Are initiative changes on tap for this next legislative session?

The Denver Post has an article published this morning that tells an all-too familiar tale that we’e talked about in South Dakota about the relative ease of getting measures placed on the ballot, creating an overstuffed ballot.

And contained therein, there’s an interesting notation about discussions to bring back a discussion over whether South Dakota needs to update our initiative and referendum process to keep from continuing to be a laboratory state for social engineers to try to play their craft:

Faced with the daunting battle to procure the necessary signatures, most citizen-led initiatives wither and die long before election day. Still, the relative ease — at least compared with other states — of bringing ideas directly to the electorate has once again raised the issue of how accessible the ballot should be and whether Colorado needs to tighten a procedure that some contend already caters only to well-heeled interests.


In all, Colorado could have as many as nine citizen initiatives on the ballot, with two having met the signature requirements and seven more still being reviewed. Voters will definitely be heard on the issues of the ColoradoCare universal health care initiative as Amendment 69, and the minimum wage, likely as Amendment 70.


Although Colorado traditionally has been active in the initiative process, and this could rank among the busier years, some states also have a robust ballot in the 2016 general election. California has 15 citizen initiatives to consider, plus another two through the referendum process. South Dakota has a total of 10 measures on the ballot, seven of them citizens’ initiatives.

Underhill notes that California sought to curb frivolous initiative efforts by imposing a $2,000 filing fee (Colorado has none). And from the NCSL’s annual Legislative Summit last week in Chicago, she said some South Dakota legislators are considering ways to make the process more stringent.

Read it all here.

Bonus notation – the picture accompanying the article has Emmett Reistroffer turning in petitions for public marijuana consumption zones in Denver.

This discussion continues to come up, and isn’t going away anytime soon when you have outside groups such as out-of-state liberal think thanks pouring money into Slick Rick Weiland’s coffers to promote ballot measures on this years’ ballot, and others pouring cash in Steve Hildebrand’s attack on short term lending, among others.

It’s a problem that’s been long evident in South Dakota, and certainly one we’ve been covering as far back as JAIL for Judges. And there’s no easy answers. How do you address problems in South Dakota’s long tradition of initiative and referendum without infringing upon citizen rights?

Can you put up a no trespassing sign to out-of-staters? How exactly would you accomplish that?

Do you impose bans on money originating from out of state being spent on such measures, or place extended disclosure requirements on those funds?  Do you increase the number of signatures required?  Do you restrict signature collection by geography, to make sure there’s a proportional number of citizens calling for a measure, as opposed to people hitting Sioux Falls and Rapid City to throw something on the ballot?

Lots of questions, but few answers on what type of restrictions that South Dakotans would find palatable, or even desirable.

30 Replies to “Are initiative changes on tap for this next legislative session?”

  1. Porter Lansing

    Excuse me, Mr. Powers … Isn’t the money for your darling “Marsy’s Law” coming from California? Out of state billionaire Henry Nicholas might differ with your assertion that easy access to the election process in a state with a strong one party majority is a burden on democracy.

    1. Victim

      Marsy’s Law is different than the other campaigns. Funding for Marsy’s Law comes from Marsy’s brother, Dr. Nicholas, who has made it a philanthropic mission to help crime victims in states that don’t already have constitutional rights for victims- like most states do. Unlike the special interests funding other campaigns, Dr. Nicholas has nothing to gain financially or in regard to political power by funding this cause.

      1. Anonymous

        I am more sympathetic to Marsy’s law than others, but it isn’t different on the point made. It an out of state interest group funding an effort to change the constitution in South Dakota. You may agree with the interest, but it is a special interest. Everyone can claim to have a good reason to amend the constitution, but it should be a lot harder to amend the constitution than it is currently.

        The Federal Constitution requires two thirds of both Houses (or on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States for a convention) and ratification by three fourths of the States. Amending the Constitution was made intentionally difficult to prevent amendments based on political whims from being irrevocably added to the Constitution. That was smart. Maybe we should increase the vote requirement to 75% to amend the constitution?

    2. Anonymous

      I’m sure you have no trouble with George Soros pushing his pagan, socialist, anti-American agenda, Portair.

  2. Porter Lansing

    Are you asserting that ballot initiatives are for someone’s financial and political gain and not designed to help the people? That’s too cynical and diabolical to be valid. That darned Democracy. Especially when it allows people to speak that you don’t agree with. Humor can be hard, folks. Same with irony. This DenPost article is pointing out both by showing that those responsible for the citizens initiative to make it harder to get citizens initiatives on the ballot is using easy citizen’s initiatives in the same process they’re against. That’s ironic in it’s insolence.

    1. Anonymous

      A lot of them are an attempt by the progressives to control the populace, comrade; every initiative is not done from a purely selfless motivation. Total control by the government isn’t really done to help the little people.

      1. Porter Lansing

        Sorry, ma’am. Mr. Powers has requested I not respond in kind to personal taunts, threats and insults.

  3. Porter Lansing

    You left this out, Mr. Powers. Nationally only one in ten citizens initiatives make the ballot (only the ones with big money backers able to hire petitioners … not even pertinent in SoDak) and of those that make it only 30% become law. Is that worth your fear and anger? Hardly. Maybe an underlying motive of political exclusivity is at work here. Hmmmm?

    1. Anonymous

      A crappy law is a crappy law, Portair, no matter if it is 1 of 10,000 to actually be enacted. Your argument is of no merit as it seems to indicate that no matter how anti-American a referendum, such a small percentage get referred that it isn’t worthy of discussion. That is like saying that Hillary is only one person so we shouldn’t worry if she gets elected; however, she is such an evil, dishonest, un-American person that we need to fight her election with every legal means possible.

  4. Kelly Lieberg

    At a minimum. Set the threshold that is currtently being met with South Dakota municipalities.

  5. Anonymous

    Yes as 30% of these ballot measures would be more than are needed.

    Many of these measures are horrible!


  6. Dave R

    The majority of these ballot petitions were circulated by out-of-state paid employees. The judge in the 36% ruling commented that petition circulators were not available to question because they left the state

    The money for these ballot measures is largely or wholly from out-of-state. IM 23 which would impose forced union dues on South Dakota workers is from Minnesota and Illinois union bosses. $159,000 from Minnesota unions, $93,000 from one Illinois union backed group. Only $100 is from a South Dakotan. Amendment V’s money is coming from undisclosed donors from New York. 76% from New York and 93% of which are undisclosed. Most of the rest is from Weiland, and that is all you need to know about the real issue.

    This has got to stop.

  7. Porter Lansing

    Products, services and even political issues are cheaper when purchased by a group of those that think the same and need the same thing. Think COSTCO. When the same change is needed among many states it’s cost effective to center the purchasing in one area and direct the monies from a central office. With our internet culture no state is an island any longer. USA was formed as a group and leads the world as a group. As a group we Americans live stronger and cheaper.

    1. Anonymous

      Sorry, but I don’t want to be lumped in with the likes of California and New York as the majority of citizens in those states don’t share my values (look it up) and viewpoints. Some of the crackpot Supreme Court justices want to look to international law to decide cases for our citizens; is that okay?

    2. Springer

      Sorry, Porter. We were created as a union of states. The original intent was that the states had more power and the federal govt had less power, the feds only to be in charge of things that affected the nation as a whole such as defense. In your thinking we could just do away with states and allow DC to control everything. That, of course, is what the omnipotent Obama would love, but that is not how our nation was set up. And thanks to Obama who wants to weaken the USA and lead from behind, we are no longer leading the world, whether as a “group” or not.

      1. Porter Lansing

        That’s right. A group of states with the synergy to make the group stronger than it’s parts. I don’t see you as understanding quite what I think about government as your assumptions and assertions are far to negative without valid example. But, that’s Democracy. I don’t agree with you but I’ll fight bullies all day who try to take away your right to say it.

  8. Steve Hickey

    Two crappy false statements:

    “others pouring cash in Steve Hildebrand’s attack on short term lending”

    “The judge in the 36% ruling commented that petition circulators were not available to question because they left the state”

      1. Steve Hickey

        Consulting. No money. Zero. We decided to ask them to quantify their advice because we expect your friends, Pat and Dave, to sue us for every little thing. We have received no funds from them or others out of state. Others pouring cashing into our efforts is false while millions flow into your coffers.

        And for shame, Dave, to SPIN the 36% circulators as the out of state ones. I’m as much a resident of SD as you are. Judge Barnett chuckled out loud and said doesn’t everyone in SD know where Steve Hickey is? The point is your team brought yet another stupid lawsuit and lost easily – bummer for our SOS who has to defend such foolishness. Imagine the smackdown you 18%rs fake rate cappers would have if we had the inclination and funds to challenge your out of state circulator fiascos – – it would have made Annette Bosworth’s crimes look like peanuts – it remains your petition was the most scandalous in state history and funded by 3 million from one out of state alone shark – mobber thug Rod Aycox.

        1. Pat Powers Post author

          And what I said before still stands. If you want to push your campaign here, buy an ad.

  9. PlanningStudent

    I would be up for a geographical requirement, maybe use legislative districts if we think counties is too much. 35 areas instead of 66.

    Restricting money to in-state seems like a tough law to draft up.. If money = freedom of speech can a state restrict the freedom of speech of someone just because they don’t live in that state? So super duper clear and specific disclosures is probably a better course.

    Have some type of pre-screening process for circulators. Circulators need to be from in-state already Lets do a better job of making sure they are. I also think the circulator should have to sign each petition sheet b4 circulation, to avoid the business of multiple people circulating. So have a circulator go any auditors office where he / she will register with the auditor as circulator for a particular ballot question, and sign all of the sheets they intend to circulate in front of the auditor. If they get through those and want to do more they can come back again. The auditor can use totalvote (the state voter registration software) to register the circulator. That instantly shares the data with the state and it could be chose to be made public on the sos website.

  10. Process Matters

    Our country and state were envisioned as a representative democracy (republic), not a direct democracy, because the general public tends to make decisions which are not principled and ignore the rights of minority groups. However, I’m sure Porter will find a way to object to that simple truth espoused by everyone from Aristotle to Jefferson.

  11. Porter Lansing

    @Process … Really? I’ve said my piece, today. Y’all argue among yourselves. :). Here’s a subject for later. “By not releasing his taxes Don Trump has single handedly set the Republican Party back to the time of the turmoil when Richard Nixon stepped down in shame and embarrassment.”

    1. Springer

      How about this, Portier? By not releasing his college records ever or his birth certificate in a timely manner, Obama has single-handedly doubled down on a track toward dishonesty, obfuscation, lies, increased racial tension, heavy handed dictatorial policies, destruction of our health insurance system and health care, and on and on. Obama has no conscience though so is not shamed or embarrassed by any of his actions or lies.

      1. Springer

        and I will save you the trouble and time of posting this: “Sorry, ma’am. Mr. Powers has requested I not respond in kind to personal taunts, threats and insults.”

      2. Anonymous

        What law can you quote that requires presidents, presidential candidates or anyone to release college records or their birth certificate? Can you produce any quotes where Obama has said anything that has lead to increased racial tension? I’m not sure what you mean about the destruction of our health insurance system. I went to the doctor two weeks ago and my health insurance plan worked like it always has. You remind me of Donald Trump; you spread lies and disinformation and you can’t back it up.

  12. Anonymous

    Attempts to tamper with the referendum and initiative process have traditionally not done well in the legislature. I suspect any attempt to limit either will meet with defeat.

  13. Anonymous

    If the legislature didn’t suck so bad most of these ballot measures wouldn’t be necessary.

  14. Charlie Hoffman

    One of the reasons the Far Right has become incredibly effective in gathering supporters and galvanizing ideologically driven America First viewpoints is because both GOP & DEM on the National scene have done little to increase the security of the middle age working American. And forget race here for now as this phenomena crosses all lines. What we have seen in 16 years started with a military industrial complex running DC with a President who gave everyone in Congress anything they wanted in order to gather votes for funding to a poverty driven agenda of giving everything to anyone without any strings attached who wants it regardless of need. The Working Middle Class have been given the proverbial shaft by our own Government while our children and great great grandchildren have been saddled with the debt — and No One is talking about it. America has become the Naked Emperor embellished by all of how fantastic we look. Go a step further and we find it happening right here in Conservative South Dakota. Government grows and grows and increases budgets and increases budgets while the private sector continues to pay more and more in taxes to support that growth.
    Voting for Trump for President is the only hope our country has to re-dress the King!