Northern Valley Beacon

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Monday, April 10, 2006


If Constitutional Amendment E sucks, Amendment F nibbles

A concerted non-partisan effort is being made to expose the silliness of Constitutional Amendement E on the South Dakota ballot. We applaud those who bring constitutional amendments into the full light and heat of discussion.

We fear, however, that the outrage against Amendment E may diminish attention from amendments with just as much implication for democracy in South Dakota. Amendment F proposes to cut some confusing and outmoded chaff from the state constitution. One improvement is in the article governing open meetings of the leglislature and its committees:

Here is the proposed article:

The sessions of each house and of the committee of the whole shall be open, unless when the business is such as ought to be kept secret. All legislative sessions and joint sessions shall be open to the public unless a two-thirds majority of the membership declares the business is such as ought to be kept secret. No votes may be taken at any session or meeting closed to the public.

This is an improvement over the vague language in the Constitutiona now, and it requires a super-majority to close a meeting. However, it still does not solve the problem and secrecy and subterfuge in government, where the ruling party often commands a two-thirds majority. There are few cases in which secrecy can be justified. Some personnel matters and certain negotiations require secrecy. The Constitution should require that complete records be kept of proceedings in any secret sessions and be subject to being opened after a certain time. The public needs the means to hold its elected and appointed officials accountable for ALL their actions.

The revised amendment also removes the prohibition against passing any special laws that give special privileges and immunities to any individuals, associations, or corporations. That article needs to be retained.

I am not sure Amendment F should be approved until someone gets it right.

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