House And Senate Leaders Back Amendment Requiring That Lawmakers Live In Their Districts
Back in 2013 SAB was the first to report that multiple lawmakers were no longer living in their legislative districts despite having represented those districts in the 2013 session, and continuing to represent them in interim proceedings.
Among them was Rep. Curtiss Kruen (R-Grand Forks) and Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-Dickinson), neither of whom ran for re-election in 2014. Also among them was Rep. Corey Mock, who is currently serving as Assistant Minority Leader in the State House. Interestingly, Mock’s wife ran for and was elected to the Grand Forks city council from a ward that isn’t in her husband’s district.
Currently state statute doesn’t allow for this sort of thing. Section 44-02-01 of the North Dakota Century Code which states, “An office becomes vacant if the incumbent shall…Cease to be a resident of the state, district, county, or other political subdivision in which the duties of the office are to be discharged, or for which the person may have been elected.” But the state Supreme Court has ruled that the constitution controls the prerequisites for serving in the Legislature, and that statute cannot add requirements.
So, for now, Mock is able to serve in the Legislature ostensibly serving the people of District 42 even though he hasn’t lived in that district for some time.
But HCR4010 would change that. It amends Article IV, Section 5 of the state constitution from the current requirement, which is that lawmakers merely be residents of their districts on election day, to a requirement that they live in their districts in order to be eligible to serve in the legislature.
Here are the changes:
What is perhaps most interesting about the resolution is the sponsorship. The Majority and Minority leadership of both houses is backing it including Rep. Al Carlson and Senator Rich Wardner (Republicans), as well as Rep. Kenton Onstad and Senator Mac Schneider (Democrats).
It looks like the leaders in the legislature are looking to close this loophole in a bipartisan way.
Which seems appropriate. Some of these instances of lawmakers moving out of districts are more egregious than others (Rep. Johnson moved across the state to Fargo, Mock seems to have merely moved across town), why even bother to have legislative districts if we aren’t going to require that those who represent them actually, you know, live there?