North Dakota House Sends Legislator Residency Requirement Amendment To The Ballot

It was a rocky road, but it seems North Dakota voters will get a chance to cast their ballots on SCR4010 which is a constitutional amendment creating a stricter residency requirement for state lawmakers.

Currently state law only requires that lawmakers live in their districts for 30 days before election day. In the past some lawmakers have been moving out of their districts during their term, representing the citizens of those districts while not actually living there. Notably Assistant House Minority Leader Corey Mock, a Democrat from Grand Forks, is living in his wife’s ward (she’s a city councilwoman) but not his legislative district. That’s problematic.

If we aren’t going to require that lawmakers live in the districts they’re elected from, why even bother with apportionment?

But the struggle with SCR4010 was how to define the residency requirement. After much haggling over the language (the bill was rejected by the House previously with some representatives telling me they thought the requirements were too loose)  this is what the lawmakers came up with:

4010language

 

That seems straight forward. If you want to serve in the legislature you have to live in your district.

The question is, how will this be enforced?

I interviewed Rep. Scott Louser (R-Minot) on the radio yesterday and I asked him what would happen if a lawmaker moves out of his or her district. He said that basically it would have to go to a vote of the chamber of the lawmaker breaking the law, and by a simple majority vote the lawmaker could be expelled.

On one hand I’m a little skeptical of lawmakers holding themselves accountable, but on the other hand it does allow them some leeway to consider issues like lawmakers forced to move out of their district by a natural disaster like flooding. And regardless of whether or not a vote like this ever really happens, the fact that it could happen could be all we need to make sure lawmakers stay in their districts.

By the way, the last time this resolution was on the House floor Mock spent the floor debate and vote skulking in the Minority Leader’s office. Today he was on the floor for the debate (he didn’t speak) and he voted for the resolution.

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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