Marsy's Law passed in 6 states, South Dakota on track to repeal it

Published: Jan. 26, 2018 at 10:30 PM CST
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South Dakota could be the first state to repeal Marsy's Law.

Lawmakers say the voter approved constitutional amendment has unintended financial consequences and they hope to fix these issues during the legislative session.

Speaker of the House Mark Mickelson says lawmakers are seeking to strengthen victims' rights provisions already in state law before asking voters to repeal the Marsy's Law constitutional amendment they passed in 2016.

This is the second year in a row lawmakers have used the legislative process to change a voter approved initiative.

South Dakota lawmakers says Marsy’s Law laid the ground work for a costly victims notification system, with a price tag of more than $100,000 dollars for Minnehaha County. It’s costing the state upwards of $5 million.

Speaker of the House Mark Mickelson says the bill is also vague and unclear about what kind of information about crimes can be released to the public or the media.

“They're not reporting rapes and sexual assaults to the campus community at Augustana as a result of Marsy’s Law and that's certainly not the intent and I just had a woman email me this last week from Watertown who can’t get the accident report of her husband who was killed in an accident,” Mickelson said.

Marsy's Law For All say six states have passed similar measures.

KSFY News reached out to several to see if they have had similar issues.

An official in Winnebego County Illinois says she hasn't noticed a change in how police release information.

“Our police department continued to state where crimes occurred and where sexual assaults occurred when necessary. We don't identify or name the victim, but we would say where the crimes occurred and what types of crimes occurred,” Assistant Deputy County State’s Attorney Jenny Clifford said.

But Montana officials have similar concerns about the vagueness of the amendment.

“Somebody steals a hair brush from Target department store, well is the corporation the victim? Does that mean that my office is obligated not to just talk to the clerk at Target who is victimized and the store manager, but do I have to talk to corporate council at wherever that corporation is headquartered,” Yellowstone County State’s Attorney Scott Twito said.

Even though voters approved the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment, it was never implemented in Montana. The state’s Supreme Court challenged it due to issues with the initiative process.

The initiated measure process is something one South Dakota group is working to protect.

“The legislature is starting to take away the democracy part of the voters and this is not the first one that they've worked with this seems to be setting a precedent,” Darrell Solberg from Represent South Dakota said.

Last year lawmakers repealed Imitated Measure 22, a voter approved ethics reform law.

They then replaced it with several other laws including a lobbyist gift ban and created a government accountability board.

As well as introducing legislation to change Marsy’s Law, Representative Mickelson has introduced a bill that would require a majority vote from the legislature to amend the state's constitution.

“I do think the constitution is a foundational document, it should be held to a very sacred standard similar to the US Constitution,” Mickelson said.