Becker: We need to address 'distractions' this special legislative session

Rick Becker is the founder and leader of the Bastiat Caucus of the North Dakota Republican Party and a member of the North Dakota legislature. He joins The Dickinson Press' opinion page as a guest columnist.

Rick Becker is one of the leading conservatives of the North Dakota legislature, and a rising national star of the freedom movement. A plastic surgeon, businessman and State Representative, he was first elected to the ND State House in 2012, reelected in 2014 & 2018 by wide margins. (Dickinson Press file photo)

The North Dakota legislature is now in special session. The single thing they must do is address the decennial redrawing of legislative districts. Gov. Burgum has called for a special session to do that, and also to quickly spend a billion dollars of federal ARPA money. It seems many people have bought into the idea that we must spend that money right now, despite the fact that the money isn’t required to be spent until the end of 2026. I guess it’s just too exciting to spend it all in a whirlwind, one-week session as the governor wants, rather than in a deliberative manner during the next full legislative session in 2023.

There are other topics of interest for the session, but many believe those things only serve as a distraction. Mind you, we do not want to be distracted when there is so much money to be spent so quickly. Some of the items being called distractions are bills to address vaccine mandates, critical race theory (CRT) and gender identity in schools, and election integrity.

In a move I find very interesting, over 30 lobbying groups have signed onto a letter addressed to the committee deciding which bills are allowed to be heard, asking that bills be limited to what Burgum wants: redistricting and lots of fast spending. For some reason, lobbying organizations that represent architects, auto dealers, electricians, plumbers, nurse anesthetists, realtors, bankers, chiropractors, bars and restaurants, engineers, the coal and oil industries, dentists, retailers, tow trucks and businesses in general are terribly concerned that the legislature may take up bills pertaining to vaccine mandates or critical race theory. I would think, since the money spigot is open (as always), they wouldn't care one way or another about those alleged “distractions," but that’s not how politics works — there must be the obligatory back-scratching of the power brokers. Yuck. If you fall into one of the job categories above, and aren’t particularly fond of vaccine mandates or critical race theory; you might want to contact your professional organization, as it seems they have forgotten you.

In an effort to strengthen the distraction narrative, there is a push to call these types of concerns a manufactured ideological culture war; something that is created out of right-winger’s wild imaginations. It’s very easy, however, to prove that these are legitimate concerns, existing in reality. We shouldn’t forget that the entire purpose of those trying to tell us, “There’s nothing to see here” is to pacify us into somnolence while the transformation of our state and nation takes place.

With regard to vaccine mandates, how can we not be moved to action by the non-stop overreach, lies and mismanagement by the government during COVID, the likes of which has not been seen in my lifetime? With regard to CRT, how can we continue to stand by silently, as our children are indoctrinated with beliefs diametrically opposed to our own? I was irritated but silent when they got rid of Halloween parties and Christmas concerts. I was dismayed when they taught my kids that a mean look is a “form of violence." I can’t continue to be silent when they teach kids to view everything through the lens of race; effectively undoing our principle of judging a person by their character, not their skin color.


When they say this is made-up, unnecessary and a distraction, they are wrong. It’s real, it’s important and it must be dealt with. When they say it should wait until the next session, I say hold off on your rapid-fire billion dollar spending, and then let’s talk. Can CRT wait? Maybe, maybe not. Can vaccine mandates wait? Not on your life. Whether the legislature votes in favor or opposed, the vote must happen. The people of North Dakota are affected by vaccine mandates now. They want action now. To wait, is to commit legislative malpractice.

We are told to believe these concerns are mere distractions brought about by fringe right-wingers, but they are actually the most important concerns of the day. The recent governor’s race in Virginia underscored this. They are more important to the voters than the mundane task of determining whether a legislative district border should go down this road or that road. Yes, they’re even more important than spending another billion dollars as fast as possible, despite what Burgum and a bunch of lobbyists say.

What To Read Next
What took so long?
"A lavish compensation package given to former NDSU President Dean Bresciani is a drain on the school's resources at a time when it can ill be afforded."
"How could someone who supposedly believes in property rights use an arcane legal doctrine to seize someone else's property without paying for it?"
"We always unplug our outdoor Christmas lights after Epiphany. But I really miss those lights, and I wish we could leave them on year-round," writes Jackie Hope.