Rod St. Aubyn: Voters, Not Reporters, Will Weigh Legislative Performance

As we wind down to the end of the 2015 Legislative Session, I feel that unfortunately the media continues to paint a picture of the legislative session as one that has been dominated with issues like the “anti-discrimination bill”, Common Core, concealed carry, prayer of the day, or corporate farming. Nothing could be further from the truth. While I would admit there was a lot of public interest in these issues, most of the time the legislature was reviewing other important issues affecting political subdivisions, tax policies, human services issues, oil issues, educational policies, business interests, and critical water issues affecting the entire state.

Because many of these bills weren’t as controversial in the eyes of the media as the “Anti-Discrimination Bill”, they didn’t get the media attention to deserve a front page depiction of the legislators voting “for or against” the issue. That story fostered public outrage on both sides of the issue. Then Sen. Heitkamp added to the issue on her visit to the Legislature last Friday by stressing that North Dakota does not need to be seen as a state that discriminates. Why didn’t she address the continual overreach by federal agencies like the EPA in regulating our oil and coal industries that could cripple those industries – something that she has some control over? Instead, she chose to address an issue being pushed by the media.

[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#000000″ txt_color=”#ffffff”]After a while you have to consider if the media has its own agenda. It appears that they have decided which issues should be most important in their own opinions and have decided to hone into those legislators that do not share those same opinions.[/mks_pullquote]

After a while you have to consider if the media has its own agenda. It appears that they have decided which issues should be most important in their own opinions and have decided to hone into those legislators that do not share those same opinions. But these media stories do not accurately represent the overall work of this legislative session. There are many important bills that impact many of the citizens’ lives that barely get mentioned.

My guess is that those legislators facing re-election in 2016 who have been on the opposite side of the media’s perception of the “right position” on these controversial bills will face a lot of media scrutiny before the next election. Unfortunately fair or not that is the reality of public service.

Legislators need not hide from their voting records or their own personal opinions. The public will make up its own mind whether they support the positions taken by their legislators. Even if it appears that the media is pushing their own agenda, legislators must be firm in their convictions and vote how they feel that their constituents have elected them to represent them. They need to be public about their positions and express their justifications for voting the way they did.

Unfortunately, I find that often the media tries to make the news rather than report the news. Legislators should be reminded that their duty is review all information/testimony and make decisions that they feel best represents the views of their district. Ultimately, it will be the voters that will decide and not the media.

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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