Burgum Rejects Paternalism, Sides With Personal Responsibility, in Vetoing Mandate for Carbon Monoxide Detectors


Doug Burgum addresses the crowd after winning the office of governor Tuesday night, Nov. 8, 2016, at the Sanctuary Events Center in Fargo. Brent Sanford, at right in the photo, is the new Lt. Governor Dave Wallis / The Forum

“(Burgum) has made a decision that will cost lives and will result in injuries to innocent people,” Don Johnson of Windsor, Colorado, told reporter John Hageman.

Johnson, whose daughter died from carbon monoxide poisoning in 2009, is talking about Governor Doug Burgum’s veto of a bill mandating carbon monoxide detectors in the state’s rental properties.

But Burgum’s stand on this bill should be applauded whatever sympathies we may have for Johnson’s emotional argument.

“An important principal of America’s success as a nation is the principal of individual responsibility,” Burgum said in his veto message to the House (page 1970). “While carbon monoxide represents a very small, yet measurable life safety risk in residential rental property, this risk can and should be managed by local building codes, property owners and renters themselves, rather than more burdensome statewide regulations.”

He’s right.

We don’t need the state to mandate carbon monoxide detectors. Frankly, despite the governor’s allusion to local regulations, we don’t need county or municipal governments to do it either.

If your landlord doesn’t install a carbon monoxide detector for you, the cost of doing it yourself is minimal. Highly rated and easy to install detectors for carbon monoxide are available for as little as $20.

Protection from carbon monoxide poisoning is extremely cheap, and extremely accessible. There’s no reason for the state to mandate it.

But Burgum’s stance on this issue portends good things for his approach to leading our state.

It would be easy for a politician like Burgum to cave to emotional arguments on something like this. This wasn’t a high profile issue. The Legislature passed the bill and sent it to his desk. He could have just signed it and avoided criticism.

Many politicians like to take the path of least resistance, principles be damned.

Burgum didn’t. Instead he acted on principle, eschewing paternalism in favor of individual responsibility.

Well done, Governor Burgum.

Keep it up.