South Dakota judge blocks drug price cap measure from ballot

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — A South Dakota judge on Monday barred a ballot question that would have capped the price state agencies could pay for prescription drugs from appearing on the November ballot.

Circuit Judge Patricia DeVaney said in a court filing that supporters of Initiated Measure 26 didn’t submit enough valid signatures to put it before voters after opponents of the measure filed a legal challenge to keep it off the general election ballot. The plan — adapted from an Ohio measure voters rejected in 2017 — would have prohibited state agencies from paying more than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for prescription drugs.

Secretary of State Shantel Krebs approved the measure in April after a random sampling found proponents had turned in more than the 13,871 valid signatures necessary for it to appear on the ballot. But opposition group South Dakotans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue challenged the validity of thousands of signatures.

DeVaney said in the filing that some signatures were invalid because petitioners failed to witness the signings or because of the omission of circulator verification documentation, among other issues. She wrote that about 55 percent of the roughly 22,000 signatures supporters submitted were valid, totaling about 12,250 names, which is short of the required threshold.

South Dakotans Against the Deceptive Rx Ballot Issue spokeswoman Sherry Kurtz-Anderson said in a statement that the measure was “about deception from the beginning.”

“Proponents of this deceptive proposal took a bad idea rejected by voters in California and Ohio, funded it with contributions from an out-of-state health care organization and violated the law in attempting to qualify it for the ballot,” she said.

Initiative backers didn’t immediately return telephone messages requesting comment from The Associated Press. Supporters have said the proposal was meant to save taxpayer dollars and drive down the cost of prescriptions.

Kurtz-Anderson said initiative proponents lack legal standing to appeal the case. Attorney General Marty Jackley’s office didn’t immediately return a request for comment from the AP.