Overreach: To miss by reaching too far or attempting too much. – The American Heritage Dictionary
When South Dakota voters study the 10 ballot issues, they may think that voting for Initiated Measure 22 is all about reducing corruption in politics and limiting the influence of lobbyists.
Laudable objectives, both. But a deeper look into the measure reveals that it also establishes public funding for those seeking office.
Proponents of this measure, in drafting it, made the same mistake that Congress often makes when it writes legislation. Instead of crafting a bill that stays on point, it widens the net to include other goals that are not only unrelated, but known to be less palatable. This overreach is by design, with the authors hoping the positive pieces of the legislation will offset the negatives and carry the day.
A few years ago, it was widely reported that West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin vetoed legislation that included an “English only” section. Though Manchin favored the section, he knew that the bill wouldn’t pass the state’s constitutional test because his state requires bills to contain only one subject. The original bill increased the size of park boards and the English only amendment was added later.
Congress is notorious for legislative overreach, adding unrelated and politically controversial topics called “riders” to appropriation bills because a veto would also stop funding for public agencies.
In the case of Initiated Measure 22, supporters hope that even if voters oppose tax dollars for politicians, they will check the “yes” box because of the measure’s other attributes.
The measure’s fatal flaw is that it creates two $50 credits for each registered voter, who then directs them to the candidate of his choice.
In other words, taxpayers will be forced to underwrite candidates they do not support.
Moreover, the measure also creates yet another state commission to administer the program and enforce campaign finance and lobbying laws.
More government, added cost, and totally unnecessary.
Most South Dakotans favor more openness in government and more information about who is paying for the candidates’ campaigns. They also might look positively on a measure that limits the influence of political action committees. But linking these objectives with public financing of campaigns is too much to ask.
By rejecting Initiated Measure 22, South Dakota will remain with a vast majority of states. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, only 13 have established funds to help pay for campaigns.
Had the authors exhibited restraint – and avoided the overreach – the measure would have broader appeal.
Oct. 19, 2016