Press "Enter" to skip to content

Democrats, Party of Democracy—Support the Petition Drives!

“They don’t listen to what we have to say.”

I heard a Republican veteran say that this week. He was talking about the Legislature that his party controls. He was talking about that Legislature’s decision to pass House Bill 1179, despite the fact that he can’t find any grassroots veterans who can recall discussing that expansion of the state’s definition of “veteran” with their various veterans’ organizations leadership before Session, let alone having a formal organizational vote put HB 1179 forward. As far as he can tell, HB 1179 bubbled up from some backroom imaginations, and the Legislature passed it contrary to pretty strong and widely held opposition among veterans to making more discharged Guardsmen and short-timers eligible for job preferences and admission to the state veterans’ home.

“They don’t listen to what we have to say.”

The statement motivates the referendum drive Aberdeen veterans have organized against HB 1179. The same idea underlies the referendum drives against the youth minimum wage (SB 177) and the incumbent protection plan (SB 69). I took out those petitions less because I was cranky about certain dollar figures and petition deadlines and more because in passing both laws, the Legislature and the Governor showed they don’t want to listen to what we, the people of South Dakota, have to say. The Legislature responded to the successful ballot initiative by undermining that initiative with SB 177, saying to voters, “Don’t pass laws; if you do, we’ll just change them whatever way we see fit.” The Legislature took advantage of SB 69, originally a petition reform proposal, to raise more barriers to running for office, which would leave voters with fewer choices at the ballot and fewer chances to challenge incumbents.

I don’t want to make any of these referendum pushes partisan. These three bad laws affect all South Dakotans negatively. These three referenda are responses to an unresponsive government.

But South Dakota Democratic Party, as we eagerly await the new top-secret executive director’s first day in the job, permit me to volunteer to do some of the exec’s marketing. These referenda, behind two of which the SDDP has thrown its name, are opportunities for the South Dakota Democratic Party to burnish its brand. We don’t have to let the SDGOP hang its preferred labels on us—the party of abortion, the party of tax and spend, the party of Pelosi and Franken, the party of ObamaCare (actually, I’ll take the latter and run with it). These referenda allow us to stake our claim to our truest identity:

Democrats: The Party of Democracy.

By supporting referenda (the specific ones on the streets right now and ballot measures in general), we Democrats show that we are the party that wants to listen to what the people have to say. We want to empower every citizen to have as much voice in real public decision-making as possible. We want you, citizen, to have a voice.

“Democrats: The Party of Democracy” offers the perfect literal contrast to the “Republicans: The Party of the Republic.” Republicans label the popular voice as “mob rule.” Republicans think voters (you, neighbor and fellow citizen) shouldn’t have so much power and should defer to the wisdom of the elites. Republicans support measures like SB 177 to beat back ballot measure enthusiasm. Republicans support measures like SB 69 to make elections mean less. Republicans support making it harder to vote to keep your voice out of the process.

Everyone wants a voice. Everyone wants equal power and dignity as a citizen. Deep down, everyone is a small-d democrat. Big-D Democrats, speak to that desire for democracy. Support the referenda. Support the ballot initiatives that are coming. Support the voice of every voter. Show South Dakota that the Democratic Party is the party of democracy, the party that will listen to what we all have to say.


  1. PNR 2015-05-01 08:59

    I understand that everyone wants a voice. But the idea that every thing should be routed through a referendum – small-d democracy – is foolish.

    And on this issue, I think those veterans who object are wrong. My son will probably never be called up as a reservist (Navy), but he will still be considered a veteran by the federal government. There are distinctions made at the federal level between those who served on active duty and those who did not. Fine. There are also distinctions between those who served on active duty, and those who did so for more than 20 years. Fine. But all of them are veterans.

    I don’t see why the state can’t make similar distinctions while acknowledging that they all are vets.

  2. larry kurtz 2015-05-01 09:18

    Screw democracy.

    Daugaard and his successors should just rule by executive fiat where clerics decide key policy: like attending a Lutheran church in Iowa as criteria for a seat in the legislature, for example.

  3. PNR 2015-05-01 09:57

    As usual, Mr. Kurtz, you intentionally misunderstand me.

    How long do you think the 1st amendment would stand if everything were run through small-d democratic processes? The Bill of Rights is intended to protect the minority from the tyranny of small-d democracy.

    How much money do you want to spend on perpetual elections in which every possible decision of a legislature is submitted for public referenda? Why even bother having a legislature, then?

    This question of how the state defines “veteran” is a minor, even trivial matter. It is a waste of time, money, and effort to force it to a public vote.

  4. Nick Nemec 2015-05-01 10:03

    PNR, while I agree every issue can’t be decided by a vote of the people, citizen initiated ballot measures, especially when they pass, are a symptom of a legislative body ignoring the will of the people.

  5. larry kurtz 2015-05-01 10:07

    Initiated law and referenda help protect the electorate from the tyranny of single-party rule in my home state and in Wyoming. Look to Colorado, Montana and New Mexico for states where legislators represent all residents instead of the clerics, banks and hospital owners who pay to play.

  6. Porter Lansing 2015-05-01 10:18

    @PNR …. as much money as it takes to give a voice to the people, if a petition meets requirements.
    @Mr. Heidelberger … Hear, hear Well phrased as usual. (PS … “THE PARTY OF OBAMACARE” ~ That’s as much a crown of victory (after so many decades of having it on our agenda) as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Obamacare has virtually ended medical bankruptcy, halted runaway premium increases (a top tier problem when our President was first elected) and made being a woman no longer a “pre-existing condition”. That SoDak’s governor has refused the Medicaid expansion is prime for a petition. Once SCOTUS rules this summer, the people may be forced to move on the issue.

  7. PNR 2015-05-01 11:07

    Porter L, Nick N. – The issue in the post is whether the petition should succeed. I don’t think it should because (1) those irate veterans do not speak for all veterans and nobody should think they do; (2) it is a minor, trivial matter that doesn’t warrant this attention; (3) it is appropriate to hold legislators accountable, but that is done by voting for different legislators, not by resubmitting every act I might disagree with to petition & referendum; and (4) the petitioners are wrong on the merits.

  8. Porter Lansing 2015-05-01 11:44

    @PNR … It works both ways. Someday we may be called to petition for your right to remain contrary. JK (just kidding) but NR

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-01 12:12

    “Everything”, PNR? I think you overstate my claim. I contend as the guy who spoke to me about the veterans’ issue contends that the Legislature does not listen to us. They make decisions not in the public interest but in self interest. I would not be trying to refer two laws to a public vote if the Legislature had not made two laws that threaten what democracy we have. I have resorted to the referendum to restore the proper balance of the people’s Legislative authority and the Legislature’s legislative authority. There are several laws I could find that I would prefer had not passed. Recognizing the limits of direct democracy (and my ability to explain complicated laws in a 20-second doorstep pitch), I chose two laws to refer.

    However, if you want to rumble on extreme democracy, I’ll put on those gloves. In our era of electronic communications, we could conduct much more direct democracy than the Founding Fathers thought possible. We could spread out the Legislative session to a “weekend warrior” schedule and build in time for more formal public hearings. We could insert into that spread-out schedule an online system through which citizens could petition à la to refer newly passed laws to citizen veto. Get enough signatures, and a bill is put to an online vote. Citizens get two weeks to approve or veto the referred law. Education is a challenge, but no more than the challenge we face in educating legislators enough to vote responsibly. We have the tools to inform the populace and support more direct democracy. Why not try it?

  10. Porter Lansing 2015-05-01 12:36

    @Mr. Heidelberger
    When your petitions are referred to the ballot will it be a special election for your issues only or a general election? Thanks for a short response. I know what work petitioning is as I’ve a friend who does it nationwide, whenever he’s recruited to an issue. He’s developed quite a skill at it.

  11. mike from iowa 2015-05-01 12:59

    When was the last time a wingnut voted responsibly for anyone other than the koch bros?

  12. grudznick 2015-05-01 13:29

    I, for one, think it will be a real hoot when my good friend Mr. Fleming pops up as this new executive director.

  13. PNR 2015-05-01 13:32

    The fact that more direct democracy is possible does not mean it us desirable. Nor does the fact nobody this GOP vet talked to asked for 1179 mean vets aren’t listened to.

    I did not say, and do not believe, that nothing should ever be referred. I do think that it may be appropriate for changes to the process by which citizens participate in selecting candidates to be settled by those citizens – it is our government, not the government’s citizens. But, as you also note, moderation is also appropriate – if we are going to ask for a popular vote on a decision of the legislature it should be both significant and urgent.

    The veteran petition does not rise to that level.

  14. Porter Lansing 2015-05-01 13:40

    Research shows petitions are included on the general election ballot. That doesn’t seem to be much expense for something as vital as the people’s opinion.

  15. Steve Hickey 2015-05-01 13:47

    I’m a bit sour on political matters these days and so measure this accordingly. Both parties are the inside and outside of the same pair of underwear. Pretty sure I’m not alone in these sentiments.

  16. larry kurtz 2015-05-01 13:50

    Sorry they beat up on you so badly at PP’s outhouse, Rep. Hickey. Have you considered firing up your Voices Carry blog? You and i agree on more and more these days.

  17. Kurt Evans 2015-05-01 14:02

    Larry Kurtz wrote:
    >“Sorry they beat up on you so badly at PP’s outhouse, Rep. Hickey.”

    I’m with Larry. Vicious ad hominem name-calling seems to be the one thing that’s never declared “off topic” over there. Stay strong, Steve.

  18. Steve Hickey 2015-05-01 14:08

    Voices Carry is an old dinosaur – I’m told the software isn’t even updatable. As I get time I plan to transfer my important posts over to Yes my welcome with the commenters at DWC has definitely worn out. Probably it’s just one miserable person who hates me that makes my time there miserable. All I know is she’s from Rapid. It may be a rep.

  19. mike from iowa 2015-05-01 15:55

    Hickey,if people of a certain right wing caliber hate you,wear it as a badge of honour.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-01 16:03

    Porter, statewide ballot measures don’t get a special election. When we submit our 13,871+ signatures on each petition, Secretary Krebs will write our referenda onto the November 2016 general election ballot.

  21. Roger Cornelius 2015-05-01 16:21

    Why is that when conservatives fear an IM the immediate response is the cost, it is foolish, and a waste of time?

    What price does PNR put of democracy? Conservatives complain about the cost of an IM and turn their backs on the EB_5 corruption, no-bid contracts and the 3 million dollars being spent by Lawrence and Schiller.

    If a person or group are passionate about their mission or cause as with the veterans and Cory’s two IM’s, in a democracy they have the right to drive their cause whether anyone agrees with them or not.

    Years ago South Dakotans voted for legalized gambling, supporters told the public that gambling revenue was to be used for education, it was not and has now become a part of the legislature’s slush fund. Should a referendum have been held way back than to force the governor and the legislature to do what the public demanded by their support of legalized gambling?

  22. Porter Lansing 2015-05-01 17:18

    @roger …. I know your’s was a rhetorical question and a proper one. One political party fears the redress by petition because referenda reach out to the “high value voter”. i.e. The voter who hasn’t made up their mind until the week of the election. The “low value voter” of which I am one and political blogs attract have already made up their mind long before an election. It seems one political party would be content if the only voters eligible were white male property owners, over age fifty. When a party’s candidates and issues skew to the older angry white male demographic it IS a “pessimistisch party”. PS … research shows that only SoDak citizens can be petition gatherers. That alone should go to vote. As Cory probably knows, a signature solicitor is a humble servant not a door to door Kirby salesman able to intimidate the masses. (ps … don’t get butt hurt, I earned my sales bones as a door to door vacuum salesman in the 80’s)

  23. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-01 17:46

    There NR and I go agreeing again… sorta, kinda.

    “The fact that more direct democracy is possible does not mean it us desirable.”—I can’t argue with that. I will contend that more direct democracy is desirable if it increases citizens’ opportunities to live under laws they make themselves. SB 69 (explicitly, directly) and SB 177 (indirectly, politically) are both designed to decrease or deter the use of those opportunities.

    “…if we are going to ask for a popular vote on a decision of the legislature it should be both significant and urgent. / The veteran petition does not rise to that level.”

    Why not? HB 1179 would give benefits to people whom the petitioners feel do not deserve them starting July 1. That date alone should establish urgency. Significance… well, the petitioners see moral and fiscal ills. They also see the Legislature giving their voices no heed. Are those factors significant?

    What are the criteria by which we determine significance and urgency? Can we make those criteria explicit? Or will they always be determined by the subjective will and motivation of the percentages of the electorate who are willing to sign petitions and vote?

  24. Lanny V Stricherz 2015-05-01 18:38

    I bring up a veterans issue from the 2005 and 2006 sessions, to which our State government paid lip service to veterans but did nothing to help them. A Republican in the Senate and a Democrat in the House brought a bill forward to test all veterans returning from theaters of operation where Depleted Uranium had been used, for DU poisoning. The bill passed both houses the second time around, but so that Mike Rounds would not have to appear to be against the veterans by vetoing the bill, had Larry Rhoden hoghouse the bill and they gutted it on the house side. When it went to conference committee, the Senate would not budge from the strong language in the original bill. So it died in committee.

    The sponsors of the bill were Maggie Gillespie and Clarence Kooistra with strong lobbying support by the DAV from Roger Andal and Gene Murphy. These folks were aware of the debilitating effects of Agent Orange during the Viet Nam era and did not want our returning veterans of the current wars to be saddled with the same suffering in years to come.

  25. Porter Lansing 2015-05-01 18:50

    … excellent and informative post, Mr. Stricherz

  26. mike from iowa 2015-05-01 19:11

    iowa frosh sinator Ivana Kuturnutzov has a lofty 40% approval rating less than five months after the koch bros bought her seat. Hopefully there will be a recall petition drive started before us iowans are forced to stomach six years of this dipshit,wingnut farce.

  27. Patrick Duffy 2015-05-01 22:56

    The processes of Initiative and Referendum are sacred to ordered democracy and have been considered so since our state’s founding. I can handle “significance” and “urgency” just fine in the voting booth, and the cost? Incidental when compared to the value of the right.

    Initiative and Referendum are no threat to the Bill of Rights, or to the First Amendment.

  28. grudznick 2015-05-01 23:03

    I blame kurtz. Most do.

  29. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-02 08:05

    Mr. Duffy is correct: the cost of the initiative and referendum to the state are minimal. We don’t trigger a special election (though I’d be happy to pay the price of more frequent exercises of direct democracy). The state has to spend a little more on ballot ink and maybe paper. There’s little if any additional labor cost: the time spent by LRC and AG reviewing initiative language and the time spent by the SOS processing initiative and referendum filings are part of the job, already in the budget.

    The real cost of direct democracy is the cost of defending it from threats foreign and domestic. For the state, that’s the cost of soldiers and teachers. For all of us, that’s the cost of rousing ourselves and our neighbors from apathy, ignorance, complacency, despair, and busyness to action. That cost is money and time well spent.

  30. Porter Lansing 2015-05-02 10:11

    … Hear, hear Statesman Heidelberger #applause

  31. Les 2015-05-02 10:55

    There are not enough over 50 white male property owners to win anything, more or less keep SD a one party state, Porter. Your generalizations are small difference from Rep Hickeys treatment at the WC?

    “”Both parties are the inside and outside of the same pair of underwear. “” Now we’re cooking, Revvy!

    I would go a little further, Patrick and say the I&R strengthens the foundation of the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights.

  32. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-05-02 14:30

    I&R are golden for SD and just about the only part of SD law and governance any other state admires. Given that, it makes perfect sense that current the current Koch legislature detest it. It screws up the oligarchy.

  33. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-02 17:37

    Steve Hickey, comparing the parties to the inside and outside of underwear? I was expecting a comparison about the front and the back. ;-)

  34. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-02 17:39

    Deb, South Dakota history is almost and monkeywrenching the oligarchy is definitely sufficient reason for me to fight for initiative and referendum. Again, it’s not mob rule, because a mob can’t run out and get 13,871 signatures. It’s a healthy exercise of direct democracy, loaded with all sorts of checks and balances, but an excellent check itself on an arrogant Legislature.

  35. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-05-02 18:29

    Cory, did you omit a word or did Spell Check attack?

    “South Dakota history is almost and monkeywrenching”

  36. Shirley Harrington-Moore 2015-05-02 19:22

    hey Cory, today we can add 70 more signers to each of the two petitions I carry. Hopefully tomorrow a new crowd at the flea market will come to sign.

  37. mike from iowa 2015-05-02 19:52

    Dems are like Duluth Trading Company underwear-no pinch,no stink,no sweat. Wingnuts are totally different and color coded-yellow=front,brown=back.

  38. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-05-02 20:41

    Mike – Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!

  39. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-03 11:21

    Sorry, Deb—I tried too hard to combine clauses. Translation: “South Dakota history is almost sufficient reason and monkeywrenching the oligarchy is definitely sufficient reason….”

    Shirley! 70 more on each, in one day! That’s great! Keep after ’em!

  40. barry freed 2015-05-05 08:24

    If you find yourself lacking a topic to write about, please write: “Creating an Initiated Measure Step by Step in South Dakota for Dummies”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.