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State Senate passes a pair of measures to change or tweak initiated Constitutional measure process

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The state Senate has passed a pair of measures dealing with initiated Constitutional measures.

They were prompted by the passing of two measures which amend the state's Constitution that had significant backing from out of state groups.

One measure would allow the Legislature to weigh in on initiated Constitutional measures that were approved by voters. Lawmakers would review the measure following that vote. If lawmakers turn it down, it would be back on the ballot a second time.

"I feel more like the little boy who stands up and says 'The Emperor isn't wearing any clothes,'" said Sen. David Hogue (R-Minot), the author of the measure.  "That's what our Constitution is right now -- it is naked for anybody with an ideology and the resources to come in, buy the signatures, buy the campaign ad and get it done."

Opponents say the proposal goes against the will of the people.

It passed 31-to-16. If the House goes along, this will be on the ballot in 2020.

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A second measure would tweak the presentation of Constitutional amendments placed on the ballot through the initiative process.

The bill limits the measure printed on the ballot to 500 words. And if a measure is more than 500 words long, a copy needs to be given to each voter, at the sponsoring committee’s expense.

Sen. Kristin Roers (R-Fargo) said she appreciated the sponsor’s intent of keeping Constitutional measures to the “what” of the issue, and leaving the “hows” to statute and rules. But she told the Senate she couldn't vote for it.

"I don't believe that this measure will get the results I hoped it would," Roers said.

But the sponsor – Sen. Jessica Unruh (R_Beulah) – said she believes voters need to know as much as they can about the Constitutional issue on the ballot.

"I heard it so many times on the campaign trail, just what is included in our Constitutional measures, and why the only thing we see on the ballot is the summary that is decided by two people," Unruh said.

The two people are the Attorney General and the Secretary of State.

The measure passed 33 to 14 – and will now be considered in the House.

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