Bill Funding Roosevelt Presidential Library Sure Seems Like It’s Unconstitutional

Theodore Roosevelt campaigning in Yonkers, N.Y., Oct 17, 1912. Library of Congress

I support the Legislature funding the Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library in Medora. It’s been much derided by some who make fiscally conservative arguments against it, but I don’t buy it. The state has a role to play when it comes to preserving history. Roosevelt’s legacy is indelibly tied to our state. He doesn’t already have a library. There is a real opportunity to add a crowd pleasing yet still academically important facility to the tourism jewel that is Medora.

All that being said, the manner by which the state Senate went about authorizing some funding for the project seems unconstitutional as The Minuteman Blog has pointed out.

Article IV, Section 13 of North Dakota’s constitution states, in part:

The intent of this constitutional language is clear. It exists to prevent the sort of gamesmanship we see at the federal level, where pet projects and controversial provisions are slipped into unrelated bills so that they are approved by lawmakers who are either unaware or forced into a sort of Sophie’s choice between the overall bill and an odious amendment to it.

Keeping that in mind, let’s look at the library legislation.

There has never been a specific bill introduced this legislative session to fund the library. At one point Governor Doug Burgum, who has championed this project, testified before a House committee in favor of an amendment to HB1018 (the Commerce Department budget) funding the library.

The amendment failed.

But the issue came back. This week the state Senate passed a bill funding the library, but the way they did it is a problem.

The bill in question is HB1320. It passed the House earlier this year on a 73 – 19 vote, and at that time it dealt with the Red River water supply project. Here’s the language the House approved. As you can see, it’s noting at all to do with a library in Medora.

The Senate, however, has “hog housed” HB1320 (to use the parlance of the lawmakers). The language of that bill has been replaced entirely by language authorizing funding for the library.

There is now not a hint of the aforementioned water supply project. Only library.

Read the Senate-passed version of HB1320 below.

Again, I support the library, but the state constitution says what it says. The Legislature cannot simply set aside that language. If they want to approve funding for the library – and I think they should – they need to find a different way.

The House should kill HB1320. Not because funding the library is a bad idea, but because the bill itself has been turned by the Senate into something which is unlawful.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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