Ken Santema is blogging again! Whoo hoo! Sanity and originality return to the conservative lobe of the South Dakota blogosphere!
In his second post-hiatus post this week, Santema notes that the Senate State Affairs Committee is taking up three bills this morning:
- SB 23 clarifies that the state really does own the South Dakota Art Museum at SDSU, and that it really will cooperate with the South Dakota Federation of Women's Clubs. No big deal.
- SB 35 cleans up statutes regulating veterans' affairs. No big deal.
- SB 67 sets the second Tuesday in March as the deadline for filing court challenges against nominating petitions and fast-tracks any such challenges on the court schedule. That's a big deal.
The consideration of Senate Bill 67 this morning is a big deal because it's being considered separately from Senate Bills 68 and 69, the other two key components of the petition reforms proposed by the state Board of Elections. By itself, Senate Bill 67 is a bad idea. SB 67 assumes that we will move our petition-circulating period up one month, to begin on December 1 and end on the last Tuesday of February (SB 69). It ignores the possibility that legislators may (and will, if they are sensible) amend SB 69 to set the petition submission deadline as the first Tuesday of March to maintain the same practical length of time as candidates currently enjoy to circulate petitions. It also ignores the fact that, if we are really interested in giving citizens more time to challenge petitions, we would set their challenge-filing deadline at the end of March, which would still give the courts time to hear and rule on those fast-tracked challenges.
Considering SB 67 today, in isolation, also assumes that we will require the Secretary of State to conduct a 5% random-sample review of all statewide nominating petitions (SB 68). Secretary Krebs explained to me last week that the expanded review by her office called for in SB 68 is meant to take the burden off citizens to file challenges with the Secretary of State's office. The Board of Elections expects, says Secretary Krebs, that post-reform, citizens will take all petition challenges to court. But our ceding our participation in challenges prior to court action to the Secretary should come in exchange for expanded time to prepare for those court challenges.
Senate Bills 67, 68, and 69 are moving parts in the same machine. They all three need amendment. They all three definitely need to be considered together, in the same package, in the same committee hearing. But SB 68 is going to the State and Local Government committee, and SB 69 is going to State Affairs some other day. At the very least, State Affairs should table SB 67 until Sb 69 comes up alongside it. Meanwhile, State and Local Affairs should refer SB 68, which deals exclusively with activities in the Secretary of State's office and not in local government, up to Senate State Affairs.
Update 10:32 CST: Good government lucks out! Bob Mercer reports that Secretary Krebs was unable to attend today's Senate State Affairs hearing, so Chairman Tim Rave (R-25/Baltic) postponed consideration of SB 67 to Wednesday.