Ballot Propositions to Affect South Dakota’s Constitution


Gordon Garnos

AT ISSUE: Besides voting for our favorite candidates in the Nov. 2 General Election, there are four ballot issues we must decide on as well. Last week’s column discussed Initiated Measure 13, to legalize the use of medical marijuana. The week before that was a discussion on the smoking ban issue. Today’s column deals with Constitutional Amendment K, the right of an individual to vote by secret ballot; Constitutional Amendment L, relating to how the proceeds of the sale of the state cement plant should be spent.

THE RIGHT TO vote by secret ballot is definitely a “soap box” issue if there ever was one.

“There is no right more essential to American democracy than the right to vote and the right of our citizens to vote by secret ballot. It is indeed fundamental to the democratic process in America.”

Those words were written by state Senator David Knudson of Sioux Falls, S.D. Senate majority leader, in the 2010 Ballot Question Pamphlet compiled by Secretary of State Chris Nelson.

In the Attorney General’s explanation of Constitutional Amendment K, he said, “The proposed amendment to the (South Dakota) Constitution would guarantee the right to vote by secret ballot to prevent others from knowing how a person voted. This right would apply to elections of public officers, adoption of initiated or referred measures and elections to designate or authorize employee representation, such as elections concerning unions.

THE MAJORITY OF the South Dakota Legislature has asked the voters of the state to approve Amendment K because of an attempt in Congress to eliminate that right to a secret ballot in certain union elections.

Current federal law protects employees’ ability to vote on union recognition by way of the secret ballot. However, this federal law is merely a statute, which can get its legs cut off by congressional action. Amendment K would protect this right of secret ballot in both political and labor elections by putting it into our South Dakota Constitution. This is where it belongs in recognition of the importance of this fundamental right of our citizens.

Yes, if there ever was a reason to climb on a soap box in support of an issue it is the one protecting the right to vote by secret ballot….

A COMMENT: To me, the proposed Amendment K is no middle-of-the-road issue. Someone once said, “There’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow lines and dead skunks,”–if you get my drift….

THE LAST ISSUE to be on the Nov. 2 ballot is Constitutional Amendment L. It relates to how the trust fund created from the proceeds of the state cement plant sale of a few years ago is to be distributed. While this may not be a “hot button” issue to a lot of South Dakota voters, it is important because, if approved, will keep the cement plant trust fund alive for the long term.

In writing for the support of Amendment L, state Rep. H. Paul Dennert and Jason Dilges, commissioner of the South Dakota Bureau of Finance and Management, said that when the state cement plant was sold and proceeds used to form a trust fund, the state’s Constitution mandated a $12 million transfer to the general fund each year as well as a five percent distribution of funds, if the market value of the fund had grown that would allow it.

“WHEN THE STOCK MARKET collapsed in 2008-2009, the market value of the trust fund diminished to a value less than when the trust was created. The mandatory $12 million annual transfer reduced the fund even further.

“These two events decreased the fund by nearly $103 million over a short period of 21 months. If we were to have a sustained period of poor performance in the markets, the mandatory $12 million might exhaust the value of the fund.”

While this may seem complicated to some, Dennert and Dilges wrote a bottom line to all of this: “Passage of Amendment L will not allow distributing more dollars from the fund than the fund’s market value could support. It would also help protect the long-term viability (capable of success) of the cement plant trust fund by preserving the principal value and purchasing power.”

In other words, just because there is still money in the cement plant trust fund kitty, it’s not necessary to empty the bank any faster than we absolutely have to. Also, my long-time readers should recall how much I like bottom lines so my pencil will mark a “Yes” vote on the Amendment L ballot as well….

Gordon Garnos was long-time editor of the Watertown Public Opinion, retiring after 39 years with that newspaper. Garnos, a lifelong resident of South Dakota except for his military service in the U.S. Air Force, was born and raised in Presho.

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