One of the surprises of this month’s election was the passage of Measure 1 with 54 percent of the vote. The measure was opposed by most major groups in the state and the American Civil Liberties Union. There’s talk the ACLU will go to court over the measure.
Measure 1’s approval means the source of money spent on media to influence politics must be disclosed, lobbyists can’t give gifts to public officials and an ethics commission must be created to investigate violations. Since it’s a constitutional measure the Legislature will implement it and that means there will be opportunities for lawmakers to alter it.
The Tribune Editorial Board believes the will of the majority should be respected and it would be a mistake for the Legislature to try to gut the measure. The intent of the effort should be respected. It’s apparent the advocates of the measure will be present to fight for it.
North Dakotans for Public Integrity, the group created to write and get Measure 1 passed, doesn’t plan to disband. It’s a bipartisan group with notable Republicans and Democrats leading the effort. Ellen Chaffee, a Democrat and one of the founders of the group, said they expect legal challenges by opponents. It’s possible other groups besides the ACLU could take them to court.
North Dakotans for Public Integrity is a 501(c)4 nonprofit group.
North Dakotans for Sound Government, a group formed to oppose the measure, plans to disband. Members of the group are expected to stay involved in the process of implementing the measure. Legislators will hear from them.
The Bismarck Tribune opposed Measure 1, especially for two reasons. One, we thought it was poorly written and could be interpreted too broadly. Secondly, its final form would be up to the Legislature. We were voting on a measure that could be significantly different in its final form than it was on the ballot. In other words, we couldn’t be certain what we were voting on.
Supporters are convinced the voters who favored the measure knew what they liked about it. Kathy Tweeten, another founder of North Dakotans for Public Integrity, told the Forum News Service that voters liked the disclosure requirement on “dark money.” The state requires some disclosures, but not all.
The measure got strong support not only in the eastern counties, considered more Democratic, but also in some oil patch counties.
Unlike the medical marijuana measure where supporters were disappointed by how much time the Legislature and state have taken in implementing it, Measure 1 backers provided the Legislature with three years to pass legislation required by Measure 1.
The Legislature needs to clarify language in the measure considered too vague by many. They must make it clear who qualifies for disclosing spending. Does a citizen who drives to Bismarck to testify on a bill become a lobbyist? We don’t think that’s appropriate.
The Legislature has rejected bills creating an ethics commission in the past. They shouldn’t try to eliminate the commission, it’s a key part of the measure that passed. The Tribune believes an ethics commission is a good idea. If there are no problems the commission won’t be busy. It’s good for the public to have someone to turn to when they have a grievance.
It should be an interesting process. What the Legislature shouldn’t do is what the South Dakota Legislature did. Voters easily approved a somewhat similar measure recently and legislators dumped it. They rejected the will of the people.
If Measure 1 goes to court then the judicial process may determine its fate. The Legislature, however, shouldn’t delay its work. Voters spoke, they want Measure 1. It may take the Legislature and the courts three years to resolve the issue.