We are a couple of weeks removed from the contentious 2016 election. Now that everyone has had a chance to catch their breath it is time to briefly break down the state’s winners and losers from November 8th. Let’s take six of them one at a time.
The biggest winner is House Majority Leader Al Carlson. Carlson already carried a big stick leaving many in his party trembling at the mere thought of disagreeing with him. Cross Carlson in the House and you’ll be removed from whatever committee you’re on and placed in another less desirable one. Ask former Rep. Kathy Hawken who was removed from House Appropriations after she disagreed with Carlson. You’re in the Senate and disagree with what his followers in the House did to a budget bill? He’ll simply close up shop and leave town. Ask Senator Rich Wardner about the end of the 2015 session. He bullies his way around Bismarck in such a way he effectively controls what happens across all levels of state government. This has led some in political circles to nickname him “King Al.” A king among peasants.
Let me give you an example. The August special session was 3 days of mock legislating in Bismarck. The fix was in before we even got there to vote. “King Al”, Governor Dalrymple, Senator Wardner, Senator Holmberg, and Rep. Delzer among others got together in a back room to hammer out their ‘fix’ of the state budget that was over $1 billion off. Now of course, their fix left out senior citizens, children with disabilities, and upholding the promise of property tax relief but more about that at a different time.
Walking into the House chamber to hear the Governor’s address on the first day of special session, Dalrymple pulled Senator Tim Mathern to the side. Mathern along with Dem-NPL legislators released an alternative plan two weeks before we gathered in Bismarck. The plan would have prevented devastating cuts to programs geared towards helping vulnerable citizens. Dalrymple explained how he tried to get parts of Mathern’s proposal into the GOP budget but failed. Moments later the Governor took the podium and casually criticized the Dem-NPL to the delight of his NDGOP. Carlson effectively controlled the Governor’s office.
Later that day, the Senate debated the Republican ‘fix’ and were allowed no amendments. After the debate, Senator Ray Holmberg stopped by my desk to explain why they couldn’t allow any changes.
“Tyler, remember I have to sell this shit-sandwich to the House.” [ACTUAL WORDS by Senator Holmberg].
The Senate Republicans were so worried that if changes were made to the bill, the House Republicans would blow up the whole deal. Carlson effectively controlled the Senate.
By replacing members willing to stand up to “King Al” with freshmen legislators in his party why would he change his ways? There is no need. Couple that with a new Governor who criticized people like Carlson and his followers until he won the June Primary and the “King” shall expand his reign.
We’ve already seen it post election. Carlson decided to vote against an interim committee report because it was chaired by two Democrats. His House Republicans were eager to follow along. It is going to be a long legislative session especially for those that cross Carlson.
As for your grandpas and grandmas, your child with a disability, your child care provider, and your kid in college… ”let them eat cake.”