The Corner

South Dakotans Seek Referendum on Obamacare

Determined to keep Obamacare out of South Dakota, tea partiers are collecting signatures for a petition to hold a referendum on two state laws that will implement the health-care overhaul.

At issue are S.B. 38 and S.B. 43, which Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R.) and the Republican-controlled state legislature swiftly passed into law in late February and early March. S.B. 38 mostly reorganized existing law, Randy Moses, assistant director of the state’s Division of Insurance, tells National Review Online. It also untangled a few regulatory weeds. For example, it eliminated a patient’s ability to seek a second internal review of a denied claim by an insurance company.

S.B. 43, meanwhile, recast state law to comply with Obamacare. It prohibited waiting periods for patients with preexisting conditions who were under 19 years old. And it allowed parents to keep children on their policies until they reached 26 years old.

Barbara Lindberg, president of Citizens for Liberty, compares Obamacare to a locomotive, “and the two tracks are S.B. 38 and 43,” she says. “If the track stops on South Dakota’s borders, it cannot come into our state.”

Moses, however, argues that if the state doesn’t conform its laws to Obamacare’s dictates, federal law requires it to cede regulation of its health-insurance market to D.C. administrators. “What we’re trying to do with this legislation is number one, get our statues minimally compliant with the federal law and by doing so that gives the state the authority to continue to regulate health insurance on the local level,” Moses told the state legislature in February.

But Lindberg is pressing ahead. After the governor signs a bill into law, South Dakotans have 90 days — in this case, until June 27 — to collect the necessary amount of signatures — 5 percent of the previous year’s vote total, or about 15,500 signatures — to place a law on the state’s ballot.

Lindberg was unable to give NRO an estimate of the signatures her group has collected so far. But one state representative who is sympathetic to Lindberg’s effort thinks they may miss the cutoff. “I think they’re probably going to be short,” he says.

Lindberg, however, wants to set an example for the other 23 states that allow the people to hold referenda on state legislation. “We’re hoping that the other 23 states use this powerful tool,” she says.


The Latest