WEILAND: 'Hoodwinked'? No, this is undoing the will of the voters
Although many don't know it, South Dakota was the first state in the nation to allow its citizens to petition their government and engage directly in public policy through the initiated measure process.
Here's a good example. Two years ago, the people of South Dakota, frustrated with inaction by the South Dakota State Legislature, passed a ballot measure increasing the minimum wage.
The net effect was that 62,000 South Dakotans received an hourly raise of $1.25, with an annual inflationary adjustment. While a single parent working full time at minimum wage still qualifies for food stamps, it was a welcome boost to people who were working for $7.25 an hour.
However, within a few weeks after its passage, Republican leaders in the South Dakota Legislature started saying that the voters had been hoodwinked — that South Dakotans really didn't know they voted to include young adults — so the Legislature, on a straight party line vote, passed legislation to exclude anyone under 18 years of age from receiving the increase in pay.
This legislation was referred — frozen from going into effect — when the people took to the streets with clipboards and petitions and, once again, successfully placed another measure on the ballot that reaffirmed what the voters had already said yes to in 2014
Last November that referred law No. 20, passed with 71 percent of vote — a strong and defiant demonstration that the people of South Dakota fully understood their vote to raise the minimum wage for all South Dakotans.
Today, those same Republican leaders in the South Dakota Legislature and Gov. Dennis Daugaard are attempting to make the same case — that the voters were "hoodwinked" and didn't know what they were doing when they voted to pass the "Government Accountability and Anti-Corruption Act" known as IM 22.
Last month, our entrenched political establishment, who do not think they need more accountability and serious ethics reform, brought a lawsuit that put a temporary hold on IM 22, and now are threatening to outright ignore the will of the voters and repeal the measure.
They should think twice — the people of South Dakota voted for IM 22 because they were fed up with government scandals like EB-5, Gear-Up, the undue influence of lobbyists, big money, and failing report cards.
The opponents for IM 22, financed by the Koch brothers and their political organization, Americans for Prosperity, spent well over $500,000 trying to scare the voters. Doomsday messages of "no more money for schools, roads and bridges" filled our mailboxes and airwaves; just like the doomsday messages of "shuttered businesses" and "massive layoffs" did when they tried to defeat the minimum wage increase. We should all be reminded of that old saying — "beware of the fox guarding the hen house!"
The passage of IM 22 is an affront to one-party rule because it establishes an independent ethics commission, restricts the amount of money lobbyists can give to elected officials, reforms our campaign finance laws, and allows registered voters—on a voluntary basis—an opportunity to take $100 of their own tax dollars back from Pierre and donate to candidates of their choosing.
All of these reforms put the state in a position to earn a passing grade, instead of an "F" from national organizations like the Center for Public Integrity, which has consistently placed South Dakota in the top five of states most "at risk" of corruption in the nation.
As one of the original sponsors of IM 22, I'm very concerned that the Republican leadership in Pierre is once again trying to undo the will of the voters. That somehow they know better than the 180,634 South Dakotans who voted for this anti-corruption measure. I'm also concerned that these same leaders are going to be working overtime to effectively end the initiated measure process, which is the only direct way the people can pass legislation that overrides the action or inaction of the elected political class.
I urge you to reach out and let your legislators know that you support IM 22 just as it was passed, and that you oppose any effort to shut down or weaken what South Dakota passed in 1898, the initiated measure process, which allows the voters a direct voice in Pierre.
- South Dakota
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