Stenehjem: Law limiting state auditor is probably unconstitutional

State News

Image: AP

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota’s attorney general says a new law that requires that state auditor to get approval from a legislative committee to conduct performance audits is likely unconstitutional.

Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem issued the opinion Friday just days before the law was to take effect. Approval of the measure, which came during the legislative session’s final days in April, has drawn widespread criticism and spurred a referral campaign to ask voters to strip the legislation from the books.

State Auditor Josh Gallion, who requested the opinion in May, believes it bolsters his authority to conduct audits as he so chooses. Stenehjem says the new law will likely lead a court to determine if it’s unconstitutional under the separation of powers doctrine.

In a statement released after the attorney general’s opinion, Gallion wrote, “One of the fundamental elements of providing objective and balanced information is having an independent auditor. With today’s opinion from the Attorney General that section 3 of SB2004 would violate the encroachment theory of the separation of powers, he has reaffirmed the coequal branches of government and that the fundamental core function of the executive branch is to operate independently.”

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