Back in January I wrote about Republican state Rep. Bill Oliver who represents District 4 in Bismarck.
At the time I had been told that Oliver was living and working out of state. Specifically that he was working at a parts store in Thief River Falls, Minnesota, which isn’t exactly a short commute from New Town, North Dakota.
When I called the parts store, Oliver answered.
“I’m working for a corporation that has allowed me to keep my residency in North Dakota,” he told me adding that he wouldn’t “be here long.”
“I’m doing what I can to make a living,” he told me.
“I live in New Town,” he added. “I own my home in New Town.”
Apparently things have changed. This afternoon Oliver called me to say that he was resigning his seat in the Legislature. “I cannot effectively serve the constituents,” he told me. He added that while he felt it would be legal to keep his seat, “I cannot effectively get back and forth like I need to.”
He also put a statement on Facebook:
This isn’t the first time we’ve had controversy over state lawmakers not living in their districts.
Current House Minority Leader Corey Mock, a Democrat, moved out of his legislative district before his last term was up. While he was re-elected in his new district, during his previous term his wife was actually elected to the Grand Forks City Council representing a ward that wasn’t in her husband’s district.
Former state Rep. Kris Wallman, also a Democrat, actually moved to California during her term in office, and delayed her resignation from office until the deadline passed for a special election so that the local Democratic committee could appoint her replacement.
That’s actually what will happen with Oliver’s resignation. Given the timing, the local Republican committee will appoint a replacement per state law. They have to do so within 21 days. If there are more than 828 days remaining in the term that person serves until the next general election, or the Governor may call a special election.
Oliver was re-elected in 2016. In that same election 86 percent of North Dakotans approved a constitutional measure requiring that lawmakers live in their districts.