Monday, May 22, 2006

Tricky Stuff in South Dakota

As you probably know, South Dakota earlier this year passed the most draconian abortion law ever. No abortions, no exceptions. The legislature passed it, the governor signed it, and that's where they stand.

Not surprisingly, there is some opposition to this new law. Like, lots. You can be pretty sure that there will be a referendum, where the people tell the government what they want.

But the anti-abortion guys may have figured out a way to juggle the deadlines so that the petitions calling for a referendum will probably come in too late.

From the Rapid City Journal:
Defenders of South Dakota's new abortion ban could try to derail a public vote on the controversial law by challenging the deadline for filing petitions seeking a referendum.

That's a scenario that worries former legislator Jan Nicolay of Sioux Falls, co-chairwoman of South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, which is gathering signatures for a referendum on HB1215, a law passed by the 2006 Legislature that outlaws nearly all abortions.

State Attorney General Larry Long confirmed Friday that he has heard rumors of such a challenge.

Here's an outline of the potential challenge.

Secretary of State Chris Nelson has set Monday, June 19, as the deadline for opponents of the abortion ban to submit petitions containing 16,728 valid signatures to put the law up for a vote in the November general election.

By law, referendum petitions must be filed within 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. Nelson assumed that March 21, when the Legislature gathered to consider vetoes, was the last legislative day and set the June 19 deadline accordingly.

However, the state Constitution provides that the Legislature shall meet for 35 days in even-numbered years. The 2006 Legislature recessed after Tuesday, Feb. 28, its 34th day in session. It met again on Wednesday, March 1.

One could argue that March 1 was the 35th - and last - day of the session. If so, that could mean that petitions challenging the abortion ban would have to be turned in 90 days after March 1, making the deadline Tuesday, May 30, according to an unofficial calendar count by the Journal.

But Nicolay said the Legislature considered March 1 an extension of its 34th day and that the traditional day to consider vetoes three weeks later - March 21, this year - was the day the Legislature officially adjourned. HB1215 foes face petition wrinkle

So, if the conservatives get to define the cutoff date, then referendum petitions will have to be submitted next week. That might not be enough time to get the required number of signatures.

Pretty tricky.
It's possible that if the required number of petitions is submitted by June 19 but after May 30, and Nelson accepts them, an abortion-ban supporter could file a lawsuit, Nicolay said Friday.

Nicolay said that the uncertainty is prompting referendum organizers to consider pushing their drive ahead and submitting petitions to Nelson before the earlier deadline. She wasn't sure about the exact date.

"We haven't made that final decision, but we're looking at that," she said. "We're not interested in any legal battle."

Nicolay said organizers are urging abortion-ban opponents to get their petitions submitted quickly. She said the drive is on pace to gather more than the required number of signatures by June 1.

Nicolay, a Republican, served in the South Dakota House from 1983-1996.

The fact is, the anti-abortion guys know if they let this go to a vote, they'll lose. So they have to stop the whole thing before it starts. It is absolutely necessary to make sure that the government doesn't do what the people want.


Blogger andrea said...

Yes, important enough to manipulate the rules and make people unable to have their say- we wouldn't want democracy to interfere in how South Dakota does business. Any women in that legislature - maybe 2 or 3?

May 22, 2006 10:47 AM  

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