North Dakota Capitol notebook: Constitutional amendment proposal to be tested by House

The North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck. Photo illustration by Troy Becker
The North Dakota Capitol in Bismarck. Photo illustration by Troy Becker

BISMARCK — A North Dakota House committee will consider a proposal backed by GOP leaders that would make it harder for citizens to tweak the state constitution Wednesday, March 20.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 4015 would require constitutional amendments to pass with a 60 percent majority at the ballot box. It would also double the number of signatures required to put a constitutional measure on the ballot and move up the deadline for submitting a petition.

The resolution also requires a 60 percent vote of the Legislature for lawmakers to propose constitutional amendments to voters.

If passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, the resolution would seek voter approval in 2020. It's one of a few proposals that backers say are meant to protect the state government's organizing document.

Burgum takes his case directly to lawmakers

Gov. Doug Burgum again made a pitch to lawmakers for funding the Theodore Roosevelt President Library Wednesday, marking the sixth time this session he has testified in legislative committees.

Burgum, a Republican first elected in 2016, has also testified in favor of measures funding the Fargo-Moorhead flood diversion project and reshuffling the state's higher education governance structure. He did not testify before legislative committees during his first session in 2017.

Burgum's spokesman Mike Nowatzki said the governor has been "intimately involved" in those three issues and he "feels it's appropriate to bring his perspective directly to the committees."

Longtime GOP Sen. Ray Holmberg said it's not unusual for governors to testify before lawmakers.

Senate to vote on minimum wage bill

The North Dakota Senate is set to vote on a bill preventing local governments from enacting a minimum wage that's higher than the state's.

House Bill 1193 sailed through its chamber of origin last month. Proponents have argued a higher minimum wage would bring negative economic consequences, while opponents warned against infringing on local control.

North Dakota's minimum wage of $7.25 per hour matches the federal rate.

Lawmakers to consider vehicle idling statute

North Dakota senators are expected to consider repealing an oft-ignored law preventing drivers from leaving their unattended vehicle running.

House Bill 1058 is on the Senate calendar and could receive a vote in the coming days. A supporter previously said the bill is meant to remove an "unenforced" law from the books, noting that North Dakotans often warm up their cars before driving them in the winter.

The House unanimously approved the bill in January.

Senate committee to take up higher ed resolution

A proposal to remove references to higher education institutions from the North Dakota constitution will be heard by a state House committee Monday.

The resolution, which would require voter approval if it sails through the Legislature, passed the House earlier this month despite concerns it would open the door to campus closures. Proponents have argued House Concurrent Resolution 3016 reflects the need for flexibility in higher education.