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!