If You’re Skeptical of the Legislature Making Changes to the Initiated Measure Process Please Watch This Video
The state Senate’s Committee’ on Government and Veteran Affairs voted on SCR4001 they gave it a unanimous “do not pass” recommendation.
The resolution, introduced by Senator David Hogue (R-Minot), would amend the state constitution to require that ballot initiative which would amend the state constitution be approved by the Legislature in addition to the voters.
I suspect the GVA Committee based their recommendation on the populist backlash from direct democracy fetishists who insist that our laws, up to and including our state constitution, must be vulnerable to the whims of masses as manipulated by expensive marketing campaigns.
But Hogue did a remarkable thing when the resolution came up for a floor vote. He gave an passionate speech about the need for checks and balances in the initiated measure process, and he ended up winning the vote. The resolution passed on a 31-6 vote.
Here’s the speech:
As Hogue noted during his speech, SCR4001 would not have any impact on initiated measures which merely amend state statute. It also would not impact the ability of the public to collect signatures and refer a law passed by the Legislature to the ballot.
It would only impact ballot measures which seek to amend the constitution, because as Hogue described it a “person from out of state” can “pick up a phone and call a marketing company in North Dakota” to put their issue before voters. Hogue contrasted this with the way the Legislature initiates an amendment to the constitution, a process which requires committee hearings and testimony and votes in both the House and Senate before the matter is sent to voters.
“That is no way to amend our constitution,” he said. “This process we have now is just wrong. There’s no other way to describe it.”
Hogue referenced recent constitutional ballot measure initiatives – the Marsy’s Law campaign in 2016 as well as the ban on non-citizen voting amendment last year – which were paid for entirely by out-of-state dollars. He also noted that Measure 1 from last year, the so-called “ethics” measure, saw more than 80 percent of its funding come from out of state.
“I feel a like a little boy who has to stand up and say the emperor has no clothes,” Hogue continued. “That’s what our constitution is right now. It is naked.”
Here’s how the Senators voted: