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Lawmakers Introduce Bill That Funds Primary Vote On Marsy's Law Adjustment


State lawmakers are introducing legislation last minute to accommodate a primary ballot question to adjust Marsy’s Law.

The bill instructs constitutional officers to prepare for the earlier vote, and appropriates funds to make that happen.

Critics of the move say it circumvents the legislative process.

Lawmakers are hoghousing House Bill 1162 to directs the Attorney General, Secretary of State and county auditors to prepare a ballot question to adjust Marsy’s Law for a primary vote. The bill also appropriates $200,000 for the Secretary of State to make the question happen.

A hoghouse is the process where lawmakers introduce an amendment to a bill that changes the original intent of the legislation. All they need is a bill with a similar title.

Republican State Senator Ryan Maher says by moving the Marsy’s Law adjustment to a primary, some counties will save upwards of $100,000.

“One of the things that I’ve seen is the potential savings by putting it on the June primary ballot. By moving it up just those few months,” Maher says. “Who knows, if we go down this road it might spark more interest for a primary election.”

Because the bill appropriates money and has an emergency clause, both the house and senate need a two-thirds majority vote to pass the bill. Both chambers have a republican majority that meets the threshold.

Democrats are decrying the move to a primary ballot question.

State Senator Troy Heinert says the move limits the ability of the majority of the electorate to weigh in on the issue.

“In western South Dakota, without having primary challengers that doesn’t get people to leave the ranch to come to town to vote just on this bill,” Heinert says. “Whereas in a general election, they’re going to be voting for their candidate. That gets them to town to vote. I just think it’s a bad idea.”

On Wednesday, lawmakers adjusted House Joint Resolution to move the vote on Marsy’s Law to the primary. The governor has indicated he supports the idea of a primary vote on the Marsy’s Law adjustment and will sign the legislation if it reaches his desk.

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