Pursuing Constitutional Reforms
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard
Being governor is a serious responsibility, and I’ve never taken it lightly. Sometimes, it means making a difficult decision that is necessary, but unpopular to some.
In my first year in office, our state faced a large budget deficit. There was not an easy or popular solution. As a new governor, I proposed ten percent cuts to eliminate the deficit. Many legislators supported me in making that tough decision. There were also those who criticized aspects of the plan, without proposing a workable alternative. That is the luxury of being in opposition – one can rely on the majority to make the difficult decisions.
We have faced a similar dilemma this year, because of the passage of Initiated Measure 22. Elected officials have an obligation to respect the will of the voters, but we also have a duty to defend our state constitution. Unfortunately, Initiated Measure 22 has numerous constitutional defects – so numerous, in fact, that a circuit judge held it was unconstitutional “beyond a reasonable doubt” and suspended it from staying in effect. In addition, the law was poorly drafted; even its supporters agreed it had problems that needed to be fixed.
There was no perfect answer in this situation. Leaving Initiated Measure 22 in place was not a viable option, due to its constitutional issues and other problems. It could not be enforced as written.
Another option was to repeal Initiated Measure 22, and return to the old laws. That was also not a good option, because it would have ignored the will of the voters.
The best option, in my opinion, is to replace Initiated Measure 22 with new pieces of legislation that are constitutional and workable, and that meet the same goals as those the voters had in mind. It’s not a perfect option, but it balances our need to respect the voters with our need to follow the state constitution.
I am joining with legislators to follow that middle path. Bills have already been introduced to address the important aspects of Initiated Measure 22. One bill will regulate gifts from lobbyists to state officials. A number of bills offer processes to deal with ethics complaints, and I am working with legislators to decide which bill would work best, or if we should combine the best ideas from several bills. The Secretary of State also has a bill to revise campaign finance laws, and there are ideas to improve that bill as well.
My commitment this session is that we will develop a constitutional, workable, responsible plan to respond to the will of the voters. If opponents disagree with that plan, I hope they will propose an alternative that is also comprehensive, constitutional and workable.