PIERRE | The South Dakota House decided Wednesday a special election should be held June 5 on a proposed change to victim’s rights in the state constitution.
The timing coincides with primary elections setting political party tickets for county, legislative and state offices in the November general election. Other proposed amendments and initiated laws will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.
The proposed change would tighten some terms in the Marsy’s Law provisions South Dakota voters approved in 2016. The Marsy’s Law organization supports the changes, according to Rep. Mark Mickelson, R-Sioux Falls.
Erinn Mahathey, a Marsy’s Law lobbyist, watched from the House gallery.
One proposed change would remove the statement that a victim shall have rights “beginning at the time of victimization” and insert the phrase “upon request.” Another would allow law enforcement to share information with the public for the purpose of solving the crime.
Because it is a joint resolution, Gov. Dennis Daugaard doesn’t get to review HJR 1004 and can’t try to stop it with a veto. He supports putting it on the June ballot to potentially save money for counties.
The House also gave final approval 58-9 for legislation appropriating $200,000 for the special election. HB 1162 also sets deadlines of:
• March 27 for the attorney general to provide the secretary of state an explanation of what the proposed amendment would do.
• April 11 for the secretary of state to deliver to county auditors the proposed amendment and related materials.
• May 1 for county auditors to mail a copy to each official newspaper.
“You’re going to save money, you’re going to solve problems back in your district. You’re going to improve turnout,” Mickelson, the House speaker, said.
House Democratic leader Spencer Hawley of Brookings said he originally agreed with putting the proposed amendment on the November ballot but opposed it in June.
“I cannot let the ends justify the means by doing this,” Hawley said.
County governments want the June date, according to Rep. Liz May, R-Kyle. “This is serious to them. They want us to resolve it,” she said. “My counties don’t have the money.”
Rep. Nancy York, R-Watertown, said the decision to hold the special election “made a lot of difference” for her. York said the Marsy’s Law organization intends to spend money on campaign advertising.
County governments could save many thousands of dollars compared with the state’s potential expense, York said.
Said Mickelson: “The feedback on this is, ‘Do it.’ This is a solution to a very real problem that is costing your local governments millions of dollars.”
House members also supported legislation that doubles the surcharge for victim services to $5. It also shifts the victim compensation commission to the state Department of Public Safety from the Department of Social Services.
The vote for HB 1160 was 64-3. The commission has been part of state government for decades. The two bills go to the governor for review.