AG says fewer needed for home rule charter amendmentsA new attorney general’s opinion will make it easier for citizens to initiate amendments to the Stutsman County home rule charter. The opinion was requested by Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, and clarifies the number of signatures required on a petition to amend or repeal a home rule charter.
By: Keith Norman, The Jamestown Sun
A new attorney general’s opinion will make it easier for citizens to initiate amendments to the Stutsman County home rule charter. The opinion was requested by Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, and clarifies the number of signatures required on a petition to amend or repeal a home rule charter.
“I don’t have anything in the works myself,” Headland said. “But if you recall a couple of ballot initiatives two years back there were two different interpretations as to gathering signatures.”
At that time the county required about 1,500 signatures to place the issues on the ballot. The two measures, both concerning road funding, failed during the election. One issue required 2 percent of the county taxable value be spent on road maintenance while the other created a new board to govern decisions concerning roads.
The attorney general’s ruling, announced Thursday, said state law supersedes the county home rule charter regulation.
The Stutsman County charter requires petition signatures equal to 15 percent of the voters in the last election in which the governor’s office was on the ballot. Stutsman County’s voter turnout in the last gubernatorial election was about 10,000, meaning about 1,500 signatures would be required to put an amendment to the home rule charter on the ballot.
State law requires 2 percent of the population of the county to sign a petition in order to place a home rule amendment on the ballot. With a 2010 census population of about 21,000 only 420 signatures would be required.
“The power to control the manner in which a home rule charter itself is adopted, amended or repealed is not one of the powers listed by the Legislature over which a home rule county or a home rule city can acquire the right of self-government,” said the AG’s opinion.
Headland said he was not aware of any organizations actively planning any amendments to the Stutsman County charter at this time.
“This should make things clearer if anyone tries to amend the home rule charter,” Headland said.
He is also suspicious of the home rule process.
“Through the legislative process I’ve asked the tax department to determine if taxes go up faster in home rule counties and cities and they have indicated that they do,” he said.
Sun reporter Keith Norman can be reached at
701-952-8452 or by email at