The House convenes in mere minutes. Among the 20 House bills they must clear on this Crossover Day is one big stinker, House Bill 1161, the payday lenders’ latest attempt to sabotage our opportunity to vote on Initiated Measure 21, the 36% rate cap on short-term loans.
You and I and Al Novstrup know HB 1161 is a bad idea. But prime sponsor Rep. Kris Langer (R-25/Dell Rapids) thinks doing the bidding of the payday lenders is just fine. Rep. Langer also has darned little regard for democracy. According to Pastor Jeff Sorenson, who attended last Saturday’s Brandon crackerbarrel, Rep. Langer thinks it’s just fine for her to take away our hard-won right to vote:
…I heard that there is now a bill before the 2016 South Dakota Legislature — HB 1161 — that will preemptively render useless Initiated Measure 21. So I attended the Legislative Coffee on Feb. 20 in Brandon (where we live) to ask legislators whether this was true. Is there a bill that would nullify the not-yet-voted-on Initiated Measure 21 — and would someone explain that to me please?
Rep. Kris Langer (Dist. 25), primary sponsor of HB 1161, responded to my question to say, “Yes, that is true.”
…Another voter asked, “So you’re saying that the citizens of this state should not be allowed to vote on this, but the legislature should preempt that with a law, when there is an initiated measure in the works that people are planning to vote on in November, is that correct?”
Rep. Langer replied, quote, “Well, my response to that would be, I just don’t know that all the information has been given as far as the initiated measure, but yes, I guess that that could be correct” [Rev. Jeff Sorenson, “HB 1161 Helps Payday Lenders,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.02.24].
Rep. Langer’s sense of superiority over us commoners demonstrates why we should change our timeline for initiated measures. Right now, state law requires initiative sponsors to submit their petitions a full year before the election. That early deadline gives opponents of ballot measures time to lobby legislators to pass bills just like Rep. Langer’s HB 1161 that can render initiatives moot.
It’s bad enough that the Legislature can tinker with or completely throw out ballot measures after we’ve voted on them. It is entirely undemocratic and unacceptable that the Legislature can veto an initiative before we even get to the polls.
House members, step #1 today is to vote down HB 1161 and let the people decide in November whether we want loan sharks to keep giving us the business. Step #2 is to go take Rep. Bolin’s anti-initiative HB 1241 off the table (or grab some other suitable bill) and hoghouse it to change the initiative petition deadlines (in SDCL 2-1-1.1 and SDCL 2-1-1.2) to the same date as the election-year referendum deadline, 90 days after the end of the Legislative Session (this year, June 27).
Update 15:34 CST: Whoo-hoo! The House listens to the people and not the payday lenders and defeats House Bill 1161 on a 21–47 vote. Here’s the roll call: