Task force plan to make constitutional changes tougher

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - The Initiative and Referendum Task Force has done what they can leading up to the 2018 legislative session which begins in two weeks.

They were appointed by the South Dakota legislature to consider whether or not there should be changes in the initiative and referendum process.

After meeting over the summer, the group came up with seven bills, which are now proposed bills for the 2018 legislative session.

The task force looked at a number of issues, including whether to increase the percentage of votes required to pass a constitutional amendment. Right now it takes a straight majority or 50 percent plus one.

Initiative and Referendum Task Force Member, Linda Lea Viken, says “there was agreement by the task force, not unanimous, that it be raised to 55%. That's an interesting legal question if it happens on this election that, that passes. There is also some initiated measures, so the question becomes: does the initiated measures on this ballot have to be at 55% for constitutional amendments. It's a question yet to be decided.”

Although Viken is a Rapid City Lawyer, the task force is made up of a variety of people with a variety of opinions.

“Our chair was a professor from Sioux Falls, we had, I believe two senators and two house members from different parties. We had someone from the municipal league. We had two members, I was one of the members from the board of elections, and then we had members from the general public" states Viken.

This citizen’s review board was put in place to make sure the government of the state is following the will of the people.

"Sometimes the legislature does what you want them to do or what you think they should do, and sometimes it doesn't. This safeguard put in our constitution was so that people would have an avenue if the legislature passed something that they didn't feel was appropriate, that they had an opportunity to have the entire voting population of South Dakota consider it instead of the 105 legislators and so it's a check and balance system is what it really is,” explains Viken.

Viken says although the committee made some progress, most committee members would like to see additional changes in the future.