Chief of staff says Ravnsborg didn’t miss deadline on explanation for ballot measure

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — His chief of staff says state Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg plans to wait until November to issue an official statement on the effect of voting for or against proposed Constitutional Amendment C that will be on the ballot in South Dakota’s June 2022 primary election.

Tim Bormann told KELOLAND News on Monday that the attorney general wants to see how a new law functions after it takes effect November 1. It will require a 10-day public-comment period before the attorney general issues the final version of the official statement.

Amendment C would require 60% support for any ballot measure from the Legislature or the public that imposes or increases taxes or fees, or obligates the state government to appropriate $10 million or more in any of the first five fiscal years after enactment.

Representative Jon Hansen originally proposed the amendment for the November 8, 2022, general-election ballot. Senator Lee Schoenbeck convinced a majority of his chamber to move it to the June 7 primary-election ballot; the vote was 18-17. The resolution returned to the House, where representatives agreed to Schoenbeck’s version 51-17.

Secretary of State Steve Barnett validated the resolution March 9. Bormann said Ravnsborg didn’t miss the deadline in state law that requires, in the case of a constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature, that the attorney general’s statement must be submitted before the third Tuesday in May.

“It has been our office position that this would be the third Tuesday in May of the year in which the election will be held,” Bormann said.

A separate law on citizen-driven constitutional amendments and initiatives sets a 60-day deadline.

Last year, the Legislature put on the November 2020 election ballot Constitutional Amendment B creating an exemption that would allow sports wagering in Deadwood. The secretary of state’s office validated it March 9, 2020, and the attorney general issued his explanation May 11, 2020, approximately one week before deadline.

Bormann said he’s been informed that the attorney general intends to put out the draft explanation for Amendment C on November 2, one day after the public-comment period law takes effect. The new law says the attorney general must issue a draft, accept any public comments, and then issue a final version.

“The intent is to see how well the new rules work and to see if any issues arise in the implementation,” Bormann said.

Absentee voting for the June 2022 primary begins Tuesday, April 22. That is four weeks before May 16, the date that Ravnsborg has interpreted as the legal deadline for the attorney general to deliver the official statement.

Schoenbeck, a lawyer, contends that Amendment C if passed would apply to two Medicaid-expansion measures that are circulating for signatures from registered voters. Their sponsors hope to qualify them for the November 2022 ballot. They face a 5 p.m. CT deadline on November 8, 2021, to be submitted to the secretary of state.

Bormann said the question of whether Amendment C would apply to the Medicaid measures hasn’t been addressed by the attorney general’s office. The Legislative Research Council has estimated their fiscal impacts would far exceed the $10 million threshold in state costs.

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