House Says No To Forming Sunset Committee To Review Inactive Boards And Committees


There’s probably nothing more government than forming a committee to study committees, but HB1361 sponsored by Rep. Ben Hanson (D-Fargo) was actually a pretty good idea.

The gist of the legislation was to review the hundreds of boards and committees set up by the state and see which ones are active and still, you know, doing stuff. There are 144 boards and commissions listed on Governor’s Office website, and there are probably a great deal more. They encompass everything from the Beef Commission to the Dairy Board to boards overseeing cosmetologists and barbers.

One question about the bill brought up by Rep. George Keiser (R-Bismarck) was the possibility that some of these committees hold “a lot of unnecessary meetings…so they don’t’ come on the radar.” The bill carrier, Rep. Tom Beadle (R-Fargo), pointed out that it would be easy for this new committee to determine if committees were “meeting just to hold a meeting.”

Rep. Jeff Delzer (R-Underwood) was skeptical. He pointed out that back in 1991 the Legislature created a study to look review these boards and committees, but when recommendations were made to shut some of them down the Legislature didn’t pass a single one of them.

“We’re setting up another committee,” Delzer said, “and I can’t support it.”

Beadle said the time may have come to take the issue up again. “If it was last looked at in 1991, I was 4 years old,” he said.

Delzer does make a good point, I suppose. Even if a committee identifies committees which have outlived their utility there’s no guarantee the Legislature would do anything about it. But is that really an argument against trying to trim some of the fat from government? If anything, I’d expand this bill to empower the committee to look at every aspect of government to find positions, committees, boards, commissions, laws, etc. which could be sunset.

It would be nice to see our lawmakers working as hard to trim government as they are to expand it.

The bill failed on a narrow 44-48 vote. Go to the end of the video to see the roll call.