While the issue at hand for Legislative Management yesterday was to determine how to handle Governor Burgum’s vetoes, Rep. Al Carlson retreated to his usual vindictive behavior on a separate topic. Carlson attempted to remove Senator Erin Oban as Chair of the Interim Education Committee. This is his second attempt to block Democrats from chairing committees. Both attempts have been voted down in bipartisanship.
Rep. Carlson is not good at hiding the fact he is still bitter about losing the Chairmanship of the Legislative Management Committee in 2015 and again in 2017 to Senator Ray Holmberg. Holmberg garnered the support of Senate Republicans and Democrats in both the House and Senate. He did it by promising a return to the tradition of the interim committee work. The traditional way of thinking that studying issues and challenges should be removed from partisanship. Who strayed from that tradition? Al Carlson. Holmberg was willing to put decency and partisanship aside for production and progress on matters important to North Dakota. A majority on the committee agreed with that approach.
For a better understanding, look at Carlson’s actions following the interim Human Services Committee work from 2015-2017. He and his cronies in the House voted against the bipartisan committee report and recommendations because it was Chaired by Democratic Rep. Kathy Hogan. Then during the regular session, he removed Hogan from Appropriations and placed her on committees he thought she’d be less effective on. Few of the solid recommendations brought by the interim committee were adopted.
Carlson always tries to justify his bitter, vindictive, partisan behavior. Then he has the audacity to accuse the Democratic lawmakers of being the ones who play politics. So why does Carlson say he wanted Senator Erin Oban removed as Chair of the Education Committee? Get this, because her husband is Executive Director of North Dakota United, the state’s teachers union. A conflict of interest he claims. He wanted Oban, who was a teacher, to be replaced by Rep. Mark Owens who until this session never served on the Education Committee. Clearly, Carlson doesn’t care about experience, only the party affiliation.
A conflict of interest because of what your spouse or family member does for a living? That’s new. Does Carlson feel that way about Senator Dwight Cook whose wife works in the Tax Department while he Chairs the Senate Tax Committee? Does Carlson feel that way about Senator Dick Dever whose son works in the Department of Commerce and whose wife worked for the Legislature? Does Carlson feel that way about Rep. George Keiser whose wife works at the Ronald McDonald House and frequently testifies before the Legislature? I don’t mean to bring this to your attention for malicious reasons. I’m sure they all do great work in their jobs. Not once has this concern been raised before by Carlson. Know why? Because it shouldn’t matter.
Cooler heads prevailed, and Carlson was defeated yet again in the Legislative Management Committee. The interim committees chaired by Democrats and by Republicans can get back to the tradition of working and studying together. Carlson can round up his House followers and vote against the committee reports chaired by Democrats in two years and continue his tradition of petty partisan politics above good public policy recommendations. But first, Carlson needs to win reelection in a town tired of his behavior.
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