Local Politicians Love Local Control Until It Means Making Tough Local Decisions


MINOT, N.D. — You don’t have to follow politics in North Dakota very long before you hear someone expound on the virtues of local control.

The best sort of government is local, they tell us.

It’s closer to the people, they say.

I believe that, to a point.

There should be limits on local authority lest our state becomes a confusing patchwork of regulations.

Tobacco laws are a good case in point. It’s become fashionable for local leaders to meddle with the age at which adults can use products like cigarettes or vapes. Last year Devils Lake’s city leaders passed an ordinance raising the age for vaping to 21.

The problem was, the North Dakota Century Code set the vaping age at 18 at the time, meaning a 19-year-old citizen could be driving from Minot to Grand Forks while puffing on a vape and be perfectly legal except for the 10 minutes they might spend driving through Devils Lake.

That’s the sort of thing we should want to avoid (the feds have since raised the vaping and tobacco age to 21).

But generally, it does make sense to allow some local autonomy for local governments. Our state is a diverse place in many ways, and it serves us well to have flexibility.

That’s been especially true during the COVID-19 outbreak.

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