Do We Need Initiated Measure Reform In North Dakota?
A reader sent me this email earlier this week:
I was listening to 1310 am out of Grand Forks this morning and they were playing a clip on their news segment with Andy Peterson of the ND Chamber of Commerce…yes that guy who just loves high taxes. I haven’t been able to find an article anywhere, but it must be in a paper somewhere, anyways he said that he wants to make it tougher for initiated measures to get on the ballot. You gotta love a guy who wants to silence the citizens.
Under Peterson’s leadership the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce has become anything but a free market organization. They are a business special interest group more interested in leveraging special favors from the government than ensuring a free, competitive marketplace.
But setting that aside, I do think Peterson brings up a good point. Do we need initiated measure reform?
I’ve been a part of the sponsoring committee for several initiated measures, and I’ve supported several measures externally as well. So I’m not against the idea of citizens putting an issue on the ballot for a vote. I think the referendum process is a good check on legislative power, and I think the initiated measure process allows citizens to tackle issues the legislature won’t.
It’s unsettling, though, to learn of groups who are essentially buying their way onto the statewide ballot. Earlier this month we learned that committees backing a medicinal marijuana measure and a conservation measure spent a combined $190,000 on their signature collection efforts.
Most people think of these measure committees as grassroots collectives of concerned citizens, but the operations behind these measures were anything but. While they may have grassroots support, the signature collection efforts were well-funded political operations.
Should we be concerned about that? Do we need to make it harder to use the initiated measure process? I’m torn.
On one hand, I don’t like the idea of well-funded special interests being able to short-circuit the legislative process and put an issue on the ballot. Our founding fathers, at the national level, were anything but enamored with that sort of direct democracy which is why legislating is done at the federal level exclusively through elected representatives.
On the other hand, I do think the initiated measure and referendum process has value. And I’m not sure how we could reform the process that would solve the problem at hand while also preserving the importance of the process.
So perhaps there is no solution. Maybe we just have to take the good with the bad. Maybe we need to trust in the transparency measures in place which do require disclosure by the sponsors of these measures, and trust that voters will ultimately make the right decision.Tags: initiated measures, North Dakota News