Can the South Dakota Legislature Overturn Amendment A?
On Tuesday the People of South Dakota made the fairly surprising decision to approve Amendment A, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state and directs the legislature to write the laws that will govern the drug.
But as most South Dakotans know, when we have an election and the people have the chance to speak in November, our legislature convenes two months later and tries to fix what the people who voted for them have already said.
In 2016 voters approved Initiated Measure 22 which revised state campaign finance and lobbying laws, created a publicly funded campaign finance program and created an ethics commission. Because our elected officials know better, and seemingly to avoid unwanted accountability, they passed legislation that completely wiped it out in less than three months when Governor Dennis Daugaard signed the bill.
So can our state's nobility in Pierre do the same thing with Amendment A? No, they can't do it on their own.
Since Amendment A was proposed as a constitutional amendment instead of an initiated measure, there is a roadblock to the legislature undoing the will of the people. They can initiate an amendment to the constitution just like the people can, but according to Article 23 Section 3 of the South Dakota Constitution, it must go to a vote of the people.
"Ratification. Any constitutional amendment or revision must be submitted to the voters and shall become a part of the Constitution only when approved by a majority of the votes cast thereon. The Legislature may provide for the withdrawal by its sponsors of an initiated amendment at any time prior to its submission to the voters."
In 2018 the legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 1 which proposed Amendment X. That amendment would have required a supermajority of 55 percent of the voters to approve any new amendments to the constitution. Ironically that amendment could have passed with only 51 percent of the vote. Thankfully the People of South Dakota shot it down in that year's election.
Something irritating that I noticed on the South Dakota Legislature's website in the text of our constitution, the provisional language of the new amendment still appears two years after it failed while other failed amendments do appear in the history section at the bottom.
Had Amendment X passed in 2018, Amendment A would have very narrowly failed in 2020.
The 2021 legislative session is just around the corner. I would bet a paycheck that there will be a move made by the nobility in Pierre to keep marijuana illegal. To our legislators, I have one thing to say. Good luck.