Attorney General Marty Jackley just released an official opinion upholding the ability of the South Dakota Municipal League to endorse Referred Law 14.
State Rep. Peggy Gibson had complained about the Municipal League’s endorsement of this ballot measure in its magazine, alleging it violated a state law against cities spending tax money on political action.
SDCL 12-27-20 prohibits “the governing body of a county, municipality, or other political subdivision of the state” from spending “public funds for the purpose of… the petitioning of a ballot question on the ballot or the adoption or defeat of any ballot question.”
But Jackley says two other South Dakota laws make it clear that doesn’t apply to the Municipal League, an association of city governments.
SDCL 9-17-1 allows cities to form associations to secure “concerted action among such municipalities in behalf of such matters, measures, and municipal affairs as such organization shall determine to be beneficial to, in the common interest of, and as concerns and pertains to said municipalities.”
SDCL 9-17-3 permits the paying of dues to the municipal league.
Between them, Jackley writes, “these statutes supersede the more general provision of SDCL 12-27-20 prohibiting municipalities from expending public funds to advocate a position on a referred or initiated measure.”
If the Legislature intended for that to not be the case, it could have made 12-27-20 specifically mention municipal associations, or repeal or amend 9-17-1 and 9-17-3, Jackley says.
Here’s Jackley’s official opinion: