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Mickelson Seeks June Vote on Legislative Pay Raise; Bolin O.K. with November Vote on 55% Vote Threshold

The first bills of the 2018 Legislative Session are in the hopper! As of this morning, I find 23 Senate bills, 15 House bills, and one joint resolution from each chamber awaiting action when the Legislature convenes on January 9.

The two resolutions are noteworthy, since they represent constitutional amendments our legislators may place on our 2018 ballots.

House Joint Resolution 1001 is Speaker G. Mark Mickelson’s proposal to raise legislators pay from $6,000 a year to more than $10,000 by pegging it to 20% of median household income. This constitutional amendment would repeal the Legislature’s authority to set its own salary.

Senate Joint Resolution 1 is Senator Jim Bolin’s proposal to raise the vote threshold required to pass constitutional amendments from 50% to 55%.

SJR 1 would place the 55%-vote measure in the 2018 general election. However, HJR 1001 omits the word “general” calls for us to vote on legislator pay “at the next election held in the state.” That means Mickelson is pursuing his gambit of sneaking his amendment onto the less-crowded June primary ballot, separate from other potential ballot measures that he doesn’t like. While a vote on a submitted amendment at primary time would be open to all voters, most of the voters showing up on June 5 will be Republicans coming to pick between Jackley and Noem for Governor and Johnson, Krebs, and Tapio for U.S. House. Mickelson could thus focus his campaigning for this amendment on voters of his own party. How receptive conservative Republicans will be to a legislative pay raise, even one recommended by their golden-boy speaker, remains to be seen.

If the Legislature places HJR 1001 on the June ballot and if voters approve, it would go into effect almost right away, on July 1, per the new enactment date Mickelson and his fellow Republicans passed in the 2017 Session to make it easier for them to tamper with voter-approved ballot measures. HJR 1001 thus makes possible a raise for legislators in the 2019 Session. If Mickelson waited for the general election, the voter-approved raise wouldn’t kick in until July 1, 2019, meaning legislators wouldn’t see the pay hike for their regular Session labors until 2020.

Mickelson signaled in November that he might seek the same early placement of his favored amendments to repeal the crime victims’ bill of rights and to put more restrictions on initiative and referendum. Such amendments, however, are not in the hopper yet. Stay tuned!


  1. Donald Pay 2017-12-21 11:39

    I notice how many of these bills declare unconstitutional emergencies. They are still referable. Don’t let a fake emergency clause fool you.

  2. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-21 23:10

    Well, only three so far, Donald.

    HB 1003 is the oopsie bill, adding the requirement to itemize donations from businesses, unions, and other “entities.” If they don’t emergency that one tout de suite, then Kristi, Marty, and Billie can keep all their corporate donors in 2017 secret.

    HB 1012 does a favor for the Constitution Party and fixes the drafting error that the 2017 Legislature made that would have cost the CP their recognized party status. Much as I don’t care for the CP’s positions and tin-foil-hattery, I hate to see any political group disadvantaged by Legislative error.

    HB 1013 bans direct electronic recording ballot machines, which if I recall correctly aren’t in use in South Dakota anyway.

    Mostly harmless as these bills may be, I may still have to agree with Donald that none of these bills are “necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety, support of the state government and its existing public institutions.”

    Notice that Mickelson’s amendment doesn’t have an emergency clause—the state constitution allows legislators to matters to a vote whenever they want, it seems—but I can see no reason to treat his pay raise as an emergency requiring action by the voters before November.

  3. Donald Pay 2017-12-22 06:52

    Yes, Legislators do have the power to put anything up for a vote at any time. The Nuclear Waste Vote Coalition based our initiative around the assumption that the Legislature had the power to put measures on the ballot at the general election. The Legislature decided to put the compact issue on the ballot in a special election. We thought that might be a backdoor attempt to kill the vote. The pro-dump side sued, but our side argued for the Legislature, though we believed the vote should have been held at the general election.

  4. Donald Pay 2017-12-22 10:41

    The Nuclear Waste Vote Coalition plowed a lot of ground, politically and legally. We had a lot of meetings regarding the wording, and we knew we had to be careful regarding federal issues that might override. We thought we were on safe ground with our automatic referral provisions which forced the Legislature to put it on the ballot. The automatic referral was ruled unconstitutional, since there was already constitutional provisions that allowed citizens to refer laws, and we couldn’t force a referral absent that process. However, since the Legislature had passed a Joint Resolution in an attempt to screw us out of a general election vote, the SD Supreme Court ruled the vote had to go on.

  5. Donald Pay 2017-12-22 10:52

    And a note for G. Marky: that date is not favorable for getting the pay raise passed. As I read the news from South Dakota, it seems people are pretty fed up with Legislative shenanigans. Based on other legislation they a planning this year, it looks to me as if they are going to try to screw the public more, and generate even more fedupness. After you screw people don’t expect them to give you anything more than you’re getting.

    People who are angry tend to vote in much higher numbers. Putting the vote in June is likely to have those angry with paying more to a corrupt legislature flood to the polls. That’s what we found with the nuclear waste vote. We won that vote by much larger percentages than if they had put it on the ballot in the general election.

  6. Donald Pay 2017-12-22 16:10

    One more point for G. Marky: Want a pay raise? Legislators should turn over a new leaf and start acting like a public servants, rather than arrogant. self-interested pr*cks. Bills like H.R. 1005 should be given an ignominious death. Start using the emergency clause in the constitutional way, not as some unconstitutional effort to dissuade citizens from referring the law. Actually listen to citizen testimony and contemplate how citizens’ concerns can be addressed. Forego most of the lobbyist socializing and invite citizens to provide more input. Don’t propose or support unconstitutional amendments or bills just because you think you can stick it to the citizens. Don’t use your position to screw your constituents to favor your clients or to enrich yourself. People will be watching. You will be under the microscope and anything you and your fellow legislators do or don’t do can and will be used against you. You want a raise? You are going to have to earn it, and convince people that you have improved. So far, I would say you are quite a ways away from meeting expectations. Let’s see how much you can improve this session. Here’s a good rule by which constituents will judge you by: Do unto others how you would want them to do unto you. Take that to heart, because you pay raise depends on how you behave toward your constituents.

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