Shortly after Republicans in the state House took a tough stand against SB2279, an anti-discrimination bill, Governor Jack Dalrymple decided to give his colleagues a little kick in the ribs with a note to the media expressing his disappointment in the vote.
The Governor didn’t make himself any friends on either side of the issue. His fellow Republicans felt betrayed, and supporters of the bill wondered why Dalrymlpe didn’t voice his support for it before it came to a vote.
I should note here that multiple Dalrymple supporters have told me that the Governor did, in fact, take a public position on SB2279 before the vote, but I’ve yet to find evidence of it. If he did, it was in such a low-key manner that he may as well have not taken a position.
Anyway, Democrats continue to try and press this issue to their political advantage, and so far the Dalrymple administration is obliging them. Yesterday, as word spread in the capitol that Democrats would be presenting Dalrymple with a letter demanding an executive order prohibiting discrimination against gays for state employment, Dalrymple Chief of Staff Ron Rauschenberger sent out a hasty memo to state agencies referring to an existing policy prohibiting such discrimination.
Except, nobody can seem to find the policy.
“[Dalrymple spokesman Jeff] Zent said he didn’t know if the policy was written down somewhere or was just a verbal policy,” Forum reporter Mike Nowtazki wrote yesterday. Today Zent managed to find a policy, but it turns out it’s a rather bland statement about equal treatment issued by Governor Allen Olson 34 years ago.
Democrats are, not surprisingly, a little skeptical:
Later Monday afternoon, Zent also pointed to an executive order signed by former Gov. Allen Olson in 1981 that orders cabinet agencies “to provide fair, equitable, and uniform treatment to all classified employees.” Dalrymple reaffirmed and ratified that order in February 2014, and Zent said it’s all-inclusive and addresses Thursday’s request by Democrats.
“It is in place,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Mac Schneider, an attorney who practices in employment law, said a new executive order would provide more clarity and that he “would be astonished” if Olson was thinking about sexual orientation discrimination when he issued the order almost 34 years ago.
“I think it lacks candor about what that order actually says,” he said.
It’s hard to disagree with Senator Schneider’s sentiment.
Setting aside the question of policy – for what it’s worth I think the state, as an employer, should have such a policy explicitly in place – it seems clear that the always thin skinned Dalrymple saw what he thought would be a simple and quiet positioning on this contentious issue blow up in his face.
That the Governor’s spokesman apparently had no idea about the status of existing discrimination policies for the state, and their lame use of Olson’s edict from 1981, sure makes last week’s posturing last week look shallow.
Update: This is just embarrassing:
— Tyler Axness (@TylerAxness) April 7, 2015