The following article was submitted as an op-ed for publication.
When I was growing up, our family conversations around the dinner table often ended with, “You always have to trust the people.” This is one of the beliefs that led me to the Governor’s office and my desire to serve the people of North Dakota.
I cut my political teeth on the 1989 tax referrals and gained a healthy respect for this method for our citizens to shape their own government policy.
Article III of the North Dakota state constitution is entitled “Powers Reserved to the People”. These powers initiate both statutory law and constitution changes, the power to refer legislation, and the power to recall elected officials. As people have engaged in referral efforts, our state is better off because of the citizens who have exercised these powers.
Measure #2 would insert the legislature into the process of approving constitutional measures, effectively allowing the legislature to veto the voters. If our elected officials shoot down a citizen approved constitutional measure, we’d have to start all over again. Asking the voters of North Dakota to relinquish the powers their constitution reserves to them is a dangerous and misguided proposition that was set forth by our legislative body.
Advocates of granting this veto power to the legislature are citing the need to counteract the recent influx of out-of-state campaign money. Yet, what they are not saying is that Measure #2 will do nothing about the money issue, and in fact this proposed change could result in more money flooding into North Dakota because these campaigns could go before the voters twice instead of only once. Also, because of required legislative action, time and resource will be spent on trying to convince elected leaders to follow the will of the people.
One of the tenets of the Schafer Administration was “solve the problem.” Measure #2 does not keep the out-of-state coastal elite from trying to tell us what to do and trying to buy elections.
Our representatives in the legislature should seek ways to solve the problem and protect our constitution by requiring measures to be of a single subject matter, granting citizens access to legislative council to develop more concise and effective language, requiring 24-hour reporting of out-of-state dollars and including money origin in advertising.
It is not the job of the legislature to save voters from themselves or “give them the opportunity” to vote away their own rights. It is the job of the legislature to make it easier for true grassroot citizen efforts to operate without the need for out-of-state money, and to put a better product in front of voters. Let’s find ways to help citizens cultivate our laws in better ways.
We have better government when citizens are empowered to hold elected officials accountable, and we have the opportunity to shape a government by the people and for the people.
Keep power with the people and vote NO on Measure #2 on November 3rd.
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Ed Schafer is a successful businessman who served as the 30th governor of North Dakota from 1992 to 2000. He was appointed by President George W. Bush as United States Secretary of Agriculture and served in that capacity from January of 2008 to January of 2009. He is the son of North Dakota’s own Harold Schafer.