Senate Overrules Part of Smoking Ban


In what is yet another example of unintended consequences regarding the recent statewide smoking ban passed during the November general election, the North Dakota Senate was forced to take action today to overrule part of this law which was brought via initiated measure.

SB 2117, sponsored by the Senate Government and Veterans Affairs Committee at the request of the Insurance Commissioner, was a bill primarily focused on which vehicles do and do not require the words “North Dakota” placed on the sides of official state vehicles. This all seems like a great idea — except if you are an undercover cop or other state official conducting lawful investigative work for very obvious reasons.

The amendment of this bill originally was focused on ensuring all those who are authorized to do such investigative work don’t stand out like a sore thumb during activities like surveillance or meeting with those suspected of crimes. That is something that makes complete sense from an officer safety standpoint as well as enabling them to do their jobs. But in the process of reviewing changes to this law, the law of unintended consequences regarding the smoking ban entered the picture.

The specific concern was the completely asinine requirement under the new state smoking law for a “No Smoking” sticker in all vehicles used for any kind of work purposes. Because of the way the anti-smoking zealots wrote the initiated measure, when passed it required that even an undercover cop have one of these stickers visible inside. Since this too could very easily blow their cover, the Senate was not only forced to amend current law to exclude those conducting investigatory activities, but it had to be passed with an emergency clause to overrule the no smoking placard requirement since it was enacted through initiated measure.

Thankfully it did, passing unanimously 45-0.

I’m all for the initiated measure process. It is good for North Dakota, and it is good for democracy. But with that comes the law of unintended consequences, and if this were not fixed (granted it still needs to go through the house) it could have been a huge problem for those carrying out lawful investigations. That is not good for North Dakota or democracy, or the safety of our citizens. But this is not a hit on the initiated measure process, so much as having out of state interest groups blinded by their zeal to impose their will on those inside the state pushing such initiatives.


LegitSlater is a contributor who focuses on features primarily pertaining to state and local government as well as political parties, but has been known to dabble in other areas. LegitSlater has also been known to pinch hit for Rob when he is out and about in his worldly travels, or attending the occasional Yankees-Twins series. LegitSlater's numerous awards include the personal satisfaction received from informing the vast readership of SAB, spurring respectful debate, and hunting the trophy sacred cows which have been otherwise deemed off limits by the traditional media, elected officials, and the political parties.

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  • headward

    Why didn’t KIL ND speak out against the smoking ban?

  • retirenowconrad

    The initiated measure was passed by the voters. The senate should not be overruling any part of it. If the measure is junk the whole measure should repealed, rewritten, and then voted on.

    It was the secretary of state that didn’t put this little nugget of information on the ballot, government should have to live with its incompetence.

    If our voters are dumb enough to voter for measures that endanger the public they should live with the consequences.

    • Lianne

      It was not the public who would have been endangered, but those who are out there working totake down the lawbreakers. An immediate change was needed because I can not believe that endangering lives was the intended purpose of the supporters of the measure.
      I do believe that each part of any initiated measure should be discussed in the daily newspapers, blogs and TV media without the hype, but with the sole purpose of addressing the areas of life that would be affected by the proposed measure.

      • sbark

        correction… most cases they are working to “take down” the private property owners==who of course are more likely to have money to pay the fines.
        I doubt many lives of investigators will be endangered as they go after smokers on private property………it just limits their ability to gather in the sheeves of money from those who have it.
        If lives are a problem……….just use drones –without I.D. of course.
        Seems as if this was a “poorly written” as was Measure 2

        • Lianne

          This wasn’t limited to the cigarette lawbreakers, you know. Those undercover in drug busts, etc and that is dangerous business. the entire measure should have been defeated, but voters didn’t know the whole story. Is that their fault? yes, but they don’t know there is more to know if they aren’t told that.

      • retirenowconrad

        My assumption was that the police were protecting the public. If they couldn’t be undercover the public wouldn’t be protected.

        If their cover is blown, they could sit outside of bars with tape measures…

        AND I DON’T SMOKE.

      • SusanBeehler

        Or you can read the full measure on the Secretary of State and decide how to vote. So what would have been the penalty if they didn’t use the sticker on a “undercover vehicle”?

    • Sue

      Agreed, it was the job of the ones who vet through these measures to assure “nuggets” are covered. I think they need to approach those who drafted this measure and thank them. I think the cost of correction should come out of the advertising budget from the tobacco settlement.

    • SusanBeehler

      It was by request of the insurance commissioner, he submitted and then the Senate went with it. Hmm two emergency bills this session to prevent stickers and access to comments on a legislative website, is this unprecedented? or does this happen each session?

  • Kevin Flanagan

    The Legislature would never do anything without knowing what the consequences would be; would they?

    • SusanBeehler


  • SusanBeehler

    Thankfully the legislature went into fast action and protected us from the sticker! What would have happened if the sticker wasn’t placed in the vehicle, would they legislature be sending out law and enforcement to make all vehicles have stickers? What is the penalty for your sticker not showing? This is a legislature stunt to show why “measures” are so “dangerous,hazardous” as was stated during the hearing to make getting measures on the ballot.

  • Jeremiah Glosenger

    Legislators at all levels of government run into the same law of unintended consequences when crafting bills. It can be almost impossible to forsee how it might affect every situation when writing it. That is why these points need to be brought up prior to voting or the legislature needs to make an exception as they did. Hindsight is always 20/20. Question is…where are all the links to the news stories of LEO and the press complaining about how this would affect undercover operations prior to the vote?