Update: Senator David Hogue emails to make it clear that this amendment impacts only constituitonal measures. Statutory measures that appropriate money, or direct appropriations, would be ok.
After rampant signature fraud on two ballot measures last year, North Dakota’s legislature has been grappling with reform for the initiated measure process. One proposal is SCR4006 which, in its original form, would have given the legislature a chance to veto any measure with a more than $50 million fiscal impact.
That was controversial enough, but in its most recent engrossment the constitutional amendment has been changed to ban any initiated measure which appropriates any money at all.
Here’s the pertinent language:
Before the secretary of state may approve a petition to initiate a constitutional amendment, the secretary of state shall forward the proposed amendment to the attorney general for review. The attorney general shall review the proposed amendment to determine whether the proposed amendment would make a direct appropriation of public funds for a specific purpose or would require the legislative assembly to appropriate funds for a specific purpose. If the attorney general determines that the proposed amendment would make a direct appropriation of public funds for a specific purpose or would require the legislative assembly to appropriate funds for a specific purpose, the secretary of state shall notify the committee for the petitioners that the petition may not be approved for circulation.
SCR4006, in its original form, passed the state Senate on a 28-19 vote. The House Judiciary Committee approved the language above with a 13-1 vote.
What this change would mean is that citizens could initiate a measure to change laws – statute or constitutional amendments – but they couldn’t initiate any measures to spend money, or direct the legislature to spend money.
North Dakota has a wide populist streak. The citizens of this state like direct democracy, and should the legislature pass this, it’ll likely go over like a lead balloon with the electorate.