ND Legislature Hall Of Shame Week 7: Rep. Mike Nathe


I’m a little late getting to this week’s Hall of Shame inductee thanks to a rough trip back from Phoenix where I was attending a conference over the weekend. The weather was really, really bad in Denver but thankfully my flight was one of the few to get out, though not without some delays and tense moments.

Anyway, let’s get down to it. Politics is a business where passionate people come together to settle controversial issues. Which means that it can often be a nasty business which boils over into personal attacks. That happened on the floor of the House last week with Rep. Mike Nathe, while debating a bill to require a warrant from law enforcement before using drone surveillance in a criminal investigation, calling the bill “anti-law enforcement” and suggesting its supporters are part of the “black helicopter crowd.”

Rep. Nathe doesn’t feel that the drone bill is necessary. He feels it’s insulting to law enforcement and unnecessary. Maybe that’s true, but skepticism toward police powers has served this country pretty well. That’s why our founders endowed our society with the 4th, 5th and 6th amendments. Law enforcement agents are given huge amounts of power, and while nearly all law enforcement officers are good people with good intentions there are bad actors out there. And even good cops with good intentions can get overzealous in the pursuit of crime.

That’s why we have limitations and checks on police power. That’s why we have laws that protect our privacy and our right to due process. Is the drone bill good policy? We can, and are, having a statewide debate about that. But does asking that question make one anti-law enforcement, or a member of the black helicopter crowd?

I don’t think so. Rep. Nathe let his emotions get the better of him on the floor of the House. That’s forgivable, but still noteworthy as this issue deserves a better sort of debate.

I’m told that Rep. Nathe and the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rick Becker, have apologized to one another (Becker, it should be noted, got in a good jab of his own at Nathe toward the end of the floor debate).