Mandan News

Dan Ulmer: It’s safe to come out now, the legislative session is over

Layout 1 (Page 1)By the time you read this the 63rd legislative assembly should be over and it’ll once again be safe to leave your home. The tugs and pulls of a free society make every legislative session arduous. There is nothing easy about conducting the people’s business because what seems like black or white is usually pummeled into a random shade of gray.

Take the simple stuff like granting civil rights to folks who are gay. The debate was intense, but a few years back 80 percent of the voters of North Dakota decided to outlaw gay marriage. Then look at today where openly gay people were elected to the legislature. Life in America has changed; most polls now indicate that the majority of Americans have concluded that gay folks are people just like the rest of us.

This legislature spent a great deal of its allotted session creating laws that impose the sponsor’s family values on all of our families. The result of this debate is that we will get to vote on the abortion issue in the next general election. Hopefully that will end the debate for a while, as indeed these moralistic issues have consumed an inordinate amount of time for the past 20 legislative sessions (There has been an anti-abortion bill in every session as far back as I can remember, and my legislative memory began in the 1973 session).

Once they got past all the moralistic stuff (waiting periods for divorce, contraceptives and such) legislators had to wrestle with a problem that very few legislatures ever have to deal with… they somehow managed to have way too much money on their hands.

As a result, everyone who ever wanted something showed up with their tin cup, hoping to abscond with a project, program or an increase in something. Law enforcement did well, schools did better, higher education not so hot, human services moved forward, highways rode out happy, the parks did okay, and the oil patch got enough to keep the oil flowing for a while.

It was interesting to watch this process. One could sense that each member had their districts to worry about as well as the entire state. The alliances that formed seemed somewhat unholy at times… oft times these would leave their leadership out standing in their field.

Then it came time to fish or cut bait. The leaders finally took the session by the horns and the conference committees began to conclude their business… and the whirling dervish of 63rd legislative session came to a close.

So how’d they do? Despite all the bad press and moralistic stuff they had to deal with, I think they left North Dakota better off than they found it… and the nice part is that their tax cuts should leave a little something in our wallets…

However, given that engaging in the legislative process is like climbing into a blender set on emulsify, I reserve the right to get over my dizziness before affirming anything I said here. By the way, my thanks go out to all the folks who volunteered to serve us in the legislature… it’s not an easy job…