South Dakotans may have the chance to repeat history this November.
And so, too, may South Dakota legislators.
Last week, the secretary of state's office certified a new initiative targeting government corruption. The initiative will appear as Amendment W on this November's ballot ...
Well, maybe. The approval of the initiative for the ballot could still be challenged. The deadline for that is Jan. 29.
Who would challenge it?
A reasonable guess might be the same people who scuttled Initiated Measure 22 (IM 22) after it was passed by voters in 2016. As you recall, several state lawmakers opposed the measure — which placed restrictions of lobbyists, limits on donations and created an ethics commission — and took it to court on the grounds that portions of it were unconstitutional.
Lawmakers then scrapped the measure during last winter's legislative session. While some ethics measures were subsequently passed as a means of at least trying to honor the spirit of IM 22, the overall outcome still irritated a lot of voters. And that opened the door for Amendment W.
The image of lawmakers repealing a publicly approved measure to limit government corruption was not a good or encouraging one. Neither are some legislative stirrings since then to make it tougher for citizens to place measures on the ballot. One proposal making the rounds would bar out-of-state money to be used in initiative campaigns, while another proposal would make it more difficult to enact constitutional changes through public votes. Both ideas would need to be approved by voters in order to be enacted.
Frankly, it's little wonder that such efforts by lawmakers are criticized as the "political establishment's ongoing effort to undermine and disrespect South Dakota voters," according to Doug Kronaizl of the group Represent South Dakota.
Thus, Amendment W seems like the latest prodigious yank in a tug of war between voters and lawmakers, which may be an unfair way to characterize it, but the perception does exist. While the voters have voiced their support for ethics reform — albeit with just 51 percent support for IM 22, which is still a majority — several lawmakers have continually worked to resist the measures. Some of the reasons for this may be sound, but the spirit of what voters want should not be dismissed.
The best guess at this point is that Amendment W stands a good chance of passage this November, and this time, probably with more than 51 percent of the vote. The fate of IM 22 will haunt the ethics debate in this state for some time to come.
If some lawmakers decide to challenge Amendment W's existence, and/or proceed with passing measures that make it tougher for voters to generate change via the ballot box, the public's displeasure will mushroom.
So, the tug of war continues as we move from 2017 into 2018. And right now, there's no end in sight.