The Republican Legislature has moved from sniping at the edges of our initiative power to firing cannons right at the heart of our right to legislate.
Today Speaker G. Mark Mickelson (R-13/Sioux Falls) filed House Joint Resolution 1007, which would repeal citizens’ ability to initiate amendments to the South Dakota Constitution. Amendments would still ultimately be decided by the voters, but only the Legislature could place an amendment on the ballot.
Rep. Tom Pischke (R-25/Dell Rapids) filed HJR 1008, which doesn’t take away our power to initiate amendments but does require the Legislature to approve any amendment that the voters pass. That’s pretty much as bad as Mickelson’s plan: allowing 54 legislators to veto an amendment passed by, say, 200,000 South Dakota voters eliminates citizens’ ability to check an overreaching or unresponsive Legislature… which of course is what Pischke, Mickelson (a co-sponsor of HJR 1008), and other elitist Republicans want.
If he can’t ban or veto citizen-initiated amendments, Mickelson wants to drag us into a legal morass with HJR 1006, which would impose a single-subject rule on constitutional amendments. We could still propose amendments that create, strike, or modify multiple articles but they’d all have to deal with the same subject. Mickelson’s obvious target here is Amendment W, the 2018 version of Initiated Measure 22, which Mickelson, Pischke, and GOP friends repealed last Session. They would love to have forced Amendment W’s anti-corruption reformers to circulate separate petitions for campaign finance reform, a state ethics commission, and protection of initiative and referendum, thus increasing their costs and workload. They would also love to have one more legal handhold to drag future amendments into court, forcing grassroots initiative sponsors to spend big money on lawyers to argue that their proposals cover just one subject and not whatever separate subjects Mickelson and his citizen-quashing legislators argue they encompass.
And while we’re at it, Mickelson wants to repeal Amendment S, the crime victims bill of rights that South Dakotans passed in 2016. His HJR 1004, filed Wednesday, would put that matter to a vote again this year. Amendment S stinks, but Mark Mickelson’s effort to wreck our initiative power stinks worse.
Add the fact that on Tuesday Senate Republicans killed the measly Senate Bill 12, the only thing preventing the Board of Elections from imposing a de facto word limit on initiatives via House Bill 1004, which Mickelson made sure coasted through the House.
This Republican Legislature is out to kill voter initiatives. Voters, you should initiate some conversations with your legislators this weekend (the calendar says they are home Friday through Monday). Rep. Mickelson doesn’t have a crackerbarrel until February 10, but there are crackerbarrels this weekend in Aberdeen, Brandon, Rapid City, Vermillion, Watertown, and Webster where you could catch your local Republicans (because Democrats don’t do mean, elitist things like these proposed amendments) and tell them to stop calling you stupid and to leave your right to vote and amend your (your!) constitution alone.