During the legislative session earlier this month I reported that state Rep. Kris Wallman, a Democrat from Fargo’s District 11, was not in attendance on the first day. In fact, Wallman didn’t attend any of the three days of the special session in Bismarck.
There may be a reason for that.
For some time now I have been receiving messages from Fargo-area SAB readers and politicos indicating that Wallman is resigning from the legislature. I’ve reached out to Wallman via Facebook, email, and phone to confirm but she’s not responding to me.
One data point which may indicate that she is leaving is the home at the address she lists in her legislative bio as her residence is currently up for sale (and has been for some time per the indicated price cut in mid-July).
She has also posted on Instagram that she’s moving to California, and mentioned who she is endorsing as the replacement for her seat:
Here’s a pertinent excerpt from the law covering how absences in the state legislature are filled (you can read the full section here). Unpacking the legalese, essentially the local district committee for the party the resigning lawmaker belongs to gets to appoint a replacement. Only if there are more than 828 days left of the term (odd-numbered districts like Wallman’s are up again in 2018) the appointee must be confirmed on the next general election ballot.
Today, August 24, would be the deadline for a vacancy to trigger a special election.
What makes this situation with Wallman particularly egregious is that she didn’t bother to perform the duties of her office during the special session earlier this month. She has also attended just one meeting of the interim Education Committee she sits on since November of last year, though she has been at every meeting of the interim Government Finance Committee.
If Wallman is resigning, and she clearly is, shouldn’t she do the voters of her district the courtesy of allowing herself to be replaced by someone who will show up for work in the interim? Heck, shouldn’t the people of her district get a chance to cast their ballots for that person?
I spoke with Senator Ray Holmberg (R-Grand Forks) this morning. Per the law excerpted above he, as Chairman of Legislative Management in this interim, would need to be notified of Wallman’s official resignation. He told me he has heard the rumors about the resignation but has not been contacted officially about it.
By the way, technically Wallman doesn’t have to resign. She could continue to hold her seat in the legislature even after moving to California because of the state’s lax residency requirements. That’s an issue which will be on the November ballot.
Measure 1 would require that lawmakers reside in their districts for the entirety of their terms in office. It originated with SCR4010 in the 2015 legislature (all constitutional amendments passed by the Legislature have to be approved on the statewide ballot) which makes these changes to the state constitution:
The last sentence is the big change. Under current law someone running for the Legislature has only to live in their district for 30 days prior to election day to be a qualified elector, and can actually move out of their legislative district the day after their election and live wherever they like for their entire four-year term.
This change to the state constitution would close that loophole.
UPDATE: I flubbed the timing on the law triggering a special election. I wrote that a vacancy happening with more 128 days left in the term would require a special election. It’s actually 828 days. I’ve corrected the post to reflect that.