The 2017 session of the Legislature added a chapter to South Dakota history. Republicans repealed Initiated Measure 22. As best as I can recall, this was the first time in my 32 legislative sessions that lawmakers repealed an act of the voters. You could see them headed this way two years ago when they reduced the minimum wage for youths after the voters had raised the minimum wage; but that never took effect, because the youth wage was referred to a public vote and it was rejected. About a century ago, legislators also repealed a new primary election system. The sides went back and forth for several years. Otherwise, there are many instances of voters repealing something the Legislature passed, but it’s been rare for the Legislature to repeal the will of the voters.
The repeal of IM 22 was HB 1069. It came from Rep. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center. Not all Republicans voted for it, but only Republicans voted for it. In the House four Republicans joined nine Democrats in opposing. The four were Jean Hunhoff of Yankton, Mike Stevens of Yankton, David Lust of Rapid City and Craig Tieszen of Rapid City. In the Senate two Republicans joined the six Democrats to oppose the repeal. The two were Lance Russell of Hot Springs and Stace Nelson of Fulton.
Legislators clearly plan to do it again. They passed SB 59 that delays the date of implementation to July 1 for a ballot measure. In any other year, perhaps the legislation from Sen. Jim White, R-Huron, would have looked like a good idea. State laws normally take effect July 1 unless passed with an emergency clause. Ballot measures have traditionally taken effect as soon as the election canvass is complete. The July 1 start date provides an extra seven months to prepare for a voter-approved law to start. But in this instance, coming on the heels of IM 22′s passage, the July 1 start date legislation looked like retaliation. It buys time in future years for the Legislature to meet in regular session during January through March and repeal or amend any initiated law or referral. The Legislature can’t directly amend a change to the constitution. So we might see more constitutional amendments rather than initiated laws on the ballots in the elections ahead. There is a possibility that someone will try to refer SB 59 to a statewide vote, but I haven’t heard anyone getting such an effort ready. No Democrats voted for SB 59. One Republican senator, Nelson, and four Republican representatives — Drew Dennert of Aberdeen, Dan Kaiser of Aberdeen, Blaine “Chip” Campbell of Rapid City and Isaac Latterell of Tea — voted against it.
Another change that would have seemed like a good idea if it didn’t come in the IM 22 legislative session came from Sen. Ernie Otten, R-Tea. His SB 77 requires fiscal notes to be prepared and made available for all ballot measures. This applies the same principle followed by the Legislature: Know the potential financial impact of a proposal. It drew five nays in the Senate — all Democrats — and 21 nays in the House split between Democrats and Republicans. IM 22 contained an appropriation and established a new publicly funded campaign system known as Democracy Credits. This was one of the features of IM 22 that was judged by opponents to be unconstitutional (appropriation legislation is supposed to be a single subject, other than the general budget bill for state government). Most of the rest of IM 22 was discussed and debated in some way by legislators, but not one lawmaker proposed restoring the Democracy Credits. There was no appetite for using taxpayer money to fuel candidates’ campaigns.
Rep. Haggar brought another piece of IM 22-sparked reform legislation. HB 1052 expands whistleblower protections for public employees in South Dakota. It drew five nays in the House, all from Republicans, and zero opposition in the Senate.
The lobbyist gift restriction of $100 came via HB 1072 sponsored by Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls. It took aim at the TV advertising by IM 22 supporters that portrayed a lobbyist paying off a lawmaker. Legislators removed the $75 meal limit from the legislation. Lawmakers can take unlimited meals including food and drink and not have the hospitality count against the gift limit. The House unanimously passed the first version of Mickelson’s bill with the $75 meal limit. The Senate saw 10 people — nine Republicans and one Democrat — vote against the version with the unlimited meals.
The state government accountability board came via HB 1076 that Rep. Karen Soli, D-Sioux Falls, shepherded through many amendments to final passage. It drew only nine nays between the two chambers, all from Republicans.
The conflict of interest laws that Rep. Mickelson sponsored during the 2016 session needed some modifications. He returned with HB 1170. It drew one nay between the two chambers from Sen. Russell. Another piece of legislation dealing with conflicts of interest, SB 27, came from state Attorney General Marty Jackley. It raises the severity of the crime to a felony from a misdemeanor, so that prosecutors might be more inclined to prosecute and potential offenders might be less inclined to offend.
SB 54, a vast rewrite and update of state laws on campaign finances, came from Secretary of State Shantel Krebs and a workgroup she convened last year independent of IM 22. Legislators wrestled on this topic until the final day of the session’s main run Friday. IM 22′s Doug Kronaizl rightly said it didn’t address the smaller contribution limits that IM 22 contained. Legislators decided to send the contributions subject to a study group for a 2018 proposal.
Senate Republican leader Blake Curd of Sioux Falls sponsored SB 131 that expands the time that officials must wait to two year before lobbying. The limit has been one year. The measure also expands the prohibition’s coverage from solely elected officials to also include to department or agency heads, division directors and the highest-paid person reporting to them. The Senate liked htis better than the House, with senators voting 34-1 and representatives passing it 51-17.
It took until Friday to reach agreement on another of Sen. Curd’s bills, SB 151, setting the process for the state Division of Criminal Investigation to receive and process allegations of government misconduct. The House liked it, a lot, in part because Rep. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, worked for it. The Senate was lukewarm, needing a last “aye” from Sen. Deb Peters, R-Hartford, for final passage 18-17. It nearly died on a procedural vote that was tied at 17 when Sen. Jordan Youngberg, R-Madison, kept it alive. He also cast the aye that set up the tie for Peters to break, after she had passed on her first turn through the alphabetical roll call.
Sen. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, and Rep. Julie Bartling, D-Gregory, teamed up to ease SB 171 to passage. It sets up a legislative task force on government accountability. Their original version called for studying lobbyist restrictions, ethics and campaign finance. In the end it was down to campaign finance. The task force will take on the topics that weren’t decided in the SB 54 deliberations.
There might be other IM 22-response legislation that passed but escapes this reporter’s Saturday morning attention. Some measures lost, such as two that sought more transparency on contributors behind ballot measures. Legislators and citizens lost on another front when the repeal of IM 22 put an end to the lawsuit that came from IM 22 opponents in the Legislature. It would have been worthwhile to know what the South Dakota Supreme Court thought about some of the allegedly unconstitutional provisions of IM 22. Perhaps someday the state’s high court can give an interpretation of whether legislators violate the prohibition against direct or indirect interest in state contracts, including how their spouses’ jobs fit into that equation.
The bottom line: South Dakota has many more reforms on the law books as a result of voters’ approval of IM 22.
Note to readers: The original version of this post incorrectly identified the prime sponsor of HB 1069 as Rep. Don Haggar, R-Sioux Falls. He was a co-sponsor.