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.
- HB 1054, which would have required a copy of any initiated measure or amendment on the ballot be provided to voters, was struck down by a 10-3 vote in the House State Affairs Committee Monday morning.
- HB 1062 looks to “authorize the recovery of costs for defending certain initiated amendments in court.” The bill makes sponsors of initiated amendment responsible for the cost of defending any lawsuit challenging the initiated amendment. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.
- SB 77 will “require certain font size for initiated measure petitions.” The bill requires petitions for initiated measures to have “at least 12-point font size.” SB 77 has been assigned to the Senate State Affairs Committee.
- SB 86 will “revise certain requirements regarding the review of initiated amendments to the Constitution.” The bill would call for the director of the Legislative Research Council and the secretary of state to determine whether a proposed initiative addresses only one subject. The secretary of state would be required to allow only single-subject initiatives on the election ballot. SB 86 has been assigned to the Senate State Affairs Committee.
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.