Shaw: So much for local control in North Dakota

Bills in the ND Legislature are aimed at banning books at local libraries, telling cities how they must hold elections, telling universities what they can’t teach, and telling school districts to teach fetal development.

Jim Shaw
Jim Shaw

The long-established concept of local control in North Dakota is under attack by the Republicans who dominate the state Legislature. In previous sessions, the Legislature shamefully chipped away at local control by banning local governments from providing paid family leave, preventing cities from banning plastic bags and telling cities and counties how much they can charge for speeding tickets.

Now, there’s a full-fledged assault on local control. It’s not just that legislators are crossing an important line, but that the bills are crazy and frightening. They include banning books at local libraries, telling cities how they must hold elections, banning local gun death prevention, telling universities what they can’t teach, mandating superintendent hirings, and telling school districts to teach fetal development.

The book banning bill is all about censorship . This is one of the Legislature’s many alarming attacks against the LGBTQ community. It also takes aim at sex education, because lawmakers apparently don’t want young people to know how babies are made. I say, if you don’t like a book, don’t read it. Legislators don’t feel you’re capable of making that decision.

Legislators want to ban approval voting and ranked-choice voting options from city elections , but should stay out of it. Approval voting and ranked-choice voting make sure that consensus candidates are elected. They prevent fringe candidates from winning with a small percentage of the vote when 12 candidates are running for two city commission seats. Approval voting was overwhelmingly approved by Fargo voters, but legislators don’t care. Of course, many of those lawmakers are unaware of fair elections because they ran unopposed.

With the stunning number of shooting deaths in this country, it’s scary that one bill would prevent local governments from adopting red flag laws. Those laws restrict gun access to people who police have identified as dangerous.


Another disturbing bill would ban state colleges and universities from teaching “divisive concepts.” In other words, let’s just sugarcoat the nation’s history. Let’s ignore those pesky topics of slavery, lynchings in the Jim Crow South or genocide against Native Americans. Let’s discourage students from thinking.

Forcing rural school districts to share superintendents is none of the Legislature’s business, and would do more harm than good.

With their forced birth agenda, legislators want to mandate that school districts show ultrasound videos of vital organs in early fetal development . Of course, most of these legislators voted to kill an effective sex education program at North Dakota State University. Naturally, there’s nothing in this bill that explains the challenges of raising a child.

All these bills have one thing in common: They are attempts to fix problems that don’t exist.

It’s clear that the Legislature wants to take away all meaningful decisions from your local city council, school board, library or university. In the future, local zoning issues will be up to Senator Crackpot. Questions about school curriculum will be decided by Representative Gasbag. Book banning in your local library will be determined by Senator Doofus.

The Legislature should let local communities make their own decisions.

Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Forum's editorial board nor Forum ownership.



Opinion by Jim Shaw
InForum columnist Jim Shaw is a former WDAY TV reporter and former KVRR TV news director.
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