Capitol Chatter

Speak loudly and carry a big stick
Sen. Oley Larsen doesn’t seem to care for Gov. Doug Burgum’s proposed Theodore Roosevelt Presidential Library. In a recent floor speech, the Republican from Minot cited Roosevelt’s tendency to bypass Congress, his implementation of a federal income tax and animosity toward Native Americans as reasons not to fund the proposed library.

By Diane Newberry and Bilal Suleiman

“If the library gets built I hope this (Roosevelt) quote gets put right on the front of the door,” Larsen said, citing an oft-quoted line attributed to Roosevelt in the 1880s: “I don’t go so far as to think that ‘the only good Indians are dead Indians,’ but I believe nine out of ten are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.” Some lawmakers agreed with Larsen on his indictment. Roosevelt was “not a perfect man, but neither is this bill,” Kathy Hogan, D-Fargo, said, referring to a complicated funding structure for the library. The Senate approved HB 1320, which was amended to include the presidential library proposal, by a 34-13 vote on April 17.
Clean up in aisle two
On April 17, the Senate took up a hotly debated ethics commission bill, HB 1521, which grew out of Ballot Measure 1, approved by voters in the last election. Senate Democrats objected that the bill falls short on campaign finance transparency and defining “influencing state government.” That drew this from Sen. Rich Wardner, R-Dickinson and the majority leader: “You know what, Mr. President? I can’t go 10 minutes in a grocery store and somebody is influencing me. I can’t even go down the street and I go around the corner and somebody’s trying to influence me.” HB 1521 passed the Senate 39-8. Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, introduced competing ethics commission legislation in SB 2148. Its fate in the House was undetermined at the end of last week.
Leave it all on the court
As the 2019 session winds down, legislators are probably looking forward to packing it in and returning to their home districts. However, in the last few months, many have found camaraderie in their home away from home. This session, father/son duo Reps. Dan and Matt Ruby, R-Minot, began playing basketball at the Bismarck YMCA, eventually attracting several House members for weekly — and then twice weekly — games. Matt Ruby said they stick to 4-on-4 games but have sometimes been able to expand to 6-on-6. The group, which also includes regulars like Rep. Scott Louser, R-Minot and Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, is bipartisan and apolitical (at least on the court).
Three ring government
There have been a lot of extracurricular conversations about Higher Education this session, which Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, referenced as he introduced the higher ed budget to the Senate floor. “Mr. President, let’s forget about the sideshows, the bearded lady, the sword swallower, the snake handler, and focus on the big top. That’s why we’re here today: our campuses and their 36,600 students,” Holmberg said. He proceeded to explain the budget, which saw a 5.7% increase in funding this biennium compared to last biennium. The last budget set in 2017 saw a 17% cut in funding, Holmberg said.

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