Troy Heinert of District 26 Reporting from Pierre
Greetings friends, neighbors, fellow tribal members, and especially to the District 26 constituents. The third week of the 93rd Legislative Session is complete and committee work is intensifying. Friday was the last day for unlimited bill introduction by Legislators so you can imagine the flurry of activity in the Capitol. Legislators are now restricted to introducing three new pieces of legislation if they want them to be heard this session. So far, I am the prime sponsor of seven senate bills and eight house bills. I plan on introducing three more bills this session.
The floor sessions have been fairly lively as we have been clearing our calendar in the Senate every day. Last week, I wrote about an attempt to make it more difficult for a Constitutional Amendment to be passed by the voters, we saw that this week in the form of SJR 1. SJR 1 submits a constitutional amendment to the voters in the 2018 election that would require any future constitutional amendment garner 55% of the vote in order to be enacted. Though it passed the Senate and will move onto the House, please let me explain my opposition to this resolution in committee and on the floor.
The framers of the South Dakota Constitution enacted this provision to allow the people of South Dakota to submit proposed amendments to THEIR Constitution as they see fit. We were the first state to enact this provision, and it gives the people the chance to have direct control of their founding document without an arbitrary percentage for passage.
For a constitutional amendment to get on the ballot, it requires registered South Dakota voters sign a petition stating that they would like to see the amendment on the ballot. Right now that number is around 28,000 valid signatures, which usually requires 40,000 to 50,000 signatures to reach the 28,000 signature threshold. The Legislature can bypass this step and submit a constitutional amendment with a majority vote. That means 54 votes and the Governors signature can get an amendment onto the the ballot. That is a minute fraction compared to what is required for voter-proposed amendments!
SJR 1 doesn’t even require the 55% threshold it is seeking to enact in order to pass. It could literally pass by one vote.
There have been over 30 amendments enacted in recent years without reaching the 55% baseline. Examples include a different classification of ag land for school taxation purposes and establishing the new Vo Tech board. South Dakotans have been very thoughtful and cautious in changing our constitution. Historically, there have been 240 attempts to change the constitution with exactly 120 succeeding. I would say that throughout the years the people have not taken this task lightly.
And finally, this did not come from the people. This resolution was solely brought by the legislature with the argument that our constitution needs protection. My question would be, protection from whom? Our motto is “Under God the People Rule” its not “Under God 55% of the People Rule.”
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of 1868, the Fort Laramie Treaty. This document, which was ratified by Congress and affirmed by the Supreme Court, still has the force of law under Article 6 of the US Constitution and is the basis for negotiations between the Tribes and the Federal Government. I was pleased to get my resolution recognizing the Treaty of 1868 passed through the Senate on a 25-7 vote. The Legislature has made great strides in improving race relations with legislation like the Native American Achievement School Grant Program and this resolution, but we still have a ways to go. I look forward to continuing these efforts during my tenure as your Senator and welcome any ideas that take us forward in a positive manner in the coming years.
The State/Tribal Relations Committee held a meeting at the beautiful SGU campus on Jan. 26. We were pleased to tour the Todd County Middle School, which is one of the Native American Achievement Grant Schools, to see their progress as part of the project. I cannot thank the principal, Dana Haukaas, and the grant fellow, Sage Fast Dog, enough for their hospitality and willingness to share their success with the nearly 30 individuals that were lucky enough to witness it first hand! Thank you to the staff and students for giving us a glimpse of the tremendous growth you have made in this exciting way of educating students in a culturally relevant manner. Many of the guests commented on how well this is working and how they would like to see the same opportunities given to more districts in our state. I love success stories and this is truly one of them.
Speaking of success stories, I would like to congratulate Shelly Piper and the team at the Ampride in Mission for winning Country Pride Cooperatives, Circle of Pride Award. What a wonderful accomplishment for her and the hard working employees that provide a much needed service in District 26!
I had a chance to visit with the Department of Tourism folks this week on some pending legislation, and we had a chance to talk about how District 26 is a great place to make an investment in time, resources, and capital. There is a possibility for some big things on the horizon for our district, and I will continue to work with them to bring them to reality. From Kimball to Murdo, Vivian to St. Francis, and everywhere in between, we have so much to offer. Please reach out to me or to the Department of Tourism with your ideas.
Thank you for the responsibility of being your Senator; I look forward to seeing you at the upcoming Cracker Barrel’s in your community. If you would like to schedule one or you have an issue or concern, I can be reached at Troy.firstname.lastname@example.org or 605-319-6570. I look forward to hearing from you!