It’s Not Appropriate to Sell Access to Governor Burgum’s State of the State Address

Governor Doug Burgum opened North Dakota's 65th legislative assembly on Tuesday afternoon in front of a joint session of the legislature where he delivered the State of the State address. Gov. Burgum touched on a number of topics in the address but a continuing theme was lifelong education. "Learning begins with humility. Everyone has something to teach us," he said. TOM STROMME/Bismarck Tribune

It’s a little unusual for a North Dakota Governor to deliver a “state of the state” address in a year when the Legislature isn’t in session.

The Governor’s address to lawmakers at the beginning of their session every other year is required by law.

But Governor Doug Burgum’s decision to deliver a “state of the state” address at Minot State University later this month isn’t unprecedented either. Former Governor Ed Schafer, I’m told, also sometimes delivered the address in Bismarck on off-years.

What is a bit odd is the fact that Burgum’s speech is being sponsored by the Greater North Dakota Chamber of Commerce.

This email sent out to the various lobbying and interest groups in the state was forwarded to me by a lawmaker who says it’s raising a lot of eyebrows:

Calling the speech the “state of the state address” makes it sound like an official act. Something the Governor of North Dakota is doing as a part of his service to the public. So why is it being paid for by a private group? Why are private interest groups being allowed to purchase access to it?

On the Governor’s official website the event is advertised as being “open to the public” but with the admonishment that “seating is limited.”

Limited, perhaps, because at least some access to the event is being sold?

I like the idea of Governor Burgum delivering this address, and I’m happy to see the effort to bring this sort of thing out of Bismarck and to other parts of the state, but partnering with the Chamber of Commerce and selling access to the event smacks of the Governor using his office to raise money for private interests.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from noon-2pm weekdays.

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