the idea that citizens should be able to read a bill and decide on the merits of that text whether they should allow the measure on the ballot.

    Senator Wiik can’t really be worried about citizens having access to the text of Legislative bills, since that text is already available on the LRC website. I suspect Wiik’s real worry is that TBYS will attach citizens’ Yeas and Nays to those bills and provide one public metric of support for each bill. Yes, that metric will be self-selecting and biased… but no more so than the elections that have given Wiik his seat in the Legislature. And yes, the repeal of IM 22 this year shows that Wiik and his fellow Republican legislators don’t give one real hoot about what the majority of South Dakota voters want.

    But Wiik’s negative reaction to TBYS’s effort to provide the most basic objective information possible about a bill—i.e., a bill’s own words—and attach one simple measure of public response to that bill shows how nervous South Dakota Republicans get when the voters have a chance to learn what’s happening in Pierre and make their voices heard.

    *Update 17:58 CDT: Melissa Schoenberg of TBYS lets me know that if I just click on the little dropdown next to the search box, I can search by bill number and subject as well!

  • Rep. Wiik Struggles to Inform Constituents

    Rep. John Wiik (R-4/Big Stone City) shows us how not to write a weekly legislative update. His latest blog post tells his constituents almost nothing substantive about the work he claims to be doing in Pierre.

    Rep. Wiik starts by telling his constituents that things sure are busy in Pierre. Drinking from the fire hose, ramping up, heavy lifting… “we work very had to make sure everyone is heard.” (We apparently don’t work very hard at proofreading.)

    But while assuring us that the un-overstatably important committees are shining, Rep. Wiik doesn’t name one specific bill on which the committees have shone. He only mentions one bill that he thinks is coming up this week:

    Rep. John Wiik, fishing for words...
    Rep. John Wiik, fishing for words…

    This week, the House Commerce and Energy Committee will hear some very contentious and long-winded bills.  (We call those “talkers”)  I’d be willing to guess that HB 1067 will fill up one entire two hour committee hearing, while our same committee handled 5 bills in under an hour on Wednesday.  It all boils down to the process.  The process is what keeps year to year politics or personalities from closing down your ability to have your voice directly heard, and we look forward to hearing it.

    In case you’re curious, HB 1067 is the medical insurance bill that is seen as potentially interfering with the 2014 Initiated Measure 17, the patient choice medical insurance measure.  That will be an impassioned hearing, and there will be many stories to hear, and then our committee will determine the correct determination of the bill based on the testimony [Rep. John Wiik, “Well, That Escalated Quickly,” wiikfor4, 2016.01.25].

    Look at everything Rep. Wiik doesn’t offer in that passage:

    • a link to the bill (this is the Internet—links are not just easy; they’re obligatory!);
    • an explanation of HB 1067 and of Initiated Measure 17 (but perhaps Wiik assumes all of his constituents read my blog, where I explained each measure last week in two sentences);
    • a clear statement of where he stands on the bill, yea, nay, or open to persuasion.

    The only noteworthy line is the last one, in which Wiik channels Colonel Henry Blake with his determination to determine the correct determination.

    District 4, you picked this guy over Kathy Tyler, who could actually explain Initiated Measure 17 and articulate positions on policy with statistics? Wow—maybe you should look for an opportunity to rectify that error this November and elect a Representative who can give you real information about what’s happening in Pierre.

  • When GOP Closes Hearts and Borders, Terrorists Win

    State Representative John Wiik (R-4/Big Stone City) tries to parlay the Paris terrorist attacks into anti-immigrant sentiment. He responds to his phone going off with Fox News alerts (’nuff said?) by putting mock quote marks around the “refugees” and shouting “invasion!”

    The “refugees” from Syria that are pouring into Europe, and now arriving in the US didn’t look like waves of refugees from previous disasters around the world.  These “refugees” are mostly young healthy looking males.  Exactly the kind of people one would send in an invasion.  I even mentioned it to some friends… “If it’s that bad there, why did they leave the women and children behind?”  But, I was overreacting or I was seeing things.  We’ve already learned that at least one of the Paris terrorists was from Syria and rescued in Greece from a sinking boat and found his way to France with other refugees.

    Syrian refugees are starting to arrive in New Orleans this week.  We are expecting 15,000 or so in the United States.  The administration doubled down over the weekend on their commitment to receiving Syrian refugees.  They have no papers, we know nothing about them, and some of them will eventually be settled in Sioux Falls and Huron, among other places nearby.  I sure hope for all of our sakes that these in Paris slipped through the cracks… [Rep. John Wiik, “Have We Forgotten?” wiikfor4, 2015.11.16].

    Wiik is repeating a charge from often confused Presidential candidate Ben Carson that the majority of Syrian refugees are (dangerous, evil, coming for your women) young males. Wiik and Carson are both wrong:

    Carson is entitled to his opinion about whether or not the United States should allow more Syrian refugees to enter the country, and we take no position on that. But his comment that “the majority of them are young males” is contradicted by the best data available on the Syrian refugees’ demographics.

    The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees — which refers refugees for resettlement in other countries — says there are more than 4 million registered Syrian refugees. Its figures on the demographic makeup of refugees is based on available data on the 2.1 million who were registered by the UNHCR in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. (Another 1.9 million Syrian refugees were registered by the Government of Turkey, and more than 24,000 were registered in North Africa.)

    UNHCR’s data show that 50.5 percent of refugees are women. Females age 18 to 59 make up 23.9 percent of the refugees, while males in that age group make up 21.8 percent.

    Even younger males — age 12 to 17 — represent 6.5 percent of refugees, while females that age are 6.1 percent. The majority of refugees — 51.1 percent — are under age 17, including 38.5 percent who are younger than 12 years old. These numbers were as of Sept. 6 [Lori Robertson, “Stretching Facts on Syrian Refugees,” FactCheck.org, 2015.09.15].

    I invite Rep. Wiik to fact-check that fact-check updated figures, though preferably not from Fox News alerts.

    Fact-checking be darned, GOP spin blogger Pat Powers piles on, noting the strain that invaders refugees place on state and local governments and fake-question-mark-encouraging us to close our state to people fleeing for their lives from ISIS. Powers also commits his chronic claim inflation, citing one blog post from one author—me—as evidence that “South Dakota’s Liberal Democrats”—plural—“are out there saying ‘We should take more refugees from Syria.'”

    If I adhered to Pat’s blog standards, I’d say, “Wow: South Dakota wingnut Republicans are dancing on Parisian graves. How shameless.”

    But instead of using emotional tragedies to hide the real failure of my party’s failures, I will own my words and reaffirm my position: Syrian men, women, and children are fleeing brutal theocracy. As Americans, as South Dakotans, as children of immigrants, we have a moral obligation to help them (and Pat’s Pope agrees with me). The United States has means to screen immigrants, and we should be cautious, but we must not let our fear override our humanity. We make America safer and stronger by helping people.

    The terrorists want us to be afraid. So do Wiik and Powers. I want us to be America, a beacon of hope for all humanity.

    p.s.: I haven’t heard Governor Daugaard express fear of bad Syrians sneaking in with refugees, but he’s sure working hard to make sure wealthy foreigners from Communist China can stay in America on the EB-5 visas they bought.