Other Voices: Petition process integral part of democracy in South Dakota

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Farm Forum

Organizers of a drive to place an increase in the state’s minimum wage on the ballot thought the Labor Day holiday was the perfect time to begin collecting signatures. If successful, voters will decide in November 2014 whether to increase the minimum wage to $8.50 an hour.

The South Dakota Democratic Party is the prime sponsor of the petition drive. At least 15,855 signatures will be needed to get the measure on the ballot.

Democratic members of the Legislature have been trying to get the minimum wage in South Dakota increased without success. Taking the issue directly to the people is a good idea if Democrats want to see the minimum wage increased.

A check with the secretary of state’s website finds two other petitions being circulated at this time.

One proposed ballot measure would stop insurance companies from restricting their customers’ choice of out-of-network health care providers. The proposed law, sponsored by three doctors, would allow health care providers to decide if they want to participate in a health insurance company’s network rather than let insurers set up a restrictive network of providers.

Like the minimum wage measure, a bill to allow the concept of ‘‘any willing provider’’ in South Dakota was defeated in the Legislature this year in the face of opposition by businesses, insurance companies and the state’s largest hospital systems.

A third petition would restrict payday loans and title loans in South Dakota. The proposed measure would establish a maximum interest rate on loans.

Circulating petitions for initiated measures, referrals and constitutional amendments is a process that has been allowed in South Dakota since the state began and is written into the state constitution. If you can get enough fellow citizens to agree and sign a petition, any law or constitutional amendment can be placed on the ballot or an existing law repealed.

In 2012, voters rejected two proposed constitutional amendments and approved two, on distributing the State Cement Plant fund and a balanced budget. An initiated measure on increasing the state sales tax was defeated, and voters defeated referred laws on a Large Project Development Fund and Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s education reform plan.

If you agree with the goals of the proposed initiatives, go ahead and sign the petitions. It’s part of our democracy — South Dakota style.

— Rapid City Journal