On June 7, South Dakota voters will determine the outcome of Amendment C. If adopted by a majority of voters, this would change the state’s constitution to require a three-fifths approval for any future constitutional amendment or initiated measure that imposes or increases taxes or fees, or that obligates the state to appropriate funds of $10 million dollars or more in any of the first five fiscal years after enactment.
While our state constitution allows the Legislature to approve the general appropriation bill with a simple majority, Article 12 specifies that special appropriations require a two-thirds vote of all the members of each branch of the Legislature. Amendment C somewhat mirrors the idea of requiring a higher vote for expenditures outside the ordinary expenses of government.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 34 states require a simple majority vote to change their constitution. Other states require a higher percentages of voter approval; for example, New Hampshire requires a two-thirds voter approval for any amendment. (In case you’re curious, amending the U.S. Constitution requires ratification from three-fourths of the States.)
There are three ways a constitutional amendment can be placed on the ballot in South Dakota: by action from the Legislature, by citizens gathering enough valid signatures, or by a constitutional convention called by three-fourths vote from each legislative chamber. The ability for voters to directly place an amendment on the ballot is fairly recent in our state’s history. With a change approved by South Dakotans in 1972, we became one of 17 states to allow citizens to directly place a constitutional amendment on the ballot.
Amendment C was placed on the ballot by the legislature.
Proponents of Amendment C point out that amending the constitution is something that should not be undertaken lightly, and a higher voter approval is appropriate. In addition, extra care should be taken for new taxes, fees, or expenditures.
Opponents point to the fact that that Amendment C allows the minority to determine the outcome of a vote. There are also concerns about how to calculate and predict the $10 million threshold.
If approved, Amendment C would apply only to those constitutional amendments with a financial obligation as already referenced. Other constitutional amendments would still be at the simple-majority threshold.
You may read the complete text of Amendment C on the Secretary of State’s website at sdsos.gov, under the 2022 Ballot Questions tab.