How You Should Probably Vote: Yes On Measure 4

By popular request, I’m working my way through the ballot measures explaining each one and how I’m voting. I’m going in order, Measures 1-8. You can see my previous posts here.

For me, Measure 4 is really about Measure 5.

I’ll write more about the specific policy implications of Measure 5 tomorrow, but as a concept what it represents is special interests buying their way onto the statewide ballot in order to get access to North Dakota’s massive tax revenues with a continuing appropriation enshrined in the constitution.

That’s no way to run a railroad.

What Measure 4 does (read the text here) is two things:

First” “A measure determined to have a significant fiscal impact must be voted on at a general election.” The means by which the fiscal impact of a given ballot measure would be measured would be established by the Legislature.

Second, “If a petition to initiate a constitutional amendment would make a direct appropriation of public funds for a specific purpose or would require the legislative assembly to appropriate funds for a specific purpose, the petition may not be approved for circulation.”

What this means is that a proposed amendment to the constitution – not, mind you, a statutory amendment – could not be put on the ballot through the petitioning process if it directs the Legislature to appropriate money. Say, to conservation or some other cause.

The intent of the measure is to keep spending requirements out of the state constitution and only in statute. Which as a practical matter, makes perfect sense. The state constitution should be (though it has not always been) for establishing basic rights and the structure of government. Specific policy should be in statute.

The opponents of Measure 4 talk about it as though it were some blow to the initiated measure process. Really, it is a badly-needed reform that leaves in place and largely untouched our ability to amend the constitution, create new statute, or to refer laws passed by the Legislature.

I say vote yes for Measure 4 to protect our state from future Measure 5’s.

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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