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Gosch Hangs RL 19 on GOP Necks; RL 20 Relies on DC Lobbyist Support

The ballot question pro/con statements are out! Secretary of State Shantel Krebs has posted the PDF version of the 2016 Ballot Questions Pamphlet, which includes the Attorney General’s explanations, the sponsor names and addresses, and, most fun, the proponent and opponent statements submitted for each of the ten ballot measures we South Dakotans get to vote on this November.

I’m sponsor of two measures, Referred Law 19 and Referred Law 20. The Secretary only allows an individual to write one Pro or Con statement, so I tackled the arcane petition rules of Referred Law 19, the Incumbent Protection Plan, while my friend econ prof and Senator-Elect Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls) provided the Con statement for Referred Law 20, the youth minimum wage cut.

Support for RL 19 and RL 20 has been weak to non-existent, but the official proponent statements trying to foist these two bad laws on South Dakotans are worse than I expected.

Consider the statement Rep. Brian Gosch (R-32/Rapid City) offers in favor of RL 19. Given a 300-word maximum, Rep. Gosch produces 48:

Passage of Referred Law 19 will mean fair and honest elections, increased transparency, and will prevent abuses of the election process. Republicans drafted this bill, Republican Legislators passed it, and a Republican Governor signed it. Every voter, especially Republicans, should support Referred Law 19 [Rep. Brian Gosch, Pro statement on Referred Law 19, 2016 Ballot Question Pamphlet, August 2016].

Not only does Rep. Gosch fail to provide any specifics about how RL 19 works, but he appeals to raw partisan politics, saying 19 is good because Republicans voted for it. Rep. Gosch apparently knows he can’t win on the policy, so he hangs an “R” on it and hopes for the best. Those 48 words are the weakest, most transparently partisan effort in all 20 Pro/Con statements.

Instead of appealing to partisanship, my Con statement points out that RL 19 is bad for Republicans, Democrats, and independents:

Referred Law 19 is an attack on democracy. Incumbent legislators hijacked a petition reform law and turned it into this pile of new regulations to help themselves cling to power and discourage us citizens from participating in elections.

Among its several sections, Referred Law 19 makes three harmful changes.

RL 19 moves the deadline for candidate petitions from the end of March to the beginning of March. Candidates for Legislature would have to decide whether to run or not before the Legislative Session ends.

Candidates would lose most of the longer, warmer days of March to circulate petitions. In exchange, RL 19 gives them December, whose short days, cold weather, and holiday busyness make it the worst month for petitioning. These conditions mean fewer candidates will run for office.

RL 19 requires Republican and Democratic candidates to gather more signatures. It’s already hard to recruit neighbors to run for office; making candidates collect more signatures will keep even more candidates off the ballot.

Worst of all, RL 19 takes away the right of Republicans and Democrats to sign petitions for Independent candidates. Right now, Independent candidates can take signatures from any registered voter. RL 19 says Independents could only take signatures from fellow Independents.

Limiting Independent petitions to Independent signers drastically reduces the number of South Dakotans who can sign Independent petitions (from 81% of adults to 17%) and makes it practically impossible for Independents to get on the ballot.

These changes add up to fewer people running for office, fewer choices on our ballots, and fewer incumbents held accountable by challengers.

That’s bad for democracy. If we want to encourage citizens to participate in elections and make their voices heard, let’s vote NO on Referred Law 19 and seek other reforms to improve our petition and election laws [Cory Allen Heidelberger, Con statement on Referred Law 19, 2016 Ballot Question Pamphlet, August 2016].

Instead of Rep. Gosch’s “do it because my party says so,” I explain with three specifics why RL 19 is bad for voters of all affiliations and encourage voters to seek better reforms.

Where RL 19 drew little comment from South Dakota proponents, RL 20 drew none. No South Dakota legislator or activist was willing to write the Pro statement for cutting the minimum wage for workers under 18. Even the original sponsor of the wage cut, quitting Senator David Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen), stayed in his shell and shirked his duty to Washington D.C. lobbyist Michael Saltsman, an employee of the Employment Policies Institute, which is a front group for Berman & Co., which “lobbies for the restaurant, hotel, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries.” Hmmm… paid lobbyist from Washington D.C. versus local Sioux Falls professor—who do you think wins that debate at the polls?

Study the 2016 Ballot Questions Pamphlet and compare the Pros and Cons. There will be some stiff debates over the ten ballot measures before us, but the meager partisan blip for 19 and the absence of a South Dakota voice speaking up for 20 suggest the two referred laws on our ballot will go down hard in November.


  1. Rorschach 2016-08-17 10:44

    Some explanation is needed. Is the attorney general statement what goes on the ballot? What is the purpose of the proponent and opponent statement? Does that go on the ballot? What are the rules on drafting ballot issue proponent and opponent statements? Can anybody write anything, and who decides?

    Gosch’s statement that says Republican 4 times is simply reprehensible. If that works, its more evidence that no amount of corruption or bad government will dissuade people from returning the offenders to office based solely on the R behind their name. It really is time to get out of this state as it races to be like Kansas, Alabama and South Carolina.

  2. Lee Schoenbeck 2016-08-17 10:57

    To be clear – not all Republicans in the legislature supported RL 19. I had the thing killed once on the floor of the House. Gosch and Langer whipped the votes the needed to switch and pass it on reconsideration. If that bill had come up the next year (2016) it would not have gotten through the House.

    Its bad policy. If it were the law, the GOP would have had to forfeit the Westra and Deutsch seats, because it would not allow substitution in those circumstances. Since the GOP traditional has more candidates, and is more at risk of needing to replace a candidate due to a change in their circumstances, GOP voters – in particular – should vote against this goofy bill.

  3. Curt 2016-08-17 12:48

    Good work Rep Schoenbeck. Regrettably, only Gosch’s mealy-mouthed garbage will appear before the eyes of most voters. That’s particularly significant when voters will be faced with a ballot including 10 separate policy questions. If we actually had an AG with a conscience, he would have disqualified Gosch’s “explanation” as blatant advocacy.

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-17 13:35

    Ror, the relevant statute on ballot content appears to be SDCL 12-13-11 (emphasis mine):

    The title, explanation, recitation, place for voting, and statement as required by this chapter shall be printed on the ballot in lieu of the law, measure, constitutional amendment, or other question to be submitted to a vote of the people. All proposed constitutional amendments to be submitted at an election shall be placed on one ballot and all initiated measures or referred laws upon a separate ballot.

    Pro/Con statements do not go on the ballot. Nor does the actual text of each measure.

    SDCL 12-13-23 requires the Secretary to “distribute public information” about the ballot questions in the form of the Pro/Con statements. That statute exempts the Secretary from responsibility “for the contents, objectivity, or accuracy of the statements written by the proponents and opponents.” The statute also makes no provision for the Attorney General to intervene in the publication of those statements. However, Curt, if we’re in a hanging mood, SDCL 12-13-16 does make it a Class 2 misdemeanor (I know, that’s a small hanging) to “knowingly print[], publish[], or deliver[] to any voter of this state a document containing any purported constitutional amendment, question, law, or measure to be submitted to the voters at any election, in which such constitutional amendment, question, law, or measure is misstated, erroneously printed, or by which false or misleading information is given to the voters.”

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-17 13:47

    Lee, if I’d’ve known that Gosch was writing the Pro, I’d have invited you to write the Con. Gosch does avoid saying “all Republicans”, so we can’t hang him there. As noted previously on Rep. Schoenbeck’s prompting, in the final conference committee bill vote, only Reps. Campbell, Kaiser, May, Russell, and Schoenfish jumped caucus and joined Democrats in opposing SB 69/RL19. Republicans Schoenbeck, Hickey, and Craig were excused from that final vote on the final day of the 2015 Session.

    He does err in saying Republicans drafted the bill. The Board of Elections drafted the bill, and that board includes a couple Democrats. Gosch and his minions amended the heck out of SB 69, but it’s not recognized as a hoghouse. Republicans thus did not draft the bill.

    But I won’t debate Gosch on that point. If he wants his party to own this bill, if he wants to try out the power of the “R” label to sell a bad referred law, I welcome the challenge. On its merits, this referendum would fail 80% to 20%. Let’s see if Gosch’s only argument—not even an argument, just that big fat “R”—can claw back 30%. Join me on the stump, Brian! Let’s tour the state and make our cases. You won’t even have to work, Brian: we’ll go on stage, I’ll expostulate and gesticulate at length, and you’ll just come to the mic and say, “Republicans good, 19 good.” Let’s go!

  6. Darin Larson 2016-08-17 15:43

    Cory, the difference here is you were explaining and Gosch is campaigning. Your objectivity and reason is a detriment when it comes to campaigning. You need to be more of a salesman and less of a political scientist. :) You could claim the world will end or ISIS will win if the law passes.

    I hope the natural reacton against, somewhat complicated, not well known, ballot measures will mean 40% will be a nay right off the bat. Couple that with 90% of incumbents and 75% of Democrats voting no and you should be on your way to defeat– I mean victory– I mean defeat of the law is your victory. PS I’m glad I’ll have an opportunity to vote against Brian Gosch.

  7. MD 2016-08-17 16:07

    Maybe Gosch should sponsor an initiated measure in 2018 to allow an (R) next to the ballot measures that the Republican party supports. It removes all that pesky guess work at the polls and would save the state $1,250 in printing all of those pro/con pamphlets.

  8. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-17 21:41

    MD, that’s pretty much what he’s doing here.

    Darin, point taken. I will boil my campaign themes down to one sentence: “It’s me or ISIS.”

    Actually, on immigration, I think I could make that case….

  9. Blue in a Red State 2016-08-17 21:48

    I agree with you most of the time, Cory, but I’ll have to admit that Gosch has the right idea submitting a short description and dropping the “R” word. Voters don’t want to read a lengthy description on a ballot measure, and most voters will be republicans so they will love the “R” recommendation.

  10. Darin Larson 2016-08-17 23:12

    I see in my comments at 15:43 that I said “90% of incumbents” when I meant to say 90% of independents. The point being that independents should hate this and Democrats don’t like it at all and really most Republicans don’t have anything good to say about RL 19. In sum, Gosch will gain some zombie Republican votes, but his siren song will turn off Democrats and Independents and skeptical Republicans. Add in the complexity and no group backing the law and I think it goes down to defeat 60-40.

  11. Mark Winegar 2016-08-19 06:51

    Thank you friend Cory for bringing the 2016 Ballot Questions Pamphlet to my attention. I immediately distributed it to my mailing list and posted it on Facebook.

  12. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-19 09:49

    Blue, don’t give in to pessimism! Most voters are not Republicans: according to the August 4 count, 46.4% of South Dakota voters are registered Republican, which means most voters are something else. :-)

    Darin, I’m guessing 70% vote NO, even after reading Gosch’s ploy.

  13. caheidelberger Post author | 2016-08-19 09:50

    Notice also that the Republican they find to speak up for RL 19 is not running for re-election.

  14. Curt 2016-08-19 10:11

    When I was a youngster, I learned that the expression “By Gosh” is a mild curse. Lately, I have learned that with the spelling “By Gosch” the expression is much more offensive.

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