First Amendment rights are no longer assured in South Dakota. Nearly gone is our right to “petition government for redress of grievances.” State law now conflicts with the 1787 Bill of Rights. Our state legislature has, for some years, had a problem with grass-roots initiated measures. During the last couple years, they’ve changed South Dakota law to make the process more complicated. Reduced time frames for gathering signatures have been imposed. Newly required circulator tasks and identification are insulting to many. Such requirements undermine people’s rights to peaceably assemble and engage with one another.
Two petitions are being circulated for the purpose of restoring reasonable rules to the process. Both measures must obtain over seventeen thousand valid signatures to qualify for the 2020 ballot. One measure revises existing state law by striking words-sentences-paragraphs, then adding words-sentences-paragraphs to existing state law. The second is a referendum seeking to nullify a truly obnoxious 2019 law called HB-1094.
Do you remember IM22? It was entitled “The South Dakota Accountability and Anti-Corruption Act.” It was a very thorough piece of work. Voters passed it in 2016 — the Legislature killed it in 2017. Later initiatives came along. Payday loan rates got capped. In these and other cases, citizens accomplished what seemed unlikely to happen in Pierre.
The U.S. Constitution strongly emphasizes citizen participation in government (referred to as the Jacques Rousseau-Machiavelli effects). South Dakota’s voters need to give state government a push in that direction by signing these two petitions.