North Dakota Democrats have been making political hay out of calls for a special legislative session to address western oil patch needs, but it seems as though the leader of a town in the heart of the oil boom is now shooting down that idea after previously supporting it.
This morning Scott Hennen was kind enough to have me on the radio opposite Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford. The topic of our discussion was Sanford’s call for support for a new convention and events center (which would include two hockey rinks and a water park) as “critical infrastructure” for his town. As I’ve written previously, I don’t think there’s anything about water parks and hockey rinks that are “critical.” Or “infrastructure,” for that matter.
But responding to my suggestion that pushing for these sort of projects might undermine western North Dakota’s push for more state funds during a possible special session, and the regular session next year, Sanford indicated that he’s never really been all that supportive of a special legislative session.
While I’m not sure that’s true – here’s one report from just last month where Sanford is saying the exact opposite – it does appear as though Sanford isn’t supporting one now. Sanford said we’re too close to a regular session, and that what he is hoping for is “special consideration” for western needs so that they can work in the 2014 construction season knowing what their funding will be.
It’s worth noting that the legislature did that last session, addressing oil patch needs right away.
If Sanfords sentiments are widespread in the west, that may be a big blow to Democrats who have struggled to get traction in the oil patch with their criticisms of the state’s handling of oil impacts, and were using calls for a special session as a weapon on that front.
Frankly, a special session was never in western North Dakota’s best interests. A special session focused specifically on western needs would have only hurt the west’s cause during the regular session which would be held almost immediately after. Plus, what sort of sound policy could we expect from a lame duck legislature filled with many politicians who are running for office to serve in the regular session next year?
The special session was a bad idea, and it seems even people like Sanford are waking up to that.
I’ve asked Scott’s producer for the audio of our discussion. I’ll post it if I get it.
Update: Here’s the audio.