The ‘Mischief’ in Pierre has returned

From Cathy B. for the Advocacy Project


After 4 days of the legislature, I am already behind, and some bills that tamper with our rights to initiative and referendum are already moving.

1. Much of this info is from Dakota Rural Action (DRA).

HB 1004 Clarifies that the State Board of Elections can make rules regarding petition size and petition font size.  This bill could mean limiting initiatives based simply on the number of words in the text and outlawing revisions of existing code that deal with updating multiple sections.

MESSAGE: The potential for limiting initiatives is too great; vote NO.

HB 1005 It’s often somewhat confusing whether to vote No or Yes on referred laws on the ballot. But the way we do it now needs to stay. HB1005 would make it more confusing by reversing the function of your vote on referred laws. HB1005 would say Yes means don’t change the law, while on amendments and initiatives Yes would still mean do change the law.

    For example, in 2016 the legislature voted to take away a minimum wage increase for young people that the we voters had decided they should have. This act of the legislature was challenged by Referred Law 20. To vote Yes on the referral would support what the legislature did. It took No votes to reject what the legislature did and keep what voters had wanted. Voters figured this out and expressed their displeasure with the legislature’s action voting 71% No to 29% Yes. The young workers got better wages.

MESSAGE: Amend the language on referred laws so that “yes” means pass and “no” means reject. Otherwise, Vote No on HB1005.

HB 1006: Section 1 provides for substantive comments to be made on ballot initiatives by the Legislative Research Council (LRC), which is something the LRC has already been willing to do. BUT, Section 2 creates a “blackout” period during legislative session when the LRC is not required to comment on the people’s initiatives. LRC staff indicated that dealing with citizen initiatives during the legislative session has not created an undue burden. If a future LRC decides to just sit on proposals, this “blackout” period could delay considerably our citizen ability to draft initiative petitions for circulation.

MESSAGE: STRIKE Section 2 of this bill, or vote NO.

In general on these: There will be more bills coming in the weeks ahead aimed at tampering with citizens’ initiative, referendum, and constitutional amendment process. These are the people’s tools, and it is crucial that we contact legislators with a clear message to stop tampering with it.

2. The backward proposal to add work requirements for Medicaid:

This is a way to create barriers to Medicaid. If it were really about encouraging work, states could offer all those purported work supports already. Here’s a report today from Talk Poverty:

Much of the national discussion, like this article, refers to states that have adopted Medicaid expansion.

 But work requirements make even less sense in non-expansion states like ours, where parents qualifying for Medicaid have incomes below 49% of the poverty line. That’s very deep poverty.

 If their work nets them incomes between 49% and 100%, most or all of them will have NO OPTIONS for health coverage. None. Nada. Jobs paying so little rarely have benefits. Medicaid would be cut off. No way could they afford unsubsidized insurance. And, they earn too little to qualify for subsidized insurance thru

There is no way a list of needed exemptions could cover all the work-interferring complications in the chaotic existence at less than half the poverty level.

Medicare supports health and people’s ability to work. Work requirements can be counter-productive, unless the goal is to cut people off. Many of us come from faith traditions that teach both mercy and healthcare are things we all need and that don’t have to be deserved.

MESSAGE: Reject work requirements for Medicaid. What would be better for South Dakota would be Medicaid expansion. (18 other states with Republican governors have it. We need it here.)

Refer to an earlier post for how to find and contact your state legislators. They will be reading email, even when they are not in Pierre, like this 3-day weekend. You can honor MLK day by speaking up for the marginalized and vulnerable in our society.


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