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Rep. Gail Mooney, Published May 14 2013

Letter: A good session, maybe; ‘greatest session,’ no way

‘Greatest session in history.” Wow. That is quite a statement. And to come within hours of the longest legislative session in North Dakota history? Stunning statement, indeed.

As one of the 94 House members who had the honor and privilege of wading through the 80 days of bills in the 2013 legislative session, I question the sincerity of this assessment.

Were we able to accomplish some good things for the people of North Dakota? Yes. I believe this is the case in a variety of areas. Did we do all we could? Did we do enough to address the needs of today while protecting the legacy and future generations of our state? No. I would challenge that we could – and should – have done much more, and that the time for high-fives is premature, at best.

Coming into this session as a newly elected representative, I knew there would be much to do, much to learn, and a vast hierarchy to come to understand. Naively, I thought the election was over, and that it was time to roll up our collective sleeves to get to work – hammering through the myriad needs of the people of North Dakota.

And, by and large, I’d say the greatest number of people in the two chambers felt the same, regardless of political affiliations or views. Left unfettered, this is the beauty of the process. You put a group of dedicated people together with varying backgrounds, experiences and ideals, and a marvelous thing happens – consensus, understanding – and often – compromise. In the end, solution-based thinking for the interests of the many tends to produce meaningful results.

So, what was lacking? In my observation – leadership. True leadership has vision, is inclusive, goal-oriented and ultimately pulls everything together for the benefit of the greater good. What we experienced was a shotgun approach to everything. Inconsistent and sporadic ideologies fostered partisan politics. Exclusive and overbearing, hidden agendas were ferociously and deliberately predetermined. Ostensibly, this was all to ensure the supermajority would have the ability to achieve preconceived objectives without disruption.

Common sense does prevail however, and by default most of North Dakota has pretty similar needs and expectations – regardless of political affiliations. So, the problem isn’t the minority party. No, the problem is that even a supermajority must go home to its constituents and must be able to defend their individual positions to the people who elected them. And therein lies the fundamental problem with unilateral and autocratic leadership – failure to take in to account the needs and wishes of the people first and foremost.

In my opinion, a lack of clear leadership allowed national and partisan politics to take precedence over the good of the people. In doing so, we missed many opportunities to step up to provide meaningful and lasting support to the families, workers, students and businesses of North Dakota.

A far cry from the “greatest session in history.”

Mooney, D-Cummings, represents District 20 in the North Dakota House.