ND House Used 250 Students as Leverage for Sanford Health and NDSU Discussion

It must not get lost on anyone what the Legislature tried this week. The leadership in the North Dakota House used 250 nursing students as leverage to place themselves in an agreement they didn’t like. Placing professional development of our state’s youth in jeopardy with a power grab by legislators is an outrage. Diplomacy be damned when you can flex your legislative muscle.

It isn’t just me who thinks what took place is embarrassing. It is bipartisan. Here is what newly elected State Senator Jim Roers, Republican of Fargo, had to say about the House amendment:

Senator Jim Roers

I will look passed the fact Jim Roers did play this type of game during the 2016 election. He, his daughter Shannon Roers-Jones, and Jim Kasper used this very program in an attack mailer against Kirsten Deidrich and the other Democratic candidates. They won. Senator Roers is right. This drastic measure is not something that should have been used.

If these lawmakers think the Legislature needs a larger role in these sort of agreements, have the courage to offer that sentiment in a stand-alone bill where it will receive the public hearing it deserves. Better yet, call a public meeting of the parties involved and have a discussion on how to do better for everyone. Instead, they chose to push it through an amendment which makes us question the real motives behind it. For example, the conflict of interest with Rep. Bob Martinson of Bismarck. Or, the continued contempt some people have toward NDSU President Dean Bresciani. Or the anger of Sanford Health administering the public employees health insurance. Or the wish to dissolve the State Board of Higher Education.

These same lawmakers have now publicly admitted they had these discussions among themselves last session. That proves to you it wasn’t something they rushed on the spot. It was premeditated. They chose to hold this close to the chest and move the amendment with only three weeks left in the session. Were they trying to avoid the public hearing because they knew over fifty nursing students, the young adults whose education they were threatening, would show up in opposition? Those students did show up, but it was only after this amendment was already approved by the committee because nobody besides Carlson, Martinson, Sanford and others in the inner circle knew about it.

Senator Roers is right in his telling comments. This is embarrassing for the Legislature and is not how it should conduct business. The state in its nursing shortage is threatening a program which is attempting to address the shortage. They claim they need to be consulted on these sort of decisions. To make that point, they offered their amendment in a last-minute power play. In doing so, they used young, aspiring, students who want to help others as a pawn in their game. That should piss you off.

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