It’s official. Weeks of a rumored approach to dealing with the newly demanded ethics commission has become reality. I reported on this rumor last week and pointed out these “special committees” appear to have only been used three other times in the past. The North Dakota House and Senate each appointed a committee whose sole purpose is to work on what is now required in the North Dakota Constitution. The committees indicate a bumpy road toward implementing Measure 1.
The make-up of the “House Ethics Committee” is stacked against Measure 1. Rep. Jim Kasper of Fargo was made Chair. Kasper has perhaps the highest profile as to why the public approved ethics and transparency in the Legislature. In 2005, Kasper was rewarded with industry-sponsored vacations to Montreal, Antigua, Las Vegas, Costa Rica, and the Bahamas in exchange for a short presentation after he sponsored a law change in North Dakota. The only way we learned of these trips is because of reports published by the industry. He has also routinely rejected attempts to create ethical standards in the Legislature. Majority Leader Chet Pollert selected Jim Kasper out of the ninety-four members of the House. That’s a troubling sign for ethical backers.
Accompanying Kasper is Scott Louser as Vice Chair and Kim Koppelman. Both Louser and Koppelman are co-sponsors of SCR 4001, the resolution to give themselves veto power over initiated measures approved by voters. I wrote about this proposal being the most blatant, arrogant attempt by legislators to take away voters’ power at the ballot box. They have it out against the public and have been given a seat to dictate what is implemented, what is changed, and what is slow walked when it comes to ethics approved by voters last year.
The House Committee will be hearing HB 1521 introduced by the Majority Leaders in both Chambers, Senator Rich Wardner and Rep Chet Pollert. Their bill veers from what Senator Tim Mathern introduced in SB 2148 which closely aligned with what sponsors of Measure 1 intended. First, it gives the Legislature’s administrative rules committee authority over aspects of the ethics commission. Secondly, it keeps penalties for ethical violations low. Lastly, the appropriation over two years is $100,000 leading to questions on how that would impact the administration of the new provisions.
Below is committee membership along with email addresses for readers to click and reach out if interested. Simply scroll through the list. It’s worth your time to make sure Legislators implement what you demanded with your vote in November. The House isn’t alone in this uncommon approach. The Senate Committee is one to watch as well where two more of the six total sponsors of SCR 4001 have been given a seat. Check back for the break down of the Senate Committee soon.