BISMARCK – The North Dakota State House killed a bill Friday to make changes to the state political parties and their districts.
House Bill 1523 would have made several changes to district parties, including changing the reorganization of the district parties until after redistricting, and allow them to appoint a temporary district chair. It would also require the call for the meetings to include any participation requirements and the chair or committee representative’s contact information. Precinct language would also have been struck from the Century Code if the bill had passed.
“I believe this bill was trying to change too many things, and I don't believe it was made clear to the committee which of them was most important, or the true intention of the author,” said the bill carrier, Rep. Jorin Johnson, R-Dis. 41, Fargo. “In two areas of the bill precinct language is struck, and in written testimony the author states, ‘”we should eliminate the government mandate to caucus and organize by precinct.”’ I don’t have a precinct in District 41. I know some of you do, but is that what we’ve been doing all these years? Have we been doing it wrong? By the way, the same folks that brought us term limits are part of this bill.”
“The purpose of this bill is that for decades we had a reorganization meeting after redistricting except last year,” said the sponsor of the bill, Rep. Donna Henderson, R-Dis. 9B, Calvin. “There was new language added to the Century Code that didn’t allow everyone to reorg. They suddenly put in parameters. The bill during the special session changed the requirement from everybody having a reorg, to you had to have a 25% increase in population, and ours was 24.58%. That’s just a trigger for when you have to have a reorg. My contention is that this was misinterpreted. They said we didn’t meet the threshold. Well, it wasn’t meant to be a threshold.”
Henderson said the bill carrier of HB1513, the bill she was referring to that passed during special session in November of 2021, said that bill would not prevent districts from reorganizing if they wanted to. Henderson said her district voted to reorganize, but the executive committee canceled the meeting.
“We disenfranchised a lot of people,” said Henderson. “There were a lot of Republicans that were fired up that, with the redistricting, they had a chance now to be active in a district, and they got to the meeting, and there were no new leaders chosen. This doesn’t just include district 9. This should be repealed because it’s not clear. Clearly the intent was to not have it be limiting to those under the 25% that wanted to reorganize, so that was the main part of the bill. We believe this bill balances local control, gives transparency to the process, and we want to see our political parties thrive. We want to see as many people participate as possible.”
The bill failed by a vote of 51 to 40.