South Dakota Supreme Court approves two more ballot measuresby Cara Hetland, Minnesota Public Radio
The South Dakota Supreme Court says voters have a right to repeal existing laws. The high court held a special hearing last month to decide if voters can decide the fate of video lottery and a cell phone tax. Both have been on the books for years and generate revenue for the state.
Sioux Falls, S.D. — Video Lottery has been a part of South Dakota for 17 years. Three times voters have decided to keep it as a revenue generator. Profits from the slot-like machines generate about $100 million to the state's general fund.
Daniel Brendtro wants the state to kick the addiction to video lottery. He says the revenue is 5 percent of the budget, something that's easy to trim.
"Cut government spending, or freeze it for a year," Brendtro says. "We could eliminate this addiction for our state. The problems this causes are numerous. It stunts our economic development because we're creating these low paying low wage jobs for people working in these facilities. We're syphoning off $220 million from main streets in South Dakota."
State officials refused to put video lottery on the ballot, even though Brendtro collected enough signatures to qualify the issue. Secretary of State Chris Nelson says he felt bound by a 1995 Supreme Court ruling that prohibited the repeal of an existing law through a public initiative.
He says this was the first test of that law. In the new ruling, the court reversed itself.
"We knew that we were constrained by that, but the court said we didn't do anything wrong," Nelson says. "We did what we had to do, but they as the court felt we had to go in a different direction. And I appreciate that and we're going in a different direction."
There are 11 issues before South Dakota voters this November. Nelson says the most at one time has been 15 issues. He says he's working on the layout of the ballot. Most likely the page will be 19 inches long, packed with questions on both sides for voters to decide.
- All Things Considered, 08/09/2006, 4:51 p.m.