Measure to help N.D. legislators get state jobs is beatenBISMARCK — Since statehood, North Dakota’s constitution has barred legislators from taking many appointive full time state positions. North Dakota voters decided Tuesday to keep it that way.
By: Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau
BISMARCK — Since statehood, North Dakota’s constitution has barred legislators from taking many appointive full time state positions.
North Dakota voters decided Tuesday to keep it that way.
With 71 percent of the state’s 528 precincts reporting, 58 percent of voters had rejected Measure 1, with 26,351 votes against and 19,021 in favor.
“I don’t expect it to pass,” said Rep. Duane DeKrey, R-Pettibone, earlier Tuesday.
DeKrey sponsored the measure during the 2007 Legislature, which approved it as an issue for Tuesday’s ballot. He noted there had been no public debate pro or con leading up to the election. Normally, when North Dakota voters aren’t familiar with a measure, they vote “no,” he said.
DeKrey brought the measure, House Concurrent Resolution 3015, to the Legislature after former state Sen. Tom Trenbeath of Cavalier was barred from consideration for appointment to the Supreme Court in 2005.
“I remember thinking he was a perfect fit and just because he was a legislator, he was excluded,” DeKrey said.
DeKrey said he understood the prohibition was put in the constitution at statehood to prevent legislators from creating state government positions for themselves. Legislators may have been prone to create statewide offices for themselves a hundred or more years ago, he said, but now, everyone knows “it would be political suicide to something like that.”
But the section also bars lawmakers from appointment to any existing office for which the Legislature increased the pay, and that goes too far, he believed. So his measure called for removing the bar against appointment to existing offices for which lawmakers had raised the pay.
A co-sponsor of HCR 3015, Senate Minority Leader David O’Connell, D-Lansford, said he had second thoughts about the constitutional amendment after the 2007 Legislature adjourned and did not promote its passage. Constituents and others around the state told him they opposed it because if sitting legislators are appointed to statewide offices, their spots in the House or the Senate are then filled by party appointments.
Trenbeath was among 10 attorneys who applied for the seat Gov. John Hoeven eventually filled by naming former Fargo attorney Dan Crothers to replace former Justice William Neumann.
Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said Trenbeath could not be appointed because he had voted for a pay raise for the justices during the 2005 session.
Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.