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N.D. Legislature: Bill changing grand jury petitions passes

BISMARCK -- More signatures may soon be required to petition a grand jury to hear allegations of wrongdoing against a public official. On Thursday, the Senate amended then passed House Bill 1451, which now requires 25 percent of electors of the t...

BISMARCK -- More signatures may soon be required to petition a grand jury to hear allegations of wrongdoing against a public official.

On Thursday, the Senate amended then passed House Bill 1451, which now requires 25 percent of electors of the total county's gubernatorial vote in the last election. A petition would have to have a minimum of 225 and no more than 5,000 signatures.

Current law requires 10 percent of electors of the total county vote for governor in the last election.

Those circulating petitions would have to disclose any contributions over $100 they receive for the petition drive.

The bill specifically says a grand jury will inquire into "willful or corrupt felonious charges."

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"A grand jury should be empaneled when there's broad support within the county and something of substance is to be investigated," said Sen. Margaret Sitte, R-Bismarck, who carried the bill Thursday. "It's a check on the prosecutor if he fails to act and citizens have a recourse."

Opponents said the bill will make it more difficult to draw a grand jury at a time when the process is rarely used.

The bill passed 30-15. It will move back to the House, which will have to agree with the changes or disagree. If the House disagrees, the bill will be sent to a conference committee to hash out the changes.

Initiated measures

If an initiated measure is estimated to cost the state more than $40 million the next biennium after it becomes law, it must be voted on in the general election, and could not be on the primary ballot, under a proposal that was passed out of the Senate on Thursday.

House Concurrent Resolution 3011, sponsored by Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, passed 25-20. It will be sent back to the House for concurrence.

The bill was amended to allow future legislatures to define who can circulate the petitions, a provision that raised concerns with some because state law prohibits the Legislature from unduly restricting the right of the people to pass initiated measures.

Those concerned felt the provision could lead to some restrictive laws in the future.

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