5 things to know today: Electronic signatures, Term limits, Voting rights, Jail time, CBD bill
A select rundown of stories found on InForum.
1. Electronic signatures pitched as 'compromise' for North Dakota constitutional initiatives
From the Bismarck Tribune via Forum News Service
Supporters of a proposed measure to change how citizens can petition for ballot measures and amend the North Dakota constitution paint their effort as a compromise.
Opponents say the proposal is an attack on citizens' abilities to propose such measures.
The House Government and Veterans Affairs Committee on Friday heard House Concurrent Resolution 3031 by Rep. Steve Vetter, R-Grand Forks. Voters in November 2024 would decide the measure if it passes the House and Senate.
Vetter and measure backer Dustin Gawrylow, of Bismarck, say their proposal is a compromise, allowing electronic signature gathering for measure petitions, but adding restrictions such as more signatures needed for ballot placement and two majority votes to pass.
"The Legislature doesn't want it easy to change the constitution, and ... the people don't want power taken away from them," Vetter said.
The measure would require the secretary of state to set up an online signature gathering system, effective in 2026, for voters to sign forms and petitions for initiated and referred measures, recall petitions and candidate nominations. Vetter said such a system would benefit "grassroots people" and those with little money, and would mitigate petition fraud.
2. North Dakota lawmakers look to water down voter-approved term limits
North Dakota became the first state in more than two decades to institute legislative term limits when a wide majority of voters approved a ballot measure last year.
A group of Republican lawmakers now wants to mellow the term limits that apply to their seats while expanding the restrictions on tenure to other elected offices.
Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, is the lead sponsor of House Concurrent Resolution 3019, which would allow state lawmakers to maintain their positions for longer and to return to the Legislature after a hiatus.
If the proposal wins over the House and Senate, it would become a ballot measure that voters would decide in 2024. A public hearing on the proposal is scheduled for 8 a.m. on Wednesday, March 8, at the state Capitol.
More than 60% of voters approved a measure in November that amended the North Dakota Constitution to limit the governor and state legislators to eight years of service, though lawmakers are able to serve up to eight years each in the House and the Senate.
Read more from Forum News Service's Jeremy Turley
3. Minnesota restores voting rights to 50,000 felons on probation
More than 50,000 Minnesotans convicted of felonies who are on supervised release will have their voting rights restored under a bill signed into law by Gov. Tim Walz on Friday, March 3.
Under previous law, felons in Minnesota could not vote until they completed their parole or probation and paid fines related to their sentence. The state Constitution bans felons from voting until “restored to civil rights," and a 1963 law defined that as the end of incarceration.
Opponents of the law argued disenfranchised people convicted of crimes and prevented them from fully reintegrating into society.
"We are a country of second chances. We're a country of welcoming folks back in, and the idea of not allowing those voices to have a say in the very governing of the communities they live in is simply unacceptable," Walz said ahead of signing the bill.
For years, groups like the American Civil Liberties Union have been pushing to restore rights upon release from prison. Attorney General Keith Ellison introduced a bill to restore felon voting rights as a state lawmaker 20 years ago.
Read more from Forum News Service's Ales Derosier
4. 'Egregious overreach': Librarians could risk jail time over ND book ban bills targeting sexual material
Librarians across North Dakota are bracing for what they call government overreach as two bills banning sexually explicit content in books make their way through the 68th Legislative Assembly.
Some librarians, like Christine Kujawa, the director at Bismarck Veterans Memorial Public Library, are preparing for possible jail time, which Senate Bill 2360 provides if the future law is broken.
The bill, which passed 38-9 and now moves to the House, prohibits the display of sexually explicit material in places where minors are allowed, including depictions or written descriptions of nudity "to exploit sex, lust or perversion."
The bill would impose a Class B misdemeanor as a penalty, which carries a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail and a $1,500 fine.
Supporters say the Senate bill, along with the similar House Bill 1205 , are needed to protect youth from pornography.
“I certainly don’t want to go to jail for doing my job, but I am not going to censor either,” Kujawa said.
House Bill 1205 would prohibit public libraries from “maintaining explicit sexual material,” which under the bill includes visual depictions of "human masturbation, deviant sexual intercourse, sexual intercourse" and other acts.
Opponents call the regulatory move an overreach and censorship. The bill passed behind a 65-28 vote, and moves to the Senate for a vote.
Read more from The Forum's C.S. Hagen
5. Owner of 2 CBD stores in North Dakota says proposed bill would kill his business and others like it
The owner of two CBD stores in North Dakota is speaking out against a bill he says would kill his business.
Matt Yde owns and operates the Your CBD Store off 45th Street South in Fargo, and another in Grand Forks. CBD is a compound found in marijuana, but is not impairing, meaning it does not cause a "high."
He spoke before the committee hearing on Senate Bill 2096 in Bismarck Friday morning, March 3. He's putting a lot of effort into opposing this bill, in part, because he says few others are.
"A bill like this has had very little opinion, and without the public letting them know how they feel about it, there's no way that these can be opposed," Yde said.