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Leach Gets Ravnsborg to Remove One Editorializing Word from Amendment C Explanation

As I explained in September, killer and idiot Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg multiplicitously misread ballot question law when he delayed producing his official explanation of Amendment C by several months and misapplied a newly revised statute on ballot initiative petitions to this Legislatively proposed amendment.

But his misapplication of the public comment period to his ballot question recitation of Amendment C, née House Joint Resolution 5003, has led him to make one change in his final text. Ravnsborg removed one word: only.

South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg released on Friday his final explanation for a proposed constitutional amendment on next June’s statewide ballot that, if passed, would raise the threshold for passing some ballot measures in future statewide elections.

Ravnsborg removed the word ‘only’ from one sentence of the draft explanation that he offered for public review and comment on November 2.

That change came at the suggestion of Rapid City attorney Jim Leach [Bob Mercer, “AG Takes Comments, Makes One Change in Official Explanation of Proposed Amendment C,” KELO-TV, 2021.11.19].

Jim Leach, the lawyer who keeps cleaning Ravnsborg’s clock in court on constitutional problems with South Dakota’s ballot question laws? Of five parties who submitted comment on Ravnsborg’s C explanation, only Leach got Ravnsborg to see a problem with his first draft. What did Leach say to scare Ravnsborg into hitting Delete?

Leach zeroed in on the second sentence in Ravnsborg’s first draft:

Currently the constitution requires that any new tax or tax increase must be approved by voters or by two-thirds of the members of each legislative branch. To be approved by voters, such a measure must obtain only a majority of the votes cast [emphasis mine; A.G. Jason Ravnsborg, draft attorney general’s statement for Amendment C, submitted to Secretary of State Steve Barnett 2021.11.02].

In a comment submitted November 12, Leach told Ravnsborg that only editorializes against the merits of majority rule, an error that Ravnsborg surely did not intend to introduce into a statement that statute (SDCL 12-13-25.1) requires be objective, clear, and simple:

I write to ask that you delete the word “only” from the end of the third line of your proposed explanation of H.J.R. 5003.

“Only” is pejorative, because it suggests that a majority of the votes cast is somehow insufficient to justify a measure that imposes or increases taxes.

To the contrary, majority vote is the traditional standard by which almost everything is decided.

If you remove the work “only,” the remainder of the sentence accurate[ly], clearly, and fairly explains current law—without editorializing that there is some problem with majority rule.

Leaving the word “only” in the third line suggests that you have determined that there is something wrong with majority rule on this subject. I know that you have made no such determination, and that you do not intend to editorialize. Deleting the word “only” would make this clear [Jim Leach, email to Jason Ravnsborg, 2021.11.12].

Ravnsborg evidently took Leach’s sharp observation to heart. The second sentence of his official explanation of Amendment C, as submitted to the Secretary of State on Friday for printing on our ballots next spring, now reads, “To be approved by voters, such a measure must obtain a majority of the votes cast.” The rest remains unchanged from his November 2 draft.


  1. DaveFN 2021-11-22 10:15

    Hawkeye Leach. “I know that you have made no such determination, and that you do not intend to editorialize.” That’s precisely what slovenly Ravnsborg’s language was doing, however.

  2. Porter Lansing 2021-11-22 11:23


  3. Donald Pay 2021-11-22 15:55

    Just reading that explanation brings up a lot of questions. I’m of the opinion that supermajority votes violate “one man one vote.” It doesn’t whether that is a legislative body or an initiative, whether the issue involves a tax, an appropriation or a matter of policy. It all should be majority vote, except for vetos, which is a valid use of supermajority votes. Every policy law or change in a policy law has some underlying tax or appropriation ramification that is rarely spelled out. Sometimes those are included in a fiscal note, which is another thing that is nearly worthless in the legislative process.

    In related matters, I don’t get idea that there needs to be “emergency” acts in the modern day and age with a two-thirds requirement. In the horse and buggy days when the Legislature met once every two years, maybe I could see “emergency measures.” Today, you can call special sessions for any sort of issue in a brief amount of time. You can even meet remotely. No need for a lot of this B.S. anymore. If there is a real emergency, instead of one that is faked up just to get things moving a little faster, you should be able to pass something with a majority vote. If you have a real emergency people aren’t going to refer it.

  4. Jake 2021-11-23 07:13

    Don Pay-good post of thoughts needing to be cogitated on by the voters. We DO get the kind of government we deserve-no doubt avout it!

  5. grudznick 2021-11-23 18:23

    Mr. Pay is righter than right about this notes of the fiscal which are sometimes requested in the legislatures. Nearly worthless, they are. He does, however, take the word “emergency” too literally when it pertains to law bills, and there he is in tight agreement with Mr. Haugaard and his minions. If an emergency is declared to exist, then one exists. Subjective as it may be, it is the prerogative of the legislatures to decide.

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