There’s been a lot of chest-thumping among lawmakers about the importance of the bill, and Governor Jack Dalrymlpe’s wife Betsy Dalrymple has made it a bit of a first lady issue, but I sort of see it as legislative fluff. So much feel-good legislation that will ultimately do very little to improve civics education in our schools.
Still, I expected the legislation to sail through the state Senate today, until Senator Connie Triplett (D-Grand Forks) stood up to offer a last-minute floor amendment to the bill and changed what would have been a quick vote to pass into a half-hour long debate.
That sort of maneuver is unusual – typically amendments are offered in committee and brought to the floor. You can read the amendment below. Instead of requiring the civics test, it would merely require that students be exposed to the subject matter covered by the test.
“I think it neuters the bill,” Senator Tim Flakoll (R-Fargo) said during the floor debate.
Honestly, I thought Triplett’s complaints about the bill made sense. Speaking to the motivation for the bill, Triplett said that “people saw on television that some people in other states didn’t know the answers to these questions,” she said, no doubt referring to those infamous talk show segments which have random people embarrassing themselves in on-the-street interviews.
I suspect she’s right. She also questioned the value of the test. “The questions are simplistic,” she said. “The test itself is very simplistic.”
In response, Flakoll noted that Triplett could have offered her amendment to the bill earlier in the process (it was first introduced 21 days ago), but Triplett argued that was hard to do what with the bill being fast-tracked and all.
Flakoll then noted that other bills had been fast tracked before, specifically referring to legislation passed in the 2013 session to head off an open records request I put in for bill tracking information.
Ultimately Triplett’s amendment failed on a 15-32 vote (I don’t have a roll call available for that vote), and the bill did pass 43-4 with Senators Triplett, Dave O’Connell (D-Lansford), David Hogue (R-Minot), and Tim Mathern (D-Fargo) voting against it.
The bill now goes to Governor Dalrymple who is sure to sign it.