If you haven’t yet noticed, the Legislature is back in session in Bismarck. Not a real session, mind you, but rather one where they learn how to actually legislate (or in the case of most, learn how to do it again in case they forgot). This week marks the beginning of the 64th Legislative Assembly with it’s December Organizational Session. The main event I’m told is selection of desks in their respective chambers, which I can only imagine is similar to watching the NFL Draft on ESPN.
OK, maybe not. But this part of the 64th might actually be somewhat intersting to watch if it was conducted in this manner, and had the same air of manufactued excitement. I can just see committee chairs trading junior legislators for a higher spot in the desk selection rotation, with potential options on future sessions.
In all seriousness, already 2015 appears to be shaping up as a contest by the NDGOP to see if they can top their previous efforts to look like the Dem-NPL party. As you may recall, they were pretty proud of how much they were able to spend at the end of the 2013 event, and said as much here.
If you read the headlines from this week, you can’t help but wonder if this session will be any different. Oil Tax spending for infrastructure in the west (not saying some of this still isn’t needed). Education spending not connected to reality. Never mind that increasing spending for education in this country has a terrible track record of poor performance returns, as this graph forwarded to me the other day shows:
We can also count on more money for early childhood education (see video below), which despite all hype has still not shown to be anything more than a very expensive government child care program for the money spent (not invested). But, lets double down on it anyways I guess.
Then there is the news of rogue college presidents and the surity that the Legislature will (again) do nothing about them or the out of control higher education system in this state. The continued silence and lack of real action by the Legislature, just like that of the Governor, is painfully telling.
This all from a Legislature labeled as a Republican supermajority. But, as we have learned from the last time around, there isn’t too much that is Republican about that makeup, based on the actual performace of that body. Below is how each chamber rated at the end of the 63rd Assembly in our SAB Legislative Vote Ranking, and as you can see they were far from conservative:
(Emphasis from an old post and not meant to highlight anything specific in this one)
There are a few new legislators in both chambers (some showing great promise, such as Representative Christopher Olson from District 13), but for the most part the names and faces remained the same. Thus, it is difficult to see the Legislature making a sharp departure back towards the conservative values that the party which makes up its majority purports to uphold. So, why continue to live the charade?
I understand that many feel they are governing the way they feel their districts want them to. That may be legitimate. In many cases they ran (and think they must keep running) as Republicans because they feel they cannot get elected as Democrats in a state like ours. Perhaps this is the case in a few districts, but with the general stability of Legislature, one would reasonably think a veteran legislator could run on their name alone at this point. What do they truly need their party affiliation for now? Indeed, saying you are something you really are not is the pinnacle of deception.
The answer is simple for these individuals. Switch parties. Becoming a Democrat is the perfect solution for legislators like Senators Judy Lee and Karen Krebsbach and Tim Flakoll, or Representatives Kathy Hawken and Patrick Hatlestad; all of whom scored below or very near their Democratic counterparts. These five are examples only. There are more than a few others claiming to be Republican who could join them in this Great Defection.
If they are staying because they feel their constituents elected Republicans so they have to stay affiliated this way, then they need to start governing like conservatives; which is the philosophy their party is grounded in. They owe that much honesty to those who elected them to begin with. If they are staying Republican just to get elected, then they truly are being purposely deceptive as I pointed out. If they are governing the way they are out of allegiance to what their constituents really want, then they can still do so as Democrats (or as Independents as a minimum, read on) without pretending to be something they are not any longer.
For many others who are not quite at the bottom of the list but definitely no where near the top, there is another option available. Shed your party affiliation altogehter (as you seem to have done already based on past performace) and declare yourself an Independant. You could then pick your caucus, or none at all. You could even caucus with your fellow Independants. And your vote would be sought after by both sides. For real. Not the pretend stuff the NDGOP thinks they have to do with the ND Dem-NPL despite their deathgrip on both houses. Most important, you could be true to yourself and your convictions by voting based on the direction the political wind blows that day.
For those that remain — the Senator Miller’s (and honestly that is about it in the Senate), the Representative Dan Ruby’s and Rick Becker’s (There are two of them now — the one I refer to is from District 7) and Karen Rohr’s and Roscoe Streyle’s and Blair Thoreson’s; please lead your party back towards governing conservatively. Stand up, and show the rest how a real Republican legislator should govern. Encourage them openly, and don’t be afraid to call them out when they stray. Inspire them to return to their conservative roots. And if all else fails, keep plenty of ND Dem-NPL party membership applications in your desk to hand them when there no longer is any hope for them. Perhaps it is best a few of the lost ones dropped off their applications at the Dem-NPL headquarters on Divide Avenue on the way back home from the Organizational Session, just to get the Regular Session off on the right foot in January.