(Editor’s Note – The table below has been updated to remove a couple of inaccuracies – PP)
The Case for HB 1200 and Ballot Reform
by Mark Mickelson, Speaker of the House
Dakota Territory was divided into North Dakota and South Dakota at statehood for a simple reason. The 1880’s railroad political lobby wanted four pro-railroad U.S. Senators to continue the federal government’s financial support for the construction of railroad lines.
After gaining statehood in 1889, Civil War veterans and immigrant farmers settled in South Dakota. Our South Dakota founders did not trust our local government officials completely, as they were afraid they could succumb to the far-away railroad titans to effectively “buy” our government. As a protection against this measure, South Dakota became the first state in the nation to fully embrace a citizen’s right to petition its government.
It is our right, as South Dakota citizens, to have the public vote on the quality of our ideas at the ballot box if we gather the appropriate number of signatures.
This year we saw this process play out as it was intended in 1889 with the successful 2016 pay-day lending interest rate cap ballot initiative (initiated measure 21).
However, I submit to you that the remaining initiated measures reflect a perversion of our original purpose. The very system created to protect us against the influence of big money from outside the state has been hijacked by out of state special interests.
In 2016, there were seven initiated measures, including four that proposed to re-write our constitution.
- Six of the seven ideas were brought to us by out of state political and business interests.
- $8 million was spent in support of the initiated measures and amendments, 91% from out of state.
- $12 million was spent in total on the ten measures (including three referred), 83% from out-of-state;
- Over 60% of the money came from groups that do not have to disclose their contributors; dark money, some say.
- Three passed, four failed.
|Description||Pass/Fail||Proponents||Opponents||Money raised Pro (for)||Money raised Con (against)|
|IM 21||36% pay-day lending cap||Pass (76%)||Former state Rep. Steve Hickey (R), former Daschle staffer Steve Hildebrand (D||Select Management Resources (pay-day lending business)||$76,243
|IM22||Government ethics/public financing for candidates||Pass (51.5%)||Represent Us
|Americans for Prosperity, DC, Conservative||$1,726,198,
61% NO CONTRIBUTOR DISCLOSURE
48% NO CONTRIBUTOR DISCLOSURE
|IM23||Pro-Union||Fail||Americans for Fairness
|AGC of South Dakota
National Right to Work Committee
NO CONTRIBUTOR DISCLOSURE
PARTIAL CONTRIBUTOR DISCLOSURE
|CA S||Crime victims rights (Marsy’s law)||Pass (70%)||Henry Nicholaus (California) and Jason Glodt (in-state Republican lobbyist)||Criminal defense bar||$2,001,469
|CA T||Legislative redistricting||Fail||SD Farmer’s Union, Democrat Party||SD Farm Bureau||$498,941
83% NO CONTRIBUTOR DISCLOSURE
|CA U||Usury law – unlimited interest rate with signature||Fail||Select Management Resources||Center for Responsible Lending||$1,879,623
|CA V||Non-partisan elections||Fail||Open Primaries
Take It Back, Org.
|SD Republican Party||$1,819,248
79% NO CONTRIBUTOR DISCLOSURE
Is it possible out of state interests are using our low signature requirements and cheap media markets in an attempt to buy our ballot initiative process? If so, they will have turned our state founders’ intent completely on its head.
Our system needs safeguarding if we are to restore our system to one that serves the people of South Dakota. We have two sensible measures pending which have passed the South Dakota House and are pending in the South Dakota Senate:
HB1074: This proposal limits certain out of state contributions to a ballot question committee at $100,000.
HB1200: This proposal requires all organizations which contribute more than $25,000 to a ballot question committee to disclose their top 50 donors. A transparency measure designed to shed a little light on the contributors associated with these largely out of state organizations.
HB1200 merely asks that a group allow the voter to put a name and face with the otherwise nameless, faceless organizations that come into South Dakota to advocate for their public policy interests.
Think of The Club for Growth (conservative Washington D.C. based think tank); Americans for Fairness (Illinois Union affiliated group); Americans For Prosperity (Washington D.C. conservative – David Koch founded); Represent US (Massachusetts liberal) and many other groups.
These organizations do not have children that attend our schools, they do not attend our churches and you will not see them at the basketball game this weekend. That is because they do not live here and likely have never been here. I have worked with their representatives to try to overcome their objections to HB1200 and do you know who is calling their shots? Their Washington D.C. lawyers. Let’s limit their involvement unless they can demonstrate either residency or a legitimate business interest in South Dakota. At the very least, let’s at least make them tell us who they are.
I urge you to contact your state Senator and ask them to support both of these proposals.