by Jeff Olson, DakCU President/CEO
This week, the North Dakota Governmental Affairs Committee joined a growing list of state organizations opposing Measure 1.
Measure 1 is a proposed constitutional change that would add a new article to the state constitution imposing term limits to state legislators and the governor. Specifically, this would limit legislators in the House and the Senate as well as the governor’s office to eight cumulative years. The initiative does NOT IMPACT our Federal representatives in Washington, D.C. This fact alone appears to be confusing for many North Dakota voters.
We realize that many North Dakotans favor term limits; the ND GAC considered many factors and the impact on our communities and state if this measure is approved.
The language in the proposed constitutional change has several issues that will likely be challenged in the courts. Further, as mentioned in a Bismarck Tribune editorial, the backer’s motivation in bringing this initiative to the voters appears to be more reactionary (“vindictive”) than strategic due to some groups not getting their way during the last session.
Also concerning, as the backers were gathering signatures, they were not forthright in sharing crucial details. For example, this bill will have no impact on federal or congressional seats. They know it, but the voters do not. So, like many ballot initiatives this will have unintended and negative consequences. This is very similar to what happened is South Dakota when they approved term limits. Currently in their legislature, when someone is termed out, they usually just swap chambers, mainly because it is difficult to get people to run and serve.
While not perfect, there is no denying that North Dakota is one of best run states in the country and has been for our 133-year history. This is because we have a citizen legislature that understands the complexities of our unique economic factors as well as the priorities of its tax paying citizens.
Our legislators work for 80 days every two years – that is it. There are interim meetings that account for another 20 days of work when not in session. Our lawmakers are not full-time politicians by any means.
If voters in a district (each district in ND only has approximately 16,500 voters) like their representation, why can’t they continue to support that individual? This measure would deny voters that privilege. There are already multiple platforms where voters can term out their lawmakers: they can simply vote them out at the ballot; they can choose another candidate in the district endorsing process; or they can choose another candidate in the primary election.
We strongly believe this proposed limit is far too restrictive. Our concern is that if passed, constant turnover would mean we are losing valuable experience and institutional knowledge.
Funding for K-12 education and higher education will be impacted with constant turnover. Things like the Budget Stabilization fund and Legacy Fund oversight and investments could lose informed and necessary leadership, not to mention losing consistency in committee leadership and experience. With mandated term limits, the turnover would likely add additional time and costs to properly train and prepare newly elected lawmakers in legislative procedures, issues, and state operations.
If passed, this M1 would further impact progress and productivity which would ultimately impact North Dakota taxpayers. Instead of focusing on legislative oversight, the turnover would provide a key lapse in experience and knowledge that would result in a reliance on unelected bureaucrats, state agencies and special interest groups to provide expertise, guidance, and input. With just eight years as M1 proposes, legislators would barely have a chance to get their feet wet. As for the governor, only twice in our history has a ND governor served more than eight years. (Guy, 1961 – 1973; and Hoeven, 2000 – 2010).
Here are some additional facts:
Based on our due diligence and serious consideration, the Dakota Credit Union Association joins these other state organizations and trade associations (listed below) in opposing the term limit measure. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns regarding this issue.
Greater North Dakota Chamber
Association of General Contractors
Dakota Credit Union Association
Devils Lake Chamber
Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo Chamber
Grand Forks Chamber
Homebuilders of Fargo-Moorhead
Lignite Energy Council
North Dakota Association of Builders
North Dakota Association of Counties
North Dakota Association of REC
North Dakota Auto Dealers
North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders
North Dakota Farm Bureau
North Dakota Farmers Union
North Dakota League of Cities
North Dakota Medical Association
North Dakota Petroleum Council
North Dakota Stockmens Association
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