The three members of the District 10 North Dakota State Legislature, Senator Janne Myrdal and Representatives Chuck Damschen and Dave Monson, held a forum where constituents of District 10 could meet and discuss the activities of the legislative session thus far.
By Melissa Anderson
The forum, held on Saturday, March 4 in Cavalier, was sponsored by the Walsh and Pembina County Farm Bureau. The event brought nearly 30 people together to discuss specific legislation that has been presented as well as voice their concerns about the direction the legislature is headed with spending.
There were 272 bills that were pre-filed for the 65th Legislative session with a total of 795 bills and resolutions being introduced by the deadline required by the legislature.
One of the senate bills that created quite a stir at the forum was Senate Bill 2327 sponsored by Senator Jessica Unruh of Beulah and Senators Kelly Armstrong and Rich Wardner of Dickinson. This bill would take the Department of Environmental Quality, which is currently under the Department of Health, and make it a stand-alone department.
Many in attendance voiced concerns over the making of this department a stand-alone with no oversight other than the governor and legislature.
Senator Janne Myrdal explained that this was a preemptive move to protect North Dakota’s interests from the federal Environmental Protection Agency.
Representative Chuck Damschen was aware of the bill that would be coming over to the House following the break and plans to read the new additions to the bill. Representative Dave Monson will be working with Damschen to ensure they make the best vote for District 10.
Constituents of the legislative team continued to express concern over the initiative to make the department a stand-alone, especially the fiscal impact its creation could have.
As the legislation currently sits, the fiscal note for the department is zero. Damschen explained that the reason for this is because the Department would remain virtually the same with no additional staff needed at this time. He did note that fact could change in the future as personnel demands change.
Another piece of legislation that drew concern was the legislation crafted by Wardner and Senator Joan Heckaman for the North Dakota Compassionate Care Act or, as it is more commonly known as, Measure 5 Medical Marijuana. Measure 5 was passed by state voters in November and the measure, which the District 10 representation felt was very vague and poorly worded, left the 65th Assembly scrambling with how to implement it as per the voters’ request without causing legal issues.
“This put the legislative assembly in a tough spot,” Damschen said about the measure.
Constituents also expressed their disfavor of time wasting bills. One constituent noted that this session had some of the most ridiculous bills put forward that had no chance at being passed. Myrdal responded saying that while yes, some bills were very unlikely to be passed, it brought forward discussion.
Other bills that were discussed included the recently proposed House Bill 3033 which would have state-owned casinos. Many in the room felt this would be a mistake for the state to pursue. Another was House Bill 1169 which is more commonly known as the constitutional carry. This bill would make it so that in the state of North Dakota, residents would no longer need to take a permit class in order to concealed carry a firearm. This particular bill has drawn wide concerns of how to ensure those who practice the constitutional carry understand the gun laws of the state.
Overall, the forum lasted well over an hour with the representatives answering and discussing the legislation. Myrdal, Damschen and Monson have all been very busy with their respective committees. Myrdal is on the senate judiciary committee and vice chairs the ag committee. Monson is on the appropriations committee and chairs the subcommittee that deals with education and environment. Damschen is on the human services committee and vice chairs the energy and natural resources committee.
The team thanked the voters of District 10 for their continued support and input as they work through the 65th Legislative Assembly.
“I was surprised at some of the questions. I think we need to unify around our team here. We are not perfect. We don’t know everything, but I do think we need to fight for District 10 on issues,” Myrdal said following the forum.
Damschen had this to say on the forum, “I think it was positive. It’s always good for us to get out amongst the people and find out what their wishes are and what they think about what we have done, and we certainly listen to their voices.”
“This is another opportunity to explain bills that they are against or for, and I actually think this could help make us aware of things that might change our opinion,” Damschen added.
For Monson, the forum went fine.
“I wish we could have had more time to get into some of the details. Overall, it’s like every other forum. You get some good substance questions, and sometimes we spin our wheels,” Monson said, “I was surprised how much time we spent on some of the issues.”
The District 10 legislative team is always open to their constituents’ opinions and ask that any concerns be directed to the following emails. Please include name and address when emailing or mailing your representatives. Senator Janne Myrdal: firstname.lastname@example.org; Representative Chuck Damschen: email@example.com; Representative Dave Monson: firstname.lastname@example.org