From The Left: It's Time To Remove The Governor's Muzzle


Even though the North Dakota Dem-NPL is having a hard time finding candidates for many offices, the calendar is showing us that it is coming up on election time. That means that voters from across the state will have unfiltered access to candidates from both parties over the next few months. Undoubtedly, many of the candidates will be handed cheat sheets from their state and national parties on various issues and how they should respond. However, I think this is a great time to talk to candidates about changing some laws to help make North Dakota a better place to live.  To start with, we should amend the state constitution to allow for the Governor to threaten a veto.

This is one of the many laws that many North Dakotan’s do not know exists. Many of us wrongly believe that the state system works more like the federal system in which the Executive Branch can provide input and parameters on bills as they move through the legislative branch. However, Article V, Section 10 of the state constitution reads, in part:

 “Any governor who asks, receives, or agrees to receive any bribe upon any understanding that the governor’s official opinion, judgment, or action shall be influenced thereby,…or who menaces any member by the threatened use of the governor’s veto power, …must be punished in the manner now, or that may hereafter be, provided by law, and upon conviction thereof forfeits all right to hold or exercise any office of trust or honor in this state.”

This part of the constitution has been used by Legislators for years to prevent the Governor from providing any input on any bill that he may veto. This gag on the executive branch has allowed the legislative branch to act on all bills without being able to, a least publically, get input from the Governor.

The Legislative branch has long supported this clause because they feel that removing it would give the executive branch too much power. Here is the problem with that; the executive already has the ability to veto any bill. The power is already there. All this clause does is keep him from talking and reminding people of that power. In a state with a legislative session for 80 days every two years, we don’t have time for the Legislature to work through the process of a bill without executive input.

Furthermore, the clause helps to shield the Governor from both responsibility and accountability during the legislative process. As the Governor is detached from the process of making laws, he is not forced to take public positions until a bill has been passed.  What if during a the previous legislative session the Governor had said that he would veto the Abortion bills unless they contained a plan to pay for court challenges without using tax payer dollars?   If that had happened, the public would have understood were the Governor stood during the making of the bill. As it was, the public had to sit by and wait to see what would be done.

In the end, our process works best when we are able to have good communication between both the Legislative and Executive Branches, when our elected officials don’t waste their time, and when we are able to have public knowledge of how all of our elected officials feel on all issues. The gag order on the Governor preventing vetoes is a limit to all three. It should be removed.