Should legislators be the only ones who can make changes to the South Dakota Constitution or is it our right as citizens of the state to bring these changes forward?
Mark Mickelson, Republican representative from District 13 and current Speaker of the House, last week introduced a bill that would take away the right of South Dakotans to change the state’s constitution at the ballot box.
It seems Mickelson doesn’t think we have the education or thought process to make the right decisions about how we want our state to be run. He believes that only lawmakers should be able to decide on Constitutional amendments, which would then be presented to voters.
Mickelson’s House Joint Resolution 1007 to the House State Affairs Committee would allow only legislators (by majority votes in each house) to decide on constitutional amendments that can be put on the ballot for a vote.
Other legislation (House Joint Resolution 1008) introduced this session doesn’t take away South Dakota resident’s power to initiate amendments but does require the Legislature to approve any amendment that the voters pass. It seems these legislators want to throw up one more legal hurdle to future amendments forcing initiative sponsors into court to argue for their proposals. In an interview with Seth Tupper for Mount Podmore (Rapid City Journal’s political podcast), Mickelson complains that he’s “sick and tired of reading about some knothead . . . that doesn’t have a law degree presupposing he knows constitutional law.”
South Dakota’s current initiative process lets voters decide on amendment proposals through the petitioning process. Under these resolutions, that right would no longer exist. Only lawmakers will be permitted to place amendments on the ballot.
This seems to be an attempt to take a state’s democracy out of the hands of its citizens (Under God the People Rule) and put it solely in the hands of a chosen few.
Mickelson recently said the victim’s rights amendment Marsy’s Law came with too many unintended consequences, and that he plans to bring a resolution in the 2018 legislative session to put it on the ballot again for a repeal.
We know there have been mistakes initiated by the South Dakotans. Marsy’s Law comes to mind.
After listening to some members of the legislature following the 2016 election, one could feel the resentment that the citizens did not vote in the manner in which the Republicans wanted them to vote. They seemed to scoff at what South Dakotans wanted and blamed outside big money for poisoning the minds of the citizens.
Do we have a problem with outside forces using South Dakota to get a foothold into legislation on the state and national level; yes. That is part of the process. We are presented with both sides and we decide. That is the political process.
Given the one-party rule in this state, taking citizens out of the process gives politicians free rein. Taking this out of the process and putting it in the hands of fully Republican rule, takes the democracy out the process.
We have one manner in which we can make our voices heard. That is the ballot box.
With these restrictions, legislators are trying to handcuff the citizens of this state even more.
Recently a letter from Frank Kloucek, a former Democratic member of the South Dakota House of Representatives and Senate, pointed out that a company owned by Mickelson and his partner Paul Kostboth, A-1 Development Solutions may directly benefit from work that Mickelson is orchestrating in the legislature, weakening zoning restrictions from the state to the local level.
“This conflict of interest on Mickelson’s part, which he disclosed in a statement of financial interest form filed with our Secretary of State, presents just the sort of opportunity for self-dealing that South Dakotans voted to stop with the passage of IM 22,” said Kloucek. “Mickelson then voted to roll back the protections voters put in place. Is there a middle ground on this issue? Maybe Rep. Mickelson could put his money in a solar power company instead, as long as he is not the prime sponsor of legislation to that solar company in South Dakota.”
Kloucek makes a strong point. The reason South Dakota voters approved IM 22, which the legislature took apart and revamped to their liking, was to put the clamps on corruption in our state government.
Some familiar names have signed on to this legislation including representatives from northern South Dakota. There is a cracker barrel planned in Mobridge on Saturday, Feb. 10. It is a time to let your voices be heard about this and other legislation proposed in Pierre in 2018.
If legislation in Pierre is aimed to take our voices out of the process, we certainly need to take the opportunity to let our legislators know how we feel about them backing this legislation.
Note the contact information that accompanies their weekly columns and let them know what their constituents feel about Mickelson’s legislation.
– Katie Zerr –