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AS I SEE IT

Posted 6/06/12 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

When McKenzie County residents, as well as other North Dakotans, head to the polls on Tuesday, June 12, they will have the opportunity to decide the fate of four measures.
While I don’t intend this column to tell anyone how they should individually cast their votes on these four measures; as in the past, I’ve tried to explain what each of the measures means and how I intend to vote based on what I know. Usually some people appreciate me explaining the measures, while others already have made up their minds before going into the polling booth.
Either way, here are my thoughts on the four measures that you will be asked to vote on.
Measure 1
The first measure is a constitutional amendment that would prohibit legislators from being appointed to a state position while they are serving in the legislature. When this language was made part of the state’s constitution, the  logic was that since the legislature sets the salaries for state officials, they didn’t want a legislator to set a high salary and then seek that position.
While that logic may have been sound in years past, it doesn’t make much sense today. North Dakota needs to have qualified people filling our state offices. If that means that a legislator is qualified then they should be able to apply for those positions and be appointed to them if they are the best candidate.
I’m going to vote “yes.”
Measure 2
Measure 2, which would abolish property taxes in North Dakota, is perhaps the most important measure on the June 12 ballot. And it is without a doubt the absolute worst measure to be put to North Dakota voters.
While no one likes to pay taxes of any sort, if voters pass Measure 2, the state’s entire taxing structure would be thrown into a turmoil and the loss of local control by cities, counties, and schools would be unimaginable.
As proposed, if Measure 2 passes, property taxes would indeed be eliminated. But somehow or another the state legislature would have to come up with the $800 million that is annually spent by local forms of government. That could be through increased sales or income taxes.
Plus it would mean that every branch of local government would be submitting their budgets to the state legislature for funding. If that budgeting process doesn’t boggle your mind, consider the debates that will ensue in Bismarck as legislators grapple with whether or not the Watford City or Alexander school systems need teachers more than does Fargo, Bismarck, Grand Forks or any other school district in the state. And that same funding debate would be held for each county and city in the state.
With the loss of property taxes, which primarily funds local government, the big losers would be the people who rely on local service.
Measure 2 deserves to be soundly defeated.
Measure 3
Try as hard as I can, I don’t understand what the proponents of Measure 3 are trying to accomplish with this change to the state’s constitution.
As written, Measure 3 says that “government may not burden a person’s or religious organization’s religious liberty.”
While the language of Measure 3 is well and good, the First Amendment of the United States Constitution specifically, and very clearly, grants religious freedom to individuals and to religious groups. And the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently upheld that right.
Measure 3, while it may be well-intentioned, serves no purpose.
I’ll be voting “no.”
Measure 4
What more is there to say about Measure 4, which would retire the University of North Dakota “Fighting Sioux” nickname and logo, than has already been said.
While there has probably been no greater public discussion about any one issue in the state’s history than whether or not the “Fighting Sioux” nickname should remain, all of the debate has really been mote since the NCAA has made it clear that the nickname and logo must go.
Yes, UND fans love the logo and nickname. But the die has been cast and it is time for the university to move on in its search for a new logo and nickname.
But when it comes to casting your vote, it is important to remember that based on the wording of the ballot question, a “yes” vote means you want to retire the name, while a “no” vote means you want to keep the name.
I’m voting “yes” and allowing the Fighting Sioux nickname be retired.