The Fargo Forum Editorial Board Doesn't Have A Clue

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Today’s editorial in the Fargo Forum punches back at critics of Governor Jack Dalrymple’s clownish handling of the SB2279 debate.

Shortly after the state House voted down the anti-discrimination bill Dalrymple rushed to the media with a statement expressing his disappointment. The Republican opponents of the bill felt betrayed. Supporters of the bill, mostly Democrats and a few Republicans, wondered why Dalrymple wasn’t more outspoken in support of the legislation previously. When Democrats challenged Dalrymple’s stance on the issue, asking him to issue an executive order making it clear that the state doesn’t discriminate against gays in its hiring, Dalrymple’s office ludicrously tried to claim there was already a policy in place and then dug up a vague executive order issued by former Governor Allen Olson in the 1980’s as proof.

Even Dalrymple’s supporters were quietly embarrassed by the handling of the situation. But today the Fargo Forum comes to Dalrymple’s defense, advising Democrats to quit attacking the Governor and instead join with him in bipartisan support for anti-discrimination policy.

Maybe sound political advice, but here’s where the Forum goes off the rails:

Third, criticism of the governor for not speaking out more forcefully prior to the House vote suggests ignorance of the constitutional prohibition that prevents a sitting governor from saying how he would deal with legislation before it reaches his desk. Since the bill was beaten, it never reached his desk; there was no opportunity for him either to sign or veto the legislation. Given what he has said since the bill’s demise, it’s reasonable to assume he would have signed it.

If there is ignorance here, it lays with the Forum.  They maybe should have looked up the law before spouting off. Here’s what Article V, Section 10 of the state constitution actually says:



The wording is a little convoluted, but is being said here is that the Governor may not use his influence, up to and including his veto, in trade with lawmakers. Meaning the governor can’t go to a lawmaker and say “support this bill or I’ll veto your bill.” He also can’t say “support my budget, and I’ll support your bill.”

But what the governor may do is express his opinion on any given piece of legislation, which he does all the time. The governor issues an executive budget every year, which shows up before lawmakers in a series of state agency budgets introduced by the executive branch. Also, executive branch agencies introduce policy bills as well. All of these bills come with the governor’s explicit endorsement.

Heck, during the 2013 session Dalrymple actually testified before a legislative committee in favor of a property tax bill.

No less an authority on the subject than former Governor Ed Schafer has told me that this is true. Years ago during the 2011 session I wrote about rumor among lawmakers that Governor Dalrymple was threatening to veto a pension reform bill. The lawmakers were upset, citing the Article V prohibitions. Schafer reached out to me at the time and said that while the governor can’t use his influence and/or veto as trading chips with lawmakers, the governor most certainly can state support or opposition to particular bills.

Which, again, the governor does all the time.

The Forum really ought to issue a correction. They’re misleading people.