By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau
BUSY BALLOTS: North Dakota voters will have a particularly busy year considering a number of ballot measures. The June primary ballot has one measure approved, while the November ballot has four and may see as many as three more that are still being circulated.
BISMARCK, N.D. — The 2014 election year may be a particularly busy one for voters, as the November ballot features perhaps as many as seven initiated measures that must be decided.
Many of the measures were put on the ballot by the Legislature. In North Dakota, constitutional amendments passed by the Legislature must be approved by voters. Voters will decide five of the measures this year, including one on the June ballot and four on the November ballot, originated in the Legislature.
The deadline for measures on North Dakota’s June primary ballot came and went in March. The only measure voters will decide is Measure 1, put their by HCR3034.
That measure actually deals with the issue of initiated measures. According to the measure’s statement of intent, it “would change the filing deadlines for the submission of initiated measure petitions from (90) days to (120) before a statewide election and provide that challenges to decisions of the secretary of state regarding measure petitions must be filed with the supreme court no later than seventy-five days before the election.”
Under current law, the secretary of state has 35 days to review submitted petitions for any problems that would disqualify them from appearing on the ballot. But ballots must be completed 55 days before election day. If the secretary of state’s ruling on a ballot measure gets a legal challenge, supporters of the measure say the Supreme Court might not have time to rule on the matter before ballots are finalized. That leaves the state at risk of an awkward situation in which a measure ruled illegal by the courts is still on the ballot for voters to approve.
Four ballot measures have qualified for the November ballot, each put there by the Legislature.
- Measure 1, HCR4009: This was one of several anti-abortion bills passed by the Legislature last year. According to its statement of intent, it “would provide that the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”
- Measure 2, HCR3006: This measure deals with taxes on real estate transactions. According to its statement of intent, it would stop “the state and any county, township, city or any other political subdivision of the state from imposing mortgage taxes or any sales or transfer tax on the mortgage or transfer of real property.”
- Measure 3, HCR3047: This measure would restructure the way North Dakota’s universities are governed. It would replace the existing part-time State Board of Higher Education with a full-time, three-member higher education commission appointed by the governor. It would also simplify the state constitution’s language regarding the universities, removing mentions of specific purposes for each institution and state explicitly that the university system operates under the purview of the Legislature.
- Measure 4, HCR3011: This measure, like Measure 1 on the June ballot, also deals with initiated measures. It would require that statutory measures with a significant fiscal impact, as determined by the Legislature, be decided on the November general election ballot. It would also preclude any constitutional measures that “would make a direct appropriation of public funds.”
In addition to the measures already qualified for the ballot, three additional measures have been approved by the secretary of state for circulation. These petitions have all missed the deadline for the June 2014 ballot, and must be filed with the secretary either by Aug. 6 to make the November 2014 ballot or by a date one year from the day they were approved for circulation to make the next available ballot.
- Parental rights and responsibilities: This measure would, according to its petition language, require state law to recognize “that each parent is a fit parent and entitled to be awarded equal parental rights and responsibilities by a court unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.” It would also define what constitutes equal parenting time. The measure was approved for circulation on June 18 2013. The petition’s circulators missed the deadline for the June of 2014 ballot and must have their completed petitions in to the Secretary of State by June 18th of 2014 to make the November ballot.
- Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Trust and a Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Fund: This measure would divert 5 percent of North Dakota’s oil and gas extraction taxes into a trust fund managed by a board of conservation, outdoors, energy and agriculture interests that would use it for purposes including the purchase of land for conservation. Based on oil production forecasts, the measure would divert as much as $200 million to over $400 million per biennium to the fund. The measure would require the expenditure of at least 75 percent of those funds every biennium. The measure was approved for circulation Aug. 29 2013. Circulators have missed the June ballot, and have until Aug. 6 to make the November ballot, or August 29th of 2014 to make the June 2015 ballot.
- School start date: This measure would require that school districts start their school years after the Labor Day holiday. The measure was approved for circulation on Sept. 30, 2013. Circulators missed the deadline for the June 2014 ballot, and have until Aug. 6 to make the November 2014 ballot or Sept. 22, 2014 to make the June 2015 ballot.
All ballot measures put before voters require a simple majority of the vote to become law.
You can reach Rob Port at firstname.lastname@example.org