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Published January 17 2013

Forum editorial: Bill a sign of deeper concerns?

A proposal to change the way out-of-state speeders are fined in North Dakota is unfriendly. While Rep. Bob Skarphol, R-Tioga, might be on to something regarding incentives for oil workers to get North Dakota license plates, the implementation of his legislation could become a law enforcement nightmare and public relations blunder.

Skarphol and several other sponsors of the bill insist they are not interested in punishing Oil Patch workers who come to North Dakota. They just want them to register their vehicles in North Dakota. In order to convince the out-of-staters to do so, the legislation would levy fines for speeding based on fines in the drivers’ states of residence, as shown by the license plates on their vehicles. For example, if an Oklahoma oil field worker is stopped for speeding, North Dakota would levy a fine based on Oklahoma’s fines. The revenue from the new state identity-based fine schedule would go to North Dakota, not Oklahoma.

The enforcement tangle the new law would cause for the Highway Patrol aside, the entire idea sends the wrong message. It’s certainly not a warm welcome to oil workers and others who have come to the state for jobs, and maybe to stay. It’s not reflective of the much-ballyhooed (if often mythological) “friendly North Dakota” mantra. And it’s kind of an unnecessarily convoluted solution to a problem that could more easily be solved by raising fines and shortening deadlines for out-of-state drivers to register their vehicles in North Dakota.

Finally, it should be noted that sponsors of the bill are almost exclusively from oil country. They generally are considered friends of oil development. But their endorsement of what can fairly be described as punitive legislation suggests a tipping point has been reached regarding the influx of oil workers, increased traffic volume and highway safety concerns in the Oil Patch and beyond. Their legislation might be flawed but their instincts are spot on.

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Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.