- Associated Press - Friday, February 6, 2015

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The author of a proposal that would’ve increased the number of signatures required for South Dakota citizens to propose a change to state law pulled the bill in response to heavy criticism on Friday.

Sen. Corey Brown proposed the bill that would’ve changed how many signatures are required to get a measure on the ballot. Currently, a petition needs at least 5 percent of the number of actual voters in the last gubernatorial election. Brown’s bill would’ve changed that number to 5 percent of registered voters.

There were about 521,000 registered voters in 2014, but only about 282,000 actually voted.

Brown said Friday that he introduced the bill in order to change the amount of signatures needed back to what’s required by the state constitution. He said that lawmakers had changed the amount to the current requirement and that only the courts have that power. Leaving the current requirement in place, he said, could leave the state open to a court challenge.

Brown’s proposal received heavy criticism from voters who said he was restricting the power of citizens. Former U.S. Senate candidates Rick Weiland and Gordon Howie - who agree on little politically - combined forces to rally against the measure and urged people to oppose the bill.

“It’s just unfortunate that Sen. Brown thought he could raise the bar so high that the chances are we wouldn’t see another ballot initiative on a South Dakota ballot,” Weiland said Friday.

Brown said Friday he asked to suspend the bill because it had garnered critics that were “calling the Capitol, talking to high school pages and cursing and yelling at high school students.”

“Given everything else that we have to deal with this session, I don’t think that the Legislature needs that distraction in order to get our other work done,” he said.

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