Legislature Considering Bill To Toughen Petition Fraud Penalty, Also Considering Resolution To Honor Petition Fraudsters

double-facepalm

There is a heavy vibe of irony coming from the ND legislature this week.

Yesterday I wrote about a resolution being introduced to honor the NDSU bison football team, ten members of which (including four starters) were convicted for filing fraudulent petition signatures, something that subsequently derailed two initiated measure campaigns costing organizers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But what also happened yesterday is that the House Political Subdivisions Committee heard testimony from Secretary of State Al Jaeger in favor of HB1397 which would make the crime the NDSU football players committed a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Even given the scale of the crime committed by the NDSU players, which included tens of thousands of bogus signatures, they could only be charged with a misdemeanor under the law. They each got only 50 hours of community service and a $325 fine.

The committee hasn’t taken action yet on the bill as of the time of this post, but it would be ironic if the legislature both passed a bill to make petition fraud a felony, and passed a resolution to honor a group of players who would have been felons under that bill.

The resolution honor the football team, as well as the coaching staff and administrators who turned the petition fraud into a public relations fiasco by stonewalling calls for accountability, will likely pass on a voice vote, but it would be nice if at least one brave legislator called for a roll call vote and opened it up for debate. Because, at the very least, we should recognize that NDSU’s football championship is tainted.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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