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Don’t Mess with Us—A Proposal to Protect Initiative and Referendum from the Legislature

A key part protecting voters and progressive values from corruption in Pierre (not to mention fascism in the White House) is ballot initiatives.

Our Republican legislators sense that voter power and are doing everything they can to quash it with a multitude of bills weakening our power to make laws ourselves.

Thus I suggest a state constitutional amendment, the “Don’t Mess with Us!” Amendment, to protect initiative and referendum from the predations of our overreaching Legislature.

My proposal adds four major protections to initiative and referendum, the first two borrowed from Doug Kronaizl’s 2015 proposal:

  1. Allow citizens to refer bills passed with emergency clauses.
  2. Require a two-thirds vote by both chambers to repeal or amend a voter-approved initiated law.
  3. Require all statutory changes to initiative and referendum process (petition/signature requirements, enactment date, etc.) to be referred to a public vote and approved by a majority of the electors of the state.
  4. Change the Article 23 Section 1 signature requirement for amendment petitions from “at least ten percent” of the last gubernatorial vote to “no more than ten percent….”

I invite your input on this pro-democracy, anti-Legislative-overreach proposal.


  1. Doug Kronaizl 2017-02-08 08:16

    Hear, Hear! I’m ready to circulate when you are!

    I might suggest three things.

    First, explicitly exempt the budget from referral. Under Respect the Vote SD, it would have been referable, which turned some folks away (and isn’t necessarily the biggest deal if we can’t refer it; please let me know if I’m missing something, though).

    Second, it might be good to not only change that language in XXIII, but also define “qualified elector” throughout the process. Example: In Article III, Section 1, you might consider this language for the end of the first paragraph: “Not more than five percent of the total number of votes cast for Governor at the last preceding gubernatorial election shall be required to invoke either the initiative or the referendum.” That would bring all signature requirements to a consistent result.

    Thirdly, in the second paragraph of Article III, Section 1, it might be helpful to clean up language regarding the veto given the shake-up we saw with Section 2 of SB 59 this year. I’d change the language to read “The veto power of the Executive shall not be exercised as to measures referred to or initiated by a vote of the people.”

    This is such a necessary initiative.

  2. Craig 2017-02-08 08:38

    Sounds like a great idea, but with all of the barriers being enacted to prevent citizens from enacting such changes, how would you propose to actually pass a constitutional amendment? Surely the legislature won’t be helpful.

  3. Porter Lansing 2017-02-08 09:06

    In the American south, Black voters face voter disenfranchisement from having their polling places closed. In Arizona and Texas, USA citizen Hispanic voters are disenfranchised by Republican majorities, continually. In South Dakota, Native American Indian voters are forced to drive long distances from their homes just to stand in line waiting to cast their votes against the obstinate majority in Pierre. These attempts at restricting initiatives by Republican extremists is also “voter disenfranchisement”, little different than the majority’s shameless, unprincipled gerrymandering of Rapid City and Sioux Falls. Tell the oppressors promoting such discriminatory political tomfoolery that the people demand the unfettered access to the ballot that the initiative and referendum process provides.
    *How undignified Sen. Novstrup has become to personally attack his opponent (Cory Heidelberger – a mover and shaker in the initiative/petition process), just because of Cory’s success reaching the true will of the voters. You can’t deny that IM22 was the will of the people and Novstrup’s bill to restrict the libertarian initiative process is only the sad revenge of a scared, old has been. Consider retirement Al. You’ve done good by your town but Aberdeen is a now a younger and more vibrant city.

  4. Porter Lansing 2017-02-08 09:13

    Sorry … I meant to write, “These attempts at restricting initiatives by Republican extremists “are” also voter disenfranchisement, little different than the majority’s shameless, unprincipled gerrymandering of Rapid City and Sioux Falls. *editing fail :0)

  5. Donald Pay 2017-02-08 09:39

    You can petition to refer bills with emergency clauses. An emergency clause means nothing until a court actually rules it’s a valid emergency clause. There are real emergencies, and there are lawless and unconstitutional emergencies declare by the corrupt and the crooks.

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-08 10:53

    I don’t know, Donald. The Constitution pretty clearly restricts referral of laws passed “for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, support of the state government and its existing public institutions.”

    Doug, does that same clause already exempt the budget from referral?

  7. Donald Pay 2017-02-08 11:43

    Exactly. But the crooks don’t get to determine that. The courts ultimately decide whether the crooks are falsely declaring emergencies to prevent the public from voting.

  8. Richard Schriever 2017-02-08 12:44

    I’m in. Have been in favor of this for years. The budgetary exemption is fair. As soon as you have petitions to circulate – hook me up.

  9. Mark Winegar 2017-02-08 16:30

    Good idea. When do you take to the Legislative Research Council?

  10. Donald Pay 2017-02-08 17:11

    And here’s why you should refer it. The crooks screwed themselves big-league. They could have let the law alone, and used their other strategy of emasculating IM 22 with a dozen or so bills. That would have made it much harder to refer. But the crooks shot themselves in the foot by repealing the whole thing with an emergency clause. So, they think it’s done. But it ain’t done!!!! And it won’t be done till the fat lady sings, and you, the non-crooks in South Dakota, and the courts are the fat ladies. Now, since the crooks have used the emergency clause to repeal it, it is repealed until you, the fat ladies, submit the signatures. Then it will go to court, and I’m the courts will resurrect IM 22 because the crooks can’t use the emergency clause for the purpose of screwing the people from a referendum. Are you going to be there for the resurrection and 2nd Coming of IM 22? You have to collect the signatures, though, and believe. Otherwise, no resurrection and no 2nd Coming. It’s up to you.

  11. Jim Wegner 2017-02-08 17:36

    Your proposal to protect initiative and referendum….FANTASTIC!! Behind it 1000%

  12. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-08 18:50

    Donald, you’re talking about referring HB 1069 and challenging that specific emergency clause. That’s not my purpose here. I don’t want to challenge that specific misuse of the emergency clause (well, I do, but not on whatever dimes I can get together). I see far more to gain in proposing a broader amendment that would allow us to refer all laws with an emergency clause, even those laws that may validly use one. Then this whole question goes away, and the Legislature loses one tool they have now to evade the will of the people.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-08 18:56

    Thanks for the encouragement and willingness to help, Richard, Jim, Mark!

    I won’t run to LRC yet—I want to see if anyone else is picking up this tack. I don’t want to be redundant. But believe me: if I have petitions, you’ll hear about here PDQ!

  14. Donald Pay 2017-02-08 19:35

    I don’t have a problem with your plan, given the crooked nature of recent Legislatures and Governors, and the fact that they are making no effort to get rid of the crooked behavior, but I’d also suggest that the crooks need to be screwed to the wall over repeal of IM 22. So, I’d refer that, too. I have a bit of concern over the requirement for amending initiatives. I have no problem with amendments, but I would have them delayed until after the law goes into effect for a year or two. Every law can be improved, and this would cut out good, as well as bad, amendments. For example, what if a part of an initiative is unconstitutional, but it could be made constitutional by a small change.

    I’ve never seen these guys so scared and so desperate over IM 22. It would be a shame not to put it on the same ballot as the crooks are on. It’s not just the public officials who are running scared. It’s the entire corrupt system in South Dakota, including the powerful lobbyists and organizations. Referring that would be like Jesus descending into hell and overcoming the Devil.

    You can do both.

  15. jerry 2017-02-08 20:17

    I would like to see either an initiative or a referendum that simply states that the State of South Dakota will not be a party to Medicaid Block grants. Also, whatever happened to the potential governor of South Dakota, NOem, and her blather about repealing Obamacare? Where is she? I thought this was a done deal. Where are the jobs and where is the gutting of ACA Obamacare?

  16. jerry 2017-02-08 21:16

    Porter, NOem said some 64 times that she had seen the replacement plan and that it was a done deal. She would personally deliver the goods while drinking that Obama’s milkshake. Now an initiative or referendum to deny Medicaid Block Grants should be something to consider.

  17. private richard 2017-02-08 23:28

    imho, I think “Don’t Mess with South Dakota!” Amendment sounds better.

  18. Kurt Appley 2017-02-09 08:05

    I agree…..good luck!

  19. CLCJM 2017-02-09 23:40

    Go for it with everything you have! It’s time to break up the Republican monopoly in this state…and maybe else where as well! I helped get signatures on several petitions last time although I didn’t get a lot. But if you get this going, I’ll put everything I have into it, too!!

    I really believe it’s gotten to the point that our democracy is at risk and we better get off our duffs and move. I also suspect I know a few dozen people in Sioux Falls in the LEAD organization that would love to carry petitions! If the numbers that came out for the Women’s March is any indication! Will be seeing them at a LEAD debriefing after the Legislative Coffee here on Saturday and will bring it up if you want, Cory.

  20. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-02-12 15:15

    Donald, I disagree on referring HB1069. If the Legislature passes any replacement bill, then untangling HB 1069, IM22, and the new statutes becomes too complicated. Plus, we have Judge Barnett on the record saying portions of IM22 are unconstitutional. If we successfully referred HB1069, our petition would suspend it, IM22 would become law again on July 1 this year, and Curd et al. would press their lawsuit to the Supreme Court, which I am confident would find at least one clause of IM22 unconstitutional. Since we cannot sever clauses on a referred law, HB 1069 supporters could quite honestly campaign on the slogan, “Voting NO is unconstitutional!” and my only honest response would be, “Yeah, but only a little!” We don’t win that campaign.

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