Our View: A mixed bag on ND measures
Regarding the five measures on the North Dakota statewide ballot on Nov. 8:
Constitutional Measure 1 requires members of the Legislature to live in the district they represent. This is little more than common sense. Vote "yes."
Constitutional Measure 2 seeks a modest amendment that would allow flexibility in the state's public school trust funds in times of revenue shortages. It's a good idea that has bipartisan support in the Legislature and among educational leaders. The accessed funds could only be used for education-related purposes, and then only under strict guidelines. History of the funds shows that when tapped they are quickly replenished by oil tax revenues. Vote "yes."
Initiated Constitutional Measure 3 is a solution in search of a problem. The "Marsy's Law" campaign is the brainchild of a California billionaire who is funding so-called victims-rights measures in several states. The North Dakota version is a lengthy—the longest in state history—amendment to the state constitution that reads more like a detailed statute rather than broad constitutional protection for crime victims. It's a misuse of the constitution. Out-of-state money has purchased slick television commercials that paint a false picture of crime victims services in the state. It is not a home-grown grassroots movement. Victims advocate groups, defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges have described Marsy's Law as a very expensive and unnecessary administrative nightmare. Nearly everything in the measure is already in state law. And tellingly, advocates for the measure did not go to the Legislature to seek modifications in victims rights laws. Vote "no."
Initiated Statutory Measure 4 increases the excise tax on cigarettes and other tobacco products, the first time the tax has been raised in more than two decades. It is not a general tax, but rather a targeted tax, the proceeds of which would be used for current and future tobacco cessation programs, including a veteran's tobacco trust fund. The goal is to reduce smoking and prevent young people from starting. Every state that has raised the cigarette tax has shown significant declines in smoking rates. Critics contend the tax raises too much money that will be spent without accountability. That's a ploy. Accountability is built into the measure. The reality is that tobacco-related illnesses cost North Dakota $236 million annually, and everyone who uses the healthcare system pays for that. Vote "yes."
Initiated Statutory Measure 5 would create an act to provide for the medical use of marijuana for defined medical conditions. Sounds like a good idea, given that new research confirms marijuana can be efficacious for some illnesses and for pain management. But this measure is poorly drawn and goes too far—so far that it would allow a qualified patient living 40 miles or more from a registered dispensing facility to grown his/her own. The measure includes provisions that would generate a legislative nightmare because of existing state and federal pot laws. While the idea of medical marijuana has merit, this measure does not. Vote "no."