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Five Ballot Initiatives on Attorney General’s Desk

Attorney General Marty Jackley sends this blog the titles of the five proposed ballot initiatives currently on his desk for review:

  1. An Act to provide for a limit on finance charges on payday, car title, and installment loans and to provide a penalty therefor.
  2. An Act to ban the transfer of alcoholic beverages with more than one percent alcohol content in South Dakota.
  3. An Act to ban the transfer of tobacco or tobacco paraphernalia in South Dakota.
  4. An Act to provide for the regulation, access and compassionate use of cannabis in South Dakota.
  5. An Amendment to the South Dakota Constitution relating to initiatives and referendum.

We have seen the text of the alcohol and tobacco restrictions, and we have heard the intentions of the cannabis advocates and the payday lending foes. The newsy entry on this list is the amendment on ballot measures. That amendment comes from Doug Kronaizl, a South Dakota activist who is alarmed by the Republican Legislature’s apparent disdain for legislative power of the electorate. According to Kronaizl, his proposed amendment has two main parts: “limiting legislative overreach regarding initiated measures” and “eliminating loopholes that allow the Legislature to pass un-referrable laws.”

Part one responds to Senator Corey Brown’s failed effort to nearly double the number of signatures required to put initiatives and referenda on the ballot. Part two responds to Brown’s effort to shield that anti-democratic proposal from referral by declaring it an “emergency”. Kronaizl is awaiting the Attorney General’s review to publish the final text of the proposals, but I am ready to support pretty much any measure that restricts the Legislature’s abuse of the people’s legislative power and the emergency clause exception laid out in Article 3, Section 1 of the South Dakota Constitution.

The South Dakota GOP spin blog, whose only interest in such matters is to run interference for its Republican patrons’ machinations against democracy with personal smears and ill-informed snark, suggests that these five initiated measures, plus three referred laws and a constitutional amendment placed on the ballot by the Legislature, will make for a long ballot. “Especially when they hit the legal substance bans, followed by the pot legalization,” Pat Powers opines, “people are going to start ticking off the ‘no’ box as they have a tendency to do when the ballot measures start multiplying.”

Powers is speaking from folk wisdom, not real data. Back in March, I reviewed the votes on all 333 ballot measures in every South Dakota election since 1890. I found no statistical correlation between the number of ballot measures and the likelihood of nay votes.

But in the spirit of half-cocked guesses, I submit my predictions as to how the nine ballot measures would fare if they all made the ballot:

  1. Payday lending limits: Aye 66%.
  2. Alcohol transfer ban: Nay 85%.
  3. Tobacco transfer ban: Nay 75%.
  4. Compassionate cannabis: Nay 59%.
  5. I&R protection: Aye 75%.
  6. SB 69 referral: Aye 85%.
  7. SB 177 referral: Aye 51%.
  8. HB 1779 referral: Nay 55%.
  9. HJR 1003 amendment: Aye 70%.

The 2016 ballot may only get longer: Rick Weiland and Drey Samuelson are working on initiated measures to tackle plutocracy and corruption in South Dakota politics. And we have yet to see what ills from the 2016 Legislature may draw referendum fire (and we’ll have plenty left, Majority Leader Brown; just try us!). But we still need to see how many of these measures gather the signatures necessary to qualify for the ballot. With daily growing support, I’m positive the referenda on SB 177 (youth minimum wage) and SB 69 (Incumbent Protection Plan) will make the ballot. I’m not as convinced Bob Newland’s rhetorical poke at our anti-marijuance laws will get traction, but we shouldn’t underestimate the petition-ability of Newland and his allies.

For those of you wondering why the Attorney General has this list of proposed ballot initiatives but we have no final text yet, let’s review the process for initiating an initiative. Unlike referenda, which a motivated petitioner can launch in a day or two, initiatives can require 75 days or more  to launch:

  1. Sponsors draft their proposed law (a step referrers don’t have).
  2. Sponsors submit that draft to the Legislative Research Council.
  3. LRC has 15 days to respond with written comment on the legal viability of the language (does it conflict with existing legislation? Does it lack certain necessary legalese?).
  4. Sponsors submit the LRC-reviewed text to the Attorney General.
  5. The AG has 60 days to prepare a title and explanation of the proposal.
  6. Sponsors submit the full text of their proposal, plus the AG’s title and explanation, to the Secretary of State, along with a notarized list of sponsors and a statement of organization for their ballot question committee.
  7. Once the Secretary of State stamps those documents, petition circulation may begin.

Kronaizl says AG Jackley got his draft legislation on April 15. Jackley could dilly-dally another 32 days (June 14!) before handing back his title (I recommend “An Act to Tell Corey Brown to Shove It!”) and explanation so Kronaizl and friends can get to work defending the initiative and referendum from legislators who hate democracy. Speed it up, AG Jackley!


  1. larry kurtz 2015-05-13 15:01

    Marty Jackley represents his political party, his campaign donors and not the majority of South Dakotans.

  2. larry kurtz 2015-05-15 13:23

    PP is over there struggling with punctuation problems using an apostrophe for a plural then changed it from really wrong to merely wrong even after he was called on it by a superior writer.

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