Initiative campaigns, ranging from summer vacations to conservation funding, submit signatures in North Dakota

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August 6, 2014

By Ryan Byrne

North Dakota
This may be the last school year that children in North Dakota have to return to class before Labor Day, or at least they hope so. Unfortunately for the young students, they will not be voting on the School Year Begins After Labor Day Initiative, but many of their parents and legal guardians may have the opportunity come November. Start ND School after Labor Day is an organization leading a campaign to mandate that public school classes begin after Labor Day.[1] On August 6, 2014, the group turned in approximately 15,300 signatures to the North Dakota Secretary of State. About 13,452 of those must be valid in order for the initiative to appear on the November 4, 2014 ballot.[2] Currently, each school district in the state is free to design their respective school calendar, including the academic year’s starting date.[3] If approved for the ballot, North Dakotan parents will have a say on whether their children's summer vacations should be expanded into September or not.

While summer vacations and school years are an enticing issue for children and their parents, a much more debated initiative also submitted signatures earlier this week. Petitioners for the Clean Water, Wildlife and Parks Amendment submitted an estimated 41,136 signatures to the secretary of state's office.[4] Since the measure is an initiated constitutional amendment, 26,904 signatures must be deemed valid. The measure would create a conservation fund by redirecting five percent of the state's oil extraction tax revenue. The fund would be used to provide grants to public and private agencies to aid their work in improving water quality, natural flood control, fish and wildlife habitat, parks and outdoor recreation areas, access for fishing and hunting, land acquisition for parks and outdoor education for children.[5] The initiative campaign is supported by some well-known conservation groups such as The Nature Conservancy, National Audubon Society, Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever.[6] However, some prominent North Dakotan organizations oppose the initiative, including the North Dakota Farmers Union, North Dakota Farm Bureau and the Greater North Dakota Chamber.[7] Opponents say the initiative is driven by out-of-state interests and puts conservation before other funding issues, such as education and property tax relief.[8]

Supporters of the Pharmacy Ownership Initiative submitted signatures on July 18, 2014.[9] Initiative proponents have been trying since 2009 to change ND Century Code 43-15-35, a unique law requiring pharmacies to be majority-owned by a licensed pharmacist or pharmacists.[10] The law effectively bans chain retailers, such as Walmart, Target and Walgreens, from operating pharmacies in North Dakota.[11]

Earlier in 2014, the Parental Rights Initiative was certified for the ballot. The measure would create a legal presumption that each parent in a child custody case is fit to parent, unless “clear and convincing evidence” demonstrates otherwise.[12]

The passage of the August 6, 2014 petition drive deadline in North Dakota marks the final signature filing deadline of 2014.

See also