The war on initiative and referendum continues, and Republicans are winning.
Senate Bill 77: Thinking Go Big or Go Home, Senator Al Novstrup (R-3/Aberdeen) upped his font-size requirement for initiative petitions from the already burdensome 12-point font to an excessive 14-point font, further reducing the length and scope of measures that citizens can propose as ballot measures on a single manageable piece of paper. He also read this blog, realized he’d forgotten to include constitutional amendments with initiated laws, and added a provision to ensure his monster-font requirement applies to any initiative petition.
Note: Al’s Senate Bill 77 rendered in clear 14-point Helvetica font on a standard 8.5″x11″ page with minimal half-inch margins takes up more than one and a half pages, meaning citizens who wanted to amend the same statutes Al is amending with his one bill would not be able to fit the necessary text on a standard sheet of paper along with the page worth of legal boilerplate, signature boxes, circulator oath, and notary seal space required on every petition sheet.
Senate Bill 86: Senator Lee Schoenbeck’s (R-5/Aberdeen) bid to promote the Secretary of State to Supreme Court Justice has steamed through the Senate. SB 86 would allow the Secretary of State to reject any proposed initiative petition for a constitutional amendment based on his entirely unqualified extrajudicial suspicion that an amendment violates the single-subject rule or requires a constitutional convention. Senate State Affairs added just one amendment, an emergency clause bringing SB 86 into effect immediately upon passage, preventing South Dakotans from referring to a public vote this stunning revision of the Secretary of State from purely ministerial executive to adjunct to the judiciary and subjecting all subsequent petitions for amendments submitted this year to this dubious hurdle to circulation.
House Joint Resolution 5003: Representative Jon Hansen’s (R-25/Dell Rapids) plot to require a 60% supermajority on any taxing or spending ballot measure made it out of House State Affairs last week. The committee did change the election date from June 2022 to November 2022, meaning that instead of rushing passage with the easy Republican primary electorate, Hansen is willing to wait until the November election and accept enactment in July 2023. If the House or Senate revert the resolution back to its original language placing HJR 5003 on the primary ballot, voters could enact it by July 2022, meaning the three-fifths threshold would apply to any measures on the November 2022 ballot.
As a consolation prize, Schoenbeck and Hansen backed away from House Bill 1249, which would have further complicated the fiscal note required for ballot measures (without increasing the Legislative Research Council’s 50-word limit) and given the Secretary of State power to trigger the three-fifths vote requirement of HJR 5003.
Representative Fred Deutsch (R-4/Florence) also backed away from his portion of the Republican offensive against people power. His House Bill 1054, which would have created crushing printing and mailing costs for initiative sponsors, died in House State Affairs last month. Deutsch withdrew his House Bill 1062, which would have saddled initiative amendment sponsors with the cost of the Attorney General’s poor lawyering, before it received a hearing.
Not all Republicans are trying to take away opportunities to vote. Representative John Mills (R-4/Volga) and a gaggle of family-values conservatives are trying to win their war on sin at the local level with House Bill 1201, which would allow city and county governments to put video lottery to a local vote. If a majority of citizens vote against video lottery, the state would be barred from issuing video lottery licenses to any establishment within those voters’ jurisdiction.
House Local Government was supposed to hear HB 1201 last Tuesday. The committee deferred the bill to Thursday, February 11… then apparently forgot to add HB 1201 to the February 11 agenda. I don’t see it on today’s (Tuesday, Feb. 16) agenda; evidently when Republicans try to expand voter rights, the Legislature has a harder time keeping those measures on the agenda.