North Dakota’s 2015 legislative session begins today, kicked off with the State of the State address from Governor Jack Dalrymple. After that most, of the week will be taken up by other ceremonial addresses to lawmakers from the judiciary, tribal leaders, etc., etc. The first committee hearings will begin on Friday, I believe, and in the background lawmakers will be scrambling to finalize the bills they’ll introduce and find co-sponsors to add their names to them.
The Forum has decided to mark the occasion by a typically condescending and lecturing editorial. Normally the paper’s editorial board, which is far out of touch with the state’s public, isn’t worth paying attention to but this passage caught my eye:
When the North Dakota Legislature convenes today in Bismarck, here’s hoping wiser lawmakers carry the day this session. That has not always been the case in previous sessions. Let’s hope they pay attention to the nuts-and-bolts business of funding and enhancing the functions of state government, and avoid being dragged (again) in the no-win morass of social issues, ideological agendas and personal vendettas.
Too much to hope for? Probably. But if lawmakers and their leaders want to avoid being spanked at the polls, as they have been over the past few years, they should steer clear of using their positions to intrude into the private lives of their constituents. They should not abuse their power by attempting to usurp the responsibilities of the executive branch. They should avoid their long-standing and usually destructive bent to micromanage higher education. They should not be fooled by well-funded, out-of-state attacks on public education standards. They should examine and appropriately adjust their conduct to assure North Dakotans that the Legislature and state government have not become wholly owned subsidiaries of the oil and gas industry.
Spanked at the polls? Huh?
The Forum is no doubt referring to last legislative session where lawmakers spent time on pro-life legislation, reform for higher education governance and other issues. Of course, whether or not these things constitute a waste of time is something of a subjective standard. Where the far-left editors of the Forum may see a waste of time, North Dakotans who elect these lawmakers may see sound policymaking.
Which is sort of born out by the election results. Far from being “spanked,” North Dakotans have largely maintained the status quo in the legislature. After the contentious 2013 legislative session, North Dakotans left the makeup of the Legislature largely unchanged. There are the same number of Republicans and Democrats serving in the state House in 2015 as there were in 2013. In the Senate, there is one more Democrat and one less Republican.
This is pretty much par for the course in a state where Republicans have held a majority in the state Senate since the early 1990’s, and the state House since the 1980’s. The Republican majorities didn’t get “spanked” in 2014, nor have they been “spanked” in more than two decades.
Two outspoken proponents of pro-life legislation were defeated – Senator Margaret Sitte of Bismarck and Rep. Bette Grande in Fargo – but that’s thin justification for the Forum’s thesis. Last time I checked every single piece of pro-life legislation in the 2013 session passed with bipartisan majorities with almost all of them getting re-elected.
The folks at the Forum are certainly entitled to their views. They’re far to the left of the average North Dakotan, but that’s ok. It’s a free country. But they’re not entitled to their own version of reality.