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Saving Quirk of SJR 1: Amendments May Ignore July 1 Enactment Date!

Senate Joint Resolution 1, the plot to take away more of your voice and let legislators sit in Pierre for four years at a stretch, stinks on multiple levels. But one tiny provision might make it worth placing on the ballot.

Read the last line:

Section 3. Notwithstanding § 2-1-12, the effective date of this amendment is January 1, 2023 [SJR 1, as presented 2019.01.16].

Now generally a constitutional amendment should not refer to statute. We don’t write reference in our constitution to statutes that could change. Besides, the constitution inherently supersedes any statutory provision, so even if, as in this case, we’re notwithstanding some law, that supersession (supercedence? super-size me!) goes without saying. (Subtext: why extend terms from two years to four for legislators who can’t write proper amendments?)

But let’s look at what we’re not standing with with SJR 1. SDCL 2-1-12 is one of the “reforms” our hypocritical Legislature passed after repealing IM 22 in 2017 to further weaken the initiative process. Specifically, SDCL 2-1-12 changed the enactment date of voter-approved ballot measures from one week after the election to seven and a half months later:

Each constitutional amendment, initiated measure, or referred law that is approved by a majority of all votes cast is effective on the first day of July after the completion of the official canvass by the State Canvassing Board [SDCL 2-1-12].

Notice that statute includes no exception. But SJR 1’s enactment clause reveals the fundamental flaw in that July 1 law. Law can’t tell the constitution how to work. If we write a constitutional amendment and we want it to go into effect some time other than July 1, we just write that date into the amendment, and statute can’t stop it.

So in that one regard, thank you, Senator Rusch and Representative Karr for prime-sponsoring this otherwise awful constitutional amendment. Pass SJR 1, place it on the ballot, and you establish precedent for all of us citizens who might like to initiate amendments that the delay you approved in 2017 (yes, Rusch and Karr both voted for that July 1 law in 2017) is meaningless and that we may propose and approve amendments with any enactment date we want.