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Mickelson says ambiguity mars Marsy's Law that voters passed

PIERRE — State Rep. Mark Mickelson said Wednesday he is considering whether to ask the Legislature to repeal the Marsy's Law amendment that voters approved in 2016.

They voted 215,565 to 146,084 to put victim rights in the South Dakota Constitution.

Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls, is speaker for the South Dakota House of Representatives. He said the constitutional amendment duplicated state laws in a variety of instances.

"What we really need to do is fix Marsy's Law," he said Wednesday afternoon.

He added: "This idea was brought to me. I didn't dream it up."

Mickelson said there are three areas of ambiguity. They are:

• Whether victims must be automatically notified;

• Whether it should apply to all crimes, as currently stated, or changed to violent crimes; and;

• Whether all family members must be notified, as currently stated, or changed to the victim and a designated representative.

He said Pennington County State's Attorney Mark Vargo estimated its cost $400,000 in his county alone. Mickelson said it might be costing counties $5 million collectively per year.

Mickelson said he's tried to arrange a meeting with state Attorney General Marty Jackley but their schedules haven't yet matched. "We're both busy guys," Mickelson said.

Mickelson said he didn't vote for it.

The story broke on South Dakota Public Radio during an interview Tuesday between Mickelson and reporter Lee Strubinger.

"Our constitution is pretty sacred," Mickelson told Strubinger.

The interview was broadcast Wednesday on public radio's "In The Moment" program.

Mickelson said the first step for the Legislature in the 2018 session would be passing laws to cover gaps in victim rights.

Next would be a resolution asking legislators to put the constitutional repeal on the 2018 ballot.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon with this reporter, Mickelson said he would have to decide whether the repeal would be necessary.

If he goes for the repeal, a majority in each of the House of Representatives and the Senate would be needed.

Mickelson said he expects support from the South Dakota county commissioners association, the sheriffs association and the state's attorneys association.

He told this reporter that possible wordings for state law changes are being considered.

Voters favored Marsy's Law amendment in 61 of South Dakota's 66 counties.

By comparison, voters opposed Initiated Measure 22 in 42 counties, but it passed statewide 180,634 to 169,199 behind support in counties with larger voter registrations.

Many Republicans in the Legislature repealed IM 22 in the 2017 session but replaced some key pieces.

The deadline for initiated laws and constitutional amendments is one year before South Dakota's next general election.

However, the Legislature can propose constitutional amendments regardless of the year.

Key supporters of IM 22 are circulating another ballot measure this year for the 2018 ballot. It is a constitutional amendment that the Legislature couldn't repeal.

IM 22 would have placed many restrictions on legislators and family members, including conflict of interest bans.

Adding to the tumult, South Dakota Republican central committee chairman Dan Lederman recently urged voters to read wording before they sign ballot-measure petitions.

An interesting twist in the Marsy's Law fight is the role of political consultant Jason Glodt of Pierre. He led the campaign to pass the victim-rights constitutional amendment.

Glodt is campaign manager for Jackley who is running for the 2018 Republican nomination for governor.

Jackley didn't take a public position as a supporter or opponent of the proposed Marsy's Law.

State law requires the attorney general to write a statement about possible effects of ballot measures.

Jackley headed a Marsy's Law implementation panel after it passed.

Mickelson's effort to overturn Marsy's Law coincided with U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem releasing her first video as a Republican governor candidate Tuesday.

Mickelson said in the Strubinger interview that he doesn't have any interest in running for lieutenant governor.

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