South Dakota Democratic Legislative Leaders Respond to Progress Made in Respecting the Will of the Voters

February 24, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. – At their weekly press conference yesterday, State Senate Democratic Leader Sen. Billie Sutton of Burke and State House Democratic Leader Spence Hawley of Brookings responded to the progress made this week in their efforts to honor the will of the voters by advancing campaign finance reform and government ethics reform this Legislative Session. These efforts continue years of Democratic efforts to reform government ethics and campaign finance in South Dakota, and were made more urgent after the Republican majority in Pierre overturned Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act passed by the voters in November, without a replacement in place.

“After the majority party in Pierre repealed Initiated Measure 22 without a replacement in place, Democrats in Pierre have been doing everything we can to fulfill our moral obligation and responsibility to honor the will of the voters and pass meaningful campaign finance and government ethics reform this session,” said Hawley. “This week, we did see some significant progress on the goal of reforming government ethics. Unfortunately, there was also a big setback in the efforts to reform campaign finance laws and reign in the influence of big money on South Dakota politics.”

“The good news is that HB 1076, which creates a Government Accountability Board, passed through the full House this week. We’re pleased that this bill – very similar to bills brought in the past by Democrats which were killed by the majority party – passed the House with some strong bi-partisan support, and has bi-partisan sponsors in the Senate,” Hawley said.

Sutton said the news was not so good in the area of campaign finance reform.

“Last week, Democratic efforts to amend SB 54 to reinstate the contribution limits passed by the voters in IM22, were defeated along party lines in the Senate State Affairs Committee.  Not only did the majority party defeat these efforts to respect the voters’ wishes to limit the influence of big money on South Dakota politics, they also railroaded through the committee several last-minute amendments which raised the already lax contribution limits proposed in the original bill,” Sutton said.

Sutton also noted that when Democrats tried to bring the amendment to reinstate the contribution limits of IM 22 on the Senate floor the Republicans tabled the amendment, allowing no debate.

“Democrats believe the will of the people on campaign finance deserved to have a debate on the Senate floor. I guess the majority party didn’t feel the people’s voice deserved to be heard. In its current form SB 54, doesn’t just ignore the will of the people, it opens the flood gates once again for big money to influence our elections,” said Sutton.

Despite this setback, Sutton and Hawley pledged Democrats would continue to work to respect the will of the voters and do whatever they could to pass meaningful campaign finance legislation.

“We Democrats have introduced bills to reform government ethics and campaign finance laws for years, and we will continue to make good-faith efforts to work with the majority party to make the kind of reforms in campaign finance and government ethics called for by the voters in November,” Sutton said. “We call on our friends across the aisle to do the same.”

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