- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Supporters of a proposed South Dakota constitutional amendment that would make it harder for the Legislature to tamper with voter initiatives hope to start building support soon to get on the ballot.

Attorney General Marty Jackley released an explanation for the proposal Monday, a step required before petition gatherers can spread out across the state. Roxanne Weber, a co-sponsor of the new amendment, said she hopes backers start collecting signatures this month.

“We’re going to go full force with getting signatures,” said Weber, a software engineer in Pierre. “I’m anticipating the interest is going to get much bigger as we move along.”

Supporters also plan to hold campaign kick-off forums next month in Aberdeen, Rapid City and Sioux Falls, Weber said.

The measure’s provisions include requiring a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber to repeal or amend ballot initiatives for seven years after they become law. Backers borrowed that language from North Dakota, which is among at least 10 states that have provisions to protect citizens’ initiatives from lawmakers.

“The people ought to have a chance to see how their proposals actually function, see the difference that they make,” said Cory Heidelberger, a liberal blogger and amendment supporter.

Weber has said she hopes to harness anger over lawmakers’ repeal this year of a voter-approved ethics measure to advance the cause.

When lawmakers passed a bill scrubbing the ethics measure from law during the 2017 session, it contained an emergency provision that made the repeal take effect immediately and blocked voters from referring it to the ballot. Under the proposed amendment, a law passed with an emergency clause could be taken to a public vote.

It would cap the number of signatures required to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot at no more than 10 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election. The amendment would also require some legislative changes to the initiative process such as altering the number of people required to put a question on the ballot to go to a public vote.

South Dakota amendment supporters would have to submit nearly 28,000 valid signatures to the secretary of state by November 2017 for the amendment to appear on the 2018 ballot.

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