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Lawmakers look to raise bar for passing amendments on the ballot

Dana Ferguson

Sioux Falls Argus Leader USA TODAY NETWORK

PIERRE – Those looking to amend the state Constitution could face a higher hurdle under a proposal advanced Monday.

The Senate State Affairs Committee on Monday voted 6-2 to advance a resolution that would bump up the threshold needed to pass a constitutional amendment on the ballot from a simple majority to 55 percent.

Supporters said the 2016 election illustrated the need to raise the bar for groups aiming to alter the state’s foundational political document while opponents said the move would prevent grass-roots groups from passing amendments.

“This proposal is a legitimate and desirable method of protecting our fundamental political document,” said Sen. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, who carried Senate Joint Resolution 1.

Spokespeople for the South Dakota Retailers Association and Concerned Women for America rose to support the proposal. Individuals who’d carried ballot measures or amendments, advocates for the ballot measure process and Democratic lawmakers opposed the resolution. They said the resolution would benefit big money groups and pose a problem for the Legislature in obtaining voter permission for future resolutions.

“Protecting the Constitution has a really feel-good ring to it,” said Rebecca Terk, a spokeswoman for Dakota Rural Action, “but South Dakotans are already doing a really good job of it.”

If approved in the Legislature, voters would have to approve the measure at the polls for it to take effect.

The panel also advanced bills aimed at requiring additional financial reports from ballot measure committees and allowing independent or unaffiliated voters to sign on their support to partisan candidates.

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