The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead
"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.
The slowdown in North Dakota's Oil Patch is not a sky-is-falling calamity. Despite a spate of hand-wringing and worry, the evidence on the ground thus far is that the oil and gas industry and oil-impacted communities are weathering an oil price collapse that has not translated into a disastrous bust. The boom is not booming, but activity in the Oil Patch has not ceased. It is certain a slowdown in drilling and a per-barrel price drop from near $100 to near $50 will have consequences in oil country and for state coffers. Among the questions: How long will it last?
North Dakota should raise taxes on tobacco products. The state's tax is among the lowest in the nation (44 cents on a pack of cigarettes); indeed lower than some of the major tobacco-growing states. Raising the tax, which has been at an embarrassing low level for decades, comports nicely with North Dakota's successful anti-tobacco public health efforts, and specifically would deter young people from buying cigarettes.
When the Legislature reviewed a new North Dakota revenue forecast that included a $4 billion drop in the next two years because of sagging oil prices, the reaction among lawmakers was mature and pragmatic. Instead of the usual Chicken Little-scurrying around the Capitol barnyard, lawmakers' comments were measured and even optimistic. "The sky is not falling," said House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, who in the past has tended to be a glass-half-full kind of guy.
It's a sad but revealing indicator of North Dakota's lax regulatory environment that legislation to require that pipelines be equipped with flow meters, automatic shut-off valves and pressure cutoff switches won't go into effect until June 30, 2017, if passed. That will be more than two years after the leak that early this month spewed almost 3 million gallons of toxic saltwater near Williston. And it will be almost four years after a pipeline leaked 20,600 barrels of crude oil on a farm field near Tioga.
A group of North Dakota legislators have introduced legislation aimed at gutting two of the state's most significant regulatory decisions involving oil and gas. A bill could nullify requirements to ratchet down the massive wasteful flaring of natural gas and to impose standards to make crude oil less volatile before shipment by rail. It also would risk forfeiting $112 million in revenues during a two-year budget period. The question is why? House Bill 1187, whose primary sponsor is Rep.
Rep. Jim Kasper's proposal to force North Dakota to scrap Common Core standards is ideological claptrap masquerading as education reform. The Fargo Republican has swallowed whole an anti-education manifesto peddled by a well-funded out-of-state cabal that could care less about North Dakota's public schools. He's happily become the lead mouthpiece of an insulting and dishonest campaign against North Dakota's best educators and local curriculum developers.