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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

SJR 3: SD House Poops on Senate Power Play

Should South Dakota's state senators serve longer terms? A majority of our senators think so. Three weeks ago, the State Senate passed SJR 3, a measure that would have us vote on amending the state constitution to double the terms of state senators from two years to four.

The proposal is interesting. Extending the terms of senators would improve the institutional memory of the Legislature and insulate the upper chamber from campaign pressures. It would also make our Senate that much more like the U.S. Senate, where members can garner more connections and power in their longer terms.

So guess what happened when the House got hold of this bill? Those clever devils amended it to give House members four-year terms as well. Improve institutional memory, fine, but let the Senators get all snooty? "Ha!" chortled Speaker Tim Rave and other defenders of the House.

Props to House State Affairs on what sounds like a big juicy raspberry to the kids across the hall. Don't expect much else from SJR 3, though. Even if the full House musters 36 ayes, the Governor will veto it ("More power for the Legislature? Double ha!"). Even if the governor did let SJR 3 slide, it wouldn't sell with the public. Heck, we won't even pay them standard mileage rates for two more trips; you think we'd let them have longer terms?

House, you've had your fun. Now let's put SJR 3 to bed. You don't want to be stuck with the job for four years at a stretch any more than we want you to. Shorter terms mean more elections, which mean more immediate accountability for the folks we elect and more chances for that community conversation about what we want from Pierre.


  1. That makes sense and correlates closer with our federal congressional district seats which allow 2 year House terms and six year Senate terms. If you're up for election every two years, you're constantly fund raising when you should be listening and legislating.

  2. If the Legislature really wants to do something meaningful get rid of two member, at large House Districts. Split each Senate district into two House districts and elect one Representative from each.

    This would make it easier to run for a House seat because there would be less territory to cover, and make it more likely that your Representative would be your neighbor (or at least closer to home).

  3. Fine, extend their terms, but limit them to one term each! See how they like that!

  4. Did a couple of these new legislators forget already we just voted on term limits and overwelmingly said "Keep them!" With the economy in decline, school funding in question, and a host of other important topics, must they spend their time trying to limit their stay in power? the single-representative district Mr. Nemec mentions could be beneficial though. It'd mean he'd not be in mine, but could have overall benefits! as far as correlation to the federal system is concerned, that really isn't an issue.


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