House Joint Resolution 5003, Representative Jon Hansen’s (R-25/Dell Rapids) nefarious effort to erode our initiative power by imposing a 60% vote threshold on any initiative that taxes or spends, took one tiny, reasonable step back in House State Affairs last month, where members moved Hansen’s proposed public vote date from the Republican-dominated June 2022 primary to the November 2022 general election.
Putting initiatives to a vote in the general election rather than the primary is fairer because it guarantees larger turnout and thus a better read of what the people of South Dakota really want. Holding the vote in June 2022 imposes uncertainty on currently active and potential sponsors of 2022 ballot initiatives because it threatens to change the rules mid-campaign: having to win 60% instead of 50%+1 of the popular vote makes a big difference in planning, fundraising, and even deciding whether or not to launch an initiative campaign.
Of course, anything that chills the prospects of citizen participation in elections and lawmaking is exactly what Hansen and his fellow Republicans want. Thus, Hansen’s prime anti-democracy collaborator in the Senate, prime HJR 5003 Senate sponsor Senator Lee Schoenbeck (R-5/Watertown) thus proposed a surprise amendment yesterday to put the public vote on HJR 5003 back on the June primary date. That motion drew significant Republican opposition:
Mike Diedrich [R-34/Rapid City] supported the resolution in committee because at that point it would have applied only after the 2022 general election. Diedrich said he couldn’t support putting it on the 2022 primary ballot because it would take effect July 1 and apply next fall to the 2022 general election.
Two proposed measures on Medicaid eligibility are circulating for voters’ signatures to make the November 2022 ballot. Opposition from Republican lawmakers kept then-Governor Dennis Daugaard from pursuing Medicaid expansion last decade. “This is bad faith to cut off the process they entered into in good faith,” Diedrich said. “It’s unfair to the people who are following the laws.”
Julie Frye-Mueller [R-30/Rapid City] agreed that groups with measures “already in the pipeline” shouldn’t face additional interference [Bob Mercer, “Senators Want SD Voters to Decide in June, Not November, on 60% Threshold for Taxes, Spending,” KELO-TV, 2021.03.02].
Schoenbeck’s trick against the voters and the initiative process nonetheless squeaked by on an 18–17 vote. HJR 5003 now must return to the House for concurrence to the amendment.
So if you want to block the Legislature from advancing one more erosion of our initiative power, you’d better get on the horn to your Representatives and tell them to reject HJR 5003. If that fails, well, Democrats, you’d better launch one rip-roaring slate of primary candidates who will draw everyone to the polls in June 2022 and not just the radical authoritarian right-wing corps of Norquistian government-bathtub drowners.