The President's Perspective
by Jeff Olson

Greetings and Happy Father’s Day (albeit one day late) to all dads. Of all the things I have been called throughout the years, dad is my favorite. In fact, my favorite people in the world call me dad!

When we meet again – CUAD Meetings & Events post pandemic.   

After months of uncertainty surrounding our in-person meetings and conferences, we are slowly emerging into the new normal. One of the biggest challenges is that no one can accurately predict when this COVID crisis will end. We do know that it will eventually end, but when is a question that no one can answer. This crisis has impacted each of us differently. In addition to regulated health and safety standards put in place, we all need to adapt to a new event/conference normal. Here at the Association, we will be taking all precautionary measures into account as we plan and host our upcoming and future events. The case to meet in-person in the future is strong; we are social creatures after all, and we crave personal and peer connections. I am looking forward to that time. Meanwhile, you can check out all Fall events we are promoting here on our website.

Trojan Horse ballot initiatives likely to appear in November General Election.

Let’s face it, most of us have written this year off. However, 2020 is more than just the year of the pandemic, it is a critical election year. Every election cycle, there are several initiatives that appear on the ballot in both of our states. Many of them are complicated, and very confusing to the public. Some are purposely written to confuse or mislead voters. Others, while they may have good intentions, are so poorly written that if passed, can have negative consequences on the voting public. And, it looks like we will have another big-money initiated ballot measure campaign fueled by out-of-state interests heading for North Dakota's general election. 

Once again, it is the North Dakotans for Public Integrity, the same group behind Measure 1 in North Dakota in 2018, only this time they are calling themselves North Dakota Voters First. Their biggest financial backer so far is a group called the Action Now Initiative, which was founded and funded by billionaire John Arnold. (Arnold worked at the infamous commodities firm Enron and received an $8 million bonus just days before it declared bankruptcy.)

Like Measure 1 in 2018, the group is again using paid petitioners to gather the necessary 26,904 signatures required by state law. Apparently, these signature gatherers are describing this new measure as the “Help Heroes Vote Act,” as a section of the proposed initiative focuses on voting laws for deployed military personnel, which would expand the voting window from 46 days preceding the election to 60 days for deployed members of the military. This is something that most of us would certainly agree to or would support. 

 However, there are additional items tucked into the proposal that you might not want to pass, or to become law, such as:

  • Putting the newly formed ethics commission in charge of legislative redistricting. Taking that component directly out of the hands of elected legislators and the Legislative Council. 
  • It would create an open primary process completely removing all of the political parties and their endorsing conventions.
  • It would change our current voting model for general elections to a “ranked-choice model.” Ranked choice voting (sometimes called instant runoff voting) is an electoral system in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated. First-preference votes cast for the failed candidate are eliminated, lifting the second-preference choices indicated on those ballots. A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes. The process is repeated until a candidate wins an outright majority.

Put simply, this is another measure that makes sweeping changes to the way we elect candidates in North Dakota. Unfortunately, many of the people signing the petition think they are only supporting changes to extending the voting period for deployed military members. It’s clearly a “Trojan Horse” initiative with an added bait-and-switch objective. Apparently, petitioners’ tactics have caused many North Dakota citizens to file complaints with the Secretary of State’s office almost daily.

Recent lessons we should have learned from previous initiated measures.

You may recall in 2016 South Dakota had two such ballot initiatives. Measure 22 was approved by voters but was later repealed by the South Dakota State Legislature. Measure 22 was designed to enact campaign finance restrictions and create a publicly funded campaign finance program. Then there was Measure 21 which was designed to cap the interest rate that could be charged by money lenders licensed in South Dakota. Basically, the approved ballot prohibited money lenders from being able to charge an interest rate of more than 36 percent on their loans. However, the unintended consequences resulted in many of these businesses leaving the state or simply closing, leaving a huge void for people who used those services. This forced many consumers to turn to online vendors that are difficult to regulate and charge even higher rates and allow multiple loans.

Then in 2018, Measure 1 was approved by North Dakota voters. This initiated measure added a new article to the North Dakota Constitution establishing a North Dakota ethics commission which in turn would establish rules related to corruption, elections, and lobbying and provide oversight for reporting and investigating violations and related state laws.

Many initiatives are attempts to bypass the legislative process, thus undermining the very legislators we elected to debate and pass laws that provide good public policies. That’s exactly what those three measures did in our two states. On the surface, all three of those ballot measures presented an appealing message. However, voters were really hoodwinked by its supporters, most of whom were not even from our states.

Both Measure 22 in South Dakota and Measure 1 in North Dakota were backed largely by RepresentUS, a group portraying themselves as a bipartisan organization based in Boston. However, most of their money came from left-wing groups based in other states, including a long list of Hollywood activists with an agenda. They pay petitioners to collect signatures, receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars for their efforts. The same was true for Measure 21; most of the funding for that campaign came from out-of-state interests.

Now, we're stuck with some of these laws which have fundamentally changed how we engage with our lawmakers. So much for the grassroots ideal.

CUNA Mutual Group’s “Moving Forward Forum” offers insights and strategies for a new frontier.

There's no such thing as "going back to normal" in a post-pandemic world, but how do you find your footing to make solid, strategic decisions without being able to count on experience?  Once again, our system partner, CUNA Mutual Group has stepped up and comes to the table with the Moving Forward Forum. This series features important and forward-thinking sessions which are open and available to credit unions at no charge. There are three timely and informative sessions presented by top industry experts, along with live, interactive Q&A, and downloadable resources and guides. The first session is this Thursday at 10:30 a.m. CT (9:30 MT). There is no charge for this series! You can find more details and register here.

CUNA-League System to launch new Small Credit Unions Webinar Series

CUNA and Leagues, including the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas, will be collaborating on the CUNA-League System Small CU Webinar Series which is set to launch this fall. The Small Credit Union Series is a new live and recorded webinar series that will be free for CUNA and League members. It kicks off on Tuesday, August 4, 2020, and runs through spring 2021. Most of the credit union leagues have opted in and will be partnering with CUNA on producing and presenting hot topics, such as member experience, digital marketing, lending. The series will focus on best practices that are relevant to small credit unions. Be sure to watch for more information in the Memo as well as email invites.  

The first sessions include:

  • August 4, 2020: New member growth: Learn from the best in the industry
  • August 11, 2020: Revising your budget following COVID-19 Pandemic
  • August 18, 2020: Getting to know your members A LOT better and why DEI matters

See the full list of free webinars and register here.

Have a great week!


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