Americans’ rights to speak and associate freely are protected by the U.S. Constitution. But over the past few years, efforts to strip away these rights have gained momentum.
It might surprise you to know that South Dakota—often considered a more conservative state in the union—has become a poster child for this fight, but not in a good way.
After repealing Initiated Measure 22, a ballot initiative that would have funded political campaigns with tax dollars and required certain non-profit organizations to report to the government personal information of its supporters, Republican lawmakers made another attempt to infringe on South Dakotans’ right to free speech.
House Bill 1200 proposed similar government reporting requirements as Initiated Measure 22. Any non-profit organization that participates in civic engagement and spends over a certain amount on independent expenditures would have to disclose the names of its top supporters.
While proponents of the bill argued it would help limit outside groups from meddling in state elections, HB 1200 was actually an attempt to stifle political participation. Americans for Prosperity-South Dakota state director Ben Lee testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee and argued that, if passed, the law would make people vulnerable to intimidation and harassment based on their beliefs that some might disagree with or view as controversial—as we have already seen at the federal level with the IRS Tea Party targeting scandal.
Our First Amendment right to free speech is at the foundation of our country. Because of its protections, citizens are able to hold government officials accountable, peacefully protest, and support causes and organizations that are important to them.
This anti-free speech bill passed through the House of Representatives, but Sens. Brock Greenfield, Lance Russell, Stace Nelson, Jenna Netherton, and Kris Langer acted in the best interest of their constituents and voted against passing the bill out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Give them a quick call at (605) 773-3821 to say thank you!
South Dakotans are lucky to have legislators willing to defend their constitutional rights, and these five senators need to be thanked for their efforts.