The Legislature requires lobbyists to register with the South Dakota secretary of state and wear their appropriate identification badges issued by the secretary’s office. There is a clear exemption for citizens to lobby on their personal behalf. This session, there are two fellows working the Legislature in pursuit of a federal constitutional convention. Trying to use South Dakota to advance certain national causes isn’t anything new.
The South Dakota ballot has been littered with such initiatives and proposed state constitutional amendments through many years. The latest crew to ride in are the men shown below, Roman Buhler of Meehan, Virginia, and David Biddulph of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. They are working with Rep. Manny Steele, R-Sioux Falls, on an effort to convince the Legislature that a federal constitutional convention is necessary for a balanced-budget requirement.
Many other conservative organizations oppose a convention because the door would be open to other changes at a time when, at the national level, Democrats are ascendent and Republicans are in disarray. The state House of Representatives will attempt to allay that concern today, when HB 1215 is considered. Steele’s bill limped from its House committee hearing as the panel’s Republican majority split and the Democrats voted unanimously for it.
The yes votes were Democrats Peggy Gibson of Huron, House minority leader Bernie Hunhoff of Yankton, Kevin Killer of Pine Ridge and Scott Parsley of Madison; and Republicans Jon Hansen of Dell Rapids, House Speaker Brian Gosch of Rapid City, David Novstrup of Aberdeen and House majority leader David Lust of Rapid City.
The Republicans who voted no were Kristin Conzet of Rapid City, Scott Munsterman of Brookings, Mike Verchio of Hill City, Justin Cronin of Gettysburg and Dean Wink of Howes.
In a nutshell, HB 1215 would attempt to require that any delegate from South Dakota be prohibited from voting for any unauthorized amendment and would be required to sign an oath to that effect. The penalty would be a forced recall after such a vote with a replacement to be named by the secretary of state. Biddulph serves on the board of directors for the national Citizens In Charge organization; among the directors for its foundation in turn is Grover Norquist. Buhler and Biddulph have been traveling state to state advocating for federal constitutional amendments such as requiring states to vote for approval before Congress could raise taxes.
Here is a link to a story in Governing magazine http://www.governing.com/blogs/politics/state-conservatives-seek-amend-us-constitution.html about their activities in Virginia several years ago.
On Friday, a House committee will hold a hearing on a related bill by Rep. Hal Wick, R-Sioux Falls, the long-time leader in the Legislature for the conservative organization ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council). Wick and Steele are prominent members of ALEC in South Dakota. The Wick bill, HB 1242, calls for South Dakota to make application for a federal constitutional convention for a balanced budget amendment.
The bill notes that other states have already made similar application. They are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas. Two-thirds of all states would be necessary for the convention-calling process to move forward. The House Taxation Committee — its chairman, Rep. Brock Greenfield, R-Clark, and Wick, the vice-chairman, are among the sponsors on 1242 and on 1215 — also has introduced a resolution calling for the Legislature to make formal application “to call a limited constitutional convention for the sole purpose of proposing a federal balanced budget amendment.”
What is afoot is a well-coordinated effort led by ALEC members to take this topic forward. Wick and Steele have, as their lead sponsors in the Senate on their bills, Republican Corey Brown of Gettysburg. He is the Senate president pro tem. Steele’s bill is on the House debate calendar today for possible action.