Darrell L. Dorgan, Bismarck, Published April 06 2013
Letter: Flat-Earth cabal runs LegislatureNorth Dakota’s legislative session will end in a few weeks. Legislators will go home, and the consequences of their actions will be felt for years.
This session was a remarkable opportunity. Legislators converged on the Capitol when the coffers were full. Unlike the nation’s economy, ours was in boom mode. It was a session that could have been historic. Legislators could have:
- Provided significant property and sales tax relief.
- Built the finest primary educational system in the country.
- Four-laned deadly Highway 85 from Canada to South Dakota.
- Provided free statewide Internet service.
- Insured nutritional and medical assistance for the young and the elderly.
- Considered additional assistance to provide affordable housing in the Oil Patch.
- Funded an aggressive program to track ever-increasing amounts of deadly radioactive waste from the oil fields; and protected historic and environmentally sensitive areas from drilling.
Those are a few of the things they could have done, but they did not. Instead, apparently inspired by a small but tenacious group of theocratic, fundamentalist Pecksniffians, legislators spent hours wrangling over ways to cut oil and corporate taxes for out-of-state companies while voting against cutting the sales tax on clothing. They have failed so far to provide significant cuts in property, sales and income taxes and initially said “no” to providing milk for needy children.
The most strident of the Luddites spent hundreds of hours and millions of tax dollars attacking women through restrictive and unconstitutional anti-abortion laws, while attempting to cut funding for sex education.
I had the privilege of covering 11 legislative sessions as a reporter. There were great citizen legislators and there were mediocre lawmakers. However, it does seem more legislators now arrive with a determination to spread the economic and social misery agenda of other “flat-Earthers,” the tea party or “Americans for Prosperity.”
There are legislators with concerns for the future and a determination to make life better. But the number of legislators like Chet Reiten, Evan Lips, Brynhild Haugland, Janet Wentz, C. Warner Litton, Aloha Eagles, Dick Kloubec, Dick Backes, Rolland Redlin and Frank Wenstrom has decreased dramatically. They were people who sought small and efficient government with limited intrusion into our lives.
Today, we’re stuck with the likes of Bette Grande, Margaret Sitte, Jeff Delzer, Bill Bowman, Jim Kasper, Bob Skarphol and Roscoe Streyle, to name a few. They are the moral and financial purveyors of right and wrong, where and when you shop and, God forbid, if you take a morning-after pill. Oh, by-the-by, most also seem adamant that climate change is a hoax and that the Earth is only 6,000 years old.
Years ago, President Richard Nixon nominated a jurist to the Supreme Court who was woefully inexperienced. When asked about the nominee’s legal mediocrity, former Nebraska U.S. Sen. Roman Hruska replied, “... There are lots of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren’t they?”
Most of the people I know who live on the Plains are not mediocre. They work hard and have struggled. Now, because of fate and oil, it is time for their rewards. They deserve representation by advocates with determination to make life better, leave the earth better than it is today and provide for those who are unable. They don’t deserve mediocre, vindictive, fundamentalist mullahs who wish to compromise our lives and peer into our bedrooms.
It’s really quite simple. Yesterday’s so-called Moral Majority wasn’t, and many of today’s legislators who claim to be, aren’t. Don’t fall off the edge of the Earth when you head home.
Dorgan is an award-winning broadcast journalist and a historical documentary filmmaker. He is former executive director, North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame, and former owner of the Lewis and Clark riverboat on the Missouri River. He is guest lecturer, University of Maine Journalism Department.