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SD Legislature’s Attack on Voters: Roster of Bills Undermining People Power

CAH with original SD flag, 2016
Our flag, our state, our vote!

Updated 2017.02.25 18:00 CST

In their rush to repeal Initiated Measure 22, “South Dakota Lawmakers Are Showing Populism Is a Lie” (so goes the Washington Post headline).

But the South Dakota Legislature’s effort to strip voters of their constitutional right to legislate and make Pierre the sole lawmaking authority is not limited to fast-tracked House Bill 1069. Here is the list of bills filed so far that either tinker with voter-approved laws or revise petition and election law to weaken voter power. I mark in red the worst bills, those that definitely deserve a NO vote.

Tinkering with Voter-Approved Laws:

HB 1069: An Act to repeal and revise certain provisions related to campaign finance and to declare an emergency. 

HB 1073: “An Act to revise and repeal certain provisions regarding gifts from registered lobbyists to public officials.”

HB 1090: “An Act to define certain fees incident to the extension of credit.”

  • Attacking: Initiated Measure 21, approved by voters last November
  • Intent: amend 36% payday loan rate cap to exclude numerous fees that payday lenders may be able to use to resume charging borrowers effective triple-digit interest.
  • Prime sponsor: Rep. Tim Rounds (R-24/Pierre)
  • Status: passed House; referred to Senate Commerce and Energy.
  • DFP posts on this bill

HB 1128: “An Act to establish certain provisions regarding conflict of interest for legislators.”

HB 1175: “An Act to revise the method of establishing certain interest rates.”

SB 54: An Act to revise certain provisions regarding campaign finance requirements. 

SB 131: An Act to revise certain provisions concerning the period of time elected officials are prohibited from lobbying after leaving office.

  • Intent: now nearly replicates IM 22 Section 65 lobbyist revolving-door limits; originally offered a significantly weaker replacement. Forbids any “No elected officer, department or agency head, or division director, or the highest paid employee reporting to such person” from lobbying for two years after leaving government service.
  • Prime sponsor: Sen. R. Blake Curd (R-12/Sioux Falls)
  • Status: passed House State Affairs, awaiting House approval.
  • DFP posts on this bill

Changing Petition/Election Law

HB 1034: An Act to establish certain fees for receiving electronic files of petitions, to revise certain provisions concerning filing petitions and other documents, and to revise certain provisions concerning elections and voting.

  • Intent: mixed bag!
    1. On the bad side, HB 1034 strikes the Secretary of State’s obligation to include Pro and Con statements from interested parties on the official state ballot question pamphlet. While these Pro/Con statements can include utter bushwah, they are also one opportunity for honest, low-budget grassroots campaigns to reach every voter in the state with a few paragraphs explaining their measure.
    2. On the good side, HB 1034 improves openness by establishing fixed, affordable fees for obtaining copies of petitions that citizens can review for fraud and grounds for challenges.
  • Prime sponsor: House Local Government, at request of Board of Elections.
  • Status: passed House 56–11 on 2017.02.02, referred to Senate State Affairs.
  • DFP posts on this bill

HB 1035: An Act to revise and provide certain procedures for filing, certifying, and challenging petitions.

HB 1074: An Act to provide for limits on certain out-of-state contributions to ballot question committees.

HB 1130: An Act to revise certain provisions that provide transparency and public comment for ballot measures and amendments to the Constitution.

  • Attacking: initiative process.
  • Intent: improved in committee! adds online public comment period and formal Legislative hearing but no longer imposes 30-plus-day delay on circulating petitions.
  • Prime sponsor: Rep. Don Haggar (R-10/Sioux Falls).
  • Status: passed House, referred to Senate State Affairs.
  • DFP posts on this bill

HB 1153: An Act to revise the signature requirements for initiated measures and referred laws.

SB 59: An Act to delay the effective date for initiated measures and referred laws. 

SB 67: An Act to revise the method used to calculate the petition signatures to place initiated measures on the ballot and to declare an emergency. 

SB 77: An Act to provide for a fiscal note for any initiated measure or initiated amendment to the Constitution that would have a fiscal impact on the state.

  • Attacking: initiative process.
  • Intent:
    1. Further delay circulation of initiative petitions by making sponsors wait for Legislative Research Council to complete a fiscal analysis;
    2. Make it harder to circulate initiative petitions by requiring circulators to “provide notice to any person who signs the petition that the initiated measure or initiated amendment to the Constitution may have an impact on revenues, expenditures, or fiscal liability of the state or its agencies and subdivisions”;
    3. Deter voters by cluttering ballot with fiscal impact statement; committee amendment limits statement to 50 words.
  • Prime sponsor: Sen. Ernie Otten (R-6/Tea).
  • Status: Passed House State Affairs, awaiting House vote.
  • DFP posts on this bill

SJR 2: A Joint Resolution proposing and submitting to the electors at the next general election amendments to Article XXIII, of the Constitution of the State of South Dakota, relating to amendments to the Constitution.

  • Attacking: process of passing constitutional amendments.
  • Intent:
    1. Raise the vote required for the Legislature to put a constitutional amendment to a public vote from simple majority to two thirds of each chamber;
    2. Raise the vote required by the public to amend the constitution from simple majority to 60%.
  • Prime sponsor: Sen. Jim Bolin (R-16/Canton).
  • Status: Tabled in Senate State Affairs!
  • DFP posts on this bill

*     *     *

There a couple faintly pro-democracy measures in the hopper. One such exception to the Legislature’s anti-democratic rampage: Senator Stace Nelson has proposed a constitutional amendment that may increase voter power a smidgeon. Senate Joint Resolution 1 would put on the 2018 ballot an amendment to make the Secretary of Veterans Affairs an elected office instead of a gubernatorial appointment.

Rep. Elizabeth May has proposed HB 1071, which would subject nuclear waste dumps to Legislative approval. On face, that’s an expansion of Legislative power, but that also opens the door for voters to refer any such approval to a public vote, a power they do not have now.

Legislators have until February 2 to introduce new bills; committees have until February 3. I will update this list as new bills arrive.

Also worth noting are two proposals for task forces:

  1. HB 1141 would create a task force to study the initiative and referendum process. (Status: passed House; hearing in Senate State Affairs 2017.02.27.)
  2. SB 171 would create a task force to study “government, campaign finance, lobbyist restrictions, and ethics,” the subjects of IM 22. (Status: passed Senate, referred to House State Affairs.)

I’m no fan of task forces, but I would prefer to see killed all of the above proposals on I&R and perhaps all of the “replacement” bills offered to compensate for the Legislature’s hasty repeal of IM 22 in favor of empaneling these task forces and conducting public hearings statewide to give voters another chance to tell legislators what they really want.


  1. Tyler Schumacher 2017-01-26 11:47

    HB 1090’s intent, according to Mr. Rounds, is to keep low interest auto loans and warranties available in SD. He plans on working through questions of possible loopholes regarding payday lenders before bringing it to committee. Would an auto loan, even with sales tax and fees, really be in danger of hitting the 36% limit?

  2. Remington Jones 2017-01-26 12:49

    36% seems steep for a car loan. Is Uncle Bruce available for comment?

  3. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-01-26 13:01

    Good question, Tyler. Do any car loans approach 36%? Wasn’t the 36% rate cap crafted to apply only to payday and title lenders, meaning it should be having no legal or practical effect on car dealers?

  4. Donald Pay 2017-01-26 13:18

    You know you’re becoming effective when they start emptying the magazines on you. It’s a sign of weakness and desperation.

  5. Remington Jones 2017-01-26 13:22

    F done poorly (or well) I think exceptions for auto loans or car dealers could allow them to charge higher rates, add or require additional fees or services, or impose expensive penalties for missed payments. I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing there are a lot of sneaky ways they can tack on things to a car purchase that could technically be considered fees or interest if the dealer is also handling the financing. Maybe a dealer/lender could require that buyers with bad credit also purchase an expensive warranty in order to be approved for financing? I don’t know, but it sounds pretty fishy to me.

  6. troy 2017-01-26 13:52


    RE HB1090:

    I don’t know for sure but this might be the intent. Car sales are taxed at a lower sales tax rate than other items which might be included in a sale which also included warranty, lifetime oil changes, etc. so they must be broken out as separate items (not wrapped into the sale price of the car).

    Thus, because they are “services” and not “products, the bill might be necessary to make it clear these are ancillary items are not “fees” which get imputed into the comprehensive Annual Percentage Rate. If my supposition is correct, without the change, these car buyers wouldn’t be able to finance these items and have to pay cash if they wanted them.

    RE SB77: In order to insure voters are informed of what is in the bill, are you really arguing voters shouldn’t know how much it would cost? At the end of the day, isn’t that one of your biggest beefs with Marcy’s Law that we didn’t know how much it was going to cost?

  7. jerry 2017-01-26 19:04

    Our corruption has gone national. The Washington Post calls us crooks and liars and even Crooks and Liars calls us crooks and liars

    The stench of pig crap is tough to smell, but the stench of corruption is so great, it covers the country and seems to be emanating from two places, Washington, D.C. with punkin head and Pierre, South Dakota with the corrupt mess of sex and lies. Time to toss the whole damn bunch overboard and right this rudderless ship before it hits a bigger reef.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-01-27 07:29

    Troy, on HB 1090, I look forward to clarification in committee from the sponsor and the lobbyists who show up to back him.

    On SB77: I’m not arguing against presentation of information. I’m arguing that Senator Otten’s intent is not to better inform voters but to create more hurdles to circulating petitions and getting measures on the ballot. I’ll gladly publicize information about all ballot measures, but how much speech does Otten want to compel?

  9. Troy Jones 2017-01-28 13:19

    You are arguing against it in SB77 because of listing #3

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-01-31 21:38

    Troy, I disagree. Adding the fiscal impact statement could deter the exercise of democracy because of ballot complications. Physically, the ballot becomes harder to process, meaning some people may be deterred from completing the ballot and ballot machines may have a harder time processing all those thick papers. Politically, why privilege a fiscal impact statement over, say, a moral impact statement, or an economic development statement, or a human rights impact statement? Democracy is not served by cluttering the ballot with just one aspect of a debate.

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