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Associated Press, Published August 05 2010

2 initiatives expected on North Dakota fall ballot

BISMARCK – Two years ago, advocates of an initiative to ban hunting within fenced game preserves fell 129 petition signatures short of putting their measure in front of North Dakota voters.

On Wednesday, Roger Kaseman wasn’t taking any chances. The Bismarck resident wheeled a clear plastic crate brimming with petitions into Secretary of State Al Jaeger’s office, which he said had 13,860 signatures, or 8 percent more than the minimum number of 12,844 needed.

“This time we did it with experience, we did it with enthusiasm,” Kaseman said. “It was getting out there, talking to people one at a time, and collecting their signatures.”

Supporters of the hunting ban and a separate measure to repeal North Dakota’s pharmacy ownership restrictions filed their initiative petitions Wednesday in hopes of having their favored measures voted upon in the Nov. 2 election.

The petitions needed to be turned in before midnight Wednesday to have a chance at qualifying for the ballot this fall. Jaeger has until Sept. 8 to check whether they have enough names.

Eight other initiatives – including proposals to ban property taxes, impose term limits on state officials and legislators, and allow sales of bottle rockets – were not submitted.

Supporters of several of the tardy measures said they intended to continue gathering signatures to qualify for a future election. Each one has a year from the date it was approved for circulation to assemble the minimum number of signatures needed.

Charlene Nelson of Casselton, who is chairwoman of the initiative campaign to ban North Dakota property taxes, said Wednesday the effort was about 4,000 names short of the minimum number of 25,688 needed for a constitutional amendment.

She said the campaign would continue. “The response from the public has been gratifying,” Nelson said. “We look forward to the debates that will ensue between now and the 2012 election.”

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Walgreen Co. and other large retailers are supporting the repeal of North Dakota’s pharmacy ownership law, which requires pharmacists to hold a majority stake in most pharmacies. The retailers argue the law blocks them from offering less expensive prescription drugs because they cannot own pharmacies within their own stores.

Supporters of the law, which is almost 50 years old, say it has helped rural pharmacies stay in business. Their argument prevailed in the Legislature last year, where the Republican-controlled House overwhelmingly defeated an effort to repeal the restrictions.

Tammy Ibach, a spokeswoman for the pharmacy initiative, said the petition had 12,905 signatures, only 61 more than the minimum needed.

Ibach said she was confident the measure would stand up to Jaeger’s review. The measure’s supporters combed through the petitions carefully and crossed out illegible signatures and others that were not likely to be counted, she said.

“We knew that our count was solid,” Ibach said.

Backers of the initiative to ban fenced hunting started their first petition drive three years ago. However, the finished petition had only 120 more signatures than the minimum required, and more than 200 were disqualified during the secretary of state’s petition review.

The hunting measure is directed at fenced preserves that raise elk, deer and other big game and charge fees to customers who want to come and shoot one.

Kaseman argues the practice goes against the hunting ethic of “fair chase,” because the animal cannot escape. The game preserves tarnish legitimate hunting, he believes.

“There is a visceral hatred for these operations out there that I can’t describe,” Kaseman said. “People really despise them.”