North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple made the right call when he declined to call a special session of the Legislature to address needs in communities impacted by the Bakken oil boom. Several Democratic legislative leaders had urged the governor to convene the assembly in May. Dalrymple, after lengthy consultations with his staff, key lawmakers and, most importantly, local officials in oil country, concluded correctly that the place to deal with stressed infrastructure and other pressing problems in the Oil Patch will be in the early days of the 2015 Legislature.
Oil country is not bereft of state help. Billions of additional dollars have been appropriated for cities, counties, schools, hospitals, emergency services and law enforcement. The amounts of new money going into energy-impacted communities are unprecedented, which makes sense because the impacts are unprecedented. The public money does not include burgeoning private investment in housing and business development — more than oil country has ever seen.
That being said, the need for more impact money has not abated. The governor met with local officials and got an earful about how difficult, if not impossible, it has been for local governments to keep up with demands brought on by energy development. But he made it clear that he believes the regular session of the Legislature, which will begin in early January, will rise to the challenge of moving quickly to renew existing aid programs and develop new ones.
Dalrymple made the right decision. He not only assured local officials that he supports funding appropriate and targeted help when lawmakers convene, he also said he was confident the Legislature would act. Thus, he put the onus on legislative leaders to go to work without delay.
Good policy. Good politics.