Petition aims to block changes to the initiated measure process

Bismarck, ND — A new petition filed could set up an interesting battle between voters and our state lawmakers.

It is in direct response to a resolution that came out of this year’s legislative session. At the center of the debate is your constitutional right to make changes to the state constitution.

The managing director of the North Dakota Watchdog Network, Dustin Gawrylow says he is protecting our constitutional rights.

“Now is the time to push back,” he said.

He plans to fight a new resolution from state lawmakers this year that would make it harder for voters to pass changes to the state constitution.

“The ability to initiate constitutional measures and all measures has been in the constitution for about 100 years now,” he said.

And it still will be but it could look a little different. Right now, if someone gathers enough signatures for a proposed constitutional change, it would be put on the ballot. But, under the new resolution, if voters passed the change, lawmakers would then get a vote.

“It will have public hearings. The legislature will not have the opportunity to make any changes to it,” Sen. Dick Dever (R-District 32) said. He was one of the co-sponsors of the resolution.

If the legislature votes no, it goes back to the voters in a future election.

The change gained lawmaker support in part because of outside money influencing state-wide elections. Campaigns for Marsy’s Law and the ethics commission were largely funded by out-of-state money.

But Gawrylow said this new resolution won’t fix that issue.

“When you extend the process of getting a measure passed from 2-3 years to 3-5 years, it’s just going to be that much more money to campaign,” he said.

Senator Dever says that extra time though will only help people make important decisions.

“When we’re talking about the constitution, the voters should want to pass an informed vote and I think that’s what this process does,” he said.

Gawrylow’s group is starting to circulate a petition that would prevent this new resolution and similar ideas in the future. If it gets enough signatures to be on the ballot, people could vote on the resolution and Gawrylow’s measure on the same ballot.

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