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by Jay Riestenberg on January 24, 2017
South Dakota voters approved a comprehensive ballot measure last fall to make government more accountable. They agreed to create an independent ethics commission for the state legislature and a citizen-funded elections program, impose stronger campaign contribution limits, rein in the power of special interest lobbyists, and increase disclosure of political spending.
Now, Republican legislators are trying to undo what the voters want done.
On Monday, state lawmakers took the first steps to repeal the initiative. They’re even considering declaring a “legislative emergency” to move the repeal bill through the legislature quickly, a maneuver which would effectively block any chance for voters to reinstate the law on the ballot. Paul Blumenthal at The Huffington Post explains why repealing the initiative under “emergency rules” would shut down any effort to revive the law:
Normally in South Dakota, if the legislature repeals a citizen-backed initiative, the voters can propose a referendum to reverse the repeal. But if it’s eliminated under emergency rules, the citizens can’t reverse that repeal. To adopt those emergency rules, the legislature needs a two-thirds majority, which Republicans provided.
Make no mistake, this action is another example of lawmakers and politicians trying to hold onto to their own power by blocking efforts to open our democracy for everyone to participate. It’s the exact type of business-as-usual and incumbent-protection behavior that has alienated millions of voters of both parties.
South Dakota Republicans need to stop playing these games. Otherwise, voters should hold them accountable in the next election.