Amendment W would create an ethics committee in Pierre if passed
Voters will go to the polls in less than two weeks. One of the issues South Dakotans will decide aims to fight government corruption and has spent some time in the spotlight.
Amendment W was drafted after Initiated Measure 22 was repealed last year.
The repeal of I-M 22 led to a new government accountability board, which can take a look into any elected official or the executive branch. Supports of this new Amendment W said that is not enough, but the opponents disagree.
Several ads against Amendment W have hit the airwaves and those who support it said this amendment needs to pass to prevent corruption in politics.
"We have in South Dakota over time, been caught up in corruption that you've seen in EB-5 and Gear Up," Mitch Ritcher, Amendment W co-chair, said. "We're one in only seven states that doesn't have an ethics committee to report issues to."
But, David Owen, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce and Industry president, says that those wanting to approve the bill are wrong about the state not having a ethics committee.
"We have a government accountability board that was created in 2017 that oversees the executive branch," he said. "They strengthen the complaint process, the review process for the legislative branch."
Amendment W would appoint seven members to an ethics commission. Four of those people would be selected by members of the South Dakota Supreme Court, the governor and majority and minority house leaders. After that, the remaining three would be appointed by the ethics panel.
"It is a creature of the government that the three branches that we have, and it doesn't exempt the legislature from oversight," Ritcher said. "So, it includes the legislature and holds lobbyists accountable."
But, those opposing Amendment W claim this would end up being a fourth branch. They said the committee has no oversight and can end up overriding the constitution, question why a committee would need to be paid $389,000 a year.
"It affects all public employees all the way down to teachers, people that work in the parks," Owen said. "They can pass a rule that says we worried about conflicts of interest, so their income taxes should be made public, after some hearings."
Amendment W also discusses finance limits on campaign races and having a two-year period where former lawmakers cannot be lobbyists after they finish their term.
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