Foes of pharmacy rule seek repeal againBISMARCK (AP) — Opponents of North Dakota’s pharmacy ownership restrictions are making another attempt to have them repealed by voters, almost a year after a previous initiative campaign was scuttled by legal problems.
BISMARCK (AP) — Opponents of North Dakota’s pharmacy ownership restrictions are making another attempt to have them repealed by voters, almost a year after a previous initiative campaign was scuttled by legal problems.
Duane Sand, of Bismarck, who is a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, submitted paperwork to Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s office Wednesday to begin circulating another petition to dump the restrictions.
The law requires pharmacists to hold majority ownership of most North Dakota pharmacies. The Legislature has rebuffed several attempts to repeal it, most recently in February, when the North Dakota House voted 68-26 to keep the law. It has been in place since 1963.
Large retailers, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Target Corp., have opposed the law, saying it prevents them from controlling pharmacies in their own stores. As a result, they cannot include North Dakota in national discount programs for prescription drugs, they say.
Sand said the issue “comes down to a debate about the benefit of hundreds, versus the benefits of hundreds of thousands.”
“We believe that this will
provide lower prescription drug prices for the general public,” Sand said in an interview Wednesday.
Mike Schwab, a spokesman for the North Dakota Pharmacists Association, said the ownership law has “provided many benefits.”
“We look forward to providing advocacy and education showing how the current law benefits the state and its citizens,” Schwab said.
North Dakota’s initiative process gives activists a way to bypass the Legislature and put an issue directly to a statewide vote. An initiative’s supporters must gather at least 13,452 petition signatures within a year to qualify.
A separate repeal campaign foundered last year when Jaeger declined to accept the finished petitions, saying they were improperly circulated because they lacked an attached list of the measure’s sponsors. The North Dakota Supreme Court upheld Jaeger’s decision in September, and the measure never made it to the ballot.
Bismarck physician Eric Thompson, who was chairman of last year’s campaign, is also heading the new one. Sand is not a member of the new campaign’s sponsoring committee, but he said he will be coordinating the distribution of petitions and signature collection.
His involvement is unrelated to his Senate campaign, Sand said. He and U.S. Rep. Rick Berg are the declared Republican candidates so far for the GOP endorsement to run for the U.S. Senate in 2012. The Democratic incumbent, Kent Conrad, is not running for re-election.
Sand has run unsuccessfully once for the U.S. Senate and twice for the U.S. House. In 2008, Sand was chairman of an initiative campaign that sought to cut North Dakota’s income taxes for individuals and corporations. The measure attracted enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, but it was soundly defeated, with almost 70 percent of voters saying no.
“There’s a lot of technicalities that can grab you” when gathering petition signatures in an initiative campaign, Sand said. “This isn’t easy stuff for the average, everyday, hard-working North Dakotan to do. It helps to have experience in doing this.”
Jaeger has until July 15 to draft the initiative petition’s title, which is a short description of what it does. He will have a little more than a month afterward to approve the document for circulation. He is not allowed to change its content.