For the first time in more than two decades, each registered voter in North Dakota is set to vote on eight different measures on next month’s ballot. Here’s a look at what to expect on the November ballot:
By BRYCE MARTIN
N.D. Group Editor
Constitutional Measure 1 reads, “This constitutional measure would create and enact a new section to Article 1 of the North Dakota Constitution stating, ‘The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”
Explained: If a voter chooses “yes,” they are agreeing that life begins at conception. This measure is one of the most controversial on this year’s ballot. People who vote “yes” are voting to create a new section of the state’s constitution that would inherently reinforce existing abortion laws and further deny a woman’s right to obtain an abortion by not allowing for those laws to be overturned by a judge. While many religious entities around the state support the measure, North Dakotans Against Measure 1 said the measure is poorly written and the unclear language leaves it open to interpretation, “leading to more government intrusion into our personal lives.”
Constitutional Measure 2 reads, “This constitutional measure would create and enact a new section to Article X of the North Dakota Constitution stating, ‘The state and any county, township, city, or any other political subdivision of the state may not impose any mortgage taxes or any sales or transfer taxes on the mortgage or transfer of real property.’”
Explained: Nobody likes more taxes, right? If a voter votes “yes,” they are denying the ability of counties, townships, cities, or any other governing bodies under the state to raise taxes on mortgages. Mortgage taxes are paid to the state when any mortgage is obtained.
Constitutional Measure 3 reads, “This constitutional measure would create and enact a new section to Article VIII of the North Dakota Constitution creating a three-member commission of higher education, effective July 1, 2015, with full executive responsibility for the management and operation of the North Dakota university system. The measure would repel Section 6 of Article VIII of the Constitution relating to the current eight-member state board of higher education. Members of the new commission would be appointed by the governor to four-year terms from a list of nominees provided by a special committee, and would be subject to confirmation by the Senate. One of the commissioners must possess leadership experience in a private sector business, industry, or service and one member, at the time of appointment, must hold a professional position within the higher education sector. The commissioners could be reappointed to three consecutive terms.
Explained: If a voter votes “yes,” two things will happen: one, a new commission formed of three people would be created and put into effect July 1, 2015. Those three would have full power over the state’s university system. And, two, the current State Board of Higher Education would be discontinued. Instead of the current eight people—seven citizens, one student— serving the state’s universities, it would fall into the hands of only three, who would singularly be chosen by the incumbent governor. Those three could potentially have terms of up to 12 years each. The existing SBHE is the policy setting and advocacy and governing body for North Dakota’s 11 publicly supported colleges and universities. According to Nick Creamer, a UND student and former president of its student government, “One of the major flaws of the current governance model is that the university system has outgrown the capacity of a part-time board meeting just once a month.”
Constitutional Measure 4 reads, “This constitutional measure would amend and reenact section 2 of Article III of the North Dakota Constitution. This measure would require that initiated measures that are estimated to have a significant fiscal impact must be placed on the general election ballot. The measure would also prohibit the approval for circulation of any petition to initiate a constitutional amendment that would make a direct appropriation of public funds for a specific purpose to require the legislative assembly to appropriate funds for a specific purpose.”
Explained: If a voter chooses “yes,” they are agreeing that measures involving large sums of money need to be placed upon the ballot for a public vote. More importantly, it would prohibit any citizen initiatives from being placed on a general election ballot if it would direct the expenditure of any sum of money. According to former N.D. Lt. Gov. Lloyd Omdahl, it would disallow citizens to direct the state on how to spend their large monetary surplus.
Initiated Constitutional Measure 5 reads, “This initiated measure would add a new section to Article X of the North Dakota Constitution creating the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Trust (the ‘Trust’) and the Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Fund (the ‘Fund’) to be financed by five percent of the revenues from the state’s share of oil extraction taxes. Ten percent of that amount of annual revenues would be deposited in the Trust with the principal invested by the State Investment Board; the earnings from the Trust would be transferred to the Fund to be spent on programs after Jan. 1, 2019. Ninety percent of the annual revenues would be deposited into the Fund to be used to make grants to public and private groups to aid water quality, natural flood control, fish and wildlife habitat, parks and outdoor recreation areas, access for hunting and fishing, the acquisition of land for parks, and outdoor education for children. The Fund would be governed by a Clean Water, Wildlife and Park Commission comprised of the governor, attorney general and agriculture commissioner. A 13-member Citizen Accountability Board would be appointed for three-year terms to review grant applications and make recommendations to the Commission. Every 25 years, the people would vote on the question whether to continue the financing from the oil extraction taxes.
Explained: If a voter picks “yes,” this initiated measure, brought to the ballot by citizens, would create new government entities: the Clean Water, Wildlife and Park Fund, a trust in its name and a board to serve as an advisor. North Dakota currently ranks 49th in the country in its conservation spending. The North Dakotans for Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks amendment would set aside five percent of the state’s already existing oil and gas extraction tax for conservation efforts. On Monday, Gov. Jack Dalrymple proposed spending more than $80 million earmarked for conservation funding, suggesting it’s “a better way to proceed.” That would effectively triple the state’s current spending on conservation. The basic goal of the measure is to more largely support the state’s conservation.
Initiated Statutory Measure 6 reads, “This initiated measure would amend section 14-09-06.2 of the North Dakota Century Code to create a presumption 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; the measure would also provide a definition of equal parenting time.”
Explained: If votes choose “yes” on this citizen-initiated measure, it would grant equal custodial rights to parents involved in a child custody dispute. A similar proposal was on the 2006 ballot and defeated by voters. Jill Bjerke, the initiative’s sponsoring committee chairperson, said that contemporary social norms tend to favor the mother in child custody battles. “It’s just the norm, right now, for mom to get custody. And when that happens, dad is cut out of the children’s lives. Fathers are both extremely important to both girls and boys,” Bjerke said. In opposition, N.D. Attorney Lisa Benson, a family law practitioner, said, “When awarding (physical custody), whether split, equal or primary, the best interests of the children should be paramount, not one parent’s wishes. On its face, the measure gives more weight to one parent’s wishes than what is best for the children.”
Initiated Statutory Measure 7 reads, “This initiated measure would amend section 43-15-35 of the North Dakota Century Code. It would repeal the requirement that an applicant for a permit to operate a pharmacy must be a licensed pharmacist, a business entity controlled by licensed pharmacists, a hospital pharmacy, or a postgraduate medical residency program.”
Explained: If voters select “yes,” it would end the current requirement that those requesting to operate a pharmacy be licensed. Supporters of the measure, including such businesses as Wal-Mart, Walgreens and Kmart, argue that voting for the measure would settle a lot of current, ongoing problems within the world of health care, at least for the state. It was claimed that the measure would help bring down the price of prescription drugs; provide more convenient options to take care of pharmaceutical needs; greatly improve patient care and access to prescription drugs; and establish an open, competitive market allowing corporations to operate pharmacies staffed with licensed pharmacists. As a critics of the measure, N.D. Pharmacists Association President Steve Boehning argued that voting “yes” to the measure would not increase competition and consumer choice. “The exact opposite happens. The market becomes dominated by the three large chains,” Boehning said.
Initiated Statutory Measure 8 reads, “This initiated measure would amend section 15.1-06-03 of the North Dakota Century Code to require school classes to begin after Labor Day.”
Explained: If voters choose “yes,” all public schools would begin school after Labor Day. Currently, each school district in the state is free to design their respective school calendar, including the academic year’s starting date. Critics of the measure include the North Dakota School Board Association and the North Dakota Association of School Administrators. Jim Johnson, a member of the North Dakota School Board Association, said, “We have a lot of teachers that take summer school classes at the local university and colleges, so they need to be done teaching by the time classes start and you have a lot of other businesses that would be impacted. A lot of organizations use high school students.” Members of the Start ND School after Labor Day organization, which brought the measure onto the ballot, claim beginning after Labor Day would allow summer break to include “some of the best weather that North Dakota has to offer.” Having students go to school in the middle of August with temperatures in the 90s does not provide a healthy learning environment, according to the group. They also claimed that the measure would have nothing to do with sports, with the starting and finishing dates of those activities set by the North Dakota High School Activities Association.
FACTS: N.D. ballot measures
Since 1988, an average of six measures have appeared annually on the ballot in North Dakota. Therefore, 2014 is an above-average year based on the number of certified measures.
The number of measures on a state-wide ballot since 1988 have ranged from 2 to 15.
Since 1988, 43 of 82 or 52 percent of North Dakota ballot measures have been approved by voters.
Conversely, 39 of 82 or 48 percent of measures have been defeated.