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Mickelson Signals Effort to Repeal Crime Victims Bill of Rights

Speaker of the House G. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls) says he wants the Legislature to offer voters a chance to repeal the crime victims bill of rights they passed last November:

Speaker Mickelson says the voter approved victims’ rights constitutional amendment is costing counties an additional $5 million statewide.

Mickelson says there are some good elements in Marsy’s Law, but those provisions don’t belong in the constitution.

“Some of them were already in state statute. Almost everyone would agree that the kinds of proposals that were in Marsy’s Law don’t belong in our constitution,” Mickelson says. “Our constitution is pretty sacred. It’s supposed to provide some overarching principles, and then we implement those principles with state statutes.”

Mickelson says once those principles are in state statute, then he’d like to see amendment removed from the constitution [Lee Strubinger, “Speaker Mickelson Wants Marsy’s Law out of Constitution,” SDPB Radio, 2017.10.10].

It’s nice to see Speaker Mickelson adopting arguments I offered against Marsy’s Law in 2015 and 2016. South Dakota already had plenty of statutes protecting victims that did not require costly Constitutional redundancy. As in North Dakota, which also suffered the intrusion of California billionaire Henry T. Nicholas and his vanity bill into its politics, the crime victims bill of rights imposes costly policy specifics into the state constitution, which should focus, as Mickelson says, on broad governing principles.

Alas, Speaker Mickelson was too busy promoting his vo-tech governance amendment to second my argument and throw his influential voice into the debate against Marsy’s Law during the 2016 election cycle. Thus, he now faces the awkward prospect of trying to repeal yet another voter-approved initiative. At least this time, Mickelson can’t repeal the initiative burr under his saddle with a mere vote of 54 of his Republican friends in the Legislature; unlike Initiated Measure 22, the crime victims amendment stays in effect unless the Legislature puts it on the ballot and gets voters to change their minds and repeal it in the 2018 election.

Speaker Mickelson has rightly complained about Marsy’s Law as the prime example (and maybe the only really solid example) of how a ballot measure backed solely by out-of-state money leads to laws that aren’t relevant or helpful to South Dakota. Speaker Mickelson’s pre-general campaign finance report for 2016 shows but apparently Mickelson didn’t want to make that argument in 2016, when he accepted $7,100 in contributions from out-of-state PACs to secure his reëlection in District 13:

Out-of-state PAC contributions to Mickelson for District 13 House, pre-general report, 2016.10.27.
Out-of-state PAC contributions to Mickelson for District 13 House, pre-general report, 2016.10.27.

These contributions constitute less than one tenth of the total cash income Mickelson reported as of October 27, 2016. But they still represent one spike in the two-pronged attack Mickelson makes on his own political standing when he attacks the crime victims bill of rights and pushes his unconstitutional initiative to ban out-of-state money from ballot question campaigns. He is right to say Marsy’s Law and Henry T. Nicholas’s campaign mad money are bad for South Dakota. If he gets the Legislature to put a Marsy’s Law repeal on the 2018 ballot, I’ll support that repeal. But he must bear his own indictment for accepting influential out-of-state cash, and he must bear the burden of telling voters—the same voters who reëlected him—that they made a mistake in 2016.


  1. Donald Pay 2017-10-12 14:02

    It might be a better strategy to repeal and replace by amending the Amendment. Voters will see it as just another arrogant attempt to undo what they did.

    Mickelson admits there are some good things in the amendment. Keep them. Have a rational discussion about that bad or too costly parts. Then it is up to the voters.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-10-14 11:50

    Amendment would be better than appeal, Donald, but I’m not sure Mickelson could put anything like what he’s proposing on the ballot without its being branded as a repeal of the voters’ will. It seems that Mickelson feels that even the good things the amendment does are better done in state law. The only thing that saves him here from the sharpest criticism is that he has to put it to the voters instead of being able to repeal their will himself in Pierre.

    I wonder: will voting on the crime victims’ bill of rights again after it passed in 2016 be any more odious than voting on redistricting again after it failed in 2016?

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