The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
The U.S. Supreme Court caught up to the nation Friday when it said that state bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. It was a relatively simple extension of basic civil rights that has been a long time coming. Advocates for ending discrimination against same-sex marriage said in a loud collective voice: "It's about time." Indeed, the speed at which attitudes about same-sex marriage have changed from "no way" to "yes, of course" is unprecedented in modern U.S. history.
The response to a Fargo police survey on more downtown surveillance cameras does not impress. Of the 190 businesses that received the survey form, only 71 responded. Of those, 75 percent said they supported expanding video cameras downtown. That's hardly a representative sample of sentiment among downtown business operators and property owners. Several downtown businesses said they did not get a survey, so their opinions were not counted. Police contend the cameras in place have been useful — that they serve as deterrents to crime.
The rainfall of the past several days surely put the stop on crop planting operations across the Red River Valley region, but it's a small price to pay for what appears to be a "drought-busting" rain. Nearly all of North Dakota and western Minnesota have been in at least moderate drought this spring, with the fear building that had it not rained the drought would have gone from moderate to severe.
It had to come as a surprise (at least) that Fargo and West Fargo school districts have no formal written policies to address when it is appropriate for teachers to communicate with students outside of the classroom. The matter took on a high profile in recent weeks as the trial of a West Fargo teacher made headlines. Aaron Knodel was accused by a former student of having what can be euphemistically called inappropriate communications.
It didn't make huge headlines this week, but North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple's veto of an attempt by the Republican leadership of the House to usurp executive authority was noteworthy in that it embodied all the elements of the long-running power struggle between the governor's office and the Legislature. In this instructive instance, the governor's veto was not overridden because the Senate refused to even schedule an override vote. The House already had voted to override. House Bill 1033 would have barred the governor from using Legacy Fund earnings for his spending proposals.
The North Dakota Legislature, specifically the Senate, should put the brakes on a proposed 30 percent reduction in the oil extraction tax. The legislation is being steamrolled through the legislative process without the routine committee hearings that such a major tax change requires.
In a stroke of insight, the North Dakota Senate rejected a House bill that would have shifted the power to set university and college tuition rates from the state Board of Higher Education to the Legislature. The bill had passed the House, which has been in a foolish punish-higher education mode for too long. The ill-conceived legislation ran into an informed and enlightened buzz saw in the Senate. The bill's sponsors, among them Rep. Kim Koppelman, R-West Fargo, said the bill was in part a response to skyrocketing tuition rates.
The North Dakota Legislature is buying into Big Tobacco's clever but dishonest narrative about e-cigarettes. Lawmakers would be better served by paying attention to Dr. Terry Dwelle, the state's chief health officer. In comments published a few days ago, Dwelle said without equivocation that, given current research and information, the "cons" of e-cigs outweigh the "pros." He said more work is needed to further define the risks and any potential benefits of the nicotine-delivery devices.
The North Dakota Legislature, specifically the House, did a clumsy quickstep this week when it killed sensible legislation that would have focused on railroad safety. The bill's sponsor, Sen. George B. Sinner, D-Fargo, had agreed to amend the bill from calling for a funded rail safety committee to requiring the state Department of Transportation and Public Service Commission to report regularly on a rail safety plan. The amended bill passed the Senate unanimously, and with further amending received a 10-2 do-pass in a House committee. So far so good.
North Dakota lawmakers should not be bullied into bad decisions by religious and quasi-religious lobbies, like the North Dakota Family Alliance and the North Dakota Catholic Conference. The determination of those groups to misuse the legislative process to advance an ecclesiastical agenda is anathema to most North Dakotans, as made clear at the ballot box, twice in the past few years. The latest intrusion of narrow religious doctrine is an attempt to kill legislation that would add sexual orientation to discrimination categories such as race, color, religion, sex and national origin.