Plain Talk: What can the Legislature do to fix the harassment problem?


MINOT, N.D. — During their 2021 regular session, North Dakota’s lawmakers did something they hadn’t ever done before in state history.

They expelled one of their own.

Luke Simons, then an elected member of the House from Dickinson, was expelled after my reporting exposed documents detailing years of harassment of people who work in and around the Legislature, including two of his fellow lawmakers, Rep. Emily O’Brien from Grand Forks and Rep. Brandy Pyle of Casselton.

Now, during their interim between sessions, lawmakers are looking at how their harassment policies might be strengthened. O’Brien joined this episode of Plain Talk to discuss just how tall an order that is.

She noted that implementing these policies is difficult because they apply to elected officials who aren’t really anyone’s employees outside of the voters. Also complicating the work is that many in the public are fine with this sort of behavior from their elected officials.

Simons, a member of the controversial Bastiat Caucus of Trump-aligned Republican lawmakers, still enjoys support to this day. Several lawmakers who voted for his expulsion have been censured over it at meetings of their district party committees. It’s very possible that Simons could run for, and win, a seat in the Legislature in the future.

What then? There don’t seem to be any good answers.

Also on this episode, Wednesday co-host Chad Oban and I talk about the Democratic-NPL denying me media credentials for their upcoming state party as well as the debate over energy policy that’s erupted in America since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the resulting disruptions it provoked in international energy markets.

Want to know when new episodes of Plain Talk come out? Subscribe, for free, on your favorite podcasting platform.