Two House resolutions that would make changes to the states’ initiated ballot measure laws were heard by a Senate committee on Monday.
The Senate Judiciary Committee discussed a resolution that would increase the deadlines for receiving petition signatures and allow more time for potential court challenges. Another resolution would require that any initiated ballot measure that passes that is found to have a fiscal impact of more than $20 million would be put on the next general election ballot.
Secretary of State Al Jaeger testified in favor of House Concurrent Resolution 3034. The resolution would extend the deadline for submitting signed petitions from 90 days before an election to 120 days.
HCR3034 also would require any Supreme Court challenges to the secretary of state’s decisions on a measure to be filed at least 75 days before an election.
If passed by the Legislature HCR3034 would be on the 2014 primary ballot.
“By state law, the secretary of state has 35 days to determine the sufficiency of the petition,” Jaeger said. “Since the ballot must be certified 55 days before the election no time might remain for the Supreme Court’s review.”
Jaeger said moving back the deadlines allows for more time to receive petitions, review them and allow those who’ve turned in petitions a fair opportunity to challenge a decision.
Sen. John Grabinger, D-Jamestown, asked Jaeger about the impact HCR3034 could have on petition circulators at the North Dakota State Fair.
“By doing this we’re going to eliminate the opportunity to do that,” Grabinger said.
Jaeger said if groups gathering signatures for a ballot measure are “serious” about meeting the requirements they won’t simply rely on the State Fair.
“There are many events in the course of one year where you can gather signatures,” Jaeger said.
No action was taken Monday on HCR3034. Sponsors of the resolution are Reps. William Kretschmar R-Venturia, Roger Brabandt, R-Minot, Lois Delmore, D-Grand Forks, Andrew Maragos, R-Minot, Gary Paur, R-Gilby, and Sens. Robert Erbele, R-Lehr, and Stan Lyson, R-Williston.
Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, asked the committee for a do-pass on House Concurrent Resolution 3011.
If passed it would be before the 2014 general election. HCR3011 would require initiated measures with an estimated impact of more than $20 million to be placed on a general election ballot.
Carlson said the idea for HCR3011 came after two ballot measures brought forward in 2012.
The first was Measure 2, which failed in the June primary. Measure 2 would have abolished property taxes. The second was an initiative calling for the creation of a state conservation fund. The conservation fund measure was rejected in September due to several paid petition circulators having turned in thousands of fraudulent signatures.
Passage of measures with large fiscal impacts could cause problems with the state budget, Carlson said. With the estimated $800 million annual impact if Measure 2 had passed, Carlson said “we’d have been back in special session the next day.”
Two major provisions of HCR3011 had been removed by the House Judiciary Committee, Carlson said.
The first would bar petition circulators from being paid and require that petition circulators are qualified voters in the state.
HCR3011 also had a provision removed that would have increased the number of signatures needed to change a law from 2 percent to 3 percent. The provision also stated that signatures collected would need to be spread out so that 3 percent of valid signatures must come from each of at least half of the state’s counties. For constitutional amendments, the requirements would remain at 4 percent.
Carlson called it unfortunate that these provisions had been removed. He said the latter provision would have ensured that ballot measures have statewide approval and not just that of a few of the state’s largest counties.
No action was taken on HCR3011 on Monday. Sponsoring the resolution along with Carlson are Reps. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, Bill Devlin, R-Finley, David Monson, R-Osnabrock, and Sens. Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo, and David Hogue, R-Minot.