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HB 1007: Citizen Initiative Review Commission Needs Improvement

House Bill 1007 carries the watered-down “Citizen Initiative Review Commission” proposal from the Initiative and Referendum Task Force to the 2018 Legislative Session. As I reported in October, the task force reduced a reasonably good proposal from eight to three sections, leading task force member Linda Lea Viken to describe the remains as “the tail. The dog has left the room.”

HB 1007 would give us something we don’t have now: at least one public hearing, in Pierre, “for any initiated measure and initiated amendment to the Constitution” that makes the ballot. I think that language means the CIRC holds at least one hearing for each initiated measure, but I’d like someone from Legislative Research Council to clarify before we codify. HB 1007 specifies that the CIRC shall take testimony from the petition sponsor and from the public. (Curious: if no one shows up, will the CIRC subpoena testimony?) The CIRC then produces a 300-word-max “objective written summary” for each initiative to be published on the Secretary of State’s website.

The citizen initiative review commission proposed in HB 1007 isn’t all bad, but it falls short of the more robust ballot education measures used in other states and proposed by Rob Timm of the Chiesman Center for Democracy at the I&R Task Force’s June meeting. Legislators have a chance to improve HB 1007’s intent to educate voters by restoring some of the provisions that the task force dropped last fall:

  1. Post more documents online, including Pro and Con statements from CIRC subcommittees, review and comment from LRC, and complete minutes of all hearings.
  2. Mail CIRC information to every registered voter.
  3. Fund the CIRC (the original draft authorized private donations alongside general funds, but let’s keep big private donors from skewing the process and provide straight public funding).

Legislators can further improve HB 1007 by adding these provisions:

  1. Further limit or entirely remove legislators from the CIRC. That first C is for Citizen. HB 1007 reserves two to four seats for current or former veteran legislators—specifically, those who have served at least two full terms in Pierre. Legislators already have the power to amend and repeal initiatives in complete defiance of the popular will; why give them the opportunity to sandbag initiatives on the Citizen Initiative Review Committee?
  2. Require at least two hearings for each initiative, with at least one outside of Pierre. If the commission exists to help citizens review initiatives, it should meet where more citizens are.
  3. Include referred laws in the CIRC’s agenda. Sure, referred laws have gone through scrutiny in Legislative committees and floor debates. But voters will see referred laws and initiated laws and amendments side by side on the ballot. The CIRC should educate voters on all of the ballot measures.
  4. Change the partisan balance to prevent any partisan majority. HB 1007 creates an eleven-member CIRC with no more than six members from the same party. Six out of eleven members with the same party affiliation could hijack the committee to promote their party’s position on the ballot measures (such as the “Vote No on Everything!” likely to come from the Republicans in 2018). Amend Section 1 of HB 1007 to allow no more than four members of the same party on the CIRC.

HB 1007 is not as bad as HB 1005, the I&R Task Force’s effort to confound the meaning of “Yes” and “No” on referred laws. With a little work, HB 1007 could be improved from, “Well, o.k., I suppose” to a “You bethca!” improvement in voter education on South Dakota ballot measures.


  1. Donald Pay 2017-12-28 10:52

    The best of a bunch of horrible bills reported out by that Task Force still doesn’t get my support. It can be improved and get my support, but until they kill the rest of the trash they suggested, I’m “no on everything” that came out of that Task Force. And that’s what I think should be the position. Nothing but an improved HB 1007 should pass.

  2. Donald Pay 2017-12-28 16:43

    What’s the purpose of having a task force if they come up with a bunch of piecemeal special interest legislation that even the sponsors have no idea what they do and don’t do? Really, the whole basket of bills is deplorable, and an absolute waste of time, money and effort. Sen. Nesiba seems to be clueless about HB 1005. He and others got played bigly. They just have no clue. Except for HB 1007, they should be flushed, and HB 1007 should be flushed without vast improvement. Here’s the lesson: never trust the Legislature when it comes to protecting the people’s rights.

    Here’s what I suggest: people who are interested in real change that makes the process run better get together on your own and propose actual real reform. You can bet the SD Chamber is going to be ho-ing for these bills. Better get ready, and remind legislators that screwing around like this with the initiative and referendum gets them no raise and a pay cut.

  3. grudznick 2017-12-28 19:06

    If people stopped proposing stupid law bills and big, dark, out-of-state money interests didn’t try and hookwink South Dakota voters into passing their unconstitutional special interest vanity law bills, this little committee wouldn’t have been needed.

    Measures initiated are bad, they are very, very bad. VNOE, Mr. Pay! Oh, that’s right, you can’t vote in South Dakota. But tell your friend!

  4. Donald Pay 2017-12-28 20:09

    Grudz, I agree. The Legislature has for decades taken trips to out-of-state political bill mill conferences on the taxpayer dime. They have taken special interest legislation from, for example, the waste dumpers and nuclear industry. Legislators import these bills, written by out-of-state special interests, and get them passed in South Dakota. One of the ideas they have imported is this anti-democracy idea, VNOE, and you are main sponsor of that idea.

    Unlike you, I was in the forefront of the fight against out-of-state monied interests who find it much easier to hoodwink the legislators than the citizens. When we see you fighting these out-of-state interests and supporting VNOE at the Legislature, that’s when we will no you aren’t just another toady of the out-of-state interests.

  5. grudznick 2017-12-28 21:04

    I’m ok with safely disposing of nuclear wastes, and digging The Borehole somewhere in South Dakota, though. That won’t change.

  6. Donald Pay 2017-12-28 21:55

    Well, Grudz, the Republicans in Congress are staunchly opposed to the idea of borehole disposal, so that is one issue I can agree with Republicans on. They mostly oppose it not for scientific reasons, which motivated my opposition, but because they have a fixation on screwing Nevada. It’s revenge time in Republican-land, and actually proposing viable solutions must take second place.

    Their tax bill made it impossible for them to do much of anything with nuclear waste for the next 10 years, however. They painted themselves into the corner of having to borrow money from China or cut off your Social Security to restudy the failed idea of dumping it at Yucca Mountain.

    They may try to stick some “interim” storage site in SD, though. You and some of your bought off “leaders” may try to land this. But, again, the tax bill screws up that idea. I love it when Republicans cripple themselves through ideological stupidity. When you have dumb people running the government they end up screwing themselves.

  7. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2017-12-29 07:15

    Donald, I do agree that the bulk of the bills reported out of the I&R task force do little to truly protect the people’s right to legislate. HB 1007 opens another avenue for interference with that right by allowing partisan capture of the CIRC. If we had a two-party Legislature, your VNOE strategy would make sense: no vote for HB 1007 until the other clunkers are killed and until HB 1007 is improved. But in our one-party Legislature, Republicans may latch onto complaints about HB 1007 to justify amending it to become a real obstacle to exercise of I&R, just like the other bills.

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