South Dakota panel rejects plan on constitutional changes

February 21, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota committee voted down a measure Wednesday that sought to end the ability of voters to bypass the Legislature and amend the state constitution.

The House State Affairs Committee rejected the plan, which would have required approval from the voters and the Legislature to enact a constitutional amendment. Right now, people who collect enough signatures to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot can ask voters to pass it without lawmakers’ blessing.

Sister Lynn Marie Welbig, a lobbyist for the Presentation Sisters, said the measure would have stamped out the people’s “real right to amend the constitution.”

“Bills like this, while they’re well intended, spread division and distrust among the people,” she told the committee. “Please, I beg you not to try to do things to usurp those rights of the people.”

House Speaker Mark Mickelson, a supporter, said there should be a “rigorous process” when amending the state constitution. It would have needed voter approval to take effect.

The panel debated several measures asking voters to impose tighter restrictions on amendments to the state constitution. Members tabled a plan that would have ended citizens’ ability to gather names to propose constitutional amendments, instead only allowing amendments to originate in the Legislature.

But the panel did send a proposal to the full House that would require constitutional amendments to encompass only one subject. If approved by the Legislature, the measure would go to November voters.

Mickelson, the sponsor, said it’s intended to make sure that people understand the idea they’re voting for at the ballot box.

Democrats on the committee opposed the plan. Democratic Rep. Julie Bartling questioned how it would be implemented.

Update hourly