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Amendment C Wrongly Applies Check on Legislative Power to Deliberative Will of the People

The Republican line on Amendment C has been that the Legislature has to muster a two-thirds vote to approve new taxes and special spending bills, so why should voters get to pass similar fiscal measures with a simple majority?

Terry Woster answers that question smartly in this editorial against Amendment C:

Currently, the constitution says legislators must have a two-thirds majority to impose or raise a tax. Citizens, though, can do those things with a simple majority. In other words, it’s easier for the people to make tax decisions than it is for the elected senators and representatives to do that.

To me, that makes sense. Citizens as a whole should have an easier time passing and repealing laws than their elected representatives do. The people rule, after all.

…I believe citizens acting as a group usually make the right decisions. That’s why I accept the outcome of elections, whether I like the results or not. I also think citizens, acting as a group, sometimes make mistakes. But the decisions of citizens, even the mistakes, should be made by a simple majority, not a supermajority, whether it’s 60 percent or two-thirds or any other number. If it takes more than a simple majority to make the decisions, then the minority rules.

Amendment C would let the minority rule on some issues [Terry Woster, “Why Amendment C Should Bring Urgency to South Dakotans to Vote in the Primary,” Mitchell Republic, 2022.05.09].

Bread for the World also opposes minority rule. The anti-hunger group notes that we impose supermajority rules on the Legislature because the Legislature can rush bills to passage far more quickly than we citizens can through the far longer, more deliberative, and more open initiative process:

What about the argument by some state legislators that because they must have 2/3 to pass spending bills, the public should have a higher threshold too? (1)The logic for their higher vote threshold is based on the fact that their bills can often pass super quickly, even a matter of a day or two, with little time for consideration. But the public has a whole year, even up to two, to deliberate ballot measures, with both sides having plenty of time to make their case to the public. (2)What those legislators fail to mention is that about 90% of their spending passes with only a simple majority in their annual budget bill. Thus, it would be extremely unfair to require more than a simple majority for voters’ ballot measures [Bread for the World, statement on Amendment C, retrieved from Breadsd.org 2022.05.11].

Black Hills photographer Paul Horsted agrees with Bread for the World and Woster that minority rule is bad. He puts some of his buffalo pix to work to call on voters to “Shred Amendment C“:

Paul Horsted, FB, 2022.05.08.
Paul Horsted, FB, 2022.05.08.
The South Dakota Democratic Party is spending some money to take down this anti-democratic measure. Senator Reynold Nesiba (D-15/Sioux Falls) provided a quote and his smiling economist’s face for this anti-C postcard:

South Dakota Democratic Party, Vote NO on Amendment C postcard, front, May 2022.
South Dakota Democratic Party, Vote NO on Amendment C postcard, front, posted by Sen. Reynold Nesiba, FB, 2022.05.07.
South Dakota Democratic Party, Vote NO on Amendment C postcard, back, May 2022.
South Dakota Democratic Party, Vote NO on Amendment C postcard, back, posted by Sen. Reynold Nesiba, FB, 2022.05.07.
As Senator Troy Heinert put it when the Legislature voted last year to put Amendment C on the 2022 primary ballot, Amendment C is part of the Republican Party’s “systematic assault on the will of the people.” Minority rule is not cool. Vote NO on C today!

15 Comments

  1. ABC 2022-05-11

    This is probably the BIGGEST thing this year. Do we the people rule with 51% majority?

    When the NOs on C win, we should pass in 2024, Any Initiative , Referendum or Constitutional Amendment Passed, Legislature and Governor HANDS OFF for 1 or 2 years.

  2. cibvet 2022-05-11

    I like Richard Schriver’s idea better and I paraphrase, “When people vote in an amendment, only the people can change it”.
    Apologies if I spelled the name wrong.

  3. P. Aitch 2022-05-11

    In South Dakota 51% of the voters is still 35% Republicans.

    Amendment C is needless overreach by a political party intent on bullying what small opposition even exists.

  4. Drey Samuelson 2022-05-11

    Excellent post, Cory, reminding us once again how indispensable Dakota Free Press is! Amendment C is a travesty, and folks need to be armed with arguments why this “the Legislature has a 2/3’s majority requirement to raise taxes” is not persuasive.

  5. Mark Anderson 2022-05-11

    You know when you have a political party that believes an election was stolen because their orange headed leader says so, because he can’t admit he got his behind kicked, the coward. You have their candidates say things like woman aren’t paid less than men, people don’t die from lack of health coverage, no they just want states to CONTROL abortion and really don’t want to strip away a woman’s right to choose. They don’t debate anymore and hate mainstream media because they report facts. I mean, what can you say to a tribe that lives in a lie, other than, no a simple majority will rule, thats a Republic, Republicans.

  6. Arlo Blundt 2022-05-11

    The Republicans believe the less voting by the people the better for their domination. Evidence is the placing of this abomination on the primary ballot.

  7. TAG 2022-05-12

    While I agree with the sentiment that Amendment C is a bad bill in bad faith, … the TV ad campaign was very poorly done, IMHO. The TV ads come off as a “scare tactic” from moneyed special interests. They do not even attempt to explain what Amendment C is, or why it is bad, in plain English. They appear to be purposely vague and inflammatory, which is suspicious to intelligent voters. Don’t treat us like MAGA idiots that need hateful propaganda to go to the polls. Just trust that voters will act in their own best interests when they are well-informed with the truth.

    Before I did some research, I assumed the effort to kill Amendment C was from the GOP.

  8. All Mammal 2022-05-12

    I agree with you, TAG. Not only did the commercial ad have a bizarre GOPpy feel, the part saying, “Let’s keep South Dakota South Dakota” made me think South Dakota hasn’t seen what it should live up to since naming it South Dakota.

    But I am glad and thankful for the people who put up the ad. No on C needed mainstream airtime.

    If I remember my dad’s tutelage accurately, I think he said it was Crazy Horse who said it perfectly, “My people hunt and fish all day and lay with a woman all night. Only a white man thinks he can improve our way of life.” Lets make South Dakota more like that South Dakota.

  9. Orrin Townswick 2022-05-17

    Referendums are important changes we have to get it right. I am not seeing requiring 65% is all bad. School Bond issues always require 65 % which is good. They fail so the next step cut out the frills get the cost down and they pass with the 65% threshold. Most of the time it forces out getting the biggest bang for our buck and that is good

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-17

    I disagree, Orrin. Requiring 65% for school bonds or 60% for initiatives is minority rule, and minority rule is bad. What you and a minority of voters may consider “frills”, a majority of your neighbors may consider necessary investments in education. Why should your minority be able to impose its minority view that the community should not spend money on education and will settle for substandard opportunities for students over an entire community where the community wants to provide an adequate education to students?

    Your claim to efficiency is just an ideological assertion, not borne out by objective fact. Majority remains the superior means for deciding public questions.

  11. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-05-17

    For that matter, the election of a new President or Governor or Senator or mayor is an important change. Why not require elected officials to get a supermajority?

  12. O 2022-05-17

    I would say that school bond opt outs requiring 65% are particularly un-democratic because a board of democratically-elected officials have already passed the opt out through a democratic majority to now have that process nullified by a 36% minority is profoundly un-democratic.

  13. O 2022-05-17

    That is not “protecting the tax payer;” that is fundamentally undermining the process of majority rule.

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