The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
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.
Now that Gov. Jack Dalrymple has signed into law the first significant changes in the state's anti-corporation farming law in 73 years, the question is: Will the law be referred by the North Dakota Farmers Union and like-minded groups that oppose the changes. Unless blocked by a court injunction (unlikely), the law will go into effect.
The Essential Air Service program, whereby airline passenger service to small, rural underserved communities is subsidized is, in a word, "essential." Critics of the long-established and successful subsidy tend to manipulate statistics, focus on anecdotal tales that bolster their opposition, and promote the fiction that taxpayer dollars pay for EAS. In short, the critics are less than honest. In North Dakota, Devils Lake and Jamestown benefit from the EAS in a cooperative passenger air service route that uses regularly scheduled flights in and out of both cities.
A North Dakota House concurrent resolution that would make it more difficult for North Dakotans to initiate ballot measures should be rejected in the state Senate. House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, introduced the resolution, which passed the House last week. Carlson's resolution is a reworking of a ballot measure that was soundly defeated by voters just a few months ago. The new version is not as egregious as was the ballot language, which was changed over Carlson's objections.
If the North Dakota House of Representatives can't see the wisdom of at least studying legalization of medical marijuana, maybe the people of the state should take the matter to the ballot. Tuesday a House committee gave a 7-6 do-not-pass recommendation to a resolution that would require an interim legislative study of legalization of medical marijuana.
"If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost Middle America," President Lyndon Johnson reportedly mourned after watching veteran newscaster Walter Cronkite criticize America's war effort in Vietnam. This week, a North Dakota news item should have made State Board of Higher Education members sit bolt upright in similar alarm. For among those who spoke most forcefully in favor of chiseling into law legislators' distrust of the board was Rep.
Three bills that comported well with North Dakota's open government tradition were defeated in the Legislature by Republican majorities. One had bipartisan sponsorship, but it fared no better than two Democrat-sponsored bills. If openness and transparency are valued in government, those attributes were snubbed when the House said "no." One bill would have prohibited legislative candidates from using campaign funds for personal use. Another added modest campaign reporting requirements for legislative candidates, bringing the rules in line with standards for other state candidates.
Support for changes to N.D. corporate farming law.
No matter how they characterize it, a bill that would change the way North Dakota fills a U.S. Senate vacancy is a cynical political stunt. It should be trashed. Rep. Roscoe Streyle, R-Minot, insists his legislation is about voting, not politics. Whether or not he believes such tripe, Streyle's legislation confirms that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., frightens the political tar out of Republicans. The bill would strip the governor of the time-honored role of appointing to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy.