As the South Dakota Legislature collapses into the ethical chaos of a sex scandal, Republican leaders are fast-tracking the first bill in their attack voters’ right to legislate. Senate Bill 59, the Legislature’s unconstitutional attempt to delay enactment of voter-approved initiatives and subject such measures to vetoes by the Governor and Legislature, already has its first committee hearing tomorrow, Friday, January 20, 10 a.m., before Senate State Affairs. SB 59 is the only bill on Senate State Affairs’ Friday agenda.
The sponsors of SB 59 will contend that we need to delay the enactment of ballot measures because state and local governments, businesses, and others need more time to study and prepare for the consequences of those laws, even though ballot initiatives are available for public reading 12, 18, sometimes 25 months before we get to vote on them. Yet the sponsors made SB 59 available for public review on Tuesday, just two days ago, and they are already rushing it to committee, with barely a day’s notice of the hearing.
Inconsistency, thy name is Legislature.
Fellow defenders of direct democracy, if you can make tomorrow morning’s meeting or at least hit the e-mails to persuade Senator Al Novstrup and other Senate State Affairs members to kill SB 59, remind them of Amendment A from 1988. Until 1988, the Legislature had to approve initiatives to appear on the ballot. In the words of Attorney General Roger Tellinghuisen, whose official explanation appeared on every ballot, Amendment A “removes the requirement that the Legislature enact and submit a measure proposed by the voters before it could be placed on the ballot. It would eliminate any discretion which the Legislature may now have regarding submission of a voter proposed measure to the ballot.”
SB 59 violates both the letter and the spirit of Amendment A, which voters approved 52.2% to 47.8%. As I explained Tuesday, the sloppy, vague language of Section 2 of SB 59 attempts to re-insert the Legislature in the process of approving ballot measures for the ballot. Section 1 of SB 59 delays enactment of initiatives in an attempt to re-assert Legislative authority that South Dakota voters clearly did not and, I will argue, do not want over their constitutional right to legislate.
Senate Bill 59 is another attempt by the thwart the will of the public, this time in the form of a sneaky statute trying to unravel a Constitutional protection. No wonder legislators want to rush this bill through while folks are distracted by the Presidential Inauguration and the Legislature’s own sex scandal.