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Published October 26 2012

Forum editorial: Measures: one ‘no,’ four ‘yes’

There are five measures on the Nov. 6 North Dakota ballot. Let’s take them in reverse order – in order of their importance and the relative attention they are getting.

Measure 5 aims to protect dogs, cats and horses from specific acts of cruelty by making such acts a Class C felony. The details are in full in the text of the measure, but the disturbing question is: Why only dogs, cats and horses? Even with the alleged specificity and exceptions in the measure, there is enough ambiguity in the language to invite interpretation and protracted litigation.

Also, the assumption that raising the penalty to a felony will reduce animal cruelty does not square with reality. For example, in recent years, the most horrendous abuse and neglect crimes against animals in the Red River Valley area were perpetrated against dogs and horses in Minnesota, which has a felony penalty.

A coalition of respected animal care and welfare organizations oppose No. 5. They would rather see a comprehensive legislative effort to increase penalties for mistreatment of all animals. Measure 5 raises more concerns than it aims to solve. Vote “no.”

Measure 4 bans smoking in all indoor workplaces in North Dakota. It’s long past time for this one. Wherever such bans have been on the ballot in other states or in North Dakota cities, they have passed handily. Those city votes were in part responses to the Legislature’s reluctance to pass a comprehensive statewide ban, and thus level the playing field, which No. 4 will do.

The voters want this done, despite the worn and discredited objections from foes of smoking bans. Vote “yes” on Measure 4.

Measure 3 merely makes a constitutional statement that farming and ranching are protected from the reach of forces trying to undermine modern agricultural practices. Some fear it will give farmers a license to pollute or flout zoning laws. It won’t. The amendment will not suspend laws or regulations. It’s more a reaffirmation of the state’s agriculture heritage. Vote “yes.”

Measures 2 and 1 are housekeeping chores to clean up language in state law. No. 2 clarifies the executive oath of office. No. 1 removes an anachronistic poll tax and offensive language. Vote “yes” on both.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.