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Source: Bismarck Tribune 

Thursday, March 29, 2001

 

Progressive Coalition Decries 'attacks on democracy'

 

DICKINSON -- The 2001 North Dakota Legislature is moving away from the state's tradition of open government, said the North Dakota Progressive Coalition.

The coalition released a white paper Wednesday in Dickinson, Fargo and Devils Lake outlining legislative initiatives that, according to coalition spokeswoman Gail Erickson, take power out of the hands of the people and into boards controlled by political insiders and corporations.

Erickson specifically pointed to a measure that would create a board to study the harmonization of agricultural chemical pricing between the United States and Canada. She said the board, which would include members from pesticide manufacturers, would just duplicate work already done by the state Department of Agriculture at a cost of $500,000 that could be better spent elsewhere.

Another bill cited by the coalition allows district political parties or the chairman of the Legislative Council to choose replacements for legislators who die or resign before their term is up, instead of holding special elections. That bill was passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor.

"I think this just shows that they don't value the vote," Erickson said. "We have a long tradition of valuing peoples' votes in this state."

She said bills that would have eliminated the state treasurer's office, made the agriculture commissioner an appointed position, and called for the Legislature to select the state's United States senators showed a distrust of the public's judgment.

"The fact that these bills were defeated show that many of our legislators do recognize that the people of North Dakota need to remain part of the process," Erickson said. "But it is an acceleration of a trend, particularly with boards and commissions, to move their involvement away from people and more toward industry and government representatives."