Voters could decide eight ballot measures

2013-10-13T00:15:00Z Voters could decide eight ballot measuresBy NICK SMITH | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

North Dakota voters are facing decisions on five constitutional measures next year, and there may be more on the ballot if citizen signature drives are successful.

Signatures are being collected on measures that would start the school year after Labor Day; create a new conservation fund using oil tax revenue and make changes to parental rights and responsibilities.

The three citizen initiatives would join five constitutional measures approved for the ballot during this year’s legislative session.

The first citizen measure was approved for the circulation of petitions on June 18. It would change state law to give both parents equal parental rights and responsibilities in child custody cases, unless a clear and convincing case can be made against a parent’s fitness. Because it would change state law, it requires a total of 13,452 legitimate signatures for inclusion on the ballot. Constitutional measures require 26,904 legitimate signatures.

Petitions were approved Aug. 29 for circulation for a proposed constitutional amendment that would create a state conservation fund.

The measure would create a Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Trust. It would require the setting aside of 5 percent of the state’s oil extraction tax revenue annually for conservation, education and recreation.

Lawmakers passed a North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund earlier in the year. It would have up to $15 million in it annually. A few business groups have already come out in opposition to the measure.

A petition was approved for circulator on Sept. 20 that would change the start of the school year for kindergarten through grade 12 to after Labor Day.

Depending on when signatures are verified, the citizen measures could appear on the June 10 primary ballot or the Nov. 4 general election ballot.

Four of the five proposed constitutional changes will appear on the November ballot.

On the June ballot is House Concurrent Resolution 3034, which would move the deadline for submitting ballot measure petitions from 90 days before an election to 120 days. It also would require that any challenges to the North Dakota Supreme Court over secretary of state decisions on ballot measure petitions would have to be filed no later than 75 days before an election day.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 4009 is the first measure on the November ballot. It would define human life as beginning at conception.

HCR3006 also will be put to a November vote. It would bar the state or any political subdivision from collecting mortgage taxes or any sales or transfer taxes on the mortgage or transfer of pieces of property.

HCR3047 would replace the North Dakota University System chancellor with a three-member Commission of Higher Education.

HCR3011 would require all ballot initiatives with a significant fiscal impact to be on the general election ballot. It also would ban petition circulation of constitutional amendments that require a direct allocation of public funds or require the Legislature to make appropriations for a specific purpose.

A total of nine statewide ballot measures were before voters in 2012, five in November and four in June.

Between 2000 and 2010, the largest number of statewide ballot measures was five in an election year.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

Copyright 2015 Bismarck Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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