Governor Doug Burgum made a promise during campaign season not to accept his gubernatorial salary.
It was pointless symbolism, critics such as myself said, and probably not legal to boot. But Burgum was insistent on finding a way to decline his salary, spending the first months of his term in office working with a legal team on finding a loophole.
But it seems he’s giving up. His office has put forward an amendment to eliminate his salary, which he’s currently accepting, from the next biennium’s budget. But lawmakers aren’t likely to accept it, and according to reports, if the amendment doesn’t pass Burgum will just donate the salary to charity.
Which is what Burgum should have done from the beginning. Our Governor has been wildly successful in his career, to his credit, and doesn’t need a salary from the taxpayers. But not everyone who North Dakotans might consider electing to that office is so wealthy. The salary needs to stay in law.
It seems Burgum, after this last hurrah, is willing to accept that reality. Good for him.
It’s time for House Majority Leader Al Carlson to do something similar.
In an act of political petulance, Carlson seized on a bill to authorize casinos in our state which was originally the idea of Senator Lonnie Laffen (R-Grand Forks). Laffen has said that he was holding off on the bill, not wanting its introduction to seem a sort of retribution aimed at tribal interests after months of ugly protesting over the Dakota Access Pipeline. More casinos in North Dakota would dilute much needed gaming revenues for the tribes.
Carlson, it seems, wants that retribution. He made Laffen’s bill his own. It is HCR3033.
The legislation got a cool reception in the House Judiciary Committee this week. The committee members rejected two amendments to the bill, one from Carlson himself, and gave it a 13-2 “do not pass” recommendation. But when the bill arrived on the House floor yesterday it was sent back to committee on a voice vote of the chamber.
Assistant Majority Leader Don Vigesaa made the motion, but make no mistake it’s Carlson’s doing. He wants his amendment on the bill when it comes to the floor for a vote. He’s the Majority Leader. He’s getting his way.
Carlson has been throwing his weight around on this bill since it was introduced. A “glitch” supposedly delayed this bill appearing on the Legislature’s tracking system until early March, even though the deadline for filing it was February 21. But was it really a glitch, or the Majority Leader pulling rank?
Considering the bill also required a rule change in the House. “[Minority Leader Corey] Mock added that the resolution will require a legislative rule to be suspended,” my colleague John Hageman reported on March 6. “The rule states that resolutions that contain constitutional amendments need to be reported back to the House by the 40th legislative day.”
That was also March 6.
The Judiciary Committee’s 13-2 vote against Carlson’s bill, and their rejection of amendments to it, is a good indication of its chances of passing. Which is to say that it doesn’t have much of a chance at all.
So why is Carlson clinging to this bad idea? Why is he promoting this distraction?
It seems, to this observer, to be an exercise in ego.
It’s time to let it go, Al.