The committee room felt like a courtroom Monday as lawmakers got an opportunity to cross-examine and strike back at supporters of an ethics law that campaigned on a message that South Dakota legislators are corrupt. In a joint meeting of the Senate and House State Affairs Committees lawmakers for more than two hours considered a bill that would repeal the extensive ethics and campaign finance law narrowly approved by South Dakota voters as Initiated Measure 22. Republican lawmakers grilled supporters of the law and asked them to substantiate claims set forth in their campaign. The House committee approved the repeal on a 10-3 vote then asked that South Dakota voters give them a chance to win back their trust.
“Judge us on the outcome of this legislative session,” Rep. Larry Rhoden, R-Union Center, asked of constituents listening to the hearing. “Give us a chance to honor the will of the voters, because IM 22 didn’t.”
Supporters of the repeal on Monday said problematic pieces of the law were too interwoven to address separately. Meanwhile opponents of a repeal said gutting the law with a clause that would prevent its referral back to the ballot would send a sign to voters that legislators don’t care about their intent.
“I firmly believe we need to get rid of this, start over. It’s better to throw it all out, start over so it’s something done by South Dakotans for South Dakotans and not from anybody else,” said House Majority Leader Lee Qualm, R-Platte.