In what is yet another example of unintended consequences regarding the recent statewide smoking ban passed during the November general election, the North Dakota Senate was forced to take action today to overrule part of this law which was brought via initiated measure.
SB 2117, sponsored by the Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee at the request of the Insurance Commissioner, was a bill primarily focused on which vehicles do and do not require the words “North Dakota” placed on the sides of official state vehicles. This all seems like a great idea — except if you are an undercover cop or other state official conducting lawful investigative work for very obvious reasons.
The amendment of this bill originally was focused on ensuring all those who are authorized to do such investigative work don’t stand out like a sore thumb during activities like surveillance or meeting with those suspected of crimes. That is something that makes complete sense from an officer safety standpoint as well as enabling them to do their jobs. But in the process of reviewing changes to this law, the law of unintended consequences regarding the smoking ban entered the picture.
The specific concern was the completely asinine requirement under the new state smoking law for a “No Smoking” sticker in all vehicles used for any kind of work purposes. Because of the way the anti-smoking zealots wrote the initiated measure, when passed it required that even an undercover cop have one of these stickers visible inside. Since this too could very easily blow their cover, the Senate was not only forced to amend current law to exclude those conducting investigatory activities, but it had to be passed with an emergency clause to overrule the no smoking placard requirement since it was enacted through initiated measure.
Thankfully it did, passing unanimously 45-0.
I’m all for the initiated measure process. It is good for North Dakota, and it is good for democracy. But with that comes the law of unintended consequences, and if this were not fixed (granted it still needs to go through the house) it could have been a huge problem for those carrying out lawful investigations. That is not good for North Dakota or democracy, or the safety of our citizens. But this is not a hit on the initiated measure process, so much as having out of state interest groups blinded by their zeal to impose their will on those inside the state pushing such initiatives.