The Legislature has been organizing its interim committees of late, and a tradition for Democrats during this time is to spend a bunch of time whining about committee assignments.
This time around, state Rep. Karla Rose Hanson (D-Fargo) is insinuating that Republicans purposefully excluded Democrats, and women specifically, from appointments to chair interim committees:
You can see the ND Legislature's 2019-'20 interim committee members & leaders here. Unfortunately, out of 27 committees, only 1 chair is a woman and only 1 chair is a Democrat. 🙄 https://t.co/qop7DYMQwQ
— Karla Rose Hanson (@karlarosehanson) June 11, 2019
Also House Minority Leader Josh Boschee is accusing Rep. Chet Pollert, who is chair of the Legislative Management Committee and the decider on these interim assignments, of not following through on commitments to appoint Democrats: “I understand Representative Pollert is in a new leadership position and has to carry a lot of folks within his own caucus but a commitment was made and it’s certainly unfortunate that wasn’t followed through with,” he told KFYR.
But this isn’t quite the whole story. I spoke with Pollert, and he said there could have been at least two more Democrat chairs this interim, both women.
Pollert said Senator Erin Oban (D-Bismarck) communicated to him, by way of Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, that she would like to chair the interim Education committee. Pollert said that was a no-go, but that she could chair another committee. Oban declined. “If she could not chair education she would not chair any other committee,” Pollert told me.
Oban will be the Vice-Chair of the Education committee.
Rep. Hanson also had an opportunity to chair a committee. She wanted the Judiciary Committee, but Pollert said that was already dedicated to Speaker of the House Rep. Lawrence Klemin. “He’s a lawyer,” Pollert said. “It makes sense to me.”
Pollert said Hanson didn’t even bother to request to chair another committee. Instead she asked to be Vice-Chair of Judiciary, an appointment she got.
None of this seems unfair. Both Oban and Hanson had a chance to chair other (probably less significant) committees. Instead they chose to second seat their two preferred, more powerful committees.
A compromise? Sure. But remember we’re talking about two members of the minority caucus in the Legislature. North Dakota voters have given Republicans very large majorities in the Legislature, meaning Republicans control things like committee assignments. It’s custom in the Legislature for there to be some bipartisanship in these assignments – the minority party tends to get control of some committees even though they’re in the minority – but there’s no rule requiring it.
Heck, in the federal Congress the majority party controls all of the committees and the minority party is simply out of luck.
Democrats are trying to manufacture a talking point, but it’s simply not based on the truth. If they want more control over committees, they should try being more popular with voters.