North Dakota’s Legislative Leaders Take Credit for the Work of Other Branches of Government

State Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson, left, is chairman of the Legislative Procedure and Arrangements Committee. Rep. Chet Pollert, R-Carrington, is vice chairman. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune

MINOT, N.D. — North Dakota lawmakers usually like to complain about overreach from the executive branch or the federal government, as well they should. At times that overreach is real, and defending that branch of government’s authority is part of the duty of serving in the Legislature.

Yet when the coronavirus pandemic hit home and hard policy choices were put before our state, the legislators have mostly chosen to hide under their desks. They have consistently rejected calls for a special session, leaving the hard work of governing in a crisis to Gov. Doug Burgum and the executive branch.

That is no slight to Burgum, his staff or the other elected officials leading statewide agencies. They’ve been doing their jobs and, for the most part, have done them well. But our system of government with its three separate but co-equal branches is not set up for them to work autonomously.

The Legislature should have engaged.

I think its leaders are beginning to understand that.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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