UPDATE: After the committee hearing today this legislation was amended and turned into a study.
In Bismarck lawmakers are debating HB1427 which would require a quantification of the local costs of refugee resettlement and allow officials in the state to pause resettlement if they feel the costs are too high.
The legislation got a committee hearing today, and the testimony both for and against the bill went on for hours.
Among those testifying was Cass County Commission chairman Chad Peterson who, after having his say, appeared with me on the radio today.
“People want to turn this bill into something more than it is,” he told me. “It’s simple data gathering.”
He said he supports the legislation because he wants future community leaders, people holding his current office and others, to be able to look back and evaluate trends in resettlement and its impacts.
“Right now I’ve got no data,” Peterson told me.
He also argued that those saying this legislation is about blocking resettlement are wrong. “Nobody I work with, nobody I serve in office with, wants to stop this program,” he said of resettlement. Rather, he said, it’s about evaluating whether a community can “afford the numbers of people who are coming in.”
He also said increased reporting would help some local officials who are afraid to speak out about refugee impacts because they’re afraid of being targeted by the caustic politics surrounding the issue.
You can listen to the full interview below: