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Man promoting 'Honor in Office'
[February 06, 2010]

Man promoting 'Honor in Office'


Feb 06, 2010 (The Dickinson Press - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A California native is striving to increase government transparency and is starting his endeavor with a proposed initiated measure in North Dakota, stopping to garner awareness in Dickinson on Friday afternoon.



Honor in Office, based in Tujunga, Calif., and founded by Jerrol LeBaron, "is a non-partisan committee with the sole purpose of getting integrity, honor, honesty and common sense back into government," according to the committee's Web site.

For years, LeBaron toyed with the idea of getting involved in politics, "but what really sparked it was the Patriot Act." His concern for governmental honesty has jumpstarted the Honor in Office Act, an initiated measure he hopes will be included in the state's Nov. 2 general election.


And LeBaron will be sticking around North Dakota, working to spread the word until then.

The Honor in Office Act would require legislators to post a bill's final version online four days prior to its final vote.

LeBaron said posting legislative bills online would provide "transparency" and "accountability," as citizens would have the chance to educate themselves, process the information and use personal experiences to provide suggestions to legislators.

"If they're representing us, they should actually get our real thoughts on it, not just a yes or a no, so it gives everyone enough time to actually review the whole bill from posting online all the way to the point just before the legislator goes in for his vote," LeBaron said.

The proposed initiated measure would require North Dakota Assembly members to certify under penalty of perjury that he or she has read the entire bill, have taken steps to understand its contents and any possible ramifications if it were to be passed.

"I doubt whether it would pass under those circumstances," said District 36 Rep. Mike Schatz, R-New England. "The thought behind it is good, it's just that you're forcing people to say, 'I have looked at it.' How could you prove that somebody didn't read it?" Schatz said though the proposal is a good idea, he's not sure it's feasible.

"What you've got to remember is the constitutional limits of the North Dakota Legislature, and that is that we can only have 80 days every two years and we'll get around 1,100 different bills," Schatz said, adding some of the bills can be more than 100 pages in length. "What he's saying is a great idea and I think most people read much of what they have to, but as far as reading every single word of every bill, in that short of time, I don't know if it's even physically possible." But LeBaron doesn't necessarily agree.

"I don't really care what their excuse is, who am I going to feel sorry for, the citizens or the legislators?" LeBaron said.

Schatz said if someone is going to read a bill's every word, it will be elected committees.

"Then we rely on the judgment of the committee ... if there is something sneaky in there, it's usually brought out in the open," Schatz said.

LeBaron said there can be more than committees involved in the interpretation of a bill.

"As soon as they do that and they don't do their own personal due diligence, they're actually representing the person who they took the advice from, they're not representing their constituents," LeBaron said. "When the legislator isn't personally reading it, the legislator's cheating, let's just face it, that's really what's happening and I don't think that's appropriate." With plans to carry on the measure in each state, North Dakota is the first state because it is the only state where the measure can possibly get on November's ballot, LeBaron said.

"The general feedback from anyone who is associated with the political system has been negative," LeBaron said.

In order for the initiated measure to get on the statewide ballot, LeBaron is working to obtain 25 sponsors of the act. After those sponsors are obtained, it is sent to the secretary of state to check official formatting.

For a North Dakota Constitutional Amendment, the measure must have 25,688 signatures. For a century code addition, it is half the signatures.

Twenty-six states do not allow the initiated measure process.

For more information, visit www.honorinoffice.org.

To see more of The Dickinson Press, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.thedickinsonpress.com. Copyright (c) 2010, The Dickinson Press, N.D.

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