legislature, voting, ballot measure, summer study

SD Legislative Update - Bills Concerning Ballot Measure Changes Die - Summer Study To Take Place

March 08, 2017

Here's an update on the bills we've been watching during the 2017 SD Legislative Session concerning ballot measures:

House Bills:

HB 1130 – An act to provide transparency and a public comment mechanism for ballot measures and amendments (Rep. Haggar and Sen. Novstrup).

Prior to circulation of petitions for signatures, a ballot measure/amendment must be sent to the Sec. of State, following which, the Sec. of State will post the measure/amendment on the Sec. of State’s website for comment for 30 days only from registered voters from SD.
A public hearing regarding the measure/amendment would then take place 120 days or more prior to the general election where testimony would be offered up (Pros/Cons).

Status:  Passed House State Affairs 8-4, Scheduled for House Floor Debate 2/13/17 – Fiscal note requested, Passed House – 37-32, 2/21/17, Passed Senate State Affairs 5-2, 27/17, Amended on the floor of the Senate, Defeated by Senate 7-28, 3/1/17.

Comments:  Those in opposition stated that this bill may give the appearance that the legislature would be trying to influence the ballot measure process. While others in opposition indicated that the bill would take away 15-30 days from the petition gathering timeline.  Supporters, on the other hand, stated that this would be one way to provide more information to the voters.  (Sec. of State did not comment during this testimony.)  At face value, the bill has merit.  However, the questions related to timeframes for petition gathering, who/how is the public hearing(s) conducted, etc., still needs to be addressed, even with the amendments provided.


HB 1141 – An act to establish a legislative task force to consider revisions to the initiated measure, referendum and constitutional amendment processes.  (Rep. Lust and Sen. Curd)

Task Force consists of Sec. of State, Attorney General, State Chamber of Commerce and two members from House and two from Senate – amended in committee and on the floor of the Senate to include additional members (SD Municipal League, SD Assn. of Counties, SD Board of Elections, a Gov. appointee, Political Science faculty member from one of the universities, etc.)
Basically a summer study/task force would be created
Tasked to study and evaluate the voter initiative and referendum process and to provide a report to the legislature in 2018.  The task force may present draft legislation and policy recommendations.
The task force (as indicated to Chiesman Center by the prime sponsor) would hold hearings during the summer of 2017 and would engage all South Dakotans in the process.
The bill has begun to build a lot of momentum and support.  SB 67 (noted below) was tabled due to 1141’s potential passage.\

Status:  Scheduled for hearing in House State Affairs 2/13/17, Deferred to 2/15/17, Passed as amended 10-1, moves to House Floor for debate week of 2/21/17j, Passed House 39-29, 2/22/17, Passed Senate State Affairs as amended 2/27/17, Amended on Senate floor, Passed by Senate as amended 28-7, 3/1/17.  House concurred with Senate amendments, 3/6/17.   Awaiting Governor’s signature (he is expected to sign).

Comments:  The Chiesman Center for Democracy has had discussions with the bill’s prime sponsor.  The intent of the bill/task force is to engage all parties in a conversation concerning what direction (if any) to take.  Rep. Lust stated (as well as other legislators) that the current legislature needs to take a step back and carefully analyze the current processes and not rush to pass legislation based on the November 2016 election cycle.  Chiesman Center staff believe this is a very worthwhile bill that would empower South Dakota citizens by providing a process for respectful, positive dialogue.  It will be critical, however, that those on the task force appointed by the legislature include a representative cross-section of legislators.  Opponents have argued that this is not a role that the legislature should play.  Other opponents state that there needs to be representation from individuals or groups that have brought initiated measures or referenda forth.


HB 1153 – An act to revise signature requirements for initiated measures and referred laws.  (Rep. Gosh and Sen. Stalzer)

Would have required that 50% of petition signatures come from 33 counties with remaining signatures coming from the other 33 counties
Based very roughly on some other states
Opposed by Sec. of State – stated that it basically would be a nightmare for Sec. of State office staff to conduct random sampling of petitions, etc.

Status:  Deferred to the 41st legislative day (killed)

Comments:  Listening to testimony, it appeared that even the bill sponsors had a difficult time explaining how this all would work.

Senate Bills:

SB 59 – An act to delay the effective date of initiated measures, referred laws and constitutional amendments.  (Sen. White and Rep. Stevens)

Would delay the effective date to the following July 1st (much like some laws now) (currently these measures, etc. go into effect the day after the official canvass, which is about a week or so after the November election)

Status:  Passed Senate State Affairs 6-1, Passed Senate 28-7, Passed House State Affairs 10-2, Scheduled for action on House Floor 2/13/17, Passed House 53-14, Awaiting Governor’s signature (he is expected to sign).

Comments:  Concern among those in opposition is that this gives the legislature an opportunity to overturn or “tinker” with any ballot measure that is approved the preceding November.


SB 67 – An act to revise the method to calculate petition signatures for initiated constitutional amendments (Sen. Partridge).

Would have changed the calculation (number of petition signatures required) from 10% of the number of votes cast for Governor in the last election to 10% of the actual number of registered voters at the time of the Governor election.  (effectively doubling the number of signatures)

Status:  Tabled at the request of the sponsor

Comments:  This bill was tabled since the sponsor is in support of HB 1141 (Task Force).


SJR 2 – A resolution proposing and submitting to the electors at the next general election amendments to Article XXIII, of the Constitution of the State of South Dakota, relating to amendments to the Constitution (Sen. Bolin and Rep. Brunner)

Would place on the next general election ballot (2018) a constitutional amendment requiring a 2/3 majority of both the House and the Senate to pass a bill to that would be placed on the ballot to amend the constitution.

Status:  Passed Senate Local Government 6-0 on 2/13/17, moves to Senate floor for action, Failed in Senate 17-16 (must be majority of members elect) 2/14/17, Reconsidered 2/15/17 21-13, Passed 2/15/17 19-15, moves to House committee, Heard in House State Affairs 2/27/17, Prime Sponsor requested that it be tabled due to the possible task force in 1141, Tabled 13-0.

Comments:  Supporters of the resolution state that it should be as difficult to submit an amendment to the state constitution by the legislature as it is to pass any new taxes, etc.  (e.g. 2/3 majority).  It is possible that this resolution may fall to the wayside, with its sponsors deferring to HB 1141 (task force).


Other Interesting Tidbits:


HJR 1002 - To apply for a convention of states under Article V of the Constitution of the United States to impose fiscal restraints on the federal government and limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government.

This bill essentially calls for a constitutional convention of the states

Status:  Failed 31-34, 2/8/17; Reconsider Motion Passed 38-26, 2/9/17; To be debated 2/13/17, Failed 28-40.

Comments:  House members are torn on this resolution.  Those who understand the process and what a constitutional convention would entail are very wary of its ramifications, since any subject could be brought forth during the convention.  While supporters want to “send a message” to Washington, DC.


Campaign Finance/Conflict of Interest & IM 22 Reactions – There have been a number of bills that have progressed to final passage that have changed the overall campaign landscape. 

HB1073 – limitations on lobbyist gifts to legislators (passed both houses)

HB1076 – creates a government accountability board

HB1165 – requiring annual financial interest statements for elected officials

HB1170 – revises conflict of interest provisions for board and commission members

SB 27 – prohibits conflict of interest

SB 54 – campaign finance (some of IM 22 elements are in this hoghoused bill)

SB 77 - provide for a fiscal note for any initiated measure, initiated amendment to the Constitution, or referred law that would have a fiscal impact on the state.

Voting, Elections, constitution, amendment

Changes to Constitutional Amendment Process To Be Debated

February 06, 2017

The South Dakota Senate is getting set to debate Senate Joint Resolution 2 which would significantly alter the way constitutional amendments would be placed on the ballot.  SJR2 would require a 2/3 vote of the legislature to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot (currently it takes a majority).  SJR2 would also increase the number of votes to pass a constitutional amendment from 50% to 60%.  Watch the bill's action at

Voting, Elections, initiated measure, ballot

Task Force Proposed to Revise SD’s Initiated Measure Process

February 06, 2017

The South Dakota House of Representatives will take up HB1141 in the next week or so.  The bill would create a task force to study and propose changes to South Dakota initiated measure, referendum and constitutional amendment processes.  The task force would be comprised of the Sec. of State, the Attorney General, legislators and the State Chamber of Commerce.  The proposed changes would be brought forth during the 2018 legislative session.  Check the bill out here:

initiated measure, constitutional amendment, voting, elections, legisalture

Changes to Initiated Measure Process Proposed in SD Legislature

January 26, 2017

Much is afoot in the SD State Legislature concerning changes to the way initiated measures are brought forth.  Here's what we've seen so far:

Senate Bill 67 (Revises number of signatures need for an initiated constitutional amendment) - would base the number of signatures needed to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot (10%) on registered voters as opposed to the number that voted for Governor in the last gubernatorial election. Almost doubling the number of signatures needed from approx. 27,740 now to 52,000+ (depending on when the reg. voter number is calculated).
See the link to the bill and its status here  (first hearing is Wednesday, Feb. 1st in Senate State Affairs)

Senate Bill 59 (Revises effective date of initiated ballot measures to July 1st) an accompanying bill would have all approved ballot measures go into effect on July 1st of the following year - this would allow the legislature more time to review approved ballot measures.  Currently, ballot measures that are approved by the voters go into effect the day after the canvassing (official count is certified), which usually is mid November.  This bill has already passed the SD Senate and is on its way to SD House Committee, here is the bill and its status  (passed Senate and assigned to House State Affairs - no hearing date)

House Bill 1069 (Repeal of IM 22) - this bill has been fast tracked and has already passed the SD House and SD Senate Committee and  is on its way to the SD Senate floor.  This bill repeals Initiated Measure 22 which was passed by the SD voters in November 2016 by 51% to 49%.  You can see its status here  (passed House, passed Senate State Affairs Cmte. and is on calendar for second reading Thursday, Jan. 26th for Senate floor debate but may be pushed to Tuesday, Jan. 31st)

There are a number of other bills that are moving their way through the process that address some elements of Initiated Measure 22 such as:  campaign ethics, campaign finance, etc.  

We will keep the above updated when new information is available. 

voting, petitions, elections

Is the initiated measure process broken in South Dakota?

January 20, 2017

South Dakota is given credit for being the first state in the nation to adopt the initiative and referendum process 118 years ago, allowing citizens to propose initiated state statutes.  The right to amend the South Dakota constitution through this process was given to the citizens in 1972.  Since 1898, South Dakota voters have seen as many as 14 ballot measures in 1916 and a low of one in several other years, with the most recent being 1993.


This past November, ten measures were certified to appear on the South Dakota ballot.  Four were approved and six were defeated.  In recent days, several state legislators have indicated that they will be introducing bills during the 2017 legislative session that could significantly alter the petition process.  It will be important for citizens to provide respectful, informative input to their legislators concerning any potential changes to the ballot measure process.  You can find your legislator’s contact information at


In South Dakota, we have four distinct processes we use to make changes to state laws and/or the state’s constitution.  Three are initiated by the citizens and one by the legislature.


The Initiated Measure process is used to add to, amend or repeal existing state laws.  Petitions must have signatures of registered voters equal to five percent (13,871) of the total vote for Governor in the last gubernatorial election.


A Referred Law is a petition process that prevents a measure passed by the legislature from becoming effective.  It must also have signatures of registered voters equal to five percent of the total vote for Governor in the last gubernatorial election.  Petitions must be filed within 90 days of adjournment of the legislative session in which the measure was passed. 


An Initiated Constitutional Amendment is a petition process that proposes to amend, repeal, or add to provisions in the state’s constitution. This petition has a much higher threshold than an Initiated Measure, requiring signatures of registered voters equal to ten percent (27,741) of the total vote for Governor in the last gubernatorial election.


Lastly, South Dakota’s constitution allows the legislature to refer a newly passed law directly to the voters for their approval.  This process takes a majority vote of the legislature and cannot be vetoed by the Governor.


Here’s a look at a few plans that are currently being considered to change the above processes:


One plan is a model based on portions of the recently passed (November 2016 - 55.7% to 44.3%,) Colorado law (Amendment 71) that requires initiated measure petition circulators to get signatures from two percent of the registered voters in each of the thirty-five senate districts.  As stated earlier, South Dakota now requires signatures from five percent of those who voted for Governor in the last election (no geographical representation required).  Another plan may include changing this five percent to be calculated based on the number of registered voters (which would more than double the current number of signatures needed).  While on another front, some legislators are kicking around the idea of increasing the number of votes necessary in the legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the voters (currently requires only a majority). 


When Colorado leaders were crafting changes to their constitution regarding the ballot measure process, supporters such as State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, Governor John Hickenlooper and four former governors stated that it should be more difficult to modify these documents.  They indicated that requiring a broader sample of voter support ensured that citizens from across the state had a say in which measures were placed on the ballot.  They, along with a host of other state leaders, pointed to the apparent ease of collecting signatures in heavily populated urban areas compared to sparsely populated rural areas, where rural citizens had a limited voice in determining which issues appear on the ballot.


While on the other hand, several grass-roots organizations in Colorado including the Colorado Fiscal Initiative, New Era Colorado, Conservation Colorado and others said that some of the changes will make it more difficult for citizens to exercise their right to initiate modifications to state statute or the constitution.  Leaders from these groups said that sometimes the will of the people or issues of broad public interest are not adequately addressed by the political process.  They are concerned that requiring the collection of signatures statewide would make the process of placing an initiative, referred law or constitutional amendment on the ballot even more difficult and costly, leaving only well-financed campaigns able to carry out the complicated signature process.


These as well as other arguments will be brought forth in the coming weeks during the 2017 South Dakota legislative session.  Yet, we all can agree that South Dakota citizens should be informed not only regarding the candidates on their ballot, but just as importantly about various ballot measures that could fundamentally change our state’s laws or constitution.  State officials, such as Attorney General Marty Jackley, have been contemplating what could be done to make sure that voters get accurate information about ballot measures.  While State Senator Jim Bolin (Canton) and Representative Don Haggar (Sioux Falls) as well as others are looking at ways to require a broader sample of voter support.  These efforts could have a profound impact on our current ballot measure process.


What do you think?  Is the South Dakota ballot measure process broken?  Your state legislators want to hear from you about this and other topics of interest.  They rely on citizens like you to provide respectful, informative input concerning issues.  You can find your legislator’s contact information at


Rob Timm, CFRE


Chiesman Center for Democracy


Since 1995, the non-profit, non-partisan Chiesman Center for Democracy has been dedicated to promoting active civic education and engagement across South Dakota through its various programmatic activities.  To learn more go to

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