Supporters of Initiated Measure 22 packed the Senate gallery Wednesday afternoon, letting state lawmakers know they didn’t want the so-called anti-corruption measure repealed.
A couple of hours before the Senate convened at 2 p.m., about 30 proponents gathered in front of the Capitol, many of them holding yellow signs that read, “Shame!” and wearing yellow shirts that read, “Respect our vote!”
The signs and shirts were provided by a group called Represent.Us, a pro-22 group.
High above the rotunda, a plane flew in circles pulling behind it a banner that read, “Shame on You! Respect our vote!”
The spectacle garnered its share of attention and commentary.
What it didn’t do was yield results.
Inside the Capitol senators approved House Bill 1069 with a 27-8 majority, sending the repeal of IM 22 to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, who has said he will sign it.
The House has already passed the bill.
Voters approved the initiated measure in November.
It’s been under intense scrutiny since, with a large group of Republican lawmakers questioning its constitutionality. Its implementation has been blocked by a court injunction, the result of a civil lawsuit.
Amy Ekroth, 25, is a student at Mitchell Technical Institute. She drove from Mitchell to Pierre Wednesday to show her support for IM 22. She sees the Legislature’s action as taking away the voice of the people, but was excited by the large turnout of people who felt as she does.
“ We did have some people fighting for us on the floor which I’m really proud of because there was one from my county so I’m really proud of that fact,” she said. “It’s kind of a disgraceful day, I guess, for South Dakota, but I will keep persevering and I hope there’s change in the future.”
One person in the gallery was Rick Weiland, a former Democratic congressional candidate who helped get IM 22 on the ballot.
Weiland is associated with Represent.Us.
“It’s discouraging when I see the people’s voice has been spoken but not heard,” he said before the Senate convened.
The emergency clause attached to HB 1069 is improper because it does not allow voters to refer the repeal to a statewide vote, he said.
It also means there will never have to be a ruling in the lawsuit, so nobody will ever know if IM 22 is constitutional, Weiland said.
The measure, he said, was designed establish a lacking system of checks and balances.
That makes sense to Lori Carpenter of Pierre, who was one of the people peacefully protesting in front of the Capitol. She wore a sandwich board that claimed South Dakota has one of the most corrupt state governments in the nation.
“This is clearly a misrepresentation of the voice — the voice of the people,” she said of the repeal.
Citizens are subject to rules, regulations and laws, and legislators should be, too, she said.
IM 22 is not just good for citizens, it’s also good for the Legislature, Carpenter said.
“I just wish they’d see it,” she said.
“It just seemed obvious they had made their minds up before they even went into session and they clearly did not have the interests of South Dakota to heart,” Betsey Horton, a Vermillion woman, said.
Jonathan Foster of Wagner said some of the examples showed only one side of the issue.
“I understand that’s kind of the point of rhetoric, but it kind of undermines the whole democratic process if something like this is put out to a vote, why overturn it if it’s voted in?” he said. “It seems like it’s thoroughly self-serving.”
John Schmidt of Woonsocket said he traveled to Pierre Wednesday to testify against Senate Bill 67, which would have increased the number of signatures required to put changes to the state constitution on the ballot. That measure, though, was tabled. Schmidt stuck around to show his support for IM 22, donning a yellow shirt.
“I’m tired of corrupt people retaining power in the state,” he said.
Schmidt said backers of the HB 1069 used “misleading information” to “take away the voice of the people.”
Scott Waltman, Phu Nguyen, and Kylee Whitehill contributed to this story.