In North Dakota, we have a long-standing tradition of holding our elected officials accountable by empowering the public to take direct action to reform government when politicians are either unwilling or unable to do so themselves. Conversely, throughout the history of the state, the legislature has tried time and again to curtail the ability for citizens to provide a check and balance on the legislature.
The Initiative and Referendum process is a long-standing tradition in North Dakota. The legislature’s continuous knee-jerk reactions of trying to curtail this tradition are also long-standing as there have been dozens of attempts over the decades to rein in the power of citizens to affect change in their own government – most recently in 2019 with the passage of Senate Concurrent Resolution (SCR) 4001.
The 2019 Legislative Assembly approved for consideration by voters on the 2020 November General Election ballot a change to the North Dakota Constitution with regard to the Power Reserved to the People to amend the constitution directly via petitioning power and a vote of people. This resolution was the culmination of the last four legislative sessions, and over a dozen approaches to curtail the ability of the taxpaying voters to set the constitutional framework for North Dakota’s state government. All of this has been done in the name of curbing the ability of out-of-state big monied interests, which is a legitimate concern, but no excuse for punishing future generations of North Dakotan with a nearly impossible system.
In basic terms, the proposal put before the voters in November would divert the will of the people on constitutional measures back to the legislature for approval, essentially a veto of the people. If the legislature rejects the amendment as approved by the voters, it would go back to the voters for a second vote, essentially a veto-override.
This resolution will appear on the November 2020 ballot and ask voters to hand the legislature the ability to over-ride the will of the people on Constitutional Initiated Measures. While the legislature has the power to put this before the public, it is a power-grab by the legislature and the people will have the last word on it. It is our hope that voters will reject this attempt to infringe on the Powers Reserved to the People by Article III of the North Dakota Constitution.
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