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PIERRE | If you don’t like South Dakota’s current state government, or want to improve it, proposed changes will be on the statewide election ballot this fall.

The measure, known as W, is a proposed amendment to the state constitution. It seeks to limit campaign contributions, prohibit political giving from labor unions and corporations, ban lobbyists from making gifts to senior public officials, create a new ethics board and requiring statewide votes on changes to the ballot-measure process.

Sen. Billie Sutton, the Democratic candidate for governor this year, suggested many similar changes Wednesday. Sutton offered his “Restoring Trust and Integrity Plan” in a teleconference with news reporters.

There was a somewhat similar proposal in 2016 known as IM 22. South Dakota voters approved it 180,634 to 169,199.

Some Republican legislators and spouses challenged it in circuit court and received a preliminary ruling. Before the South Dakota Supreme Court could decide, many Republican members of the Legislature repealed it.

The Legislature’s Republicans and Democrats later reinstated some provisions. Some pieces, such as the Government Accountability Board, proved restricted. Others, such as publicly subsidized election campaigns, weren’t revived.

Amendment W doesn’t attempt to bring back public funding for campaigns. That is an important difference.

Amendment W came from the same petition-bearing forces that Doug Kronaizl of Vermillion led for IM 22. The Amendment W campaign has former legislators Mitch Richter, a Republican, and Darrell Solberg, a Democrat, as leaders.

IM 22 was an initiated law and therefore could be repealed by lawmakers, Amendment W would amend the state constitution. Only South Dakota registered voters can change the state constitution.

That is another key difference. Facing a change to the state constitution, opponents of Amendment W likely will be better organized and more active this summer and fall, than opponents of IM 22 were two years ago.

Because Amendment W wouldn’t be subject to the Legislature’s current super-majorities of Republicans, voter registration trends become significant.

Voter registration as of May 1 was 247,235 Republicans; 157,160 Democrats; 121,379 without party registrations or independents; 1,719 Libertarians; 468 Constitutionalists; and 786 others.

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The trends during the past decade generally have been these: Republicans slowly increasing; Democrats continually falling; and no-party and independent voters rising as fast, or faster, than Republicans.

IM 22, it should be noted, lost in most of the 66 counties including Codington, Davison and Hughes. But it passed in Minnehaha, Pennington, Brown, Lawrence and Yankton.

Sutton faces the winner of the June 5 Republican primary between state Attorney General Marty Jackley and U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem. Primary voting opened April 20.

Jackley and Noem debated Tuesday night at a Republican-oriented event in Sioux Falls. There wasn’t a clear winner. Jackley walked the stage each time he answered a question. Noem on the other hand answered each question from her chair, one knee over the other.

None of the three has declared a running mate. Jackley, as state law requires from the attorney general, wrote the ballot explanation for Amendment W (available at https://bit.ly/2JOMASG). Come November, Sutton would have Amendment W on his side.

Bob Mercer is the state capitol correspondent for the Rapid City Journal. He can be reached by emailing bobmercer2014@gmail.com.

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