If you thought the fight over the NDSU Nursing Program in Bismarck was over and an isolated event, think again. It seems as if there is never an end to the vindictive back room deals that come from the ND House of Representatives. And I’ve said it before – nothing occurs in the waning moments of the session without Majority Leader AL Carlson’s initiation or approval.
You recall that an amendment written specifically to close the NDSU Nursing Program in Bismarck was walked back once we put a collective spotlight on their action. To save face, Rep. Al Carlson, Bob Martinson, and his other followers suggested this was simply a strategy to get a better deal for NDSU. In other words, they used 250 NDSU nursing students to force Sanford to reduce rent by $800,000 over the biennium.
Amendments to the NDSU budget were then prepared by Carlson and company to stray from the Higher Education funding formula by reducing funding by $1.5 million ($700,000 more than the reduced rent.) By all observers around the Capitol, this was simply a vindictive measure against NDSU. The overall cut Carlson and his cronies were proposing was in the neighborhood of $3.5 million.
We are told that negotiators have narrowed Carlson’s vindictive NDSU reductions to just over $1 million.
Here’s where it becomes interesting:
It seems that NDSU owns some prime real estate on the Northwest corner of the intersection of Interstate 29 and 19th Avenue North in Fargo. A developer who holds an interest in a property to the west has been wanting NDSU to ‘swap’ their land with the less valuable land controlled by that developer. Appraisals of the two properties indicated that the NDSU land was initially worth around $4 million more than the other property. A later appraisal indicated that the differential had widened even more with NDSU’s land valuation rising even higher.
So, Al Carlson prepares an amendment to force the land swap. He presents this amendment despite knowledge of the vast difference in appraisals that are justified not only by location, but also because of drainage issues and the railroad crossing on the land further west.
As we’ve said before, nothing is by accident this late in the legislative session. It is all premeditated. One has to ask why Al Carlson would insist on a land swap that would cost NDSU, the public university in the city he represents, millions of dollars. What relationship does he have with the developer that would result in Carlson working on behalf of private interests over and above public interests? Is it just a coincidence the developer is a large, continuous, contributor to the NDGOP and Republican candidates?
This stinking dead fish landed on the plates of the Higher Education conference committee, and unless all of you speak up, Carlson will get away with this. It is curious that the majority leader of the North Dakota House would propose an amendment that is clearly not in the best interest of the state. It is an absolute mystery that legislators in his caucus sit silently by allowing these actions to occur time and time again.
It is Day 73 of the 80 day session. It is because of personal vendettas and secretive motives like the one Carlson has against NDSU and Higher Education that keeps the legislature working. All of it costs you more tax dollars for Carlson to play his little games.