Proposed Meta-Initiative: Restoring the People’s Power of Initiative and Referendum

We’re working on a new initiative to reform the initiative and referendum process. The language is complicated: to undo all the complications the Legislature has used to ruin the process for grassroots South Dakotans, we have to strike and replace a lot of language in a several different statutes. To make sure you can see all the edits clearly, I’m embedding the PDF, exactly as it has been submitted to the Attorney General, LRC, and Secretary of State:

The Attorney General has issued his official explanation; so have I, in fewer words yet more detail.

AG 2—December CAH
This measure changes and repeals laws regarding ballot measures. It eliminates some information a petition circulator must provide to a petition signer, including circulator contact information and a statement whether the circulator is paid. It eliminates the requirement that sponsors submit circulator residency information.It repeals the law barring individuals from sponsoring or circulating petitions for four years if they have committed multiple petition-law violations.

It repeals the law extending the Legislative Research Council’s deadline for reviewing initiated measures received during legislative session. It changes fiscal note requirements for initiated measures and initiated constitutional amendments, and removes fiscal notes from the ballot for these types of measures.

It decreases the time in which the Attorney General must file a title and explanation for initiated measures and initiated amendments.

It repeals the law prohibiting an initiated measure from embracing more than one subject.

Currently, sponsors must file signed initiative petitions with the Secretary of State at least one year prior to the general election. The measure changes this deadline to four months prior.

Under this measure, most voter-approved ballot measures would take effect the day after the official vote canvass, rather than the following July 1 as the law currently states.

Sections 1-3 stop forcing circulators to hand out personal contact and pay information while still requiring that circulators make available contact information about their petition’s sponsors.

Sections 1-3 allow circulators to provide required petition information in print or electronic format.

Sections 1-2 allow petitioners eight more months to obtain voter signatures on initiative petitions.

Section 4 allows voter-approved measures to take effect one week after the vote but allows voters to approve later enactment dates.

Section 5 stops forcing citizens to give the state personal information and documents to exercise their right to petition.

Section 6 removes additional fines and potentially unconstitutional restrictions on petition rights.

Section 7 allows the Legislative Research Council to write more detailed fiscal notes and requires the LRC to provide this guidance in 15 days rather than 60.

Section 8 requires the Attorney General to explain initiatives in 15 days rather than 60 and shortens ballots by removing the fiscal note.

Section 9 removes a four-month delay, added in 2018, from LRC review of initiatives.

Section 10 repeals the single-subject rule for initiated measures.

Section 11 removes a reference to a statute repealed by Section 9.

200 words 191 words

The Legislative Research Council issued a fiscal note on a substantially similar draft of this proposal; by their estimate, the only provision of this proposal that might cost the state money is changing (in Sections 1 and 2) giving initiative supporters eight more months to circulate their petitions. Processing initiative petitions in July of the election year instead of through the winter prior to the election might require the Secretary of State to spend around $35,000 on additional petition-checking staff, says the LRC.

The Secretary of State is waiting for an updated fiscal note from the LRC for the above draft; then we’ll be able to put out an official petition for voters to sign.

We’ll need at least 16,961 signatures from registered South Dakota voters by November 3, 2019, to place this measure on the 2020 general election ballot.

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