By: Lis Fricker
In this time of heated political division, it seems that many Americans only agree on one thing: The need to drain the swamp in Washington, D.C.
But Washington isn’t the only place that needs a breath of fresh air. Pierre is broken, too. The ink has barely dried on the Legislature’s “emergency” repeal of Initiated Measure 22. IM22 was the ethics and campaign reform package that we, the voters of South Dakota, passed in 2016. But this November, we can pass important reforms that legislators can’t just discard.
IM22 was designed in response to the EB-5 and Gear Up corruption scandals, which shook the state and demonstrated the urgent need for reforms. These weren’t isolated events. The Center for Public Integrity gave S.D. an “F” on its corruption index in 2015, ranking it fourth-worst out of the 50 states. That’s why a bipartisan group of concerned citizens came together to call for common-sense changes to keep politicians from taking advantage of their positions. The proposals included an ethics commission and stronger campaign finance laws.
What came next is almost unbelievable. South Dakotans heard the information, weighed the facts and voted to fix the system. Then, the legislature decided that rules were for other people. Rather than waiting for the courts to do their job, legislators declared an “emergency” – a declaration usually reserved for an impending natural or manmade disaster. It granted them extraordinary power to ram through changes that undermined, weakened, or completely eliminated the reforms that voters approved. Whether you agree with these policies or not, this kind of disregard for the will of the people should and do concern everyone. Especially people like me, a student at the University of South Dakota – where so much of my academic and personal success hinges on decisions made by legislators. Because who knows what they’ll try next?
That’s why people like me, a Democrat and member of End Citizen’s United, and my friends from the opposite side of the aisle, are coming together to support the new Voter Protection and Anti-Corruption Amendment, which will be Amendment W on this year’s ballot.
Amendment W mandates an ethics commission with real teeth to hold politicians who abuse their power accountable. It stops those politicians from using state resources for their own personal gain. It bans foreigners, unions and corporations from spending in S.D. elections, so that citizens’ voices can be heard. And it requires the legislature to seek voter approval to overturn initiated measures that voters pass, to make sure that lawmakers never again override the voice of the people.
In December, the Secretary of State declared enough voters have signed a petition to ensure the Anti-Corruption Amendment will appear on the 2018 ballot. It’s clear that the legislature isn’t listening, so it’s time for the people to fix the state. Once voters have improved the laws to stop the flow of corrupting money into government and taken away their ability to crush reform efforts, politicians will have no choice but to listen to the will of the people.
At the end of the day, this fight for reform is bigger than ideology – it’s about making sure government serves every citizen fairly. Stand with the broad bipartisan coalition that supports clean government in S.D. Give every citizen a voice at every level of our democracy.
This November, don’t back down in the face of corruption and cynicism. Clean up Pierre by voting “yes” on Amendment W.