I wouldn’t be quick to assume that the South Dakota state legislature won’t pass the mandatory gun ownership law that John posted about yesterday. In 2006, the legislature outlawed abortion, only to have the law overturned by a 55-45 margin in a referendum. The statehouse is completely controlled by a fairly retrograde set of Republicans, and only Baby Jesus knows what these idiots will pass on any given day.
There are a lot of reasons that the South Dakota legislature is screwed up. Legislator is a part-time job that doesn’t pay worth a damn, so the typical legislator is some kind of self-employed or retired person. People with real jobs can’t cut a couple of months out of their schedule for what’s essentially free work, and the people who can are more likely to be Republicans. The legislature doesn’t do a whole lot except figure out how to cut spending, because the state’s only real revenue source is a sales tax. Schools and municipalities–the government that people really care about–are funded in large part by local property taxes, so the legislature can’t do much to fuck that up. And there are 70 House members, one for every 6,000 registered voters. Since the top two vote getters in each legislative district are sent to the House, it’s often possible for a dedicated wacko to squeak in.
In short, the place is useless and full of wankers because nobody good wants a shitty part-time job that’s easy to get but not really very important. The legislature has the luxury of jacking off over gun control and abortion because the state economy is fueled in large part by federally-subsidized farming and ranching. The money for that comes from DC, not Pierre, and everyone knows it. Even so, it’s a goddam embarrassing shame to see how poorly the legislature represents some of the hardest-working and most intelligent people in the nation.