For some reason today the North Dakota House slammed through a bill requiring that students in the state take the same civics test that immigrants take. Meanwhile legislation to address state infrastructure needs resulting from oil development impacts – legislation local leaders say they need passed right away so that they can plan for the upcoming summer construction season – is languishing.
Why these strange priorities? It’s not like schools are going to start giving the test this year.
I asked around, and the folks I spoke with didn’t really seem to know.
One lawmaker speculated to me via text message that perhaps Betsy Dalrymple, wife of Governor Jack Dalrymple, has made the bill a “first lady issue.”
“I think so we can say we were the first in the nation to pass it,” another lawmaker told me.
The bill is HB1087. It got its first committee hearing yesterday – where the First Lady gave testimony in support – and a do-pass recommendation with some amendments. Today the House heard the amendments on the 6th order, which is routine, and approved them.
Normally, after the amendments are approved, the bill would go on the 11th order for the following day for final passage. Except, instead the House changed the rules and moved the bill to the 11th order immediately where it passed 85-1 (Rep. Gail Mooney was the lone dissenting vote). Then the House sent the bill over to the Senate chamber immediately to be heard.
That’s also out of the ordinary. Normally the two chambers don’t exchange bills until the midpoint of the session, called crossover, which is scheduled for February 27th.
Lawmakers got a lot of grief in 2013 when their constitutionally-constrained 80 day session went until the wee hours of the morning on the final day. Up to the last minute lawmakers were squabbling over issues like property taxes and education funding, and the whole debacle spoke to poor leadership in both chambers.
You have to wonder if fast-tracking a bit of fluff endorsed by the governor’s wife for completely arbitrary reasons is another example of poor priorities by our lawmakers.