By Maureen McMullen
Measures appearing on the ballot in North Dakota’s 2014 election could have a drastic impact on the state. Some of the proposed measures deal with matters including reproductive and end-of-life rights, taxation, education, environmental conservation and business regulation.
The following measures will appear on this year’s ballot:
Measure 1: Life Begins at Conception
Measure 1 aims to add an amendment to the state’s constitution declaring that “the inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”
If Measure 1 passes, North Dakota’s constitution will define conception as the beginning of life.
Supporters of the bill believe the amendment will protect life and uphold the values of North Dakotans.
In reality, the bill’s vague rhetoric would eliminate access to abortion, in vitro fertilization, and end of life services.
The passing of Measure 1 would make North Dakota the first state to declare the start of life at conception.
Measure 2: Property Transfer Tax Ban
Measure 2 proposes to bar North Dakota from imposing mortgage, sale, and transfer taxes on the mortgage or transfer of property.
If Measure 2 passes, it would create a new section in Article X of North Dakota’s constitution stating that “the state and any county, township, city, or any other political subdivision of the state may not impose any mortgage taxes or any sales or transfer taxes on the mortgage or transfer of real property.”
The bill would not eliminate any current taxes, but would prevent the government from imposing future taxes on the sale or transfer of properties.
Measure 3: Higher Education Commission
If passed, Measure 3 would enact Article VIII of North Dakota’s constitution and replace the state’s part-time, eight-member State Board of Higher Education with a full-time, three-person Commission of Higher Education appointed by the governor.
Supporters of the amendment say the Commission would enable the state to better manage North Dakota’s university system.
Opponents say the bill would limit academic freedom, university presidents’ authority and university accreditation.
Measure 4: Referral and Initiative Reform
Measure 4 would require a general election for any initiated measure that could have a significant impact on North Dakota’s public budget. The measure would also prevent any future amendments that would directly allocate public funds to any specific purpose.
If Measure 4 passes, it will amend and reenact section 2 of Article III in North Dakota’s constitution, requiring a general election on significant budgeting decisions for the state and ban amendments to the constitution that would use public funds for a specific purpose.
Measure 5: Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks
Measure 5 proposes an amendment to Article X of North Dakota’s constitution that would allocate five percent of revenue collected from North Dakota’s oil extraction tax to a Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Trust and Fund.
90 percent of the revenue would go to a fund and 10 percent would go into a trust.
Money in the fund would provide grants to public and private agencies working for improvement in environmental factors such as clean water, natural flood control, and access for fishing and hunting.
Supporters say the measure would help to protect and preserve North Dakota’s natural resources.
Opponents say the measure would be the state’s first amendment mandating spending and would place conservation before the “needs of North Dakotans.”
Measure 6: Parental Rights Initiative
Similar to a bill defeated by North Dakotans in 2006, Measure 6 would enact a legal assumption that both parents are fit to parent and thus entitled to equal parental rights.
If passed, the measure would amend section 14-09-06.2 of the North Dakota Cenctury Code and automatically grant equal custody, unless there is “clear and convincing evidence” that a parent is unfit for custody of a child.
Supporters say the amendment would help children maintain relationships with both parents if the parents are separated.
Opponents say the measure does not give a clear description of what would deem someone “unfit” to parent, does not consider the needs of victims of domestic violence, and prioritizes the wishes of parents over the welfare of the child.
Measure 7: Pharmacy Ownership Initiative
In 1963 a North Dakota Century Code law banned chain retailers like Walmart, Target, and Walgreens from owning pharmacies in North Dakota.
The state currently requires pharmacies to be majority owned by registered pharmacists.
If passed, Measure 7 would remove the ban and allow corporations to operate pharmacies in the state.
Supporters say the amendment would make medications more accessible and convenient for North Dakotans.
Opponents say the measure would harm smaller, locally owned pharmacies and would lead to corporate dominance over the market.
Measure 8: School Begins After Labor Day Initiative
If passed, Measure 8 would require public schools to start classes after Labor Day.
North Dakota currently allows each school district to schedule its own academic calendar.
Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia are the only other states that require classes to begin after Labor Day.
Supporters say the measure will prevent students from exposure to late-summer heat in classrooms and schools without air conditioning.
Opponents say the decision of when to start school is better left to local school districts than state mandates.
Minnesota’s ballot contains no measures. For more information about how to vote in North Dakota, visit vip.sos.nd.gov/PortalList.aspx.