North Dakota’s organizational session begins today. Lawmakers will select committee assignments, set the rules for the upcoming session, and receive the Governor’s budget recommendations. Away from formal ceremonies, behind closed doors, we can expect plotting from legislators on how to get back at Burgum for his 2020 campaigning. Prepare for the return of vindictive politics.

Republican insiders are indicating that Governor Burgum has “no idea” what type of session is coming his way. The reason? He galvanized the Legislature against his arrogant approach to state government. There are several Republican lawmakers – past and present – who felt Burgum overstepped when he opened his checkbook to attack Rep. Jeff Delzer. It was cataclysmic when he went further and used the official letterhead of the Governor’s Office to try and force his wishes on the Legislature through appointment.

As you know and as fate would have it, Delzer is back in Bismarck and he may have numbers on his side. The far-right wing caucus of Republicans grew this year. They’re also upset at Burgum for his covid-19 orders and mandates. Many of them are clinching on to debunked cures, mitigation, and spreading misinformation on the pandemic but that discussion is for another time.

The 2020 election cost Burgum and moderate Republicans their safety net. Roll your eyes all you want, but behind the scenes, the coalition of moderation reached out to Dem-NPL lawmakers to block bad policy and at times push decent proposals. As those lawmakers are gone, so to will be the path for a lot of Burgum’s proposals and pet projects.

Much of the goodwill Burgum built up with the Legislature – and there wasn’t much – during his first term was thrown out during the 2020 campaign. As a result, the 2021 legislative session won’t be solely about policy. It will be about personality and setting people in their place. Unfortunately, it may come at the expense of budgets and programs that help many North Dakotans. Everything will be on the table.

Tyler Axness
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