South Dakota Legislature roundup for Friday, January 22, 2021

Capitol News Bureau

HORSE OUT OF THE BARN: There’s a significant new twist in the legal dispute over the constitutional amendment allowing recreational marijuana.

Senator Lee Schoenbeck of Watertown and Representative Will Mortenson of Pierre have filed legislation that would add steps to the process of certifying initiated measures for the election ballot.

The two lawyers want the director of the Legislative Research Council and the secretary of state to be required to determine whether a proposed initiative addresses only one subject. They also want the secretary of state to allow only single-subject initiatives on the election ballot. The South Dakota Constitution was amended in 2018 to add the one-subject requirement.

Schoenbeck and Mortenson also want to allow initiative sponsors to appeal to the South Dakota Supreme Court challenging the secretary of state’s determination there are multiple subjects. They also would allow any person to appeal to the Supreme Court challenging the secretary of state’s certification that an initiative covers a single subject.

The single-subject issue is half of the lawsuit that Governor Kristi Noem has brought against the recreational-marijuana amendment.

The other half of the governor’s argument is that recreational marijuana is a new subject in the constitution and therefore should have gone through an additional step of a constitutional convention.

Noem wants a circuit judge to invalidate the voters’ November decision. The circuit judge set a January 27 hearing.

No one filed a single-subject challenge or a new-subject challenge to the recreational-pot amendment before the 2020 election.

The Schoenbeck-Mortenson legislation would clarify how future initiatives should be handled.

(Mortenson, by the way, lists his occupations on the LRC website as “Attorney and Cow Hand.”)

SOLEMN RECOGNITION: A joint gathering of representatives and senators Thursday honored the work and lives of nine former members of the South Dakota Legislature who died in the past year.

They were James Bradford of Pine Ridge, Lance Carson of Mitchell, Bernie Christenson of Pierre, Justin Cronin of Gettysburg, Bob Glanzer of Huron, Patrick Kirschman of Sioux Falls, Milt Lakness of Hazel, Theresa Two Bulls of Pine Ridge and Al Waltman of Aberdeen.

Representative Glanzer was seeking re-election when he passed in March of COVID-19.

GENDER STATUS: Legislation from Representative Fred Deutsch raises the issue of people changing their sex listed on birth certificates. The seven-page bill says South Dakota circuit courts haven’t consistently issued orders.

That does harm, according to the Florence Republican and past president for South Dakota Right To Life. His proposal says, “Allowing persons to have their vital records, including birth certificates, altered, in accordance with their subjective identification or feelings about their sex undermines the government’s compelling interest in maintaining accurate vital records.”

Deutsch wants lawmakers to establish a process that birth certificates can be amended in the year after filing through a signed statement from the parents or legal guardian and the attending physician.

The bill contains many findings including these statements: “A sex designation on a birth certificate is not incorrect, if the designation accurately reflects the biological sex of the person as male or female; A person’s subjective identification of sex, if inconsistent with the person’s objective, biological sex, does not change the person’s sex.”

The lead sponsor in the other chamber is Senator John Wiik, a Big Stone City Republican.

JUNETEENTH, PART TWO: Senator Reynold Nesiba wants lawmakers to designate June 19 as an official state holiday.

The Sioux Falls Democrat’s bill will compete with a proposal from Republican Senator Jim Bolin of Canton, who would add Juneteenth to South Dakota’s long list of honorary working holidays.

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