A Tiger By the Tail [OPINION]
Members of the Committee:
You have a tiger by the tail. Actually, several of them.
A quick introduction: I am Rick Knobe, Independent from Sioux Falls. I served as Mayor here from 1974 to 1984. Been in the trenches of government. Currently, I do talk radio. Viewpoint University on KSOO radio, 1140 on the A.M. dial. and at www.ksoo.com
Also, I was one of the folks who worked to pass Amendment V(for voter) this past election cycle.
Now on to the subject matter at hand.
You have several bills in your lap dealing with changing the rules of engagement on Initiative, Referendum, and the Constitution. At last count, I think the number is six. Allegedly, more are coming.
As a citizen and voter, I am concerned the impact each of these bills and their totality, will have on the citizen's right to determine our destiny.
I could easily take time to explain why the ten issues made it to the ballot last time, and why some passed when others didn't. Suffice it to say, it is obvious the voters are restless, just like in the rest of the country.
The proposals before you appear to be a knee jerk reaction to the last election cycle. Responding in that way, while human, is not necessarily the best way to do the public's business.
All of us want good government. Most of us embrace the "Under God, the People Rule" state motto.
I think there is some anger, some fear, and maybe some revenge in proposals before you.
Understandable, but again, not a good way to govern.
Here is my suggestion:
You folks, with the Governor, and at times, the Judicial branch, have created working groups(task forces) to study complicated issues affecting the citizens of our state. Those groups have been made up of regular citizens, experts, and government people. Their work has contributed to making South Dakota better.
I suggest the same approach be taken with the concern about Initiative and Referendum, and changing the Constitution. A group of 18 people, including, six legislators, a rep from the administration, with the balance being citizens of ALL political stripes, should be given the responsibility of digging into the statutes and constitution, and offer suggestions on how to make the system more responsive to the realities of today's world.
Staff for this effort could come from the LRC, Sect of State, and Gov's staff.
A higher requirement for signatures and adding a geographic component might sound good, but does that take away from regular folks ability to petition and only leave it to people with lots of money(most likely from out of state)? Increasing the percentage needed to approve changes might also sound good, but what does that do to majority rule in our democracy?
I think I am only scratching the surface here.
If the legislature approves measures making the task of getting things on the ballot more difficult, I believe the pushback from voters will be strong.
Likewise, raising the percentage of voter approval to make changes will also be met with resistance.
Finally, declaring, any of these ideas as "emergencies" will send a strong and wrong message to the voters, that you don't trust, or even like them. Not a good position to be in.
Please consider my idea. Citizen thought, ideas, and input are a hallmark of good government. Any changes in the voter's right and ability to express themselves at the ballot box, should be done, not in haste, but with deliberation and diligence including those affected.
Rick W. Knobe
Sioux Falls, S.D. 57106