Citizen petitions seek repeal of North Dakota auditor restrictions, Roosevelt library funding
BISMARCK — North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger's office received three citizen petitions aiming to overturn state legislative action on three fronts Friday, May 24, including new restrictions imposed on the state auditor and funding for Gov. Doug Burgum's prized Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.
Backers will need to gather 13,452 signatures for each petition by late July to get them on the ballot. Riley Kuntz, a Dickinson electrician who's leading the efforts, said they're aiming to put all three before voters during the June 2020 primary election.
The last-minute move to require state Auditor Josh Gallion to seek legislative approval before conducting performance audits has drawn backlash in recent weeks . Legislative leaders doubt lawmakers would use their new powers to block audits and suggested they would address the issue again when they reconvene in 2021.
But Kuntz previously said Gallion, a Republican, was merely doing his job by aggressively pursuing problems in government and argued the office should remain independent.
Kuntz also said Friday the Theodore Roosevelt library funding wasn't a worthy use of taxpayer money. Lawmakers voted to establish a $50 million endowment to operate and maintain the library while requiring that $100 million be raised from private donations for construction.
The project was this year's most public legislative initiative for Burgum, a Republican. A spokesman didn't return a call seeking comment late Friday afternoon.
Finally, the citizen groups are seeking to repeal legislation further shielding lawmaker communications from public view. State law already exempts legislators' messages with "any person" from open records requirements, but the bill approved this year would apply that rule to records possessed by the lawmaker and "any other public officer or employee."
Kuntz called that petition a matter of transparency.
Jaeger's office will review the petitions before approving them for circulation.
Lawmakers adjourned the 2019 session in late April.