BISMARCK, ND – North Dakota’s Legislative Management Committee met today to determine interim committee structure and assignments, and while Republicans walked away generally pleased with the results, Democrat leaders left the meeting disappointed with what they felt was a new level of partisanship being displayed.
“We didn’t get any Committee Chairmen or Vice Chairmen, which is a break with tradition,” said House Minority Leader Jerry Kelsh, D-Fullerton. “Historically, all the people on legislative management got a chairmanship of a committee. That didn’t happen this time.”
According to Kelsh, Majority Leader Rep. Al Carlson, R-Fargo, stated that in assigning committee chairs and members, he was simply continuing the legislative representation from this past session. “He said they are just following the wishes of the people who elected them, and that they felt that their agenda should prevail,” Kelsh stated.
“They already have a simple majority on all of the committees,” commented Kelsh, referring to the legislative process dictating that committee makeup reflect the makeup of the House and Senate, in which Republicans hold a supermajority. “I don’t know how their agenda wouldn’t prevail with that.”
The only interim committee yet to be decided is the Legislative Redistricting Committee, which is formed only once every ten years, following the census. Senator Ray Holmberg, who served on the committee in the past and is familiar with its workings, will chair that committee again.
The redistricting committee, which provides significant opportunity for political influence, will be assigned sometime in the next couple of weeks and must by law include members of both parties, again in proportion to each chamber’s elected representation.
“We were elected too,” said Kelsh, noting that in some races there were very tight races on both sides. “But we will have opportunity for our input too,” said Kelsh, noting that it just wasn’t as much as he had hoped for.
Kelsh did have some words of affirmation for the GOP majority leadership, saying that they worked “really well” together with them in getting people assigned according to their requested committees.
Back in February when Democrats accused Republicans of manipulating committee memberships unfairly, Carlson’s response was to say that, “If they have been slighted in any way, it is because they do not understand how the normal committees are divided in legislative management, and that’s based on the percentage of membership in the assembly.” At that point, Carlson had also threatened to take away any minority party chairmanships because “quite obviously, that practice has never been appreciated.” North Dakota is one of only a handful of states that allow for minority party chairmen.