Gov. Daugaard says he would sign repeal of ethics law
PIERRE (AP) -- South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Thursday that he plans to sign a Republican bill that would dismantle a voter-approved government ethics overhaul if it reaches his desk. The state Senate was to vote on the bill, but legislat...
PIERRE (AP) - South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard said Thursday that he plans to sign a Republican bill that would dismantle a voter-approved government ethics overhaul if it reaches his desk.
The state Senate was to vote on the bill, but legislators supported a procedural move to postpone more debate until next week. It has already passed through the House.
The measure would repeal the ballot initiative that created an ethics commission, public campaign funding and strict limitations on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers. More than 51 percent of voters supported the ballot measure, and backers have criticized the Legislature for working to overturn the result of the November election.
The embattled law - called Initiated Measure 22 - isn't in effect while a legal challenge from GOP legislators and others moves forward. Republicans have said the initiative is likely unconstitutional.
"Whenever a bill is passed, or whenever a measure is initiated, if it's plainly unconstitutional, I think it's the duty of the Legislature to try to ascertain what was the motivation for this, and is there a constitutional means by which we can create law that responds to that motivation?" Daugaard said.
Senate Majority Leader Blake Curd, a Republican, made the move to delay action because he said the bill is not yet "ripe." Lawmakers will "take the weekend and noodle on some new ideas and concepts" and revisit it next week, he said, declining to offer additional details.
Democratic lawmakers this week criticized Republicans for their speed in advancing the measure, which had its first hearing Monday. Senate Minority Leader Billie Sutton said legislators will now have to go home and justify the repeal bill to the people who put them into office.
"I'm calling it a victory for our caucus and a victory for 180,000 South Dakotans that want their voice to be heard," he said.
The bill requires a two-thirds margin in each chamber to pass. An emergency provision means it would take effect immediately, and foes say that would also block voters from referring it to the ballot.
Represent.Us, a Massachusetts-based organization that pumped funding into the South Dakota ballot measure campaign, has targeted Republican lawmakers with newspaper, radio and online advertisements, mail pieces and telephone calls. The group has spent over $23,000 so far in January.
Curd said lawmakers have received telephone calls, emails and written messages about the bill, which shows that people have had the opportunity to have their voices heard.
Lawmakers have filed several potential replacement proposals for Initiated Measure 22, though none as sweeping. The proposals include a bill that would tighten restrictions on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and a measure that would establish a board to review and investigate issues ranging from bribery to theft of public funds. Secretary of State Shantel Krebs has proposed a bill creating a campaign finance ethics commission, which would evaluate and enforce complaints over reported campaign finance violations.
"It is not true in any stretch of the imagination that the Legislature in South Dakota is rejecting the will of the people," Curd told reporters before the bill came up on the floor. "In fact, what it's trying to do is incorporate the will of the people in a constitutionally valid fashion."