Local Activist Vows To Keep IM 22

VERMILLION — A Vermillion man says he plans to step up action this weekend to preserve Initiated Measure 22, an anti-corruption measure passed by South Dakota voters last fall.

House Bill 1069, designed to repeal the ballot measure, moved quickly through the House and a Senate committee before reaching the Senate floor Thursday afternoon. However, a group of senators invoked Rule 5-17, which delayed action until next Wednesday.

Represent South Dakota spokesman Doug Kronaizl of Vermillion testified against IM 22 earlier this week. He told the Press & Dakotan Thursday afternoon he welcomed the Senate delay and will use the following week to push against efforts to repeal IM 22.

"Thanks to the delay, one big focus will be turning out voters to their respective cracker barrels over the weekend," he said, noting the importance of the face-to-face meetings.

In response to a lawsuit filed by a group of legislators, a circuit judge has issued a preliminary injunction against IM 22. Opponents of the initiated measure have sponsored HB 1069, along with four bills designed as replacements to change what they say are unconstitutional provisions.

HB 1069 has moved quickly through the Legislature, but a number of lawmakers have opposed it, Kronaizl said.

"I do want to express my gratitude to those legislators who have stood up against HB 1069," he said. He noted District 18 Reps. Jean Hunhoff and Mike Stevens (both R-Yankton) voted against the measure in the House.

During Thursday’s morning press conference, Gov. Dennis Daugaard said he was prepared to give HB 1069 his signature if it reached his desk and passed his final scrutiny.

"HB 1069 is a very long bill," he said. "If it’s technically correct, I plan to sign it."

IM 22 may have been motivated by two recent scandals involving the EB 5 and Gear Up programs, Daugaard said, "but (IM 22) wouldn’t have prevented or addressed those issues."

IM 22 also wouldn’t’ have prevented the deaths associated with both cases, he added.

Daugaard said it wasn’t unusual for certain bills to receive fast-track treatment through the legislative process.

"The pace (in which) it is taken up is guided by the volume of bills and the preference of the committee chair," he said. "It’s not unusual to go from the first reading to the first committee hearing in three days."

When asked by a reporter, Daugaard said he doesn’t think the legislators who filed the lawsuit against IM 22 should need to recuse, or disqualify, themselves from voting on any related measures.

"They don’t have a personal interest in the issue, so no," the governor said. "The measure is so badly written that it needs to be dealt with."

Daugaard commended the Legislature for what he considered a transparent process on the bill. "The process has been as open as any I have seen," he said.

The governor predicted HB 1069 was "likely to pass," possibly within one or two legislative days.

He acknowledged the bill represents a major repeal of IM 22. "It undoes quite a bit," he said.

HB 1069 contains an emergency clause, which means it would take effect immediately upon final passage. Normally, enacted bills become law July 1.

When asked about the emergency clause, Daugaard said it appeared appropriate in this case. The immediate enactment would avoid "unnecessary delay and expense," he added.

"There would be a lengthy period of uncertainty before IM 22 would be undone in the courts or Legislature," he said.

Kronaizl characterized the measure as unnecessary and defying voters’ wishes, especially immediately after the November election.

"The total and complete repeal of IM 22 with an emergency clause is, from my point of view and that of many voters I’ve spoken to, very much an attempt to override the will of the people," he said.

"The emergency clause is completely unnecessary and undemocratic. IM 22 is not in effect; it is enjoined. There are no crises apart from the unprecedented move to totally repeal a voter-enacted law without allowing a referendum vote."

Kronaizl maintains IM 22 contains a number of provisions with no legal questions.

"There is absolutely no reason to repeal the entirety of IM 22. Many portions of the law have received no negative treatment in either HB 1069 proceedings or the pending lawsuit," he said.

"These are things like lower campaign contribution limits; defining bribery as a felony, instead of a misdemeanor; expanding the definition of ‘lobbying’ to include lobbying the governor’s office, more frequent reporting requirements (Section 21), and so on and so forth."

HB 1069 appears intended more as a political move than a judicial remedy, Kronaizl said.

"There are no legal issues with these provisions, yet legislators are still pushing to repeal them outright," he said. "Despite their rhetoric to suggest otherwise, there have been no bills introduced designed to retain these portions. There is no reason to repeal these sections other than to override the will of the people."

Such attempts aren’t new in the Legislature, Kronaizl said.

"The Legislature previously sought to amend IM 14 — the minimum wage bill — using the same arguments. The voters rejected that amendment 71 percent to 29 percent last November. It’s clear that the voters do not appreciate these heavy-handed swipes at our enacted laws."

The state Republican Party issued a press release Thursday, highlighting what it considers multiple solutions to replace IM 22.

The GOP is seeking to stop which it considers a bad law while still respecting the voters’ intent, said District 21 Rep. Lee Qualm (R-Platte).

"The first step is to repeal the measure, because the bill was so poorly drafted by people outside of our state, there’s really no other choice," said Qualm, the House majority leader.

"Having said that, we take the will of the voters very seriously and we are all committed to real solutions that can address concerns, but not violate our state’s constitution.

At least four bills have been introduced to replace IM 22, according to the GOP press release.

Those bills include House Bills 1076 and 1073, along with Senate Bills 53 and 54. The bills address lobbyist gifting, campaign finance and legislative accountability.

Two area legislators shared their views with Sioux Falls television station KELO.

"Our goal is to understand the intent of what people thought they were voting on, and we got that," said District 19 Rep. Kent Peterson (R-Salem). "We want to do it the right way, though."

District 21 Sen. Billie Sutton (D-Burke), the Senate minority leader, called for a better procedure in place before moving forward.

"(We need to come up) with a package of bills that address the issues that South Dakotans want and then, at that point, maybe we can talk about the repeal," Sutton said.

During Thursday’s press conference, Daugaard said it was difficult to know which parts of IM 22 the voters wanted and those they overlooked or didn’t care.

For example, he believes voters want ethics or campaign finance reform. He’s less sure about the "democracy credits," or taxpayer funding of campaigns.

"The problem with the ballot measures is that they are all or nothing," the governor said.

The effort to repeal IM 22 isn’t the only disturbing legislation in Pierre, Kronaizl said

"Additionally, there are a number of bills currently being considered that would substantially weaken the initiative process in South Dakota. Senate Bill 67 would increase the number of signatures needed to place an amendment on the ballot from 27,000 to 55,000," he said.

"These increases leave the process only accessible to out-of-state interests rather than grassroots South Dakotans. Moreover, they are declaring an emergency here, too, so we cannot refer this signature increase."

Kronaizl sees a larger effort under way in Pierre.

"It’s clear that certain legislators want to limit the power of the people, and that’s completely unacceptable," he said. "But I wouldn’t go so far as to attribute it to party politics."

The Press & Dakotan sought comment from District 16, 17, 18, 19 and 21 legislators but received no immediate responses.

Follow @RDockendorf on Twitter.

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