- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 13, 2016

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - The South Dakota attorney general’s office is trying to salvage parts of a voter-approved government ethics overhaul after a state judge put the new law on hold while a court challenge moves forward.

Attorney General Marty Jackley’s office and the wide-ranging law’s sponsors asked the court in legal filings this week to save certain provisions of the law, including lower caps on campaign contributions, tougher lobbying regulations and more frequent campaign finance reporting requirements.

They contend those provisions can stand alone without portions of the law deemed unconstitutional by the court. Voters narrowly approved the ballot measure in November after backers billed it as an anti-corruption package that would improve transparency.

Circuit Judge Mark Barnett last week issued a preliminary injunction, delaying the entire law’s implementation at the request of a group of two dozen Republican lawmakers and others who challenged it in a lawsuit filed against the state.

Opponents of the measure argue that provisions of the law, including an ethics commission, public campaign funding and limitations on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers, run afoul of the state or federal constitutions - or both.

Barnett ruled that those provisions may be unconstitutional and put the law on pause until a final judgment is made. But he also invited input on portions of the overhaul that could be “saved,” saying his injunction could be amended.

Jackley’s office and the law’s sponsors argue for re-instituting provisions such as increasing to two years a ban on private lobbying by former state officials and high-level employees after they leave government, changing the penalty for bribery from a misdemeanor to a felony and requiring disclosure of the identity of someone who gives $100 or more to an organization for use in an independent expenditure.

Those who brought the court challenge face a Wednesday deadline to file their arguments on the issue.


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