Heidelberger circulating People Power Petitions

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota blogger is circulating a pair of petitions that seek to roll back changes that state lawmakers have made in recent years to the initiated measure process.

Cory Heidelberger, of Aberdeen, says his “People Power Petitions” would eliminate bureaucratic roadblocks that are being thrown up to make it harder for citizens to have a say in their laws.

The Argus Leader reported that one petition is for a referendum on House Bill 1094, which passed this year to create a state registry of petition circulators and require them to wear badges. The other is for an initiated measure to eliminate restrictions that were passed in 2018, including one that requires circulators to file affidavits with the state.

Heidelberger said the initiated measure process gives all South Dakotans the ability to propose laws, but that lawmakers began adding restrictions after voters passed an anti-corruption measure in 2016 — which lawmakers repealed.

“The Legislature doesn’t trust the people, they don’t respect the people and they don’t like it when the people pass laws that override what the Legislature does,” Heidelberger said. “They want their little club and they want to make all the decisions and be in total control. They’re trying to crowd us out, and I find that bothersome.”

Supporters of House Bill 1094 say it makes the initiated measure process more transparent.

Republican Rep. Jon Hansen of Dell Rapids, sponsor of House Bill 1094, said a South Dakota law that only says residents can circulate petitions is being “trampled on by professional out-of-state petition circulators who are trying to bring their California and Massachusetts liberal agendas” to the state. He said he believes Heidelberger, a former Democratic legislative candidate, doesn’t like the measure because it keeps away Heidelberger’s “out-of-state liberal allies.”

Hansen said the initiative and referendum process is “designed by South Dakotans, for South Dakotans.”

The South Dakota Democratic Party supports Heidelberger’s petitions. Party chairwoman Paula Hawks said Republican bills have undermined state residents’ ability to have direct democracy by making it harder for people to circulate petitions.

“They’ll continue to wear away those direct democracy rights as long as they have that super majority in place,” she said.