It's Festivus for Columnists, an event that rolls around every two years in North Dakota with the convening of the state Legislature, a time when things get weird, nonsensical and uncomfortable. In the early going there are already bills restricting transgender athletes, abortion and free speech from the party of freedom, personal responsibility and less government.
House Bill 1298, sponsored by Rep. Ben Koppelman, R-West Fargo, would bar individuals who were assigned the opposite sex at birth from participating on an athletic team that is exclusively male or female. It may be the classic solution in search of a problem. According to the Williams Institute, 0.60% of adults in America are transgender. North Dakota ranks the lowest of all states at 0.30%. When it comes to transgender citizens, one gets the feeling that everything legislators know about the issue is based upon "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."
In 2016, when he was running for a District 28 house seat, Rep. Jeff Magrum, R-Hazelton, was asked during a candidates forum about the possible need for separate facilities for transgender students. Magrum, a plumber by trade, quipped that he thought it would be good for business.
Now, Magrum, a member of the hard-right Bastiat Caucus, is taking on free speech. He's proposed House Bill 1256 that would muzzle any governor from endorsing candidates or donating to other campaigns, which kinda, sorta, maybe violates the First Amendment.
Burgum, you'll recall, declared political war on the Bastiats in the 2020 election, and Magrum was one of the targets. This bill, as I'm sure Magrum knows, is a nonstarter. It's basically the political equivalent of flipping Burgum “the bird.”
Anyway, karma has a way of sorting things out. Burgum's political action committee successfully primaried budget hawk and longtime House Appropriations Chairman Rep. Jeff Delzer, R-Underwood, but when Burgum's candidate, Dave Andahl, died of COVID shortly before the election (and still won), District 8 Republicans put Delzer back into the Legislature.
Burgum may have a reputation as having a Midas Touch when it comes to business but when it comes to politics, you may want to think twice before you take his call.
Finally, on to yet another abortion bill from the North Dakota Legislature. House Bill Lucky 1313 is sponsored by Rep. Jeff Hoverson, R-Minot. Under the bill, someone found to have performed an abortion (unless the procedure is done to save the life of the mother) would be guilty of a Class AA felony, punishable by up to life in prison without parole.
Of course, the law of the land is Roe v. Wade and, according to a 2019 NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll, 77% say the Supreme Court should uphold the 1973 ruling.
It'll be interesting to see if Hoverson's bill gets any traction in the legislature. I'm guessing no, but Hoverson, an evangelical Lutheran minister, has submitted another bill that would employ a carrot instead of a stick by subsidizing both the mother and adoptive (heterosexual) parents. It's a stumble in the right direction.
Despite the mischaracterization of liberals by conservatives, no one is pro-abortion anymore than anyone is pro-root canal. Pro-choice simply means they're against government meddling in personal health decisions. It's a concept that conservatives, including Southern Baptists, supported not so very long ago.
Tony Bender writes an exclusive weekly column for Forum News Service. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of this publication, nor Forum Communications ownership.