Guest Column: Big Ballot Measures Coming by State Rep. Will Mortenson

Big Ballot Measures Coming
by State Rep. Will Mortenson (R – 24)
November 30, 2021

In the 2022 general election, South Dakotans will decide two questions with profound impact on our communities, our laws, and our budget: Recreational Marijuana and Medicaid Expansion. These blockbuster topics will cast a shadow over our Capitol when your legislature meets in January. I expect bills to be introduced that attempt to affect both measures – by limiting their scope, preempting their purpose, or altering their terms.

The legislature ought to let the people have their say. I do not think the legislature should cut in front of measures that thousands of petitioners have already signed. Both ballot measures should get a vote of the people, as the petition signers intended. If either ballot measure is passed, the legislature must ensure that such measure is implemented fully and faithfully.

Medicaid Expansion and Recreational Marijuana arrived on the ballot following different paths. Medicaid Expansion will be placed on the ballot after a petition drive sponsored by the big hospitals. Legal marijuana had a more tumultuous path.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the sponsors of Constitutional Amendment A messed up. I read the Court’s 77-page ruling. The opinion said nothing about the people’s voice or about whether legalizing marijuana is a good idea. The ruling simply said that the sponsors (lawyers from Washington, DC and Sioux Falls) failed to follow the state constitution. Our constitution says that amendments can only address one subject, and these sponsors put a measure on the ballot that combined three subjects: hemp, medical marijuana, and recreational marijuana.

I think the Supreme Court made the right decision, but I was frustrated by the result, because many of my neighbors feel that their time, energy, or vote was wasted. I wish the sponsors had followed the correct process, but they did not. Fortunately, the sponsors have learned their lesson, and petition organizers are gathering signatures to put the single subject of recreational marijuana on the ballot in 2022.

So, next November, we’ll get to vote on these two important questions. In the meantime, the legislature should not try to pass a modified version of either the Medicaid Expansion or Recreational Marijuana measures. We should let these proposals get a vote of the people. If the voters pass them, the legislature should honor their intent and should only consider legislation that faithfully honors that intent. That’s also how I will view legislation next session that affects the medical marijuana measure (“IM26”) that voters passed in 2020.

I encourage all voters to start researching these measures now – the cost, the impact, and the experience of other states that have adopted them. As with every election, we’ll have big decisions to make in 2022. The legislature should let the people make them.


22 thoughts on “Guest Column: Big Ballot Measures Coming by State Rep. Will Mortenson”

  1. Will, you forget – the “people” don’t write these ballot measures. Big money corporations and their well paid liberal lawyers write them. Hell, the people don’t even read them.

    Know any well paid liberal lawyers?

    1. So, is your argument that people didnt know they were voting for recreational marijuana because they were fooled by “liberal lawyers?”

  2. The Court’s ruling also described the challenge that comes with putting complex public policy issues with countless trade-offs to a single, up or down vote of the people. My own view is that proper public policy comes from the legislative process with our elected representatives. One could easily argue that we are at our present impasse over Medicaid, marijuana, and the like exactly because of legislative inaction. Passing the buck under a guise of deference to the people would lead us down a road where the legislative powers are a vacuum to be filled by populist impulses.

  3. No to medicaid expansion. It will cost SD taxpayers in the end, regardless of any amount the feds put in at first. So its being pushed by the likes of Sanford,? If they can afford the huge payout to Krabenhoft, they arent hurting.

  4. Senator Bryan Breitling – [email protected]
    & Representative Hugh Bartels – [email protected]
    have done a great job in leading 22 legislative members on 2021
    Marijuana Summer Study.

    The changes for Medical Marijuana are well thought out.

    The suggestions to introduce bills on Adult/Recreational Marijuana
    had solid discussions/recommendations.

  5. Rep. Mortenson’s analysis is completely wrong. For marijuana, no petition has been filed yet. It almost certainly will be, but it hasn’t been yet. And they have until May to do so. The Legislature should not abdicate its responsibility merely because of a strong probability of a petition being filed. Even if one had been filed already, the Legislature should address the issue because a legislatively-derived solution is usually a better final product due to the committee hearings, debates, and amendments that are involved. The initiative process only allows for an up or down vote on one drafter’s language. Also, if adoption of a recreational program is the result, leaving it to the initiative process would delay the implementation a year from July 1, 2022 to July 1, 2023.

    On Medicaid expansion, the initiated constitutional amendment has been filed. Regulating Medicaid through the state constitution is a terrible idea. The Legislature should definitely explore the pros and cons of addressing the matter through legislation. There may not be a palatable solution, but it is irresponsible to throw one’s hands up and declare the issue off limits just because 4% of the state’s population signed a petition. And if the people don’t like the Legislature’s answer (if any), they can still vote on the amendment in the fall.

    1. So are you committing to bringing forward a recreational marijuana bill this session, committee member?

  6. Keep that crap out of grudznick’s constitution, or grudznick will come to your church and poop in the bowl.

  7. Political savvy or political avoidance? In this piece, Mortenson draws an early line so that he can personally avoid voting up or down, based solely on the merit of the proposals, on two of the more controversial issues during the next session.

  8. I had to stop reading half way through, as I was gagging too much.

    1. Nobody “messed up” when writing the constitutional amendment, I think precedent set in other states, as well as common sense show different types of marijuana are all one subject. The public also agrees with this, as you are anticipating to be shown again in 2022.
    2. “your legislature” was a clever line, but the entire premise of amendment A contradicts this notion. The only reason it needed to be a constitutional amendment was to prevent the legislature from overturning the results as they’ve set this recent trend (see SD IM22, Marsy Law). If this were “your legislature” we wouldn’t be needing to pass things directly to the constitution to try and bypass the legislature that the state obviously doesn’t trust.
    3. Why not mention the amendment C initiative in this list of BS? Tell us why “your legislature” suddenly needs to change the rules to 60% for amendments? If it passes with 60%, will you change it to 70%?

    How about you leave the laws that we the people pass alone? Despite peoples delusions of some type of “outside money, big business, lobby” those entities don’t vote, the people do. I hope others join me in voting against every incumbent this upcoming election. SD democrats are not California Democrats, restore checks and balances.

  9. Strange & misguided.

    It’s a column that seems to advocate for his irrelevance as a lawmaker, along with ignoring the destructive nature more drugs bring to a society.

    1. A lot of Mort for Congress talk. He has a big future and a lot of his colleagues are jealous.

  10. A few potheads were claiming that South Dakota would make so much money off of Marijuana that the state would be printing it’s own money. Another pothead claimed the state would make so much money off of pot it would not know what to do with it. That is alot of pot to smoke. Addicts will claim anything to get legal access to their drug or provide legal cover. Regardless it will cost the state substantially more than any tax revenue it brings in once all the costs are factored which potheads never ever mention.

    1. No it wont. And potheads are already potheads with all the money staying in the black market. Why do you hate liberty?

    2. I hope you want to outlaw alcohol and tobacco then as well. And cars. and public education. because they all cost substantially more than any tax revenue they bring in.

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