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At the last Legislative Management meeting of the 2016 interim, republicans in the North Dakota House voted against the Human Services Committee report. Why you might ask? Simply because they were still upset the committee was chaired by two Democrats. To them, it wasn’t important Rep. Kathy Hogan and I were elected by our peers to chair the committee in a bipartisan vote. The vote was, however, met with a cold stare from former Rep. Wes Belter and a red-faced, paper throwing, full of rage Rep. Al Carlson at the end of last legislative session. Apparently, a year and a half later their emotions were still running high.
During the November 11th meeting to adopt or reject the committee’s work, not a single question or comment was raised. In fact, Rep. Al Carlson wasn’t even seated in his Vice Chairman’s spot during the explanation of the report. Hearing no questions, Rep. Hogan moved to adopt the report. Rep. Dan Ruby seconded the motion to approve the report but moments later flipped his vote during the roll call after his leader Rep. Al Carlson cast his ‘No’ vote. A profile in courage.
Their vote against the report sends the signal they’re willing to put partisan politics over helping the most vulnerable in the state. The committee was tasked with addressing the ongoing behavioral health and addiction services shortage our state faces. Challenges people on both sides of the aisle agree need to be addressed. I fear this pettiness is a mere glimpse of what awaits us as we approach the 65th Legislative Session.
Their vote wasn’t against us “Democrats” though. It was a vote was against the father who came before our committee frightened for his child with a behavioral issue. He believes his child is a threat not only to himself but the community. Nowhere to turn for help in the state. It was a vote against your grandparents when they rejected looking into ways to keep them safe in their own homes and lend support for families that take care of them. It was a vote against saving the state money by keeping people with addiction out of our prisons and into treatment. It was a vote against decency and compassion.
I’m glad there was enough decency and compassion with Senate Republicans to push these pragmatic and bipartisan solutions forward. Everyone on the committee, Republicans and Democrats, worked very hard for 15 months trying to solve the chronic challenges facing some of our neighbors. The final report was adopted, and bill drafts will be introduced in January. Now it is time to continue to pressure legislators like those pictured above into doing some good for the people they serve.