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VA law prevents utility shutoffs in extreme circumstances; MI construction industry responds to a high number of worker suicides; 500,000 still without power or water in the Houston area; KY experts: Children, and babies at higher risk for heat illness.

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The House passes the SAVE Act, but fails to hold Attorney General Merrick Garland in inherent contempt of Congress, and a proposed federal budget could doom much-needed public services.

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Enticing remote workers to move is a new business strategy in rural America, Eastern Kentucky preservationists want to save the 20th century home of a trailblazing coal miner, and a rule change could help small meat and poultry growers and consumers.

Does South Dakota Have 'Direct Democracy' Fever?

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Tuesday, June 6, 2023   

A court hearing next week could help determine whether an eastern South Dakota mayor will face a recall election. Events are rare for this state, but there is a strong appetite for "direct democracy," according to one expert. The legal wrangling surrounding a possible recall vote concerns the mayor of Baltic, with the next hearing scheduled for June 15th.

Joshua Spivak, author and senior research fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College and expert on recall elections, said South Dakota law prevents statewide officeholders from being recalled; it has set a tone that even local leaders have rarely. But he said residents and activist groups are showing a lot of interest in statewide ballot initiatives.

"Voters like this," he said. "And it's not a conservative and it's not a liberal position to like direct democracy."

Spivak added several proposed statewide ballot questions are already going through approval stages for the 2024 election. It follows high-profile questions put before South Dakota voters in recent years. He described it as a "counter-pushback" toward legislative efforts to add more requirements for initiated measures. Those who support such moves worry about what they call "citizen lawmakers" working around the Legislature.

In states where restrictions to circulating petitions for ballot questions have been added, it has often been Republican lawmakers pushing for those changes. So far, Spivak explained, those policymakers have not paid the price come election time. But he added it is fair to question if their constituents will eventually have a change of heart.

"There is a strong possibility, especially if somebody's running an insurgent campaign against these election officials saying, 'Hey, I support your right to make your own choices.' They didn't," he said.

Experts say the dynamic is interesting for South Dakota because it was the first state to adopt the initiative and referendum process on a statewide level. As for recall elections, Spivak's research notes there is only one documented vote happening in South Dakota in the past dozen years. That happened in Whitewood, where the election official in question survived the effort to vote them out of office.


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