North Dakota

North Dakota

Tuesday November 4, 2014 North Dakota voters rejected a legislatively referred constitutional amendment which would have placed new restrictions on the initiative process. Measure 4 would have allowed the state to stop any petition from being circulated that would appropriate funds directly or require the legislature to appropriate funds. The measure would also have required all initiatives with significant fiscal impact to be voted on at the general election. Like many legislative referred ballot questions this amendment had potential to significantly reduce citizen’s ability to propose legislation.
When voters in North Dakota went to the polls on Tuesday, Measure 4 was rejected with 56.59% (135,408 of 239,296) voting “No”.

North Dakotans will decide 8 ballot issues this November, the most the Roughrider State has seen since 1989, when the state legislature referred 8 measures, which all went down to defeat. This November, 4 of the measures were referred by the legislature and 4 others put on the ballot through citizen petitions. Another legislatively referred measure was voted on in June.

The state has a long history of placing multiple measures on the ballot, with voters casting votes on 470 ballot issues in North Dakota’s history (both citizen-initiated and legislature-referred). The record for the most measures on the ballot came in 1938, with 13 separate measures.

When North Dakota voters go to the polls Tuesday, they’ll find a ballot containing eight statewide measures, the most in a quarter century.

That’s the same number that was on the ballot in a special election on Dec. 5, 1989.

The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald banner headline the morning after reflected the voters’ mood:

No. No. No. No. No. No. No. No.

That election, and perhaps that headline itself, served as an exclamation mark for North Dakota in the 1980s, a time of rapid rural depopulation and economic decline. Even then-Gov. George Sinner — father of the current U.S. House candidate of the same name — was referred to in the state Capitol and in the media and as Gov. Gloom and Doom.

With a boost from the Fourth of July and other summer celebrations, three groups circulating ballot petitions are confident they will have their measures before voters in November.

Petition drives are underway for ballot measures that would create a new conservation fund, start the school year after Labor Day and change the state pharmacy ownership law. A fourth group, pursuing a shared parenting initiative, has turned in its signatures and is waiting for ballot approval from the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office.

Drawing the stiffest opposition so far is a measure that would create a Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Trust. It would require setting aside 5 percent of the state’s oil extraction tax revenue annually for conservation.

Measure 1, a constitutional amendment that moves the initiative petition deadline up 30 days – to just before the North Dakota state fair, so that initiative sponsors lose that very important meeting place for gathering signatures – passed narrowly yesterday in a very low turnout primary election.

State legislators introduced the amendment as HCR 3034 and passed it at the request of long-serving Secretary of State Al Jaeger, who argued his office needed more time to review petitions and that more time was also necessary to accommodate legal challenges to ballot measures.

On tomorrow’s statewide primary ballot in North Dakota is Measure 1, a constitutional amendment that would cut 30 days from the signature gathering period, by making the petition deadline 120 days prior to the general election, rather than the current 90 days.

Secretary of State Al Jaeger brought the measure to the legislature in 2013, and a bipartisan majority of legislators jumped at the idea, with 64 percent of Senators and 85 percent in the House voting to put Measure 1 on the ballot.  Jaeger argued the measure will “safeguard the credibility of the petition process.”

Three citizen-driven ballot measures are inching closer to the November general election ballot.

Signatures are being collected on measures that would start the school year after Labor Day, create a new conservation fund using oil tax revenue and make changes to parental rights and responsibilities.

The three initiatives, if the necessary signatures are gathered, would join five constitutional measures approved for a vote by lawmakers during last year’s legislative session.

Read More: here

During the 2013 Legislative Session, many efforts were made to change the way Initiated Measure and Referral System works in North Dakota.  Most of these efforts in one way or another would have had a negative effect on the citizen’s ability to initiate and refer laws.  To prevent legislative over-reach it is time to restrict the legislature’s ability to alter The Powers Reserved to the People by asking the voters to approve the following constitutional amendment in North Dakota: 

After a legislative session in which legislators passed several statutes and constitutional amendments designed to restrict citizen use of initiative and referendum, North Dakota citizens are taking the first steps to place a constitutional amendment on the 2014 ballot that would protect the initiative process from legislative assaults. 

The effort, led by Dustin Gawrylow and a group called “Protect ND,” seeks to amend Article III of the constitution to block any future legislative tampering with the initiative and referendum rights of North Dakota voters.

North Dakota is no California, and Sen. David Hogue wants to keep it that way.

Hogue, R-Minot, told the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that initiated measures drove California’s debt to more than $335 billion.

After proposals in recent years for initiated measures that could have cost North Dakota millions of dollars, Hogue decided to try make sure the state doesn’t go the way of California.

His effort became Senate Concurrent Resolution 4006, a proposed constitutional amendment that would give the Legislature the last word on initiated measures that cost more than $50 million.

North Dakota voters could decide if they want to require more signatures and a more statewide approach when citizens want to put issues up to statewide vote.

Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, has introduced House Concurrent Resolution 3011, which would require any citizen initiated measure that would potentially cost more than $20 million, should it pass, to be placed on a general election ballot. Measures with less than a $20 million impact could still be put on a primary or general election ballot.

On February 25, the North Dakota Senate passed SB 2183 by a vote of 31-16. This is the bill that says no one may circulate an initiative petition, or a recall petition, unless the individual has lived in the state for at least two years.

Republican Senators supported the bill by a margin of 29-4, but Democratic Senators opposed it by a margin of 2-12.

Read more at Ballot Access News

An op-ed piece written by former North Dakota lieutenant-governor Lloyd Omdahl points to more attempts by state legislatures to throw up roadblocks to the initiative and referendum process. The legislature in the Roughrider State has proposed new provisions in the shape of HCR 3011.

Taking advantage of last year’s petition signature scandal, some legislators have proposed to tighten up the procedure by which citizens can initiate laws, refer acts of the Legislature and amend the North Dakota Constitution.

New provisions proposed in House Concurrent Resolution 3011 include:

Ӣ Require that measures costing more than $20 million be submitted in a general election.

Ӣ Outlaw payment to petition circulators for gathering signatures.

Ӣ Raise the number of signatures for the referral and initiative from 13,000 to 18,000.

Ӣ Require that a minimum number of signatures be obtained in at least 27 counties.

A group of concerned citizens plans on submitting language for a ballot measure within the next two weeks that if passed would strengthen North Dakota’s animal cruelty law.
Mandan resident Alison Smith, one of the proponents of the measure, said the initiative would increase the penalty for animal cruelty in North Dakota from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class C felony.
“The animal cruelty laws are some of the weakest in the nation. We thought we would take this issue directly to the people of North Dakota,” Smith said.

Read more at Bismarck Tribune.