Tag Archive | "South Dakota"

Ballot Law Update: Ballot law a focal point in the Dakotas

February 27, 2013

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By Eric Veram

Since the beginning of the year, we have tracked 125 proposed laws in 31 states affecting the initiative and referendum process. The Ballot Law Update is released on the last Wednesday of each month. Stay tuned to the Tuesday Count for weekly ballot law news.

Recent news

South Dakota legislature proposes amendment aimed at limiting ballot measures’ effect on taxes: A proposed constitutional amendment, sponsored by Senator Corey Brown would limit voters’ ability to pass new taxes or raise existing ones via the the ballot measure process. The amendment would require a two-thirds majority to do so, the same requirement the legislature must meet in order to increase taxes. The measure was passed on to the full state senate by a 6-1 vote from the Senate Tax Committee. If approved by both chambers, the measure would move on to the 2014 general election ballot.[1]

A Democratic supermajority in the California legislature might mean changes to the initiative process: According to reports, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg has several initiative reforms in the works and may unveil some of them by the end of February. One proposed reform would involve removing the current requirement of a two-thirds majority to place tax increases on the ballot. Another proposed reform is re-instigating a process known as “indirect initiative.” This form of initiative would allow the state legislature to amend initiatives or pass their own versions if the measures’ proponents agree to it. Sources have also mentioned a possible proposal to restrict the current trend of high-donor financing of ballot measures. Supporters of the reforms say that they would make the initiative process more streamlined and would create a better process for passing state budgets.[2]

Proposal in Michigan seeks to open up more bills to referendum: On Friday, February 15, the Board of State Canvassers approved the petition of an initiated constitutional amendment that would remove the protection currently afforded bills containing appropriations that protects them from being subject to referendum. The measure was filed by the group Voters for Fair Use of Ballot Referendum. The measure is a response to a series of controversial bills passed late 2012 which had appropriations added to them in order to circumvent popular repeals similar to the referendum campaign that did away with Public Act 4. The “right-to-work” law and the revised emergency manager law were among legislation passed after the general election in 2012 that included appropriations making them referendum-proof. According to reports, the effort has little financial backing and will depend primarily on grassroots efforts to collect the required 322,609 by July 2014.[3]

North Dakota legislature debates amendment regulating initiatives: A proposal is currently in committee in the North Dakota House of Representatives that would greatly affect the initiative process in the state. Coming on the heels of a scandal last year involving signature fraud committed by paid petition circulators, the proposal, HCR 3011, would prohibit paid petitioners, raise the number of signatures required for referrals and initiatives, and require a minimum number of signatures from 50% of the counties in the state. Another notable aspect of the amendment is that it requires that any measure determined to have a fiscal impact of $20 million or more be submitted during a general election. If the proposal clears the legislature, it will go to voters in 2014.

Missouri sees push to re-establish campaign contribution limits: Voters in Missouri first approved limits on how much could be donated to political campaigns in 1994 with Proposition A. That law was repealed, however, by the Republican-controlled legislature in 2008. Though many members of the legislature are not in favor of reinstating the limits, Governor Jay Nixon has declared his intentions to pursue a ballot initiative doing just that if lawmakers don’t. Representative Kevin McManus has filed a bill that would limit the amount of cash that can be spent by lobbyists on gifts, meals, and trips for public officials, but it remains to be seen how far it will go.[4]

Court actions

Federal judge upholds Minnesota law outlawing lying in political campaigns: On January 25, U.S. District Judge Ann Montgomery ruled in favor of upholding the Minnesota Fair Campaign Act. The law makes it a gross misdemeanor for anyone to intentionally disseminate campaign information, including that related to ballot measures, that they know is false. The law was challenged in 2008 by 281 CARE Committee and the Citizens for Quality Education who claimed that free-speech rights were violated, as well as their ability to participate in political debate. Initially the lawsuit was dismissed, but a reversal by the 8th Circuit Court brought it back before a federal district judge. Judge Montgomery ruled against the group saying, “Over a century ago, the Minnesota legislature implemented minimal, narrow restrictions against knowingly false speech about political candidates in an effort to protect the debates between honestly held beliefs that are at the core of the First Amendment. For nearly a quarter of a century, these restrictions have also applied to statements regarding ballot initiatives. The ballot provisions in Minn. Stat. § 211B.06 reflect a legislative judgment on behalf of Minnesotan citizens to guard against the malicious manipulation of the political process. The court finds that the provisions at issue are narrowly tailored to serve this compelling interest.”[5]

[edit] Bills to watch

North Dakota considers harsher penalties for petition fraud: North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger has proposed a bill that would enact harsher punishments for those caught committing signature fraud in the state. The bill, which is sponsored by Representative Patrick Hatlestad, would increase the maximum allowable punishment from one year in jail and a $2,000 fine to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine. The proposal is in response to a scandal in 2012 where both the Medical Marijuana Initiative and the Oil Taxes for Wildlife Projects Amendment were declared invalid after Jaeger discovered that several members of the North Dakota State University football team had forged signatures on submitted petitions. Jaeger compared committing petition fraud to voter disenfranchisement, saying, “A group worked their tail off to put something before the voters and had a small group take that away from them.”[6]

Alabama legislature considers implementing recall process: The Alabama legislature is currently considering is currently considering placing a constitutional amendment on the ballot that would allow for legislation to be drafted that would permit the recall of elected state officials. Unlike the majority of other states that permit the recall of state officials, Alabama’s proposed law would not allow recalls without evidence of wrongdoing. According to reports, a recall under the proposal could only be initiated if the incumbent was charged with any of the following: Malfeasance or nonfeasance, lack of physical or mental fitness, incompetence or violation of an oath of office. The measure is sponsored by Senator Roger Bedford (D-Russellville) and can be found here.[7]

Approved legislation

So far, no initiative and referendum related legislation has been approved this year. This section will be updated as the year progresses.

South Dakota governor signs bill reforming criminal justice system

February 12, 2013

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February 11, 2013

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed into law on February 6, 2013 a plan to cut the state’s prison costs by treating more nonviolent offenders through intensive probation, parole and other programs outside prison walls.[1]

The bill came after a study warned of the rising population and costs of the state’s prison system.[2] Officials warned that at the going incarceration rate South Dakota was poised to construct another state penitentiary.[2]

The plan to reform the criminal justice system, set forth as SB 70, also known as the South Dakota Public Safety Improvement Act, will use intensive probation and parole, along with expanded special courts that treat drug and alcohol offenders, in an effort to divert offenders from prison and prevent them from committing future crimes.[1]

With this new reform, those who may be doing time for drug and alcohol offenses may have a chance to get out and be on parole, and a part of a rehab program. It is thought that this will reduce the incarceration rate, hold off building new prisons, and save the state millions.[3]

Gov. Daugaard commented on the new law, “It recognizes that we do need prisons for violent offenders, for career and chronic offenders, but it shouldn’t be a place for non-violent offenders.”[3]

Daugaard also said by having offenders in rehab programs, instead of being incarcerated, it will make them less of a threat to the public because they may learn how to deal with their addictions and not drag others into it and that he is aware of those who may violate their parole and get put back in prison, but he said he believes more people will show it was a good thing these changes were made.[3]

The bill experienced some opposition in the house.[2] The bill initially removed preliminary hearings for people charged with Class I Misdemeanors, and an amendment was proposed to reinstate those hearings. Opponents claimed excluding preliminary hearings was unjust and would lead to more costs in hearings and trials down the road.[2]

South Dakota House passes bill allowing school districts to arm teachers

January 30, 2013

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January 30, 2013

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: A bill that would allow school districts to arm teachers and other personnel with guns was approved on January 29 by the South Dakota House of Representatives after supporters said it could make would-be attackers think twice about entering a school building.[1][2]

Representatives voted 42-17 to send the measure to the Senate for further debate.[1]

Supporters of the bill say school boards need the option of arming teachers, administrators or volunteers to protect against attacks like last month’s school shooting in Connecticut.[2]

The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Scott Craig argued that the possibility that a school may have armed protectors could deter attacks.[2] ”The measure leaves it up to each school board to decide whether to train and arm teachers and others. Schools are now inviting targets for potential mass murderers because they are considered gun-free zones”, he said.[1]

Opponents of the bill argue that guns in schools would make those schools more dangerous. They say arming teachers could lead to accidental shootings.[3]

Rep. Ray Ring stated that he opposes arming school personnel because it’s more likely to lead to accidental shootings than to stopping attackers. He noted that associations representing local school boards, school administrators and teachers oppose the bill.[1][2]

“Educators believe arming teachers and volunteers with minimal training will erode the learning environment without significantly improving security,” Ring said.[1]

Rep. Steve Hickey pointed out other areas of concern. Hickey argued that arming school personnel in some districts is only part of an overall approach to school safety. Some schools need to make their entrances more secure, and more mental health counseling is needed for students.[1]

South Dakota political leaders take stands as session begins

January 14, 2013

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January 14, 2013

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: Key political leaders in South Dakota took political stands before the 2013 session officially began.[1]

Governor Dennis Daugaard and state senator Corey Brown said on January 7 that the Legislature ”needs to be cautious in its budget work during the 2013 session,” adding that it’s possible that lawmakers will need to come back later in the spring to further adjust the 2014 budget.[1]

Democratic representative Bernie Hunhoff disagreed, urging more spending by the Legislature in the 2013 session, and suggested that lawmakers provide more money in state aid to schools and should adopt the Medicaid expansion available to state governments under the federal Affordable Care Act.[1][2]

Daugaard predicted “a day of reckoning” for the federal government and he said South Dakota must “be very careful” to prepare for federal budget cuts.[1] Approximately 40 percent of state government’s $4 billion budget comes from federal aid of various sorts.

“I don’t think we can rely on the federal government having the money tomorrow, because right now they don’t have it,” Daugaard said.[1]

State senator Brown said South Dakota would face an estimated $50 million to $70 million in federal reductions to state government under the fiscal-cliff cuts that will take effect if Congress doesn’t reach a new deal this spring.[1]

Another key discussion facing the Legislature in 2013 is whether to spend all of the one-time revenue that is expected to be available from unexpected windfalls, such as bank taxes.[2]

The 2013 session opened on January 7 and runs for 38 working days.

Ballotpedia’s 2012 General Election Review Articles: South Dakota Congressional Seats

December 05, 2012

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By Ballotpedia’s Congressional team


MADISON, Wisconsin: South Dakota had one U.S. House seat on the ballot in 2012, an at-large district which encompasses the entire state. The incumbent for the district sought re-election on November 6, 2012 and was re-elected to the office. The seat is a strong Republican one and did not have any strong opposition from other parties.

Here is the candidate who won election in South Dakota.

District General Election Candidates Incumbent 2012 Winner Partisan Switch?
At-large Democratic Party (United States) Matt Varilek
Republican Party Kristi Noem
Kristi Noem Republican Party Kristi Noem No
Members of the U.S. House from South Dakota — Partisan Breakdown
Party As of November 2012 After the 2012 Election
Democratic Party 0 0
Republican Party 1 1
Total 1 1

Margin of victory for winners

There were a total of 1 seats up for election in 2012 in South Dakota. The following table shows the margin of victory for each district winner, which is calculated by examining the percentage difference between the top-two vote getters. If the race was uncontested, the margin of victory is listed as 100%.

District Winner Margin of Victory Total Vote Top Opponent
U.S. House, South Dakota, At-large District General Election Republican Party Kristi Noem 14.9% 361,429 Matt Varilek

National picture

Both chambers of the United States Congress remain split after the November 6, 2012 election. Democrats increased their majority in the U.S. Senate while cutting into the Republicans majority in theU.S. House. Of the 435 candidates who won election to the U.S. House, 85 of them were challengers, which represents 19.5 percent of U.S. House members. Of those 85, 50 are Democratic and 35 are Republican. A total of 27 incumbents were defeated — 10 Democratic and 17 Republican.

2012 United States House Election Results
Party Incumbent Winners Challenger Winners Total Winners Defeated Incumbents
Democratic 151 50 201 10
Republican 198 35 234 17
TOTALS 349 85 435 27
U.S. Senate Partisan Breakdown
Party As of November 2012 After the 2012 Election
Democratic Party 51 53
Republican Party 47 45
Independent 2 2
Total 100 100
U.S. House Partisan Breakdown
Party As of November 2012 After the 2012 Election
Democratic Party 193 201
Republican Party 242 234
Total 435 435

Father and daughter will serve together in South Dakota state house

November 29, 2012

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By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: Incumbent Jenna Haggar and her father Don Haggar will serve together in the next session of the South Dakota House of Representatives.[1]

The Haggars defeated Dave Munson in the Republican primary on June 5 to advance to the general election on November 6, 2012.[1] They then defeated Jo Hausman and Brian Parsons in the general election.[2][3][4]

The two Haggars did all their campaigning together. “It’s like the Olympics, we’re looking for the gold and silver, we’re on the same team,” Don Haggar commented.[1]

Jenna Haggar said, “I think Dad probably wanted me to win more than he wanted himself to win and I definitely wanted my dad to come at successful as well, and so I think the most ideal situation happened in which we were both able to get elected.”[1]

Jenna Haggar‘s grandfather, Don Haggar, Sr., also served in the South Dakota State Legislature during the 1950′s.[1]

The Haggars will represent District 10 in the South Dakota House of Representatives.[1]

South Dakota Government Fails Transparency Test

November 13, 2012

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Today, Sunshine Review, a nonprofit, pro-transparency organization, released a state transparency analysis for South Dakota’s government websites.  Graded on a 10-point transparency checklist, South Dakota’s scored an overall “C,” while the five largest school districts averaged a “D”.

“Only two states, Nebraska and West Virginia, achieved a lower transparency rating than South Dakota. The state website as well as many of their city and county websites fall well short of the transparency every taxpayer in South Dakota deserves,” said Sunshine Review’s President Michael Barnhart.  “It is now up to the elected officials in South Dakota to put in the necessary resources into their online transparency and improve their rankings across the board.”

Sunshine Review’s state rankings are based on content available on government websites against what should be provided. The checklist seeks information on items such as budgets, meetings, lobbying, financial audits, contracts, academic performance, public records and taxes.

The South Dakota’s state website earned a “B-” grade, accounting for half of South Dakota’s overall grade. Sunshine Review also analyzed the websites of the five largest counties, which averaged a “D.” The five largest cities, plus the capital,  earned a “C-” and the ten largest school districts earned a “D” average.

Out of the 45 states analyzed by Sunshine Review, South Dakota’s ranked 43rd in transparency. South Dakota’s state website failed to make public information on taxpayer funded lobbying, recent budgets and how to request public records. Looking at local scores, the city of Sioux Falls earned a “C-“ and Rapid City earned a “B.”

Information on the individual cities, counties, and schools can be found by clicking on the below links.



School Districts:

Ballotpedia’s 2012 General Election Preview Articles: Central Regional State Executive Officials

November 02, 2012

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November 1, 2012

By Ballotpedia’s State executive officials team

Portal:State Executive Officials
See also: Nebraska state executive official elections, 2012
See also: Oklahoma state executive official elections, 2012
See also: South Dakota state executive official elections, 2012
See also: Texas state executive official elections, 2012

MADISON, Wisconsin: Several states in the central region of the country are holding state executive official elections in 2012. Because there are only a small selection of races in Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Texas, we are combining their previews into one regional article. Each state will be highlighted below in the relevant tab.



 Candidates for Public Service Commission


See also: Nebraska down ballot state executive elections, 2012
Republican Party Frank Landis (R) District 1 Incumbent
Republican Party Tim Schram (R) District 3 Incumbent

Two state executive positions are up for election this year in the state of Nebraska. Voters will make their choice for two Public Service Commissioners on November 6th.

In District 1 incumbent Frank Landis (R) is running for re-election. He was unopposed in the primary and will also be unopposed in the general election. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, he is guaranteed re-election. Landis first assumed office in 1988.[1]

In District 3 incumbent Tim Schram (R) is also running for re-election. Likewise, he was unopposed in the primary and will also be unopposed in the general election. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, he is also guaranteed re-election. Schram first assumed office in 2007. [2]

In Nebraska, all polling locations will be open from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm central time and 7:00 am to 7:00 pm mountain time.[3] Nebraska is divided between Central and Mountain time zones.

South Dakota Governor will not intervene in upcoming executions

October 16, 2012

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October 15, 2012

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: Governor Dennis Daugaard of South Dakota announced on October 11, 2012 that he would not intervene to stop the scheduled executions of two men, Eric Robert and Donald Moeller.[1]

Daugaard commented by email from his office in Pierre saying that he had no reason to alter the decision of the courts.[1] “The death penalty is the law in South Dakota, and I support it. The state has a solemn responsibility to carry out this penalty in the rare cases where it is applied.”[1]

The governor would have authority to intervene as the final step in a unique sequence of safeguards that apply to capital punishment in South Dakota.[1] Each case requires a judgment of guilt in court, a separate court proceeding to impose the death sentence, an automatic review by the state Supreme Court and the governor ultimately retains the option to lessen the sentence.[1]

Daugaard’s announcement came after the state’s two Roman Catholic bishops, the Rev. Paul Swain in Sioux Falls and the Rev. Robert Gruss in Rapid City, urged that the sentences be changed to life imprisonment and that the state repeal its death penalty law.[1]

Eric Donald Robert, age 50, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 10 p.m. on October 15, 2012 for the killing of prison guard Ronald Johnson during a failed escape attempt at the state penitentiary in Sioux Falls.[2] Robert was serving an 80-year sentence for a kidnapping conviction when he and another inmate attempted to escape.[3] Robert pleaded guilty on April 12, 2011 and asked to be put to death, saying he would kill again.[3] He never appealed his sentence and even tried to bypass a mandatory state review in hopes of expediting his death.[3]

Donald Moeller, age 60, is scheduled to die during the week of October 28 for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 9-year-old Becky O’Connell in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.[4]

South Dakota‘s last execution took place in 2007, and that was the first in the state for 60 years.[3] Only five inmates are currently on death row, including Robert and Moeller.[3]

Daugaard stated that state law allows him to conduct his own investigation, which he did with the cooperation of Attorney General Marty Jackley, before deciding not to intervene in the scheduled executions.[4]

South Dakota senator calls for Secretary of State to step down

October 01, 2012

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September 28, 2012

South Dakota

By Jennifer Springer

PIERRE, South Dakota: State senator Stan Adelstein is calling for the resignation of Secretary of State Jason Gant.[1] Adelstein says Gant violated state law when he failed to list opposing statements on several constitutional amendments appearing on 2012 general election ballots.[1]

On September 26, 2012, Adelstein asked Gant to alter a pamphlet his office issued explaining ballot questions. In a letter to GantAdelstein pointed out that he did not list opposing views to the four constitutional amendments on the November ballot in the pamphlet, as is required by state law. Adelstein also personally wrote an opposing view toConstitutional Amendment P, which calls for a balanced state budget, which he said should be included in a new pamphlet.[2]

Adelstein and various other house and senate representatives voted against the constitutional amendments dealing with cement plant funds and balanced budget requirements in February 2012. However, official documents on the Secretary of State’s website do not list any opposition on at least three amendments.[1]

“Its possible, because people they see ‘balanced budget’,they will see the argument for, they will not see any argument against, and they will check a box which will weaken- will weaken- the South Dakota budget,” said Adelstein.[1]

Adelstein has also criticized the Secretary of State for endorsing candidates in Republican primaries and remarked that the new Secretary of State did not understand his role in state government.[2] In his call for Gant to resign, Adelstein also commented on the hiring of former Minnehaha County Auditor Sue Roust in August as the interim elections director, replacing former elections director Aaron Loreznen, and the fact that Gant is paying her $10,000 a month, which is $1,585 a month more than Gov. Dennis Daugaard is paid.[2]

Gant is reportedly currently involved in a lawsuit regarding the alleged mishandling of election petitions.[1]

Previous claims from Adelstein about alleged illegal activity in the Secretary of State’s office were investigated by the Attorney General’s office and dismissed earlier this year.[1]