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The South Dakota Senate on Wednesday voted to strike an extensive voter-approved campaign finance and ethics law.
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Have an opinion on money and politics in South Dakota? Here’s your chance to have some input before a state panel considers recommending changes.

The Government Accountability Task Force is scheduled to accept testimony as it considers changing the laws that dictate how much candidates can take in and how they have to disclose it to the public.

Ahead of that meeting, here’s a little more information about what started the conversation about rewriting the state’s political fundraising laws.

How did we get here?

It started last year when voters narrowly approved Initiated Measure 22 on the ballot. Days after it took effect, the campaign finance and ethics reform measure was stalled in court and later struck down by state lawmakers who promised to replace it.

While parts of the extensive proposal were replaced or revised during the legislative session, lawmakers wouldn’t commit to campaign finance changes and pushed off the decision.

More: After promising to replace, did lawmakers deliver on IM22?

They vowed to study the state’s campaign finance structures over the summer and recommend changes to be taken up during the 2018 legislative session.

As part of that process, task force members will hear testimony Tuesday from those who want to share ideas about how to improve the state’s campaign finance laws.

What do the laws say now?

South Dakota sets caps on individual contributions to statewide candidates at $4,000 annually, or $1,000 for legislative candidates. Meanwhile, political action committees and political parties are unlimited in what they can contribute to candidates or ballot measure campaigns.

Corporations and labor unions are able to contribute to candidates at the same levels as individuals.

More: PACs turn attention to Sioux Falls mayor’s race as field fills out

Political committees and candidates are required to report their campaign contributions at least three times during the election cycle: 15 days prior to the primary election, 15 days prior to the general election and the final Friday in January.

Those who fail to meet the reporting requirements face civil penalties and fines.

Lawmakers earlier this year also set misdemeanor charges for the violation of campaign finance limits and required additional disclosure of campaigning materials and advertisements. 

Why change the laws?

Supporters of the campaign finance and ethics reform proposal said the state needs to update its laws to require more transparency and limit the influence of money in elections. 

They’ve committed to bringing a similar proposal to the 2018 ballot that would also address campaign finance laws. This time, however, the proposal would amend the state’s constitution if passed, which would exempt it from legislative repeal.

What happens next?

The committee will hear testimony from attendees in Sioux Falls. It will then convene again later this fall to consider recommendations. Once it reaches a consensus on possible tweaks, members will outline possible legislation ahead of the 2018 legislative session.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, call 605-370-2493 or email dferguson@argusleader.com

Campaign finance meeting

What: Government Accountability Task Force meeting
When:  5 p.m. Tuesday, September 12, 2017
Where: Southeast Technical Institute Room 257, Sullivan Health Center 
2320 N Career Ave Sioux Falls, South Dakota

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