Wednesday, June 13, 2012

North Dakota Voters Kill Property Tax Repeal; Religious Measures

North Dakota voters decided against repealing the state's property tax, much to the relief of the state's politicians, unions, chambers of commerce, and school districts upon which the property tax is the primary or significant source of funding. The measure lost badly, with most taxpayers realizing that the funding is critical to education.

If approved, it would have been the first time a state repealed a major tax since Alaska abolished the personal income tax in 1980.

At the same time, the state's voters rejected Measure 3, which would have caused all kinds of legal problems and would have likely raised 1st Amendment issues over restricting government actions on religious grounds.
The language of Measure 3 stated that a person has the right to act or to refuse to act in a manner due to a deeply-held religious belief. It would then be up to the government to prove that it has a compelling government interest in infringing on one’s right to act or not act. The measure’s proponents said that it was needed in order to strengthen people’s religious liberty.

North Dakotans Against Measure Three, the main group opposed to Measure 3, had argued that the wording of Measure 3 was vague. One example of vague language noted by opponents was that the government must prove it has a “compelling government interest” in infringing on a person’s religious actions. Another example was over government having to use the “least restrictive means” to further its interest.

Opponents said Measure 3 could’ve opened the door for people to use religious beliefs as a defense in breaking laws protecting against abuse, domestic violence and discrimination. Measure 3 proponents consistently denied this claim, saying that other states with similar laws in place haven’t had such issues.

Christopher Dodson with the North Dakota Catholic Conference said he was disappointed by Measure 3’s rejection by voters. Dodson said in a statement that efforts will continue to strengthen religious protections for North Dakotans.

“We will not rest until religious freedom in North Dakota is protected in the law as a fundamental human right,” Dodson said.

If Measure 3 had passed, North Dakota would’ve joined 12 states that already have passed religious liberty laws: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. Alabama is the lone state to have added a law to its state constitution.
Two other measures were considered yesterday in North Dakota. The voters approved a measure to override the Legislature's decision to keep the University of North Dakota's mascot - dropping the Fighting Sioux nickname. Measure 1 was also approved, and allows legislators to be appointed to full-time appointive state offices.


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