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Bolin Still Batting at Constitutional Ghosts with 55% Vote Threshold

Senator Jim Bolin keeps crying that we need to protect our state constitution, and yesterday the interim task force on initiative and referendum mostly agreed with him, approving his proposed 55% vote threshold to pass constitutional amendments.

But I keep asking: protect our state constitution from what?

“Our constitution needs protection against a wide range of efforts to change it and to reform it and to alter it in ways that I think the general public is not really appreciative of,” Bolin said during yesterday’s task force meeting. But what “wide range of efforts” are we talking about? What harmful amendments have been piled onto our constitution?

Out of five amendments proposed last year, only two passed. One, the relatively innocuous clarification that allowed Bolin and his fellow legislators to move vo-tech governance from the Regents to a separate board, passed by only 50.6%. With his 55% threshold, does he mean to say that the vo-tech board that he prime-sponsored was a bad idea?

The other amendment that passed last year was the crime victims bill of rights. That measure, branded as “Marsy’s Law,” was backed by one rich California billionaire who hired Kelsey Grammer to pitch it in TV ads. It won 59.6% of the vote. With his 55% threshold, does Bolin mean to say that this clear writing of one Californian’s vanity bill into our constitution is not an ill from which we need protection?

As I wrote in my July 25 analysis, South Dakotans since 1972 have been more willing to use their voting power to change their constitution than to change their laws. Is Bolin saying we need to protect South Dakotans from themselves? If so, how does a conservative Republican like Bolin justify such nanny-statism by anything other than an elitist disregard for the wisdom and rights of the people who vote to put him in office?

Amending our constitution is hard enough. We don’t need to impose any additional patronizing hurdles to the people’s right to govern themselves.


  1. jerry 2017-08-24

    Cory, I think you nailed it with “Is Bolin saying we need to protect South Dakotans from themselves?’
    The cult republican wants us all to believe that we cannot read the petitions that we sign because they think we are too ignorant to catch on to their corruption. We have and that is why the only way to fight that is with initiatives. The cult has stacked the deck in elections so this is the only way to neuter those feral cats. Here is how Bolin feels at the outrage of citizens infringing on his grift

  2. Porter Lansing 2017-08-24

    Sen. Jim Bolin is a direct descendant of George Read of Delaware, one of only six people to sign both the Declaration of Independence and the current United States constitution. Somewhere in his descendant gene pool the “courage to renovate” has been lost.

  3. Eve Fisher 2017-08-24

    It’s basically “Vote for me, I’ll be your public servant; and once I’m in office, I won’t listen to a word you say, so why should you have a say anyway?” Actually, it’s all very Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who said (in his “The Social Contract”) that you exercise your freedom when you vote, and after that, you have to obey, no matter who was elected, or what they do. Sounds very Republican to me.

  4. Donald Pay 2017-08-24

    The 55 percent margin is designed specifically to provide out-of-state billionaires with more control over South Dakota government. It’s designed to require a large advertising presence, rather than a grassroots effort. They pile on these ridiculous bureaucratic and undemocratic measures to provide more power to the elite, and take power away from the people. It wouldn’t surprise me if someone is paying Bolin to push this effort. Bolin is one of those folks who takes money for his “public service.” A real whore for the elite.

  5. drey samuelson 2017-08-24

    Donald Pay: exactly right!

  6. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-24

    Per Donald’s mention of out-of-state billionaires: those bogeymen have become the excuse to take away South Dakotans’ right to initiative and refer laws. Billionaires don’t want to spend lots of money promoting ballot measures. Billionaires prefer to keep their most direct avenue to influence, lobbying and campaign finance, and deprive us citizens of the last, best resort we have to check unresponsive legislators and the plutocrats pulling their strings.

  7. Donald Pay 2017-08-25

    Yes, Cory is right about the main line of attack for any out-of-state monied interest. They are going to go directly to the place that is corrupt and corruptible. The usual first stop is the Governor’s office and then they go to the majority party’s legislative leaders. They rarely try the initiative route.

    The corruption of our political class is why we have the initiative and referendum to begin with. It is meant to keep the corrupt political elite under control.

    So, no, there is no need for 55%, just as there is no need for any of the bureaucratic nonsense they’ve put on since 2000 to gum up the initiative process. All of it just makes it easier for the monied special interests to keep corrupting SD government.

  8. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-08-25

    Henry T. Nicholas was an aberration. He doesn’t give a hoot about South Dakota one way or another; he just wants the satisfaction of writing his dead sister’s name into everyone’s state constitution. He used his money for his vanity project (last year’s Amendment S, the crime victims bill of rights), and now he’s gone, never to bother us again. The Koch brothers and other corporate interests yanking our legislators’ chains every winter are the ongoing threat to the health of our democracy.

    I’m willing to apply the GOP “Vote No on Everything” stance to everything coming out of this task force, including anything Jim Bolin proposes dealing with initiative and referendum.

  9. Darrell Solberg 2017-08-25

    Bolin needs to go back to a day job and quit promoting his off the wall ideas. He probably won’t be satisfied until he is wearing the “crown” my way or the highway!!!

  10. Donald Pay 2017-08-25

    During the nuclear waste, sewage ash and solid waste battles we got a really good glimpse into how this stuff works. I could go into a lot of detail, but suffice it to say that the rot starts at the top. The grassroots is generally not going to rot. That’s why initiative and referendum are important.

    At one point we got hold of a letter that Ernst Buckley, Gov. George Mickelson’s economic development guy, wrote to SDDS, the company that wanted to build a huge balefill for solid waste. Initially, the Mickelson administration was opposed to that project, after having to mop up after Janklow’s failed sewage ash scam. However, that letter provided a strategy for SDDS to follow in order to overcome opposition to the project. It provided names of some key players in SD politics and business that SDDS needed to schmooze. You could go right down that list and see how this stuff works in SD. It’s as close to a criminal syndicate as you are going to find.

    The sewage ash scam was similar. The payoff came to a “consultant,” who would later head the DENR. He got paid, but the sewage ash companies stiffed most other SD businesses.

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