The Tribune Editorial Board believes creating an ethics commission has merit, but Measure 1 isn’t the way to achieve the goal.
North Dakotans for Public Integrity led the way in getting the measure on the ballot. It’s a dedicated group with longtime Republicans and Democrats working together on the issue. Their intentions are good, but despite working with attorneys and others on the measure’s wording, we feel voters can’t be guaranteed what they are getting.
The measure adds anti-corruption language to the state constitution, including the creation of an ethics commission that could investigate claims made against public officials, candidates and lobbyists. The commission would establish ethics rules and provide ethics training programs.
The Tribune agrees with critics of the measure who feel it puts too much responsibility on the Legislature.
Opponents say the measure doesn’t define who will fall under its scope, leaving that to legislators and opening the door to restrictions on citizens' freedom of expression. The American Civil Liberties Union of North Dakota argues the reporting requirement in the measure for spending on efforts to influence legislation is too broad. The ACLU says it could discourage citizens who want to come to Bismarck and testify on bills because they would have to report their travel and hotel expenses. Supporters say that’s not how the measure will work.
The Tribune doesn’t believe having legislators clarify the measure is the right approach. The Legislature has rejected past efforts to adopt ethics legislation, arguing it’s not needed. There’s no reason to believe that voter approval of Measure 1 will change that legislative stance. Even supporters say it could take more than one legislative session to define the commission and its duties.
The Tribune has been supportive of ballot initiatives and referrals. At the same time, we believe measures should be concise. Voters need to know what they will get. That’s not the case with Measure 1.
Good intentions don’t always result in good measures. The Tribune recommends a no vote on Measure 1.
This measures amends the state constitution to make it clear that only U.S. citizens can vote in North Dakota elections. Present state law requires North Dakota voters to be U.S. citizens, but putting the requirement in the constitution makes it more difficult to change. The secretary of state’s office wasn’t aware of any convictions for noncitizens voting in North Dakota. Vote yes if you are concerned about your elected representatives changing the law to allow noncitizens to vote.
This measure provides free license plates to volunteer emergency personnel. The plates also would serve as free passes into all state parks. It’s a feel-good measure with an estimated price tag of $3 million a biennium. First responders deserve our thanks, but the Tribune doesn’t believe this effort is practical. There must be a less expensive way to provide free entry into parks and the money saved not issuing free plates could be put to a better use, including training and equipment for emergency personnel. The Tribune recommends a no vote.
Sunday: The U.S. House race.