MINOT, N.D. — The campaign promoting Measure 2 on North Dakota's general election ballot got a shot in the arm today from one of the state's top elected officials.
Sen. Kevin Cramer, who is not on the ballot this cycle, recorded a video message touting the measure. "The problem is there are just too many out of state special interest groups with radical ideas about how we should spend our own money and govern ourselves," Cramer says in the video. Deriding these groups who spend "hundreds of thousands of dollars" paying people to collect signatures, he said Measure 2 will bring "transparency and organized debate to their persistent, crazy attempts to amend our constitution."
I had actually asked Senator Cramer about Measure 2 during an interview for my Plain Talk podcast late last month.
At the time he wasn't familiar with the measure, but after I described it to him, he voiced opposition based on many if the same ideas he is now expressing in the video for the Measure 2 campaign.
For those of you who aren't familiar with Measure 2, it's a proposed amendment to the constitutional guidelines for constitutional amendments initiated through the petition process.
Here are the changes it would make. The signature collection phase of the process would remain the same, but the voting process would undergo some reform:
- Constitutional amendments would only be voted on in general elections.
- If the amendment fails on the ballot, it's done. If it passes, it gets submitted to the Legislature for approval.
- If simple majorities in the House and Senate approve the measure, it is enacted.
- If the measure fails in the Legislature, it goes to another vote of the people, and if it passes the second time it is enacted.
The Legislature would not be able to amend what the voters approved. They would be limited to a strict up-or-down vote. Also, none of this would apply to statutory measures. Only constitutional amendments.
Some argue that the Legislature is motivated to these reforms by a feeling of institutional ill-will toward the public. The problem with this narrative is that a) the Legislature is also elected by the public and b) in one cycle after another, most of the legislative incumbents on the ballot get re-elected.
Every legislative process in North Dakota but one has checks and balances. Every bill passed by the Legislature must be signed by the governor, whose veto can be overridden by a second vote of the Legislature. Every executive branch order can be reviewed by the Legislature through its various committees, and the courts stand ready to hear any disputes.
The lone exception to this process is initiated measures, which can be circulated, placed on the ballot, and enacted as law all in a matter of months with no checks and balances.
It's time for us to bring some balance to the process for amending the constitution by way of ballot measures.
Sen. Cramer has the right of this.
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Rob Port, founder of SayAnythingBlog.com, is a Forum Communications commentator. Reach him on Twitter at @robport or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.