Capitol Conversation: Initiated measure process attracting lawmakers’ attention again

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The initiated measure process in South Dakota is once again at the forefront for state lawmakers. 

Three out of four proposed bills looking to change or alter the initiated measure process in some way remain alive for the 96th legislative session. The four bills are House Bill 1054, HB 1062, Senate Bill 77 and SB 86. 

The four proposed bills join a long history of debate over the process for citizens to place new legislation on the ballot in South Dakota. That process is again under scrutiny by lawmakers after South Dakota voters approved Constitutional Amendment A, which would legalize, regulate and tax marijuana in the state, by 54%-46% vote in the 2020 General Election. Governor Kristi Noem (R-S.D.) is challenging the newly passed law in circuit court and part of the lawsuit focuses on the single-subject issue for constitutional amendments.  

“The legislature jealously guards its power,” said KELOLAND Capitol News Bureau Reporter Bob Mercer, who has been covering legislative sessions for more than three decades. “Every session, there is some attempt to restrain or to make more difficult that power by citizens.” 

Listen to a full Q&A with KELOLAND’s Bob Mercer diving into the first three weeks of the 2021 legislative session in the video above. 

In 2018, South Dakota voters also passed Amendment Z (by a 62%-38% vote), which amended the South Dakota Constitution to establish that future proposed constitutional amendments may embrace only one subject, and require proposed amendments to be presented and voted on separately.

Mercer noted there is nothing in state law currently explaining how the single-subject law should be applied. 

Along with Amendment Z, 2018 voters also passed Initiated Measure 24 (by a 56%-44% vote). IM 24, which sought to ban individuals, political action committees and others outside of South Dakota from making contributions to ballot question committees, was later struck down by a federal judge in Aberdeen for violating First Amendment rights.

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