Shaw: Keep those initiated measures coming

Jim Shaw

In a recent column, Forum columnist Rob Port criticized the passage of Measure 1, the ethics measure. Port said it should be challenged in court…

  • I have a different perspective. Port’s first premise is that North Dakota voters didn’t know what they were doing, calling it, “a blunder made by the voters.” His second point is that voters shouldn’t be passing measures that change state laws, stating, “This is a poor way to make public policy.” In Port’s defense, at least he didn’t write another column bashing Heidi Heitkamp.

First off, North Dakota voters knew exactly what they were doing when they passed the ethics measure. For that matter, they knew what they were doing when they defeated the recreational marijuana measure. Both measures had simple concepts. Dina Butcher and Ellen Chaffee, the leaders of the ethics measure, did a brilliant job of explaining it. They said they were out to limit the influence of lobbyists and dark money on our leaders, and to get rid of the abundance of free trips, free meals and free gifts they receive. North Dakota is much better off by the passage of this measure.

Secondly, allowing people to put measures on the ballot is one of the best things we have going in North Dakota. It lets citizens move forward with popular ideas when the Legislature is out of touch. Still, it’s not easy to get matters on the ballot. It takes 13,452 signatures for an initiated measure and 26,904 signatures for a Constitutional amendment.

Among the measures and amendments wisely approved by the voters have been allowing movie theaters to be open on Sundays (1934), prohibiting parking meters (1948), allowing alcohol to be served in restaurants (1964), establishing a 6.5 percent oil extraction tax (1980), allowing participation in multi-state lotteries such as Powerball and Mega Millions (2002), banning smoking in public places (2012) and approving the use of medical marijuana (2016). Medical marijuana was only put on the ballot because the out of touch Legislature overwhelmingly rejected it. So, keep those measures coming.

  • Great move by Grand Forks Republican State Rep. Steve Vetter to draft a bill that would allow doctors to state the conditions of patients who may benefit from medical marijuana. We need to make sure those who need it, can get it.

  • I don’t have a strong opinion on changing the governance system for higher education in North Dakota from one board to three boards. However, this is window dressing. The real problem with higher education in the state isn’t the governance system, but that it’s severely underfunded. As a result, the quality of higher education in this state has been dramatically diminished. Changing the governance system is like changing the plates on the dinner table, without having enough food to put on those plates.

  • Gotta run now. I need to buy some cereal, and I can’t find my ID.