Speaker G. Mark Mickelson thought Henry T. Nicholas’s crime victims bill of rights—branded by Nicholas as “Marsy’s Law”—was a bad idea when it came before the voters as Amendment S in 2016. He blasted Nicholas’s vanity project as Exhibit #1 in his argument that South Dakota voters were duped and that out-of-state money is corrupting our initiative process:
“I personally am offended that someone from California is running a campaign to amend states’ constitutions because he’s grieving over his sister’s death and now we amended our state’s constitution for that very reason. We fell for it,” Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, said of a victims’ rights amendment approved on the ballot as Marsy’s Law.
“Some of you think that’s democracy,” he continued. “I think that process can be improved a lot to reflect the concerns and the issues that we have, as the people that live here” [Dana Ferguson, “‘We Fell for It’: Lawmaker Vents About Out-of-State Money,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2017.02.08].
Speaker Mickelson still thought it was a bad idea in October 2017, when he advocated repealing it:
Speaker of the House Mark Mickelson says the law is costing cash strapped counties too much. He says there’s still a case for keeping provisions of the law in state statute.
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” [Lee Strubinger, “Speaker Mickelson Wants Marsy’s Law out of Constitution,” SDPB Radio, 2017.10.10].
But now Mickelson says Marsy’s Law, with the modifications of Amendment Y, is a fine constitutional provision:
“I didn’t understand it at the time,” the Sioux Falls state representative said. “There were a lot of different parts to it. Like a lot of other people, I guess I was pretty busy to understand it” [Todd Epp, “Mickelson Had Change of Heart over Marsy’s Law,” KELO Radio, 2018.06.04].
Bunk and bunk. Harvard Law grad Mickelson had as much time and ability to understand the legal ramifications of Marsy’s Law as the rest of the South Dakota Bar, which roundly rejected Amendment S in 2016. Heck, even us knotheads without law degrees had time to read Amendment S and figure out it was redundant with South Dakota law and dangerous to the presumption of innocence. It still is, and Amendment Y won’t change those fundamental flaws of Nicholas’s vanity project.
If we are to believe Mickelson, the Speaker of South Dakota’s House of Representatives, one of the supposedly leading minds of South Dakota lawmaking, somehow needed over two years to read and properly interpret Amendment S, which ran 1,036 words. Yet Speaker Mickelson somehow immediately digested 2016’s Initiated Measure 22, all 15,392 words, concluded that it was unconstitutional, joined a lawsuit to block it, and sponsored legislation to repeal it within three months of the voters’ approval of that measure. At his Marsy’s Law reading comprehension rate, Mickelson shouldn’t decided IM 22 needed fixing until 2046.
Mickelson’s newly professed support for Marsy’s Law reads one of two ways. If he was telling Epp the truth yesterday, then Mickelson is admitting that he was popping off about Marsy’s Law throughout 2017 without knowing what he was talking about.
But if we view Mickelson’s comment to Epp in the fullest context, including the context of his allowing Nicholas and his Marsy’s Law people to use his office as the Amendment Y campaign mailing address, we can conclude that Mickelson had no new epiphany about Marsy’s Law. California billionaire Henry T. Nicholas took one gentle swipe at Mickelson on social media, threatened to suck up all the airtime Mickelson wanted to use to advertise his two ballot measures this fall, and Mickelson caved.
Either way, Mickelson’s comments only add to the pile of dishonesty on which Marsy’s Law and Amendment Y rest.