Caucus Talk – Week 6

House Dems’
– Caucus Talk –
2013 Legislative Session
Friday, February 15, 2013

Happy Valentine’s Day week, everyone! As the North Dakota Legislature draws nearer to crossover, things heat up in the House — and not in a sexy, romantic kind of way! Controversy ranged from childcare and abortions to the protection of our elderly and the accountability of our politicians. Despite all the romance, good biddings and loads of sweets filling the House chamber during this Valentine’s Day week, the two caucuses within the chamber built up on more gridlock than is often seen in the State Legislature. House Democrats though, will continue to show their love for their constituents in promoting non-partisan legislation that takes logic, longevity and public interest into context!

Now, onto Week 6 of the House Dems’ Caucus Talk!

Public Display of Education

This week, we are sharing an inside perspective from one of our House Democrats, Representative Naomi Muscha from District 24. Rep. Muscha is a former teacher, and in the following paragraphs, details her views on House Bill 1466 and its intention for the state of North Dakota to subsidize private schools.

“As a retired public school teacher, I have concerns about HB 1466. This bill would allow up to 25% of a public school district’s educational per-student cost to be transferred to a non-public school. If private schools accept public money would the private school not need to follow the policies that all public schools must follow? I understand a family’s desire to have children attend private school, whether it be for the religious teachings, smaller student – teacher ratio or special features of the school, but would those reasons be allowed to continue if private schools accept public funds?

I am not against private schools of any form, as I have grandchildren that are home-schooled and others doing their schooling via online charter schools. My children and grandchildren are making those choices because of the quality of the school in their hometown and because of a desire for travel during the school year.  But, they are choosing to make these choices knowing that they are going to have to pay for such choices.”

Public schools educate the majority of our state’s youth, and with these small, local schools that are scattered across our state, there are lower student-teacher ratios and good participation options for extra-curricular activities. So many of our local communities rely on public schools without the option for private education. It’s time the rest of our legislators catch up with our House Dems and start supporting “public displays of education” and let the private schools stay private!

Oil & Gas — Getting to the Heart of the Problem

Several bills were recently introduced into the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee to improve landowner relations and to reduce the possibility of oil and gas spills.  HB 1352 looks to improve the mediation process between a surface owner and a mineral developer in a fair and reasonable manner between the disputing parties’ choice of a civil mediator or the North Dakota Mediation Service. The bill is a good one — it’s not a party if you’ve got disputing parties!

HB 1347 requires flow-meters and pressure cutoff switches to prevent oil, gas and saltwater spills. I can hear those transmission lines right now, spilling out some Queen/David Bowie beats — “Under pressure, pressin’ down on me, pressin’ down on you… under pressure we’re cracking!” Man, we should probably get a hold of those transmission lines… the thought of oil and gas spills exploding with the intensity of Freddy Mercury and David Bowie is reason enough!

HB 1355 further defines the start of a drilling operation on an oil or gas lease and HB 1348 increases the required well distance from an occupied building from 500 ft to 1320 ft.

With our House Dems Energy and Natural Resources Committee members arguing in support of these bills, the remaining committee members have a choice between sense and logic or cracking under the pressure of the Oil & Gas Division and oil industry’s resistance to these bills.

Voter Suppression — Where Is the Love?

North Dakota happens to be one of the easiest states to vote in, which is great, considering our struggle for decent voter turnout rates. House Bill 1332 was recently hoghoused and now compiles disorganized amendments and flaws to require North Dakota voters to show very specific proof of identification, among other requirements.

The bill, extremely unclear after its complete rewrite, may disenfranchise specific interest groups, such as students, the elderly and the homeless. Interestingly enough, these groups tend to share a liberal voting trend. Underlying motives behind this hoghouse? Hmm… I have an old Black Eyed Peas song beginning to churn in my head. “You only leave space to discriminate and to discriminate only generates hate.” Ok, enough of that rap… Our country has progressed so wonderfully to recognize fair, democratic representation in elections and any effort from state, local or federal government to counteract that makes one ask, in this case directly to the supermajority comprising our State Legislature, “Where Is the Love?”

That’s it for our House Dems’ Caucus Talk of Week 6! Enjoy your weekend, keep up the spirit to fight back and get the public involved and if you’re traveling, DRIVE SAFELY PLEASE!

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