- Associated Press - Thursday, January 25, 2018

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - South Dakota’s House speaker on Thursday proposed a measure that would ask voters to end their ability to bypass the Legislature to pursue changes to the state constitution.

Rep. Mark Mickelson said his proposal would better align the amendment process for South Dakota’s constitution with how changes to the U.S. constitution are handled. He said the constitution is “pretty sacred.”

South Dakota citizens can currently gather signatures to put their own constitutional changes to a public vote. Mickelson’s amendment would remove that power, leaving only the Legislature with the authority to propose changes. Amendments must get voter approval.

Mitch Richter, co-sponsor of a proposed government ethics amendment that would block the Legislature from unilaterally changing the state’s ballot question system, said Mickelson must be “scared of what the people would propose.”

“It’s just shocking to me that he would take that step along with other legislators to repeal the whole process,” Richter said.

Mickelson’s plan is among several at the Legislature that would make it harder to change the constitution. The Republican lawmaker said he wants it to be part of the conversation this year.

“This idea will be perceived as being kind of the far end of the spectrum, I’m sure, because we’re taking away the right of the people to amend our state constitution by a simple majority vote,” Mickelson said.

A different measure would ask voters to increase the majority vote threshold required for a constitutional change to 55 percent of the votes cast. Senate lawmakers approved that measure this week, advancing it to the state House.

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