FARGO — For about a century, North Dakota citizens have had the opportunity to put measures on the ballot to become law. Now that process is in danger. That’s because of Measure 2, which is on the November election ballot. It, surprise, surprise, was put on the ballot by the North Dakota Legislature.
Measure 2 is a blatant power grab by the Legislature, and an insult to the state’s voters. It would make citizen-initiated constitutional amendments virtually impossible to pass. That’s because instead of those amendments becoming law by a vote of the people, the Legislature would also have to approve them. If the legislators reject them, then they have to go back to another vote of the people at least two years later. So there would be three votes, instead of one. It would take years for those measures to become law, and makes citizen organizers less likely to try.
Progressives, moderates and conservatives in the state should all be outraged by Measure 2. The legislators don’t like being told what to do by the public. They argue that the public doesn’t understand the measures. In other words, the public knows enough to elect them, but not enough about the issues.
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s going on. For years, the Legislature never passed any ethics laws. They loved their free meals, free gifts, and free trips. I hear Antigua is beautiful at this time of the year. So, North Dakota voters approved an ethics measure in 2018. The Legislature’s payback now, is to try to prevent any more similar constitutional amendments from becoming law.
Some will argue that this measure is needed because out-of-state money is funding these measures. How is that different than the out-of-state money funding the state’s U.S. Senate and House candidates?
The truth is, these measures are truly put together by North Dakotans. There has to be a 25-person sponsoring committee that’s made up entirely of North Dakota residents. All the people signing the petitions have to be from North Dakota. Even the people asking for the signatures have to be North Dakotans. It’s hard work, especially in the middle of a pandemic, to get roughly 27,000 North Dakota residents to sign petitions.
The legislators act like they are smarter than you. The reality is, the lawmakers are often way behind the times when it comes to public policy. That’s why it took citizens to approve an ethics commission, participation in lotteries such as Powerball, serving alcohol in restaurants, establishing an oil extraction tax, banning smoking in public places, and approving the use of medical marijuana.
The point of these measures is for the people to decide, not the Legislature. If Measure 2 passes, the next target will be initiated measures of any kind. We must keep our important rights as North Dakota citizens.
Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director. Email email@example.com