From The Left: A Review Of The Amendments And Initiatives On The Ballot

A while back, I wrote I feel initiated measures are becoming way too common in North Dakota. I feel that even though the elected legislature may make decisions I disagree with, (and to be fair, they often do) I prefer a representative government of the people’s representatives to a direct democracy when it comes to making and repealing laws. I personally feel that only constitutional Amendments should be allowed for a direct vote by the people, and lawmaking should be done by elected lawmakers.

However, short of that happening, I thought I would write a few comments on each of the constitutional amendments and statutory initiatives we will be voting on in a few weeks. I have decided to leave Measure 1 off this list, as I want to write more on that measure at a later time.

Measure 2: Property Transfer Tax Ban – This measure is to ban a tax that does not exist, has never been proposed in our state, and most likely will never exist in our state. I expect it to pass, because most people like the concept of banning taxes. However, I really don’t see the point of this measure.

Measure 3: Higher Education Commission: Relating to repealing the existing Board of Higher Education and creating a three member commission of higher education appointed by the Governor. I understand why people think that it is best to keep politics out of education, however, if the Higher Ed System wants taxpayer money, they should expect reasonable oversight. The reality is the cost of Higher Ed in North Dakota has skyrocketed over the past few years, and from where I sit, I see a University system more interested in making their colleges look impressive rather than actually being good at educating students and future employees. The cost of that has been handed off to students who often have a hard time graduating and even if they do, are burdened with extraordinary student loan debt. The current system is broke, and I refuse to support it just because I want to keep politics out of Higher Ed. The system needs more accountability, and my hope is that Measure 3 will help with that.

Measure 4: Relating to the fiscal impact of measures to initiate constitutional amendments and to the placing of initiated measures on the ballot. I will support this measure because I don’t like a direct democracy, and I don’t want it being used to set budgetary policy for the state of North Dakota.

Measure 5: Constitutional Petition Related to Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Trust and a Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Fund. I really want to support this measure. I live in Western North Dakota, and I see how the beauty of the state is being compromised by development.  I have also long believed that the biggest threat to gun ownership in this country is not anti-gun legislation, but the lack of availability of land open for public hunting. However, this measure is a constitutional amendment that will mandate spending, without much oversight, on conservation. Once again, I don’t think it is the role of a direct democracy to set budgetary policy.  So while I support the spirit of Measure 5, I will vote against it.

Measure 6:  Relating to Parental Rights and Responsibilities, the so called shared parent initiative. I understand that divorce can be hard on parents and children, and I do have problems with a system that far too often sides with the Mother over the Father in custody cases. However, once again, the time to make changes to custody laws in North Dakota should be during the Legislative Session.  It has been years since the last public vote on this issue and its supporters have failed to make any significant changes to current law during multiple legislative sessions. This tells me they cannot build support in an institution that is primarily male. That should say something about how unappealing this law would be to North Dakota families.

Measure 7:  Relating to the Operation of a Pharmacy. I have never had any problem getting any pharmaceutical drugs in North Dakota, and I see no reason to change the law. However, if is to be changed, the time for the large out of state interests to make that case should be during the legislative session.

Measure 8: Statutory Petition Related to School Classes Beginning After Labor Day. This one is going to be hard for me. I have major problems with the calendar at my children’s school. I really think it set up for the convenience of the teachers and the administrators and the lives of children and parents are an afterthought. I have long been envious of Minnesota schools that start after Labor Day and end before Memorial Day.  I also think the “keep it local” crowd on this issue is hiding behind an easy logo and knowing well that “keep it local” really just means protecting the messed up system that already exists. However, once again, I don’t think this is an issue that should be voted on by the public at large. So I will pinch my nose and vote no.

However, I will not be heartbroken if it passes.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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