Brian Bengs, who unsuccessfully ran against John Thune for Senate last year, is proposing an initiative to protect voter-approved ballot measures from Legislative interference. On May 4, Bengs submitted this final initiative language for Attorney General’s review. Bengs would add one sentence to Article 3, Section 1, of the South Dakota Constitution:
A measure approved by the electors may not be repealed or amended by the Legislature for seven years from the enacted date of the measure [Brian Bengs, proposed initiated constitutional amendment, 2023.05.04].
This amendment would appear to apply to any ballot measure that wins voter approval, be it a citizen-led initiated law or amendment, a Legislatively generated constitutional amendment, or a Legislatively approved law that survives a referendum vote. A similar initiative proposed in 2017by Roxanne Weber that did not make the ballot would have required a two-thirds vote by each chamber of the Legislature to fiddle with voter-approved ballot measures during their first seven years of effect; Bengs tosses that compromise and tells the Legislature “Hands off!” for seven years, no matter how much the supermajority may chafe under the people’s rule.
Weber’s 2017 proposal mirrored North Dakota’s protection of ballot measures. Nevada forbids Legislative repeal or amendment of voter-approved measures for three years; Wyoming keeps Legislative hands off enacted ballot measures for two years. A few other states protect initiatives from Legislative alteration with time buffers and/or supermajority vote requirements; California and Arizona require that voters approve any Legislative alteration. South Dakota is one of eleven states that allows the Legislature free rein in whacking the voters’ will.
The Legislative Research Council tells Bengs that the Attorney General will issue his draft title and explanation for this ballot-measure-protection measure by July 3. After the obligatory and superfluous 20-day comment and revision period, Bengs could have a petition on the streets by August 1, in time to circulate at all the big fairs and in that lovely late-summer and early-fall petitioning weather.
Bengs appears not yet to have filed a statement of organization for a ballot question committee. He’ll need to do that within fifteen days of raising or spending more than $500 for this ballot question campaign or upon filing his final petition forms with the Secretary of State.