OUR OPINION: N.D. Senate vote isn't a 'pass-along'
Let's put one argument about constitutional amendments to rest: HCR 3046 would amend the North Dakota Constitution to essentially give all power over education in North Dakota to the governor, eliminating the State Board of Higher Education and s...
Let's put one argument about constitutional amendments to rest:
HCR 3046 would amend the North Dakota Constitution to essentially give all power over education in North Dakota to the governor, eliminating the State Board of Higher Education and state superintendent of public instruction in the process.
The proposal is a bad idea, as recent editorials in the Herald, the Minot Daily News and The Forum have explained. But the question today is this: HCR 3046 has passed the North Dakota House and now is before the Senate. If it passes the Senate, it goes onto a statewide ballot.
Should senators simply approve the resolution on the grounds that by doing so, they're giving the public a chance to vote?
No. The Senate is not a rubber stamp. Senators should vote their conscience on this proposal, exactly as they would on any other bill.
There are two ways to amend the North Dakota Constitution, and both of them were made more difficult than passing an ordinary law. The first way involves both houses of the Legislature and a statewide vote, as described above.
But the legislative requirement isn't there for show. It's a hurdle placed in an amendments' path on purpose. The hurdle forces amendments to win lawmakers' approval -- not simply their acknowledgment -- before going on to a statewide ballot.
The second way to amend the constitution involves petitions; but here, too, the rules are tougher than those for ordinary laws. Citizens who'd like to get a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot first must gather signatures equal to 4 percent of the state's population.
In contrast, citizens who'd like to put a proposed state law in front of the voters need only enough signatures to equal 2 percent of the population. That's half of the above figure, amounting to more than 13,000 fewer signatures.
To amend its constitution, North Dakota basically requires solid majority as opposed to simple majority support. Legislators' views are a vital part of that process; so, when HCR 3046 comes up before the Senate, lawmakers should respond as senators, not clerks.
-- Tom Dennis for the Herald