Amendment W would add 3,329 words to the state Constitution, and would essentially create a fourth branch of government that operates outside the normal checks and balances system of the other branches. The new article would also be superior to all other aspects of our state Constitution. The amendment says “In any case of a conflict between any provision of this Article and any other provision contained in this Constitution, the provisions of this Article shall control.”
The editorial by the Journal ignored several aspects of Amendment W that are quite troubling, and gave no mention to the increased ethics safeguards that the Legislature put in place after the repeal of IM-22. Those safeguards included a 4-member State Government Accountability Board, limits on lobbyist gifts, whistleblower protections, doubling the waiting period before officials may become lobbyists, and stopping campaign spending for personal use.
Amendment W creates a State Government Accountability Board that will have rule-making authority. The ability for a board or commission to “promulgate rules” is common in South Dakota, but always under the supervision of a higher State entity who answers to the voters. Neither the voters of South Dakota, nor the three branches of State Government, will have adequate ability to correct this board. Although the amendment mentions judicial-review, that ability is questionable as the amendment states that the board will operate “…notwithstanding any other provisions of the Constitution…” The board members are appointed, which means the voters have no power to remove them. There are also legitimate concerns as to the level of transparency that will be required of the board its self, which means the citizens may not have the power to monitor them.
The forced constitutional expenditure of $389,000 every year, increasing with inflation, is unheard of and irresponsible. The current ethics board costs less than one-tenth that amount. Additionally, allocating such a large expenditure to the board may act as an incentive to interpret clerical mistakes as corruption to justify its existence. If that seems farfetched, simply look at the claims made in regard to Larry Rhoden’s missing of a filing deadline.
This experiment inflicted on South Dakota by an organization from Massachusetts and several Hollywood elites might be interesting, but it is objectionable. If passed, it would take another statewide vote to fix it, which means South Dakotans would be forced to live with its problems for at least two years. The Rapid City Journal claims W adds needed transparency, but ironically, W needs added transparency.