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Ballot measure would change the process for initiated Constitutional amendments

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North Dakota voters will be asked to make a change in the process of amending the state Constitution by initiative.

The state Senate gave its final okay to a proposed Constitutional amendment. Under it, after an initiated Constitutional amendment passes, it would go to the next Legislative session. If lawmakers also approve, it takes effect – but if they don’t, the measure would be on the next November ballot. If approved there, it would be in the Constitution.

Sen Tim Mathern (D-Fargo) told the Senate the Constitution’s current Article Three says the Legislature should not do anything to hamper the “powers of the people.”

"I believe passage of this is going against what our Constitution is really telling us," Mathern argued. "I hope you vote 'no,' so we aren't hampering, restricting or impairing the powers of the people."

Supporters said voters will have to weigh in on this change before it would become part of the Constitution.

Sen. David Hogue (R-Minot) – the measure’s sponsor – said the current system works in favor of big-monied out-of-state interests, and against grass roots initiatives. Hogue said those out-of-state groups are not interested in the public discussion the Legislature would provide.

"In that way, they can bypass the people and the Legislature, and they can have their measures adopted the way they drafted them in their lawyer's office, without public input," Hogue said. "This is an opportunity to let the people decide how they wish to govern themselves."

The measure passed 31 to 15 – and it will be on the November, 2020 ballot.

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