A CIR proposal in South Dakota, but only in name

Posted by on January 18, 2018 in CIR in the news, CIR legislation, Democratic innovation | 0 comments

South Dakota’s legislature is considering establishing a Citizens’ Initiative Review Commission, but the name is possibly the only family resemblance to the CIR process created in Oregon.

House Bill 1007 explains that “the Citizen Initiative Review Commission shall be composed of eleven members appointed by the State Board of Elections.” That includes former and current legislators, with Commission members serving four year terms. No more than six can be from one political party, but–put another way–that means a party can have a ruling majority on the Commission.

The Commission does not oversee a CIR process, which would have a random sample of citizens scrutinize proposed legislation. Rather, the Commission’s appointees do that work themselves:

The commission shall conduct at least one hearing to be held in Pierre for any initiated measure and initiated amendment to the Constitution that is certified for placement on the next general election ballot…After any hearing conducted under this section, the commission shall provide an objective  written summary not to exceed three hundred words for each initiated measure or initiated amendment to the Constitution for purposes of being published on the website maintained by the Office of the Secretary of State.

An amendment today made on small (big) change, by deleting the 300 word limit on the Commission’s statement. In other words, an appointed Commission may hold forth on legislation using as many words as it sees fit. The unlimited length reflects the fact that this Commission statement would not necessarily appear in any voter guide–another hallmark of Oregon’s CIR process.

Deliberative innovations often get copied in name only, with the underlying power of the process getting stripped away in some cases. This has happened to Deliberative Polls, Citizens Juries, Participatory Budgeting, and more, as one can see by looking at the sheer variety of meanings attached to these names in cases written up at Participedia.net. It was only a matter of time until that happened to the CIR.

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