Proposed Amendments: Two More Make Fall Ballot

June 01, 2006

Chet Brokaw, Associated Press

South Dakota voters this fall will decide the fate of ballot measures that seek to boost the tax on cigarettes, allow marijuana for medical purposes, prohibit an early starting date for school and limit the use of state airplanes, a state official announced Thursday.

Secretary of State Chris Nelson had announced earlier this month that sufficient petition signatures had been filed to put the tobacco tax and school starting date measures on the November ballot.

Nelson's office on Wednesday determined that enough signatures had been filed to qualify the medical marijuana and state airplane proposals for the ballot.

The four proposed laws will join four proposed constitutional amendments on the fall ballot. South Dakota voters also are likely to decide whether to accept the bill passed by the Legislature that would ban nearly all abortions in South Dakota.

In addition, the court system is expected to determine whether public votes can be held on two other proposed laws that seek to repeal the video lottery and a tax on cellular telephone companies.

The proposed laws that will appear for sure on the November ballot have been given ballot numbers.

Nelson said the tobacco tax will be Initiated Measure 2, the school starting date will be Initiated Measure 3, the medical marijuana proposal will be Initiated Measure 4, and the proposed restrictions on using state planes will be Initiated Measure 5.

There will be no Initiated Measure 1 on this year's ballot because that number was used in the 2004 election.

The proposed law on tobacco taxes would nearly triple the state tax on cigarettes, from the current 53 cents a pack to $1.53. It also would boost the existing 10 percent wholesale tax on other tobacco products to 35 percent.

Supporters estimate the tobacco tax measure would increase state revenues by $40 million a year, which would more than double the current take from tobacco taxes.

The first $30 million in current tobacco revenues would go into the state general fund for any use approved by the Legislature. Up to $5 million in new revenue would be steered into anti-smoking programs.

One-third of new revenues beyond that $5 million would be put into the property-tax reduction fund, one-third into an education trust fund and one-third into the state health care trust fund.

The school proposal would prevent schools from starting classes before Aug. 31.

Supporters contend that starting school earlier hurts tourism-related businesses by taking away their student employees before the busy Labor Day weekend, but school officials argue such decisions should be left up to each local school district.

Another initiated measure would allow the use of marijuana for medical purposes if a patient and a doctor agreed that the benefits outweigh the risks. The doctor then could sign a recommendation for marijuana therapy.

Supporters contend that marijuana could help people with diseases such as cancer and AIDS, and those who suffer from chronic pain, nausea or seizures.

The final measure would bar personal trips on state aircraft. Economist and activist Reynold Nesiba started the petition after reports that Gov. Mike Rounds uses state-owned planes for personal and political trips. Rounds has said he reimburses the state for such trips.

Be the first to Comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.