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Resolution would require North Dakota lawmakers to live in district

A proposal from North Dakota legislative leadership would require state lawmakers to live in the district they represent, a move that comes after several lawmakers left their districts in recent years.

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A proposal from North Dakota legislative leadership would require state lawmakers to live in the district they represent, a move that comes after several lawmakers left their districts in recent years.

The proposal, Senate Concurrent Resolution 4010, will go before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday morning. It would ask North Dakota voters in 2016 to amend the state's constitution to require lawmakers to live in their district past Election Day.

The constitutional language in question requires that "each person elected to the legislative assembly must be, on the day of the election, a qualified elector in the district from which the member was chosen and must have been a resident of the state for one year immediately prior to that election." The change would replace "person elected to" with "member of" and strike the "on the day of the election" language from the constitution.

At least two instances have sprung up in Grand Forks of legislators living outside the district they represented. Curt Kreun, a former Republican legislator who represented District 43, did not run for re-election in 2014 after moving out of that district to a smaller home.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, moved to District 18 after the 2013 legislative session but represents District 42. He isn't up for re-election until 2016.

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"Because this is an amendment to the constitution it would apply to legislators after the 2016 election, if approved by voters," Mock wrote in an email. He previously said living outside the district didn't change how he represents it.

Mock said it was too early to speculate on his plans for 2016. His wife Jeannie was elected to the Grand Forks City Council last year and now represents Ward 4, which Corey Mock said includes parts of Districts 17 and 18.

"Grand Forks is fortunate to have skilled and passionate representatives serving all neighborhoods at both the local and state level, and Jeannie and I look forward to supporting the community any way that we can," said Mock, the House's assistant minority leader.

'A change'

Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, D-Grand Forks, said the resolution is not aimed at any particular legislator or political party. The resolution is sponsored by House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, House Minority Leader Kent Onstad, D-Parshall, Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson and Schneider.

"We just want to be absolutely clear that legislators should live in the district that they represent," Schneider said. "I don't think any of those legislators have done anything that violates the law. This is just a change going forward that we think people should have a say on."

Wardner said having legislators in their district encourages responsiveness.

"Constituents are becoming more and more active," he said. "They are searching out their legislative leaders, representatives and senators, and they want to talk to them about legislation for the next session."

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John Bjornson, code reviser with the Legislative Council, said that moving out of a district after an election does not disqualify a lawmaker from representing that district. He said his office doesn't keep track of whether legislators are living in their districts, but he believes there have been others who have moved over the years.

Nancy Johnson, a former Republican legislator, moved from Dickinson to Fargo for the last year of her term, according to a 2013 article in the Dickinson Press.

Bjornson said unless there is further change with the law, a vacancy created by a legislator moving would be filled by the local party through an appointment unless voters petitioned for a special election.

Related Topics: RICH WARDNER
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