Yesterday, North Dakotans went to the polls and sent the batshit insane tea partiers and the idiot establishment in the legislature packing(for the most part.
Follow me below the fold for the analysis
Three constitutional measures and one initated measure was on the ballot.
Constitutional Measure 1:
This was the "Legislative promotion request measure of 2012," and the only semi-disappointing loss for good government advocates. The State constitution has a provision similar to the 27th amendment, stating that legislators who voted to raise the pay of an office may not then be appointed to said office. The legislature referred a measure to outright repeal this provision in 2008 and was rejected. This measure was a compromise of sorts. It's easier to see a before and after.
Section 6. While serving in the legislative assembly, no member may hold any full-timeAfter:
appointive state office established by this constitution or designated by law. During the term for which elected, no member of the legislative assembly may be appointed to any full-time office which has been created, or to any office for which the compensation has been increased, by the legislative assembly during that term.
While serving in the legislative assembly, no member may hold any fulltime appointive state office established by this constitution or designated by law. During theThe link shows what language was crossed out and what was added. Note the "full time" language that I bolded there. That's worth noting. Legislators may now be appointed to part time positions that they've jacked up the pay for. The primary failure of this came down to ballot language, I think:
term for which elected, no member of the legislative assembly may be appointed to any full-time office that has been created by the legislative assembly. During the term for which elected, no member of the legislative assembly may be appointed to any full-time office for which the legislative assembly has increased the compensation in an amount greater than the general rate of increase provided to full-time state employees.
Constitutional Measure 1 (emphasis mine)
This constitutional measure would amend and reenact section 6 of Article IV of the North Dakota Constitution. This measure would prohibit the appointment of a member of the Legislative Assembly to a state office for which the compensation was increased in an amount greater than any general legislative increase provided to full-time state employees during the member's term of office.The language failed to mention the fact that the constitution already bans it outright. This measure passed 60-40. Expect to see more people leave the legislature now for cushy state government jobs.
Aside from Measure 1, everything else on the ballot came out well.
Constitutional Measure 2
This measure was the most widely reported nationally. The measure would have banned property taxes in the state. It's important to note that the state constitution already prevents the State of North Dakota from levying property taxes. That means that this would only affect city and county governments. The measure states that the legislature would have had to provide the funds to pay for the lost revenue through other sources.
This whole deal turned into a huge sideshow. The concept was a little absurd for a number of notions. Agree or disagree with property taxes, setting up this kind of tension between the legislature and local governments would have been disastrous. Taking away the primary source of funding for local governments and then making them dependent on the legislature would have been absolutely insane. On top of requiring every locality to hire a lobbyist to beg, borrow, or plead for money from their state government--a losing proposition for sure--the measure would have also changed the state legislature from one that meets once every two years for 80 days into a body in constant special session dealing with every city or county that needs to build a new school or fund a renovation of their courthouse.
In the heat of the debate on this, the proponents of the measure filed a lawsuit against the state tax commissioner, a few state legislators, the state association of counties, the league of cities, and a couple of county officials. They accused them of violating the Corrupt Practices Act, the law that states that 1: Public officials can't use taxpayer resources to support political causes(see 16.1-10-02 in the link) , and 2.)you can't lie or mislead voters in political advertisements(see 16.1-10-04.1). The lawsuit was laughed out of court twice. First, at the district court, and then again at the state supreme court. Both times the parties were thrown out on standing. For a good laugh, listen to the recording of the oral argument (available here). It gets particularly hilarious during the final rebuttal by the measure's proponents. Start around 44:30. The justices begin tearing the plaintiffs' lawyer apart around 45:00.
It's also worth noting that one of the proponents of the measure is a city judge in Casselton, ND. By the logic they were using, she was just as much in violation of the law as they were accusing everyone else of being. It didn't help their case that they got the date of the election wrong in their briefs to the court--twice!
After they swatted the proponents around in oral argument, the case was thrown out on standing. Private citizens may not enforce a criminal statute, such as the corrupt practices act. The case was argued last Tuesday, and a full opinion(not a "here's the result, an opinion will follow) was issued 3 days later, with 4 days to spare before the election.
Measure 2 went down in flames yesterday, losing 77-23.
Constitutional Measure 3:
This was the one real measure that worried me. This measure was a cleverly worded, but extremely badly-written amendment. I won't even try to summarize the language. Here it is:
Government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be burdened unless the government proves it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest. A burden includes indirect burdens such as withholding benefits, assessing penalties, or an exclusion from programs or access to facilities.I bolded the part that made this measure worse than other laws around the country. This didn't just apply strict scrutiny to acts that violate religious liberty, it said that every specific action or inaction by the government must be narrowly tailored so as not to violate anyone's sincerely held religious belief. My co-blogger at North Decoder, Chet, who is a criminal defense/trial attorney, offered his tongue in cheek support of the measure back when it was proposed, calling it a boon to his profession.
Measure 3 language (emphasis mine)
A couple of people who I know, one of whom is a very good friend was a member of the sponsoring committee on this measure. I haven't had the chance to talk to him throughout the effort to pass this measure, since I live in a different state now, but I was very worried about this measure passing because of the fluffy-sounding language included in it. Thankfully my fears were unfounded and the measure did not pass. Voters rejected it, again by a landslide 64-36 margin.
Referendum Measure 4
The final ballot question was the voters successful attempt at cleaning up the absolute mess created by the legislature in the last session. By now, you may be aware of the controversy surrounding the Fighting Sioux nickname. The NCAA required the University of North Dakota, along with other universities to get rid of the nickname that it deemed offensive to Native Americans Without going into the long history of the nickname or the fight that ensued, in the end, the state's lawsuit against the NCAA wound up being settled, with a timeline being put in place to retire the nickname last fall.
Then the state legislature got involved...
During the 2010 session, the legislature passed a law to force the University to keep the name, forcing it out of compliance with the settlement, and NCAA policy. Democrats in the legislature ardently opposed it throughout the debate, but being at a 3-1 disadvantage in both bodies, they basically had no seat at the table. An all-Republican delegation then went to meet with the NCAA after the session ended with the belief that the NCAA would be so impressed with this law that they passed. They came home with their tail between their legs. The NCAA is a private organization, and if you don't want to agree with its rules, no state legislature is going to change their mind. In the end the legislature came back and repealed the law it had just passed, but also preventing the University from changing the nickname until 2015.
What was on the ballot yesterday was a measure that attempted to repeal the law that was passed in the special session, "repealing the repeal," if you follow me. To add to the confusion, a yes vote was to vote against repealing the repeal, and a no vote was to vote for repealing the law that repealed the law forcing the university to keep the nickname. This was a case where ballot language made things clearer:
YES – means you approve Senate Bill 2370, the effect of which would allow the University of North Dakota to discontinue the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.North Dakotans, who I think largely back the nickname overall (while I don't have any polling to support this) were tired of the mess. The university and its students and athletes were now being affected, recruiting of new athletes was being impacted. They agreed 67-33 to drop the Fighting Sioux nickname.
NO – means you reject Senate Bill 2370, and would require the University of North Dakota to use the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo.
Measure 4 Ballot Language (emphasis in original)
The state constitution prevents the legislature from touching measures approved by the voters for 7 years without a 2/3 vote. My reading of the language of the state constitution is that this includes referenda. This ought to put the Fighting Sioux issue to bed. It ought to. There is a constitutional measure being circulated regarding the logo too, but my money is on that not even getting on the ballot, much less passing.
So 3 out of 4 in a red state isn't bad. My faith in the voters of North Dakota to throw out badly-written laws that are put in front of them has been affirmed. Voters in the state are smart when you give them an issue. There's just a long tradition of voting for Republicans that throws them off...