Initiated Measure Modernization Act Defeated

House also passes unconstitutional plan to repeal and replace voter-approved term limits, and votes to add 20 days to the length of legislative sessions.


House Decides Not To Make It Better With Vetter

Yesterday, the House voted by a vote of 29 Yeas to 63 Nays to reject the compromise amendment to the constitution that Representative Steve Vetter (R-Grand Forks) helped me introduce.

You can watch the floor debate here.

North Dakota's Watchdog Update
HCR 3031 Floor Debate on Modernizing The Initiated Measure Process
Watch now (14 min) | Here is more information on the bill: Here is the background on how it came to be…
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You can read about the development of this approach here.

North Dakota's Watchdog Update
Press Release: Constitutional Amendment Introduced To Modernize Initiated Measures
Pro-Grassroots Constitutional Amendment Also Addresses Long-Standing Concerns By Legislators By Raising The Bar On Passage Of Future Constitutional Measures, Without Disenfranchising Citizens Of The Powers Reserved To The People In Article III Of The State Constitution…
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The good news from this floor debate is that a provision may be added to the Secretary of State’s budget appropriation to allow for some sort of study. Hopefully, it is a mandatory study with enough funding to do the issue justice.

SCR 4013 Remains Threat To I&R Rights

Currently, SCR 4013 in its amended format is still alive.

Compared to the original version it is less bad:

  • the original 67% approval threshold has been removed, and replaced with the simple-majority in both the Primary and General Election (the provision I suggested to the Senate Committee on SCR 4013 and within HCR 3031).

  • the “single-subject” rule provision is in place, and leaves it up to the Secretary of State. I had requested that they clarify that provision in both SCR 4013 and HCR 3031 because it’s way too wide open for mischievous interpretation.

  • the provisions banning paid circulators entirely likely would have been challenged and determined to be unconstitutional, but thanks to a consultant (who will go un-named), who has helped with many campaigns and also does work for petitioning efforts, convinced certain members of the committee to remove those provisions.

  • the threshold for signatures requires on constitutional measures would go from 4% to 5% of the population.

Again, it is much less bad than the original version. But without a much more clear definition of “single-subject” it leaves way too much room for manipulation. Simply leaving up the determination to the Secretary of State is abdicating the legislature’s role as the law-making branch of government and giving it to an Executive Branch member of the government. That will be the exploited weakness of this approach if it makes it to the ballot.

If the legislature really wanted to pass this approach, it would fix the “single-subject rule” definition and attach a provision that gives the Secretary of State a few more years to figure out electronic signatures - say, by the year 2028. That would give the legislature and the Secretary of State two interims and two legislative sessions to get the system figured out. Maybe even include a review provision that allows the legislature to determine whether the electronic system is working, and if not revert back to the old rules and paper until the system can work.

If the legislature made those two changes and left the rest of the amendment as is, it would likely pass with the voters overwhelmingly.

House Approves Resolution That Is Unconstitutional Using Literal Reading Of The Measure Voters Passed In November

A few weeks ago, I wrote you about HCR 3019 which seeks to repeal and replace the term limits passed by voters in November.

North Dakota's Watchdog Update
HCR 3019 Attempts To Violate Constitution To Repeal and Replace Term Limits
The North Dakota Watchdog Network did not take a strong stance either way on Measure 1 last fall. There are good aspects, as well as some problems that will be created by term limits - like the lack of long-term knowledge among legislators who already have problems “understanding the system” when they first get elected…
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Yesterday, the House voted the other way, 63 Yeas to 29 Nays to repeal and replace the majority of Article XV

You can watch the floor debate by clicking here.

North Dakota's Watchdog Update
HCR 3019 House Floor Debate on Term Limits
Watch now (41 min) | More info here: Background Commentary…
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In the debate, legislators discussed their belief that the Article IV Section 16 power to place measures on the ballot cannot be limited by the Article XV Section 4 provisions declaring the legislature does not have the power to propose changes to Article XV. (Which exposes a need for more clarification to Article IV)

Other legislators also played word-games with Article III, regarding “initiated measures” and whether the requirement of a 2/3rd majority of the legislature is required to change an “initiated constitutional measure” - splitting hairs over whether an “initiated measure” amending statute and a “constitutional initiated measure” amending the constitution have different protections against legislative manipulation.

North Dakota's Watchdog Update
Discussing Term Limits and Property Taxes w/ Joel Heitkamp
Listen now (13 min) | Joel and I discuss HCR 3019’s attempt to repeal and replace the Term Limits section of the constitution passed in 2022. We also discussed how it is unlikely there will be real property tax reform this session either…
Listen now

Common sense would say that an “initiated constitutional measure” would be held to the same or greater standard as an “initiated [statutory] measure” - but many legislators do not think so. (Which exposes a need for more clarification to Article III.)

HCR 3019 now goes to the Senate for discussion, if approved it would be up to the Secretary of State to place it on the ballot, and almost surely be sued with the legislature, for violating the literal text of Article XV.

Legislature Wants More Days To Work

Since the mid-1960s, the legislature has been limited to an 80 day session - it was previously 60 days starting at statehood.

The House also decided they need 20 days every two years to get their work done and give themselves the option for 20 more days with a super-majority of both chambers, and exempt days back to over-ride vetos.

HCR 3020 passed by a vote of 74 Yeas and 18 Nays.

Click here to watch the floor debate.

In previous sessions, this would have never had a chance - and has defeated similar proposals many, many times. But the anger and fear over term limits has caused many Republicans, and many conservatives to change their minds on the issue of more days in session leading to more government.

Almost three-years ago, Ralph Mueke, one of the most fervent defenders of the Initiative and Referendum Process, passed away.

Every time Ralph testified on a bill relating to the initiated measure process, he would start off the speech by reading his favorite quote from Mark Twain.


That pretty much sums up what the idea of letting the legislature have an extra 20-40 days to work will make many North Dakotans feel.