Several North Dakota legislative leaders, stakeholders urge no vote on Issue 1

Photo by: WDAY Radio Staff
Photo by: WDAY Radio Staff

(Bismarck, ND) -- Leaders from nearly twenty-five different organizations met in Bismarck Wednesday to denounce term limits and urge voters to vote “no” on North Dakota Constitutional Measure 1, which is on the general election ballot November 8th.

Constitutional Measure 1 would limit state legislators to serving eight years in the state House and eight years in the state Senate. Measure 1 applies only to North Dakota state legislators and the Governor. It has no impact on the Senate or Congress. It also adds a new section to the state Constitution that cannot be removed or overturned without another ballot measure. 

“Our organizations representing businesses across the state are concerned about the consequences should it pass," said CEO of the Greater North Dakota Chamber Arik Spencer. "Due to mandated turnover, additional time and money will be used to train on procedures and issues. This would impact progress and productivity at the cost of the taxpayers. We are coming forward with a unified voice. Policy isn’t made in a vacuum – it’s responsive and intuitive. We need leaders who are thoughtful and can dig in where appropriate to represent the needs of their constituents, while not feeling the pressure of a countdown clock.”

The entities opposed to Measure 1 represent numerous different industries from across the state, including agriculture, education, business, construction, energy, medical, credit unions and more. The measure has also been rejected by Democrats and Republicans alike. 

“Measure 1 would present severe challenges for our state, region, and our members. We strongly urge our North Dakota voters to reject this measure,” added Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber President and CEO Shannon Full.

Aimee Copas, Executive Director of the North Dakota Council of Educational Leaders, stated that “dedicated and caring legislators who strongly support the best education system possible for our kids are incredibly important to our state and future workforce.  Experience in our elected officials at the capital is critical to the future of our youth. Remember, our part time dedicated legislators have inherent term limits – every 4 years, we as citizens have the obligation to vote them in or out.” Russ Hanson, Executive Vice President of the Associated General Contractors of North Dakota, echoed this sentiment adding, “this is a solution in search of a problem.  In essence, every election is a term limit by allowing the voting public the right to elect who they want to represent them.”  

Numerous agricultural groups have also decried term limits. “Legislative term limits will have terrible unintended consequences for the rural citizens of our state, primarily by affecting our ability to find good candidates who will look out for production agriculture,” said Pete Hanebutt, Director of Policy for ND Farm Bureau. The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association added that, “term limits take power away from elected leaders and empower the bureaucracy of state government, putting agencies over the legislative branch and limiting voters’ impact on policy that affects them.” 

Measure 1 has also been criticized by both Democrat and Republican legislators. “In North Dakota, we are part-time, citizen legislators who spend only 80 days of every two years enacting laws. We don't have policy staff, so experience and knowledge are essential to good lawmaking,” said House Minority Leader Josh Boschee. “As retiring Majority Leader, I agree that having knowledgeable lawmakers is crucial to passing budgets and policies that are best for our state," said State Senate Majority Leader Rich Wardner. "The combination of institutional knowledge along with new ideas provides the best results for the people of North Dakota.” 

In the upcoming 2023 legislative session, at least 21% of the legislators will be new. The turnover from 2011 to 2023 is around 72%. Only 15 states have legislative term limits and six states that had passed term limits have repealed or overturned them.

To find out more about Measure 1, click here.