PIERRE | It would seem highly unlikely that the U.S. Supreme Court would pay attention to the South Dakota House of Representatives.
But the 70 members of our state House voted 60-10 Thursday to ask the nine justices to revisit the decision made 40 years ago striking state laws restricting a woman's right to seek an abortion.
The House resolution seeks that Roe v. Wade be overturned and “allow this issue to be decided at the state level as it was prior to January 22, 1973.”
There is nothing legally binding in a concurrent resolution from our Legislature. But the roll-call vote told a great deal about the make-up of the chamber’s membership.
The Legislature clearly turned more conservative in the 2012 elections. It didn’t become more one-sided in a partisan sense. There are again 81 Republicans and 24 Democrats this year, just as there were last term (the one independent who caucused with the Republicans last term is officially a Republican this term).
What the 2013 session has shown so far is a much more segmented Republican Party taking shape in South Dakota. The influences of Ron Paul’s presidential campaign, the Libertarian Party and the tea (taxed enough already) party can be seen.
In the Roe v. Wade resolution, the supremacy of the anti-abortion movement in the House was in full display. More so, it was evident among members of both political parties.
All 53 Republicans in the House voted for the resolution that Rep. Jim Bolin, R-Canton, brought. Of the 17 House Democrats, seven voted for the resolution. The 10 votes against the resolution came only from Democrats.
The resolution now goes to the Senate for its consideration. The lead sponsor there is Sen. Phil Jensen, R-Rapid City. He previously served in the House and is one of the Senate’s 11 new members among its 35. There is no indication the Senate will be any less anti-abortion than it was last term.
That was largely ensured during the Republican primaries last June, when Jeff Monroe of Pierre was elected over Tad Perry for an open Senate seat, and Bob Ewing of Spearfish defeated incumbent Tom Nelson of Lead.
There are two constitutional amendments proposed this session that reflect two other points of conservative philosophy in the Legislature.
One is the higher bar that Sen. Corey Brown, R-Gettysburg, is attempting to set for tax increases.
The South Dakota Constitution already requires a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber of the Legislature for a tax increase or a new tax. Brown, who is the Senate’s No. 2 presiding officer after the lieutenant governor, wants to expand that requirement.
Brown’s amendment would require the two-thirds vote if a tax were to be extended beyond its ending date.
An example this session is the additional one-half cent of sales tax on tourism goods and services that will expire June 30 without further action by the Legislature.
Brown’s amendment also would apply the two-thirds requirement to votes of the people when a tax increase is on the election ballot.
An example last year was the additional 1 cent of sales tax sought for Medicaid and K-12 schools. It was rejected, but a simple majority of voters — 50 percent plus one — could have increased a tax that would have needed a two-thirds majority in each of the House and the Senate.
Brown’s proposal, SJR2, would deliver consistency on tax policy in South Dakota. It also would further embed in the constitution a conservative line of defense against higher taxes.
As a final step to that end, the Brown amendment would require that any change in those two-thirds requirements in the constitution would need a two-thirds majority of the voters.
A hearing date hasn’t been scheduled yet by the Senate Taxation Committee on the Brown amendment. The Senate and the House have to agree to put it on the 2014 election ballot. Then the decision would be up to the voters.