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North Dakota chamber opposing ethics, marijuana measures

September 14, 2018

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The head of North Dakota’s largest business organization said Friday his group will campaign to help defeat legalization of recreational marijuana and a good-government measure aimed at ethics reform.

Greater North Dakota Chamber President and CEO Arik Spencer said his organization is among a coalition of groups being assembled to fight the proposals. Recent campaign filings list the chamber’s as the contact for committees opposing the measures that will be decided in November.

Spencer said his group of more than 1,000 members “asked us our opinion (on the measures) and for us to weigh in.”

The measures are among four that will be decided by North Dakota voters in November.

With voters’ approval, the initiative billed as an “anti-corruption amendment” would ban foreign money from elections, restrict lobbying and create an independent ethics commission, among other provisions. Campaign filings show the backers of the initiative have attracted nearly $420,000, much of it from left-leaning out-of-state groups.

Spencer said the chamber’s membership “is in favor of high ethical standards and transparency.” But, he said, “it is written so broadly we see it as very, very challenging to comply.”

Democrats have for years attempted to get similar legislation passed but it has been thwarted by the Republican-led Legislature.

Chamber officials have testified against the legislation in the past, saying it’s a “solution in search of a problem” and that voters will decide whether politicians are ethical or not.

Spencer said the group has not raised any money so far but does have pledges from some business and industry groups that he would not name.

Dina Butcher, co-chair of the group supporting the measure, said opponents are “nitpicking” at the proposal because “they really don’t want to put any limits on lobbying.”

“I still think the ordinary citizens of North Dakota are with us,” she said.

Spencer said the pot measure will cause a host of problems for businesses, including potential liability problems “if an employee has ingested marijuana.”

“The impact on employers and employees in other places has not been positive,” he said of other states that have legalized marijuana.

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