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Mentele: SB 59 Bad for Democracy

District 19 makes all sorts of news! District 19 ballot measure organizer Melissa Mentele sends this message to legislators (including those hearing SB 59 in Senate State Affairs this morning at 10 a.m.) urging them to reject Senate Bill 59, the opening effort to weaken voters’ right to legislate via initiative:

Dear Legislators,

We are writing to encourage you to vote no on SB 59. As a ballot question committee we feel it is imperative for you to Vote No on this bill. Anyone who has ever run a ballot initiative in this state can tell you how incredibly hard work it is to get out there and collect the required amount of signatures to make the ballot. There are hundreds of man hours and thousands of dollars raised for these initiatives. It is the true “by the people for the people way” of democracy in South Dakota. Undoing the premise of the initiative process is wrong and is against everything our state stands for.

Many responses we have received from Senators and Representatives have stated “All it does is change the effective date” this is untrue. This proposed bills section 2 takes the voice and vote of the people and leaves it vulnerable to legislative editing and possibly a veto AFTER the people of SD have voted on it. If you remember back in 1988 SD voters voted yes on Amendment A to remove legislators from the ballot initiative process. I think we spoke clearly then and are speaking clearly now.

Ballot initiatives are already subject to following the constitution of South Dakota. When receiving edits back from the LRC they are very upfront about constitutional conflicts and advise sponsors to seek legal clarification. This allows us to do our due diligence prior to spending hundreds of hours pounding the pavement collecting signatures. Section 2 is unnecessary and opens a can of worms for direct democracy in SD.

We ask you to please Vote No on SB 59.

Ballot measures are hard enough—the Legislature doesn’t need to make them harder. Vote No on SB 59!


  1. Darin Larson 2017-01-20 11:12

    At the same time that Trump is giving a speech about transferring power from Washington back to the people, the Republicans in Pierre are trying to transfer power from the people to the Republicans in Pierre through SB59. The irony is thick as fog this morning.

  2. Drey Samuelson 2017-01-20 14:03

    Darin–I had the same exact thought when I was watching Trump’s speech!

  3. Donald Pay 2017-01-20 14:33

    The public relations site for the deep borehole project specifically mentions South Dakota’s initiative process as to why this project will not lead to a radioactive waste disposal site. However, SB 59 and similar legislation would take away your right to have your initiative on this matter go into effect. SB 59 must be killed to stop the Governor’s plan for radioactive waste dumping. It’s clearly aimed at stopping citizens from stopping radioactive waste dumps.

  4. Robert McTaggart 2017-01-20 14:37

    Would you have a link to the project site in question?

    Are you sure this isn’t about IM 22 instead?

  5. Robert McTaggart 2017-01-20 14:41

    Never mind, it’s on the blog here.

  6. Rebecca 2017-01-20 14:48

    Section Two was amended out in committee; however, Republican legislators need to keep their hands to themselves (in more ways than one, apparently) when it comes to the ballot initiative process. A July 1 implementation “just for consistency’s sake” is not what voters are looking for. When they speak directly, they ought not be put on hold for months.

  7. Donald Pay 2017-01-20 18:06

    I think I’ve figured out a work around should SB 59 pass. All you have to do to defeat it is to have a final section in your initiative that states, “SB 59 is repealed retroactively on July 1, 2017. SB 59 is declared never to have gone into effect. This initiative shall go into effect upon certification of the election.”

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