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HB 1140: Mortenson, Schoenbeck Willing to Surrender Legislative Authority to Secretary of State’s Extra-Judicial Review

Speaking of the single-subject rule, Representative Will Mortenson (R-24/Pierre) is doing a little more hacking of citizens’ right to amend their constitution with House Bill 1140.

HB 1140 expands the Secretary of State’s ridiculously extra-judicial power, created by Mortenson and Senator Lee Schoenbeck’s (R-5/Lake Kampeska) 2021 Senate Bill 86, to unilaterally reject any proposed constitutional amendments that she thinks embrace more than one subject or too expansively revise the Constitution. In a remarkable departure from past anti-democratic practices, Representative Mortenson proposes in HB 1140 to subject amendments proposed by the Legislature to the same extra-judicial review by the Secretary of State.

Will? Will! Are you o.k.? You are proposing a bill that would allow one Executive Branch official to overturn the expressed will of at least 36 of your fellow Representatives and 18 Senators to put a constitutional amendment to a vote of the people. You are proposing that we supplant the careful deliberation of the entire House and Senate with the airy-fairy uncriterioned speculation of one elected official that a proposed amendment covers more than one subject. Are you really prepared to subordinate your Legislative authority to veto power by the Secretary of State?

Yup. With no response to Representative Mortenson’s prepared remarks (skip to timestamp 30:10 in the February 6 SDPB video of House floor debate), the House voted 67–1 to surrender its authority to place amendments on the ballot to the Secretary of State (and the one nay didn’t even come from a Democrat, but from rookie Representative Ben Krohmer [R-20/Mitchell]).

I’d like to think we could count on the Schoenbeck Senate to defend Legislative prerogative, but dang it, Senator Schoenbeck is a co-sponsor of HB 1140. Evidently the Republican hatred of ballot measures is so strong that they’ll gut their own power to keep the rabble from voting on things… or they just figure that no Secretary of State in her right mind, sitting in her office a floor below all those powerful legislators, will ever even consider overturning their will and that HB 1140 is thus just window-dressing to assuage we direct-democracy advocates’ angst over the Legislature’s double standard of making citizens clear a much higher hurdle to access the ballot than the Legislature must clear.

Window dressing or stunning surrender of separation of powers, that provision for Secretarial review and rejection of Legislative initiatives is accompanied by a slight change to the process for challenging an unfavorable ruling. Under the law Mortenson helped push in 2021 (SDCL 12-13-26.2), only the sponsor of an amendment may challenge the Secretary’s rejection directly to the Supreme Court. HB 1140 opens that challenge opportunity to any interested party willing to lawyer up and file. However, HB 1140 changes the timeframe for such challenge from 15 days after the sponsor receives notice from the Secretary of State to 15 days after the Secretary publishes notice on the Secretary’s website.

HB 1140 is garbage because the law it amends is garbage. The Legislature should not surrender its authority to put measures on the ballot any more than the people should have to surrender that authority to a non-judicial elected official who is supposed to be conducted strictly ministerial functions, not rendering judgments on constitutional law.


  1. John 2023-02-09 07:59

    The South Dakota legislators are a hopeless check on an abusive executive.

  2. Mark Anderson 2023-02-09 09:31

    Republicans love the strongman, the authoritarian. It’s a quirk in their nature. They seem to like strong women also, along with the absolute loonies of course. It gives them the freedom to be the uninformed, misdirected, conned containers who advertise their stupidity on their baseball caps, their pickups, and up their flagpoles. At least they now wear their baseball caps as God intended.

  3. M 2023-02-09 10:07

    The Republican party likes women who don’t really represent women. Nikki Haley claims that “women are not interested in contraception”. She’s not of course because she’s past childbearing years. However, she’s educated.

    Noem is in a class of her own. Nothing about her is authentic and if she represents women in this state…..then it must be what the men want. My neighbor likes her “sexiness” in camouflage and holding a fire starter or shooting a pheasant. How Republican and what a role model for “white trash”. They’ve gone lower than mediocre.

  4. Richard Schriever 2023-02-09 10:15

    Just gonna keep reposting this until – how many decades will it take for you all to wake up? – stop playing the semantics and game of “it’s too extreme”?

    Consent of the Governed Act:

    “Any initiated act or Constitutional Amendment passed by a direct vote of the people, shall not be nullified or altered or amended in any way by any means other to a direct vote of the people.”

    ITS A SINGLE SUBJECT for God’s sakes!!!

  5. All Mammal 2023-02-09 11:17

    Excuse me, I must go breathe into a paper sack. This is all in order to avoid women having the ability to remove the chains of slavery. They will do anything to keep our circulated petition off the ballot. Furious is an understatement so I will go with disgust.

  6. Jake 2023-02-09 11:59

    Abominable-our legislature!

  7. P. Aitch 2023-02-09 13:42

    conned containers
    role model for “white trash”
    PS … via con Dios, All Mammal

  8. Donald Pay 2023-02-09 13:48

    Ridiculous. Any decision by the SOS will go directly to court. It’s likely to fail on so many grounds, including separation of powers. Just one more failed lawsuit the taxpayers will get to pay both sides for. Unfortunately, these elitists are willing to spend taxpayers’ money to hobble the taxpayers’ right to seek redress of grievances.

  9. ABC 2023-02-09 14:21

    White trash Kristi shooting pheasants?

    I’m for a pheasant based Government (with caretaker humans ) putting this Noem in a humane Pheasant Holocaust Prison, life sentence, no parole, no trips to Fargo for the murder of pheasants!

  10. Mark Anderson 2023-02-09 15:53

    ABC, we can’t let those Chinese pheasants rule South Dakota. That balloon sent them all kinds of information when it passed over South Dakota. Getting the lead out of shotgun shells was just the beginning. Next cooking with gas will be gone. Then the Democrats will make everyone read Jane Austin.

  11. jim 2023-02-09 16:54

    Republicans rule. If you just received your new property tax bill, you know how much that reality bites. In Minnehaha County, the average bill went up 18.8 percent!!! (KSFY). And, as luck would have it, I was above average. What, what, what the hell is that?

    They may give us a hundred dollar break in food taxes just to take back $1,000 in property taxes. Not to mention that the PUC is allowing huge increases in utilities. Yup. Republicans rule.

    If Democrats cannot make Republicans pay for this type of abuse, they shouldn’t bother running candidates at all.

  12. ABC 2023-02-09 18:23

    Democrats could run zero in 24, cool.

    Then scrappy Progressives and Libertarians can run and win!

  13. Drey Samuelson 2023-02-09 19:11

    As Donald Pay wrote, there is no way that this will pass constitutional muster… I’m surprised that Will Mortenson and Lee Schoenbeck–both lawyers, neither of whom are idiots–are supporting it…

  14. Francis Schaffer 2023-02-09 19:18

    I thought the balloon was viewing locations of Chinese citizens’ EB5 money.

  15. leslie 2023-02-09 20:19

    i don’t kno if this is tru, Mark, but it may be! can anyone explain this stubborn “stupidity”? I just don’t get it!

    “ It gives them the freedom to be the uninformed, misdirected, conned … who advertise their stupidity….”

    i have kids, inlaws and mates (not THAT kind :) that carry this virus “willingly”

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