Video: Senate Declines To Protect Historical Society From State Fair Eviction


I’ve written previously (here and here) about the feud between the Ward County Historical Society and the North Dakota State Fair.

The State Fair Association wants the Historical Society off the fairgrounds because they want to expand, though the State Fair folks are being coy about what exactly they want to do with the property. The Historical Society wants to stay where they’re at as they benefit from the foot traffic from the events at the fairgrounds.

SB2298, introduced by Senator Oley Larsen (R-Minot), would make it law that the Historical Society have a place on the fairgrounds.

The debate over the bill was humorous. “Before I was married I used to go to the Pioneer Village to make out with my girlfriend,” the always colorful Senator Larsen said in support of his bill.

“I don’t have the level of hands-on experience my good friend from District 3 has,” said Senator John Warner (D-Ryder), making a tongue-in-cheek allusion to Larsen’s makeout sessions.

But all joking aside, the argument which carried the day in the Senate was frustrating. “The issue is currently in a court battle,” Senator Nicole Poolman (R-Bismarck), who carried her committee’s “do not pass” recommendation to the floor. “The committee believes that’s where it must remain.”

Following Poolman’s lead there was a lot of talk about how the Legislature ought not intrude in the affairs of the judiciary, but that sounds suspiciously like a copout to me. Of course the Legislature can supersede the judiciary when it comes to exercising their law-making authority, and in this instance they could probably save both the Historical Society and the State Fair Association months of costly litigation by doing so.

And the state has every right to step into this local matter. The State Fair receives millions of dollars in appropriations to make ends meet (the fair would run in the red without it), and the property in question belongs to the State of North Dakota (if you make purchases there the Minot city sales tax doesn’t apply).

It’s really quite tragic to see the Ward County Historical Society get bulldozed by the State Fair Association, and it’s a sad commentary that the state Senate is willing to stand by and watch it happen.