Know the issues before you vote

Registered voters will have an opportunity to act on five state measures during the Nov. 6 general election.

Election judges wait patiently for the voters during the primary election held in June at the Hettinger courthouse.

By EDDIE HIBBS III

Pioneer Publisher & Editor

Posted Oct. 25, 2012

Registered voters will have an opportunity to act on five state measures during the Nov. 6 general election. Two of the measures could pit “city folk” against rural residents.

Citing a lack of action by the state legislature, the North Dakota Prevention of Animal Cruelty Initiative, State Measure 5 on the ballot, if enacted, would make it a Class C felony for an individual to maliciously harm a living dog, cat or horse. The measure does create some exemptions from the law, such as agriculture workers, veterinarians, scientific researchers and hunters.

To qualify the initiative for the 2012 ballot, supporters had to collect a minimum of 13,452 valid signatures. Approximately 25,000 names were signed to petitions and submitted to Secretary of State Al Jaeger.

Opposition to Measure 5 is coming from various groups. One animal rights group claims the measure only protects dogs, cats and horses and ignores many other types of companion pets. They also argue Measure 5 only covers the worst types of abuses – not the routine types of neglect.

The Humane Society Legislative Fund claims Measure 5 would make it a Class C felony to maliciously and intentionally burn, poison, crush, suffocate, impale, drown, blind, skin, beat to death, drag to death, exsanguinate, disembowel, or dismember any living dog, cat or horse. The court could force those found guilty of violating this law to undergo mandatory psychological or psychiatric evaluation and counseling, including counseling in responsible pet ownership or animal cruelty prevention. Violators could be ordered not to own or possess a dog, cat, or horse for up to five years after the date of the sentencing.

The measure, if passed, would not alter the existing law for less serious offenses, such as unintentional neglect, which is a misdemeanor in North Dakota.

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association is actively working against Measure 5 and supports efforts by the North Dakotans for Responsible Animal Care (NDRAC) as an alternative to the proposed ballot initiative, which is comprised of representatives from the Dakota Zoo (Bismarck), Central Dakota Humane Society (Mandan), Humane Society Fargo-Moorhead Chapter, North Dakota Farm Bureau, North Dakota Farmers Union, North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, North Dakota Veterinary Medical Association, North Dakota State Board of Animal Health and the North Dakota Department of Agriculture.

North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty is the leading support group behind Measure 5 and is a coalition of animal shelters, veterinarians, pet rescues, animal control officers and other citizens.

“The people of North Dakota has resoundingly joined to say that we won’t tolerate extreme acts of violence against our pets, and we don’t want to be one of the only states in our country that allows abusers of dogs, cats and horses to get the equivalent of a parking ticket for killing or torturing them,” said Karen Thunshelle, campaign manager for North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty. “We ask voters to think of their pets when they go into the voting booth on Nov. 6, and vote ‘yes’ on Measure 5 to protect them.”

In a fact sheet released by North Dakotans to Stop Animal Cruelty, it lists the reasons why the timing is now to act. The release states, “The North Dakota state legislature has failed for years to address the state’s weak animal cruelty laws, and last year refused to even study the issue. Since legislative leaders and the governor did not provide specific pledges or assurances of action on this topic in the next session, citizens moved forward with this much-needed and overdue ballot measure to give the people of North Dakota the opportunity to weigh in directly on this issue.”

The other measure possibly pitting rural communities against their larger counterparts could be State Measure No. 3, which deals with the “practices of farming and ranching.”

Also an initiated constitutional measure, this would create a new section to Article XI, Section 29, of the state constitution. If passed, this measure would provide the right of farmers and ranchers to “engage in modern farming and ranching practices that shall be forever guaranteed.” Passage of Measure 3 would provide that no law may be enacted which “abridges the right of farmers and ranchers to employ agricultural technology, modern livestock production and ranching practices.”

A third initiated statutory measure, State Measure 4, if passed, would prohibit smoking, including the use of electronic cigarettes, in public places and most places of employment in the state, including certain outdoors places and hotel rooms, bars and gaming facilities.

Measure 4 was placed on the ballot by petitions circulated by a sponsoring committee. If passed, this measure would also require state’s attorneys to enforce the smoking prohibitions. It would also provide notifications and enforcement responsibilities, along with penalties for violations.

The full text of Measure 4 is four and a half pages long and details five penalties. The first three penalties are listed below:

1. An individual who smokes in an area in which smoking is prohibited under section 23-12-10 is guilty of an infraction punishable by a fine not exceeding fifty dollars.

2. An Except as otherwise provided in section 23-12-10(5), an owner or other person with general supervisory responsibility over a public place or place of employment who willfully fails to comply with section 23-12-10 is guilty of an infraction, subject to a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars for the first violation, to a fine not to exceed two hundred dollars for a second violation within one year, and a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars for each additional violation within one year of the preceding violation.

3. In addition to the fines established by this section, violation of this Act by a person who owns, manages, operates or otherwise controls a public place or place of employment may result in the suspension or revocation of any permit or license issued to the person for the premises on which the violation occurred.

State Measures No. 1 and 2 are less “controversial” than the other measures. Measure No. 1, if passed, would repeal Article X, Section 6, of the state constitution, which allows the Legislative Assembly to levy an annual poll tax of not more than

$1.50 on every male inhabitant of the state over 21 and under 50

years of age, except paupers, idiots, insane persons, and Indians not

taxed.

Measure No. 2 requires the oath of office for members of the executive branch, such as it is required of members of the legislative and judicial branches.