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Legislature Could Put Six Amendments on 2020 Ballot

The proposal to refer Medicaid expansion to a popular vote in 2020 is just one of six ballot measures the Legislature will consider this week. Here’s the rundown of every House and Senate joint resolution seeking to let us vote on something, with links to the committee you should contact to lobby pro or con:

HJR 1001 would have us amend our state constitution to take the power to appoint replacement legislators away from the governor. The amendment would give the Legislature the power to prescribe the method for filling vacancies by statute. I’m open to taking this executive power away and restoring this little bit of Legislative authority over its membership. House State Affairs hears this bill Wednesday at 3 p.m. in Capitol Room 414.

HJR 1003 would divert proceeds from unclaimed property out of the general fund and into a new trust fund. “Upon the conclusion of fiscal year 2021” (which takes place on June 30, 2021, one day before the amendment would take effect, so sponsor Rep. Taffy Howard might want to check her language, just to make sure money starts moving when she expects it to), this constitutional amendment would cap the amount of unclaimed property receipts that can go into the general fund at $40 million; everything above that goes in the trust fund. (Projected receipts this fiscal year and next: $45.7 million.) HJR 1003 would step that cap down $5 million each year; thus, by the end of FY2029, the general fund would get zero, and every penny of unclaimed property receipts would go to the trust fund. Interest and income from the unclaimed property trust fund could be used exclusively to reduce property taxes, except by a three-quarters vote of each Legislative chamber or (in a remarkable grant of unchecked Executive power) if the state treasurer says the money is needed to pay claims.

HJR 1003 sounds like a sneaky way to strangle the general fund… or maybe pave the way for a state income tax. House Appropriations will hear the arguments Wednesday at 8 a.m. in Capitol Room 464.

HJR 1006 proposes extending legislators’ terms from two years to four. Senator Al Novstrup floated this bad idea with SJR 1 and saw it get killed in committee 5–2. Rep. Chris G. Karr brings this similar amendment with a twist: real, lifelong term limits! Two four-year terms, and you never serve in Pierre again! It’s tempting to throw all the bums out, but remember: term limits show a lack of faith in voters.

HJR 1006 is pending in House State Affairs. It’s not on either Wednesday agenda, so they’ll have to squeeze it in on Friday.

HJR 1007 would let us vote on expanding Medicaid. Yes, yes, heck yesThis one also awaits House State Affairs’ harried attention on Friday. That gives you all week to call the committee members and focus their attention on perhaps the best idea in the hopper this Session.

SJR 2 would amend the constitution to allow gamblers in Deadwood to bet on sporting events. This measure battled its way out of the Senate, passing both Senate State Affairs and the full Senate with no votes to spare. It goes to House State Affairs next… which as we see above is darned busy this week and is unlikely to take up any Senate measures until after Friday’s deadline to clear measures from its own chamber.

SJR 5 would make Yankton the Deadwood of the east… kinda, sorta. In a measure teetering perilously on the edge of special law, SJR would allow the Legislature to authorize issuing one gaming license to a nonprofit entity approved by the City of Yankton. The intent is to allow Yankton boosters to create Port Yankton, a proposed casino/resort/convention center/shopping district that, according to the Yankton Economic Development Corporation, “should draw 400,000 or more people per year to shop and spend in Yankton.”

Because we’ll do anything for the military, SJR 5 requires that two-thirds of the revenue (after administrative costs) be spent “assisting veterans.” Just one-third remains in Yankton for historic restoration and economic development.

Senate State Affairs wrangled, then tossed SJR 5 to the full Senate with no recommendation. The Senate voted Thursday to put SJR 5 on Monday’s calendar, so call your Senators now… but recognize that the Senate could defer SJR 5 each day.


  1. Debbo 2019-02-17 22:07

    Let’s dedicate the $ in the trust fund created by HJR 1003 to education! That will help with property taxes because school boards should need to request opt outs less frequently. Students will have better educations, greater earning potential and hence, may pay more taxes. Educating citizens is a win all across the board, a very smart investment.

    I’d favor HJR 1006 solely because of the lifelong term limits, except– I wouldn’t trust the lege not to enact a law repealing the term limits but keeping the 4 year terms.

  2. Debbo 2019-02-17 22:25

    Oh, one more thing.

    HJR 1007? Of course! That’s a type of socialism that’s very good for the people of each state that incorporates it.

    BTW, I just ran across good definitions of Socialism and Capitalism on Sheila Kennedy’s blog:

    “One way to think about this is that government is a mechanism through which societies provide infrastructure. Some of that infrastructure is physical–bridges, roads, etc.–and some of it is social. Police and firefighters, Social Security and Medicare and a variety of social welfare programs are part of the social infrastructure.

    “Market capitalism, properly regulated, is incredibly successful in providing goods and services when buyers and sellers are operating on relatively equal terms. Economists tell us that markets work well when there is 1) a willing buyer and a willing seller both of whom are in possession of all relevant information, and 2) government has ensured a level playing field.”

    The key phrase for capitalism is “properly regulated.” Capitalism in the US is not at all well regulated. It’s barely capitalism.

  3. Debbo 2019-02-18 15:45

    From The Economist:

    “Socialism is storming back because it has formed an incisive critique of what has gone wrong in Western societies. Whereas politicians on the right have all too often given up the battle of ideas and retreated towards chauvinism and nostalgia, the left has focused on inequality, the environment, and how to vest power in citizens rather than elites.”

    Exactly. The GOP *is and is all about* the Elites, though they try very hard to misdirect that attention to the Center and Left. All the GOP has is chauvinism and nostalgia.

  4. Jason 2019-02-18 23:50


    I agree with you that Democrats should run on a platform of Socialism.

  5. Jason 2019-02-18 23:54

    And late term abortions also.

  6. Debbo 2019-02-19 03:01

    “Whereas politicians on the right have all too often given up the battle of ideas and retreated towards chauvinism and nostalgia,”

    You should read the article.

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