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 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 yes! This 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.