Jon Hunter beats me to the punch, posting his recommendations on the constitutional amendments on our ballot before I do. Nuts!
One little quirk before we get to business: the Madison Daily Leader publisher writes that there are three constitutional amendments on the November 4 ballot.
What? I flip through my voters guide: Amendments G, H, I, J: that's four! Ah, Jon Hunter must be using Firefox: I discovered a glitch the other day on the Secretary of State's website that causes a Amendments I and J (as well as IM9) not to display. This glitch only happens in Firefox, not IE. (Don't worry—Chris Nelson's people are working on it!)
But anyway, our man Hunter weighs in on Amendments G and H, characterizing them as "housekeeping" amendments that we should pass.
On Amendment G, the measure to increase the mileage reimbursement for legislators, Hunter and I agree. A quirk of our Constitution limits the reimbursement for a legislator's trip out to Pierre at the beginning of the session and a legislator's trip home at the end to five cents a mile. Legislators get the state rate (32 cents per mile, says Hunter) for every other trip. We're not talking a massive expenditure here: 105 legislators × $0.28 more per mile × 400 miles (one trip out, one trip back) = $11,340 a year. Heck, we could fund that by cutting the Governor's press secretary's pay 10%.
Legislators are state employees; they deserve a fair rate of reimbursement for all of their travel expenses, just like every other state employee. Vote yes on G.
Hunter and I disagree on Amendment H (and thank goodness—what fun would it be if we agreed on everything?). Where Hunter sees housekeeping, I see more power for corporations. Perhaps some business types can better explain to me the practical ramifications of South Dakota's apparently old-fashioned and more restrictive rules on corporations, but in my ignorance, I'm adhering to principle (have fun with that one, commenters!). Corporations have too much power already. We recognize them as persons, for Pete's sake! Amendment H would limit shareholder power and make it easier for corporations to incur debt (mortgage meltdown, anyone?). Vote No on H.
Hunter does not address Amendments I or J in yesterday's editorial. Amendment I gives the Legislature the option to extend even-year sessions from the current 35 days to 40 days, the same length as odd-year sessions. I can sympathize with Senator Jerry Apa's argument on the ballot question pamphlet that a longer session just gives legislators more time to procrastinate. (I can also laugh at Apa's argument that a longer session means cities, counties, and schools will have to pay lobbyists overtime to stay in Pierre another week "defending these groups from proposed legislation"...an amusing reflection of Apa's apparent view that legislation is always a monster coming to gobble us up.) Still, Mitch Fargen has told me that one problem in the even-year sessions is that revenue estimates don't come out until later in February, leaving legislators scrambling to craft a working budget. Five more days isn't much, but in the crucible of late February, it could do a lot of good. And the legislation doesn't mandate 40 days; it simply gives the legislators the option if they feel they need it. I'm a choice guy, so that helps me lean just slightly in favor of the proposal. Neither I nor the Republic will be crushed if Amendment I fails, but I'll mark Yes on I.
Finally, Amendment J: repealing term limits. This one's easy: you betcha! We've got term limits: they're called elections. If you like your legislator, keep her (or him). If your legislator is a meathead, you get a chance to oust her every two years. Again, as a choice guy, I'm all about this one. Don't just vote yes—vote Heck Yes! on Amendment J.
Coming up, the Madville Times Voters Guide gets personal and recommends candidates... stay tuned!
Update 2008.10.29 17:25: Our man Hunter comes out against Amendment I. Still waiting for Amendment J....
Update 2008.10.31 06:55: There it is! Hunter editorializes in favor of Amendment J. Hunter confuses the State Legislature with the U.S. Senate, saying that "one-third of the legislature could change in a single election," when in fact the entire Legislature could change in one year (consider District 8 itself: we will have new people in all three of our seats). But Hunter gets the big point: "The South Dakota legislature has plenty of turnover even without term limits, and we lose valuable experience when we force out legislators unnecessarily." Let the voters rule: Vote Yes on J!
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