Other Views: Next time, lawmakers should keep in mind who they are working for
Controlled chaos is a calm among the storm. The final weeks of North Dakota's 63rd Legislative Session were anything but controlled chaos. As the final day began Friday, House Republican leaders went off the deep end by allowing the reconsiderati...
Controlled chaos is a calm among the storm. The final weeks of North Dakota's 63rd Legislative Session were anything but controlled chaos.
As the final day began Friday, House Republican leaders went off the deep end by allowing the reconsideration and defeat of a critical K-12 funding bill, sending educators and lawmakers into a chaotic environment in Bismarck.
While the funding and policies were eventually placed into a separate bill, it was a defining moment for a session that will be written about for years to come.
Gov. Jack Dalrymple was correct in saying the session was historic, but we find it historic in all the wrong ways, too.
We won't go as far as calling the session a complete failure or a lost session, but the Legislature had an opportunity to provide more impact to its state than it ever has before but swung and missed.
North Dakota's abundant natural resources provided a record budget and a record surplus to meet the vast needs statewide -- not just in the west.
Residents across North Dakota have seen their property taxes rise, their cost of living rise and their basic services shrink during the prosperous oil boom.
Williston and the Oil Patch defined the statewide issues with a lagging infrastructure that has been ravaged by the oil industry.
Meanwhile, the Legislature wasted days fighting and debating social issue bills that will do nothing more for citizens than show the Republicans are in charge.
By posturing itself with abortion bills, the state will make a name for itself as it gets dragged through the federal court system and late-night talk shows.
When lawmakers were presented with a chance to provide historic statewide aid to its citizens, who have felt the effects of the oil production, they went down to the wire, risking the failure of key education and property tax relief bills.
When a western lawmaker drafted a comprehensive and fair bill to send money to the west, some Senate Republicans wanted proof of the need, then cut $417 million from the bill.
After getting raked over the coals by the Democrats and western Republicans, it was replaced and passed in the final week.
Despite all that, we feel as if a lot of good things rose from this chaos.
A record appropriation of $1.1 billion was still sent to the Oil Patch. More than $800 million in property tax relief was passed. Higher education received a much-needed overhaul while the Legislature seemed to send a clear message to the Board of Higher Education about tuition and the performance of Chancellor Hamid Shirvani.
Child care needs were addressed, although funding was drastically cut by the House. Despite pressure from up top, legislators stepped up to the oil industry and denied a lowering of the extraction tax and closed a key loophole.
Good things came from this session, yet we still leave it with a bad taste in our mouths.
In two years, when the next Legislature meets, we simply ask that lawmakers put the basic human service bills first rather than posture over bills that hardly impact the mostly-conservative citizens of the state.
Think about the needs of the citizens instead of the need to flex your muscles as a Republican-run state.
We feel if the Legislature as a whole prioritizes better next time around, when the budget seems likely to stay at a near-record high, the issues of the people and of the Oil Patch can be better heard and better met through thoughtful and creative bills.
That way, when the session goes down to the wire, it goes down to the wire to improve bills and not over a chamber power struggle.
That way when record budgets and appropriations are handed out, they will be the highlight of the session instead of the dysfunctional majority party.
Next time, lawmakers should remember who they're working for -- the citizens -- who, like House Majority Leader Al Carlson, are "tired of getting bent over" by the state.
The Williston Herald's Editorial Board formed this opinion.