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Tom Fiebiger, Published June 05 2013

Letter: Visionary legislators consider humanity as well as economy

I found freshman Sen. Kelly Armstrong’s, R-Dickinson, criticisms of what he characterized as his fellow Democratic freshman legislators’ “political pandering or nitpicking” disappointing. (Forum column, June 2). As a former freshman legislator, I understand the desire to make a difference. Clearly, that means different things to different lawmakers.

Sen. Armstrong set out his “highlights” of the session. His focus was on “economic growth,” alleging Democrats’ letters were “devoid of any substance or original ideas.” It seems to me that true accomplishments are about more than “economic growth” and how many billions of dollars of the people’s money are set aside in a rainy day fund or a legacy fund. It’s also about the quality of life and providing a real opportunity for all our citizens, not just some of them.

Substance and original ideas? How about amending the North Dakota Human Rights Act so that our sons and daughters and brothers and sisters – people who help move North Dakota’s economic growth forward – cannot be fired or evicted from their homes because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender? Our Republican-controlled Legislature continues to sanction discrimination by its inaction on this basic human right. Nobody in this state should lose their job or home because of who they love. Standing up for and demanding equal rights for all our citizens, “nitpicking?” I don’t think so.

How about providing funding for Head Start so that our next generation gets the same opportunity for the “new prosperity” the senator touts? As one of the few states in the country that consistently fails to fund Head Start, and with hundreds of children in Fargo on the waiting list, I’m curious how the senator can justify to our children, our future, exactly how this Republican-controlled Legislature’s continued failure to fund this proven program is one of their “responsible and intelligent decisions.”

Finally, the numerous horrendous abortion bills passed this session treat the women in this state like second-class citizens, and also all but guarantees that many of our future medical providers and young people will likely find other places to call home.

The responsible and intelligent decisions made by our leaders can and must be visionary, fostering not just our economy but our humanity as well. North Dakota’s future demands and depends on it.

Fargo attorney Fiebiger is a former state senator from District 45.