We here at Capitol Letters recognize the issue inspires strong feelings (while we’re making obvious pronouncements, we’d also like to take this opportunity to point out that the sky is typically blue). In just one example of these feelings reaching a boiling point, the Fargo Forum editorialized that Governor Dalrymple was “bullied” by “a cabal” of legislators “who have no qualms about misusing their legislative privilege and power.” The Forum also added that the state is being “portrayed as clinging to a barefoot-and-pregnant view of women’s rights.” Strong words, to be sure, but this brief citation doesn’t quite capture the heat of the full editorial. Read the rest here.
We know you’ve heard a lot about that subject this week, so much so that you may have missed some of the truly good things your Dem-NPL legislators have been fighting for. Conversely, some lower-profile — but nevertheless head-shakingly bad — moves by the GOP majority could have slipped under the radar.
Below, we’ve done our best to guide you around the craters on the battlefield of the culture war and keep you informed of some of the non-abortion related news coming out of Bismarck this week.
The right fights: Helping people with disabilities, keeping kids safe, and preventing teen suicide
- Helping disabled people find employment and dignity: That’s the motivation behind SB 2271, legislation prime sponsored by Tyler Axness (Fargo – West Fargo), the Senate’s legislative wunderkind. As noted by Representative Kylie Oversen shortly before the bill passed the House unanimously, North Dakota will now “be supporting competitive and integrated employment of people with disabilities.” Good on you, Tyler and Kylie.
- Protecting kids: Right now, the Century Code provides an affirmative defense to those who promote a sexual performance by a child so long as the defendant didn’t make any money off of promoting that performance. That provision makes no sense and has interfered with the prosecution of those who prey on children for their own prurient reasons. That will change under SB 2265, a bill sponsored by a Capitol Letters co-author, which passed the House this week.
- Preventing teen suicide: Senator Joan Heckaman helped lead a bipartisan effort on SB 2306, legislation that would provide training to teachers and school administrators to help root out the tragic problem of teen suicide. After the bill passed the House 92-0 on Thursday, the Bismarck Tribune concluded “the Legislature did the right in providing quality training for this critical issue.” We’d also add that it was the right fight for North Dakota.
Head-shakers of the week: Hurting people in pain, de-funding special needs daycare, and dissing doctors
- Cutting funds for special needs daycare: “Beyond critical, it’s beyond crisis.” We’ve used that quote from an expert in the field to describe the childcare situation in North Dakota. While the strain on childcare is felt across the state, the challenges are most pronounced for parents who have children with special needs. You wouldn’t know it considering the House GOP’s actions this week, because the majority voted to strip all funding for special needs daycare from SB 2244. Every last dime. Dem-NPL legislators will be working hard to restore this funding in the Senate, but in the meantime we’re shaking our heads.
- Adding insult to injury: HB 1163 is informally known as the pain bill, not only because it deals with the circumstances under which pain is compensable as a work-related injury, but also apparently due to the pain it will inflict on injured workers and their families. While the legislation is complex, here’s the bumper sticker description: It would reclassify pain as a “symptom,” and not a “substantial worsening” or “acceleration” of a worker’s pre-existing condition. See? It’s complex. But with the bureaucratic prose of a dungeon master, this language will preclude people who are medically disabled as a result of work-related pain impairments from being considered disabled under North Dakota law. As succinctly described by the Forum editorial board — which, in a pleasant surprise, seems to agree with Dem-NPL legislators on every meaningful issue this session — the bill is “an affront to medical science” and “insults hardworking men and women who live North Dakota’s work ethic every day.” True that. It is an absolute shame, then, that the bill passed the Senate 27-19 today.
- Discounting doctors’ opinions: Relatedly, amendments to SB 2298 stand to inflict more pain on injured working people. Complexity again reigns here, but the issue deals with whose opinion should control when determining whether someone suffered a work-related injury: The doctor that has seen the injured worker face to face and provided treatment? Or doctors hired by WSI who routinely conduct paper reviews from offices in places like Minneapolis? The amendments under SB 2298 say WSI should get the choice and that the worker should have to prove the agency was wrong under an almost impossible standard. The bill is grossly unfair, and just might have something to do with recent media reports that WSI has drawn the attention of the state auditor for its use of outside medical examiners. (For the sake of disclosure, a Capitol Letters co-author represents injured workers in his practice as a private attorney. Mark Schneider, quoted in the story in the previous link, is his father and law partner. For the sake of further disclosure, neither of them like the workers’ compensation system in North Dakota all that much.)
That’s all for now. We wish you a “hoppy” Easter. Keep the faith, keep up the fight, and roll and egg for us. (And like us on Facebook too, please.)