The best thing I heard Rick Weiland say at yesterday’s Brown County Democratic Forum is that his ballot measure organization, TakeItBack.org, is ready to refer any legislative attempt to repeal Initiated Measure 22 to a public vote.
In remarks to a couple dozen listeners here on the tundra, Weiland likened the battle for the Anti-Corruption Act to the battle over the minimum wage. In 2014, voters approved increasing South Dakota’s minimum wage and adjusting it upward for inflation each year. Hardly a month after that pay increase took effect, Republican legislators took action to undermine the voters’ will but cutting the minimum wage for workers under 18. We referred that Republican action to a vote, and in 2016, voters rejected the Republicans’ meddling by an even larger margin (71%–29%) than that by which they enacted the minimum wage increase in 2014 (55%–45%).
Perhaps wanting to avoid a similar popular rout this time, Republican legislators have focused on using the courts to beat back the voters’ will. Republicans have secured a circuit court injunction against IM 22 in its entirety. Professing his non-lawyer status, Weiland did not review in detail the legal arguments against the Anti-Corruption Act. He only repeated his assertion that TakeItBack.org’s lawyers, including Scott Heidepriem, feel they can prevail in a fair hearing before the state Supreme Court. Weiland also said he expects Republican legislators will wait until the Supreme Court rules before advancing any repeal legislation.
However, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs may not. AP reports she will propose a campaign finance reform package that would replace IM 22 with a new set of reporting requirements and an ethics commission focused on campaign finance. (These are the reforms Krebs and her task force first aired in the media back in September.)
An impending proposal from Secretary Krebs poses a possible complication to any referral effort to preserve IM 22. Unless the Supreme Court throws out IM 22 in its entirety, writing Secretary Krebs’s reforms into campaign finance law would likely require striking any remaining IM 22 provisions. Krebs’s package would likely be an integrated repeal-and-replace measure. Referring that measure would mean asking voters to throw out an ethics commission to restore an ethics commission. That pitch differs greatly from the choice voters had in 2016 between IM 22’s ethics commission and no ethics commission.
Tinkering with the minimum wage was clearly a tactical error. Republicans are trying to avoid facing the wrath of the voters on IM 22. Fusing the Krebs reform package with an IM 22 repeal would insulate Republicans from such ballot box backlash.