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Represent SD Bashes Democratic Bill on Legislator Conflicts of Interest

…and Other HB 1069 Notes

The Legislature’s effort to overturn the will of the people and repeal the Anti-Corruption Act is largely an expression of Republican arrogance.*

But don’t think Represent South Dakota, one of the groups fighting to defend the Anti-Corruption Act, isn’t just a bunch of Democrats shilling for the SDDP. Represent SD’s Friday press release opens fire on a flurry of replacement bills, including the Democratically sponsored House Bill 1128.

Prime sponsor Representative Dan Ahlers (D-25/Dell Rapids) proposes to forbid legislators from voting on bills that involve a conflict of interest. HB 1128 says a conflict of interest exists when a legislator has a “substantial financial interest by reason of ownership, control, or the exercise of power over any interest greater than five percent of the value of any corporation, company, association or firm, partnership, proprietorship that is uniquely affected by the proposed legislation.”

Represent SD says nuts to that:

HB 1128… sets a toothless standard for barring legislators with conflicts of interest from casting votes, and creates no consequences if they do so. It specifies that conflicts of interest for legislators exist only when they have a significant financial interest in an entity that is “uniquely affected by the proposed legislation.” This loose “uniquely affected” standard not only creates a huge loophole, but could likely be overturned by the courts for vagueness [Represent SD, press release, 2017.01.27].

I don’t want to see HB 1128 used as an excuse by legislators to repeal the full package of anti-corruption measures that legislators want. However, even if HB 1128 doesn’t have clear enforcement, it establishes a standard that voters can use to discourage legislators from voting in their self-interest.

HB 1128 has five Democratic sponsors and four Republican sponsors, including Senate Pro-Tem Brock Greenfield (R-2/Clark). HB 1128 was introduced Thursday and awaits assignment to committee.

Related Reading:Yankton Press & Dakotan poll promoted by Represent SD on its Facebook page (that’s how I found it!) shows opponents of the Legislature’s effort to overturn the Anti-Corruption Act outnumbering supporters 6 to 1:

Yankton Press & Dakotan online poll, screen cap 2017.01.30.
Yankton Press & Dakotan online poll, screen cap 2017.01.30.

*And arrogant? That’s Professor Burns’s word:

Former Political Science Professor Bob Burns says the emergency clause is unnecessary – and that’s not all.

“I view the legislature’s actions as humorous right now as an extreme form of arrogance,” Burns said.

Bob Burns has followed South Dakota politics for decades. In that time, he’s seen state lawmakers pass many laws, even after being warned that bills were unconstitutional and could lead to lawsuits.

Yet, when it comes to House Bill 1069, lawmakers aren’t willing to take a chance.

“You know, it may well be that the court in the end will find provisions to be unconstitutional, but to just arbitrarily declare it so, without a judicial ruling particularly by the South Dakota Supreme Court is certainly premature,” Burns said [“Political Scientist Weighs in on HB 1069,” KELO-TV, 2017.01.27].

But we know how Republican legislators feel about scientists.



  1. LS 2017-01-30 07:53

    I’m with Represent. Just because a bill is put forward by a Democrat, doesn’t automatically make it a good bill. The people don’t want a “replacement”. We want the law we passed in November. End of discussion.

  2. Troy 2017-01-30 08:28


    The reaction to “uniquely* affected” is I think a standard normal for conflicts.

    For instance, a grocery store owner couldn’t vote to decrease the sales tax on groceries, probably could vote on a decrease on all food, and definitely could vote on a decrease in the general sales tax.

    Or a pig farmer couldn’t vote to on legislation that only affects hog production but probably vote to if it affects all agriculture production and definitely could vote if it applied to all business.

    If you don’t have a standard for a conflict and it is reasonable, it will not be held up as Constitutional because it could preclude entire classes of citizens from serving (directly or indirectly by excluding them from fundamental legislation (i.e. taxes).

    * “uniquely” doesn’t mean “my company” only but the “class” of companies where the “benefit” doesn’t accrue generally to a broad slice of the citizenry. Normally you see the term “uniquely affected” in when companies assert a law is intended to discriminate against one type of company in favor of another. We see much of this in legislation regarding the internet in the fight between cable companies and phone companies.

  3. Porter Lansing 2017-01-30 08:30

    Does HB1128 also ban a legislator from writing, amending or whipping legislation that regulates his carnival, amusement part or dunk tank?

  4. Kent Frerichs 2017-01-30 13:02

    On Jan 29, 2017, at 5:02 PM, Faye & Kent Frerichs wrote:

    I picked up a copy of the New York Times on Friday and read the editorial headline: Voice of People Stifled in South Dakota. Not a very favorable picture.


    The New York Times
    The Opinion Pages | Editorial South Dakota Lawmakers Snuffing Out Ethics Reform Referendum


                People in South Dakota protested the Republican Legislature’s effort to repeal an ethics reform referendum. Credit James Nord/Associated Press Brutally rejecting the people’s will, South Dakota’s Republican-controlled Legislature is rushing to repeal a vital ethics reform referendum approved by voters in November.
    The 52 percent of voters who approved the anticorruption referendum were “hoodwinked by scam artists,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard, a Republican, brazenly insisted, as he promised to sign the repeal. The referendum called for the creation of an independent ethics commission to investigate abuses by statehouse politicians and lobbyists, a public financing option to reduce election spending and a $100 annual limit on lobbyists’ gifts to elected officials.
        The Republican-dominated committee that approved the repeal bill did so under South Dakota’s “state of emergency” provision that would prevent voters from reversing the repeal with another referendum.
    This was not only shameless but cunning. In 2014, lawmakers excluded teenagers from a voter-approved referendum to raise the state minimum wage, claiming (as they did this time) that South Dakota’s citizens did not know what they were doing. To their dismay, voters overruled them by a huge majority in a subsequent referendum in November, successfully raising the minimum wage for all workers.
    Republican legislators — more eager for political revenge than mindful of the voice of the people — are now debating a bill that would double the number of signatures required to place referendums on the state ballot. Anyone wondering why South Dakota is ranked 47th in the nation for public accountability by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity need look no further than these multiple efforts to subvert the public will.
    As the rollback moved this week toward approval, Republican lawmakers sounded hollow in promising their own ethics substitute. “We are pretty squeaky clean,” a Republican state representative, Larry Rhoden, ludicrously maintained as the G.O.P. machine snuffed out the democratic process.

    Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter (@NYTOpinion), and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter.

    A version of this editorial appears in print on January 27, 2017, on Page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: Voice of the People Stifled in South Dakota.

  5. Troy 2017-01-30 14:38

    It does not go unnoticed the editorial discusses selective information: The initiative has been deemed unconstitutional by Circuit Judge Barnett and it reads as if written by the proponents of IM22.

  6. grudznick 2017-01-30 18:05

    The IM #22 was sloppily written by out-of-state dark-money interests who intended to hoodwink South Dakota voters into believing Measure 22 would reform campaign finance and ethics in our state. In fact, a judge has already suspended Measure 22, stating that it is unconstitutional. The IM #22 is bad, it is bad!

  7. Porter Lansing 2017-01-30 18:51

    You’re gonna get suspended, Grudz. Shhhhhh …..

  8. Mark Winegar 2017-01-31 04:40

    We need ethics laws with teeth!

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