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Posted 9/30/14 (Tue)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor
In a continuing look at the seven different measures that North Dakota voters will be asked to decide on in the upcoming November Election, this week I’m going to share my thoughts on Measures 4, 6 and 8. In past columns, I outlined my thoughts on why “No” votes were appropriate for Measures 1, 2 and 3. In my next two columns, I’ll be looking at the two really big issues on the measures ballot, No. 5, which would create a Clean Water, Wildlife, and Parks Trust, and No. 7, which would allow big box stores, such as Walmart and Target, to have pharmacies in their stores.
While it was pretty easy to come to the decision to vote “No” on the first three measures, it is also pretty clear that “Yes” votes make the most sense when it comes to Measures 4 and 6, while Measure 8 is a definite “Maybe.”
Measure No. 4 is an initiated measure by the North Dakota Legislature that would prohibit the Secretary of State from approving any measure that appropriates state funds for a specific purpose or requires the Legislature to approve funds for a specific purpose.
While there are those that could correctly argue that if the citizens of North Dakota want to vote for spending money for a specific project, then the Legislature shouldn’t be able to stand in the way of the popular vote.
On the other hand, if the members of the Legislature are elected to manage the state’s money and to determine how those funds are best used for the entire state of North Dakota, then giving a portion of the budgetary process to the citizens sounds like a very bad idea.
One only has to look at the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Trust measure that is on this year’s ballot to see the impact that turning the expenditure of state money to the citizens could have on the state. If passed, that measure would require that five percent of North Dakota’s oil and gas extraction taxes, which is estimated to be around $150 million annually, to be put into a special fund managed by an appointed advisory board, with the money being used for any number of projects.
Budgeting at the ballot box is not a good way to manage the state’s resources. We elect legislators to that job, and if they aren’t doing the will of the citizens, then there is an appropriate way to change those representing us.
For that reason, a “Yes” vote is needed on Measure No. 4.
Measure No. 6 is a pretty straightforward measure in that it provides that each parent is a fit parent and is thus entitled to be awarded equal parental rights and responsibilities by a court unless there is clear and convincing evidence to the contrary.
Measure No. 6 deserves a “Yes” vote.
Measure No. 8 is on the ballot because a lot of North Dakota parents got sick and tired of having their children sitting in hot classrooms during the month of August. So their answer to the problem was to get a measure on the ballot that would require all schools in the state to begin classes after Labor Day.
Those parents have a valid point. It is hot in August. And by starting school before Labor Day, in essence the summer vacation is over by mid-August, especially for parents who have children in sports.
Those who argue against the measure claim that the change would take away the decision-making process from the local school boards. But that argument isn’t necessarily true. In reality, the start of the high school sporting season, especially football, has been more of a factor. If schools want to get their season games played before the fields are buried under snow by mid-November, they have to start school in August or cut their season short.
So, what’s the answer to the start of the school year?
When my two boys were in high school, I wanted school to start after Labor Day. I was tired of being robbed of the last holiday weekend of the summer. But since they both played sports, it was a holiday that I didn’t get anyway.
So, for me, I’m going to vote the way I wished I could have voted years ago. I think in this case, the parents know what’s best for their children and Measure No. 8 deserves a “Yes” vote.