Dem-NPL senators oppose legislation to study initiated ballot measure process

Bill was amended to exclude representatives from labor, tribes and the minority party


(BISMARCK, N.D.) – On a motion to reconsider, all Democratic-NPL senators voted against Senate Bill 2135 Monday morning. The bill, which establishes a commission to review the initiated ballot measure process, was amended in conference committee to exclude labor and tribal representatives, as well as one of two members from the minority party. 

The initiated ballot measure process is the only direct way for citizens to enact public policy without first going through the legislature,” said Senate Dem-NPL Leader Joan Heckaman (New Rockford). “I believe we must be very careful when it comes to altering this process, and I’m concerned that the proposed commission excludes members from our labor and tribal communities, as well as one of the two members from the minority party. Given its current makeup, this commission doesn’t seem like a citizens commission, but rather a commission appointed by those who already control the levers of power at the state Capitol.

 When SB 2135 was first introduced in the Senate, the bill proposed establishing a commission that only included representatives appointed by the majority party. Senator Heckaman testified in the committee hearing along with other concerned groups, and amendments were accepted that allowed minority representation as well as representation from labor and the tribes. However, once the bill was in conference committee, it was again amended, this time to exclude the labor and tribal representatives and reduce the number of minority members from two to one. 

If our goal is truly to improve the initiated ballot measure process, it’s crucial for this commission’s recommendations to have credibility with all North Dakotans,” added Sen. Heckaman. “Given its current makeup, I think a significant portion of our citizens aren’t going to feel this commission’s recommendations are credible at all.”  

SB 2135 passed the Senate last week, with five Republicans joining all Democratic-NPL members in opposition, but it did not receive enough votes to carry its emergency clause. It was reconsidered Monday and passed on a strictly party-line vote. The bill now returns to the House, where it must be voted on again to either accept or reject the amendments.

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