Just a thought as legislators and the governor look to trim state government’s spending because tax revenues are down. Why discourage spending on ballot measure campaigns by groups and people who are from outside South Dakota? Neither voters nor state officials seem to mind when other people across the nation help pay for our highways, farm subsidies and Medicaid. If the Legislature can assemble enough other reforms on proposing constitutional amendments and initiated measures, South Dakota’s ballot-measure process could take a spot among the national leaders.
There’s HB 1130 from Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls, and Sen. Al Novstrup, R-Aberdeen, that would provide for citizens to submit written comments to the secretary of state and for the Legislature’s Executive Board to hold a public hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment or initiated measure. The first debate on the bill likely comes in the House of Representatives this week.
There’s also SB 77 from Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Tea, and Haggar that calls for requiring fiscal notes so voters can better know the estimated cost to implement a constitutional amendment or an initiated measure. It’s already passed in the Senate and now heads to the House. (In an odd twist, Senate Democratic leader Billie Sutton of Burke amended it to clarify the process for the fiscal notes; then the five Democrats who were present for the final vote cast nays against the amended version.)
Those two pieces of legislation would bring a framework to future discussions of ballot measures. The complaint last fall wasn’t so much about the amounts of money spent by the warring sides in the IM 22 battle. The rub came from the content of the ads accusing South Dakota officials of corruption.
We had corruption in some notable instances including the Gear Up program, the EB-5 program and various education contracts involving people in important positions such as members of the state Board of Education and a school superintendent. The ads didn’t get into those specifics. Instead the most pointed ad took aim at the lack of a gift ban. The state House voted 66-0 Tuesday for gift restrictions in HB 1073, sponsored by Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls. It now heads to the Senate where Sen. Otten is the lead sponsor.
What happened in 2016 regarding ballot measures wasn’t all that unusual. During the past decade or so, South Dakota’s ballot became a place for outside issues to be tried. Ballot access is relatively easy and South Dakota is considered an inexpensive place to conduct a political campaign. Trying to bar outside money won’t change those conditions.